Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Factory Tour: Agostini vs. Rossi – It’s Not What You Think

04/04/2014 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Factory Tour: Agostini vs. Rossi   Its Not What You Think Dainese Warehouse Rossi racks 635x421

Towards the end of last year, I spent some time bumming around Italy, and one of my many stops was the Dainese headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. A company that is responsible for protecting many of the top motorcycle racers, as well as Yours Truly, Dainese is a company focused on safety, but this focus is really a bi-product of the Italian company’s thirst for competition.

Competition is of course about finding out who is the best, and at the pinnacle of that decision is finding out who is the Greatest of All Time, or G.O.A.T. And in motorcycle racing, when you think of the term “G.O.A.T.” two names come to mind: Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi.

Motorcycle racing fans can debate well into the night as to which of these Italian racers is truly the greatest. Regardless who you pick though, both men are legends, and both men have been supported throughout their careers by Dainese.

That brings us back to my trip to Vicenza, because the battle between these two great riders continues, just not in the way you would suspect.

Horex VR6 Delayed Until Spring 2012 – Supercharged Version Later

09/21/2011 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Horex VR6 Delayed Until Spring 2012   Supercharged Version Later Horex VR6 test photo 635x435

German upstart Horex has announced that production of the Horex VR6 will be delayed from its planned start later this year, and instead will start production in Spring 2012. Citing part supply issues, particularly with the bike’s supercharger unit, Horex will first make available its 160hp normally-aspirated version, while the 197hp supercharged version will start production in late 2012.

The supply chain issue stems from the rebounding of the European OEM parts suppliers industry, who have lately been inundated with parts requests. Getting reportedly shuffled to the back of the queue, Horex does not have parts in the quantities it needs to make a proper production run, and thus has pushed production back further.

Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3?

08/30/2011 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3? mv agusta f3 635x423

All is not well regarding the new MV Agusta F3, several sources have now told Asphalt & Rubber. Teasing the F3 motorcycle for almost two years now, the three-cylinder supersport has been on the radar of two-wheeled enthusiasts since well before its 2010 debut at the EICMA show. While the latest creation from Varese is undisputedly a stunner, and promises some more than peppy performance and features, eyebrows within the industry were raised with its very pre-mature debut in Milan, and its accompanying lack of any real concrete technical specifications.

With products traditionally launched at the November EICMA show going on sale immediately the next model year, MV Agusta made a shocking announcement in 2010 that the F3 would be a 2012 model. Obviously launched with the intention of generating immediate buzz about the newly re-acquired MV Agusta brand, and its goal of becoming a larger volume producer (and actually a profitable company for a change), the F3 and its progeny like the MV Agusta Brutale B3 are supposed to usher in a new era for the Italian brand.

Apparently teased early to help prove demand for MV’s new product offering, this new ethos unfortunately has apparently done little to sway creditors and investors on the viabiliy of the brand, especially since the names associated with driving MV Agusta into the ground are still associted with the decidedly not-so-new regime. Though the Castiglionis were able to negotiate a stellar deal with Harley-Davidson regarding the purchase of MV Agusta (they bought the company for one euro, and got an operating cash flow of 20 million in the bank), according to our sources that are close to MV, the Italian company has had a hard time raising additional working capital, and has also found negotiations with parts suppliers to be difficult, with the outside firms demanding to be paid up-front for their wares.

Brammo Building a Dealer Network – Hires Jim Marcolina from Harley-Davidson

06/08/2011 @ 9:23 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Brammo Building a Dealer Network   Hires Jim Marcolina from Harley Davidson brammo empulse rr infineon 635x425

It seems like only two months ago that I wrote that the “Great Distribution Experiment is Over“, and that electric motorcycle companies Brammo and Zero Motorcycles need to get on-board with established motorcycle distribution methods. As I mentioned in what I’m sure many found to be a snooze fest of an article, there are of course drawbacks and flaws to the dealership model, but for early-stage cash-strapped companies like the ones in the E2V market, this is a battle of the middleman is best to be fought another day.

I have to apologize to my regular readers, as I’m sure the relevancy of such an article to your daily “eat, sleep, ride” lifestyle was dubious at best, but from time-to-time the words on this site are meant for a select group, but better aired publicly (even if it does land me in a heap of trouble from time-to-time). As such, it’s refreshing to see then that Zero has recently announced its signing of several key dealerships, and now we get word that Brammo has hired Jim Marcolina away from Harley-Davidson, to build the Ashland, Oregon company’s dealer development team. So…umm…group hug?

Update on the Status of the Motorcycle Factories in Japan

03/21/2011 @ 6:02 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Update on the Status of the Motorcycle Factories in Japan Kumamoto Honda plant 635x423

As Japan continues to battle with the aftermath from its 9.0 earthquake, the Japanese motorcycle industry has been placed into a holding pattern while the country handles more pressing issues. With news that the Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha factories would be temporarily shutting down last week, more news has been released updating us on the status with these companies. Issuing current statements are: Bridgestone, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. Check their statuses after the jump.

The World is Not Enough – Bajaj Wants to Create a Three-Way Alliance with KTM & Kawasaki

09/24/2010 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The World is Not Enough   Bajaj Wants to Create a Three Way Alliance with KTM & Kawasaki ktm bajaj collaboration 635x476

According to Indian publication Bike Advice, Bajaj is looking to cultivate its relationships with KTM & Kawasaki further, hoping to create a three-way alliance that would build off the strengths of each company. Since 1986 Bajaj has had technical ties to Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki, with Bajaj paying royalties to Kawasaki for basing its creations off Kawasaki designs. Bajaj and Kawasaki also share distribution channels, with Bajaj motorcycles being sold at Kawasaki dealerships, and vice versa.

In 2007 the Indian manufacturer bought a 17% stake in KTM (Bajaj has since increased its stake in the Austrian company to 35% in 2008, with further investment plans rumored), which allowed Bajaj access to Europe and KTM access to India. Bajaj has also gained some of KTM’s knowledge on two-stroke motors, while KTM has seen the small-bike specialist help them with its soon-to-be released KTM 125 Duke project.

With all these relationships being fostered, and obvious synergies existing, Bajaj wants to take its relationship with each company to the next level (in America we call that Third Base), and change the level of collaboration so it goes three-ways. The affect would be a merger, without the merger.

Piaggio to Rebuild Canadian Dealer Network

06/09/2010 @ 6:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Piaggio to Rebuild Canadian Dealer Network Aprilia RSV4 R close up body 560x420

After moving its Canadian distribution to its United States office last year, the Piaggio Group is pledging to improve its Canadian dealer network and customer relations. The move out of Canada, which reportedly has spurned law suits, is just one example of the major problems Piggio is experiencing in North America, as even the United States office isn’t exactly known for its great dealer support and customer service (just ask your local Aprilia owner how long it takes to get replacement parts).