At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

The MV Agusta Lewis Hamilton Dragster RR is Coming to a Burnout Near You

10/15/2015 @ 12:43 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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You remember the MV Agusta Dragster RR right? The Brutale 800 without a tail section? Of course you do…it was pretty bold design from MV Agusta, which is probably saying something, considering that the Varese brand tends to lead with design, rather than follow.

It turns out that Lewis Hamilton is a bit of a fan of the machines from MV Agusta – it also helps that AMG has a 20% interest in the Italian brand, and Hamiliton is the team’s star F1 driver, at least when teammate Nico Rosberg isn’t around – so, in true MV Agusta fashion, a special limited edition machine must be produced, right?

Behold, the Lewis Hamilton Dragster RR: a collaboration between the F1 World Champion and the Italian motorcycle marque. MV Agusta hasn’t quite revealed the machine yet, but this teaser video does a pretty good job of getting the point across. We took some stills, just in case the edits were too much for you.

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Watch the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Do Its Thang

10/13/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Maybe it’s because my supermoto season officially ended this weekend (without me, I should add), with our last scheduled sumo session at the go-kart track here in Portland passing by this weekend, or maybe it’s because we just want the Swedish brand to deliver the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto already…either way, consider our appetite whetted by this last video from Husky.

Finally giving us a showing of the 701 Supermoto on a proper race track — not that the ice course with spiked tires wasn’t cool (no pun intended) — we get to see the 701 at home in its natural element: hitting apexes, sliding tires, and crushing lean angles.

We imagine that the nearly as powerful, and considerably lighter Husqvarna FS 450 supermoto would be the better weapon on the track, but the 690cc power plant on the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is certainly the better choice for a machine that will roll a tire on public roads…and that’s sorta the point of the machine.

We’ll be eager to see this Husqvarna hit showrooms in Europe this November, and thus being the long wait for it to come to the USA in February 2016. Could the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto be the ultimate city hooligan bike? Time will tell…we’re certainly eager to find out, though.

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Triumph Begins Teasing the Liquid-Cooled Bonneville

10/12/2015 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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That headline is a bit of a misnomer, since the new liquid-cooled Triumph Bonneville has been “spied” for some time now in the media.

Triumph is at least capable of admitting that its hipster machine is getting an update now, releasing this teaser video that hints at “something big” coming our way – if liquid-cooling an engine is something big, then we couldn’t agree more.

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Updated Honda CBR500R to Debut at the 2016 AIMExpo

10/08/2015 @ 2:41 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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The AIMExpo is rapidly approaching, and manufacturers are finally teasing out what new models they will unveil at the American trade and consumer show. Our latest entry comes from American Honda, which is set to make the world debut of the 2016 Honda CBR500R at the show.

Honda says that the CBR500R has been updated for the 2016 model year, with the teaser image showing a slightly different set of bodywork, and a stylized exhaust canister. One can assume that the engine and chassis see minor modifications, if any changes at all.

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2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Finally Revealed

10/06/2015 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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We have been seeing for some time now evidence that KTM was set to bring a more touring-focused variant of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R to market, and now today we have confirmation of that fact.

Releasing photos of the still camouflaged 2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, KTM is leaving a little something to the imagination and EICMA, but the company is also confirming that another touring model will enter its lineup.

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Ducati Asks “What is Black?” in New Teaser Campaign

09/28/2015 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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In addition to the new Ducati 959 Panigale and the 937cc Ducati Hypermotards dropping today via CARB filings (OEMs control when those documents go public, by the way), we have more news from Ducati, namely its mysterious “This is Black” teaser campaign.

Complete with video that asks more questions than it answers, we know the campaign is tied to an EICMA reveal, since the debut date is the same day as Ducati’s press event in Milan.

What Bologna will announce though is a bit of a mystery, one whose solving is not aided by its accompanying press release and dedicated website.

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Ducati Monster 1200 R – The Most Powerful Monster Ever

09/08/2015 @ 5:15 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Ducati has just teased the first images of its most powerful naked bike ever, calling the machine the Ducati Monster 1200 R, which is set to officially debut on September 14th.

The Italian motorcycle company says that the Monster 1200 R has a “more powerful engine, a sportier chassis and an advanced design,” though fails to say in comparison to what – we presume the Monster 1200 S.

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Honda Project 2&4 – A Honda RC213V-Powered Car

08/27/2015 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show is just around the corner, and while the event is typically a four-wheeled affair, Honda is cooking up something that piques our two-wheeled interest here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Calling it the Honda Project 2&4, the concept is simple: a futuristic and sporty car that is powered by Honda’s championship-winning, 1000cc, 90°, V4, RC213V MotoGP engine. See, it’s piquing your interest too.

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Yamaha Debuting an FZ-09 Powered Side-by-Side?

08/05/2015 @ 5:51 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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A teaser video from Yamaha Europe is very clear on the fact that Yamaha is getting ready to debut a sporty off-road side-by-side, for the European market and likely the American market as well.

The interesting thing, and the reason we’re talking about it here at Asphalt & Rubber, is the four-wheeled desert-shredding monster is powered by a three-cylinder engine – a peculiar choice of lumps, from the Tuning Fork brand.

Of course the only model in Yamaha’s lineup that has such an engine is the FZ-09 (that’s an MT-09 to you non-Americans), which has been the basis for the FJ-09 sport-tourer as well.

Perhaps hoping to get some more mileage, no pun intended, out of its three-cylinder engine design, Yamaha has repurposed its triple for this unique use.

We will likely have to wait a little while longer to see what Yamaha has brewing, though it does seem intriguing…if you like to sit-down and steer your adult-sized toys.

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More Details on the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

07/17/2015 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Husqvarna is getting ready to unleash a 690cc supermoto on the world, in case you’ve missed the Swedish brand’s marketing campaign and dedicated website. Unsurprisingly, the bike is based off a comparable KTM model, though that’s not to say the folks at Husky haven’t improved on the KTM 690 Duke for their purposes.

(Re-)Releasing some tech details this week, we again know that the Husqvarna 701 will feature a ride-by-wire throttle (with three engine maps), slipper clutch (because supermoto), premium WP suspension, and what Husqvarna calls “Supermoto ABS” that is really the Bosch 9.1 MP race ABS, which allows one to still lock-up the rear wheel while the front wheel engages the ABS.

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