Ride in Peace, Author Robert Pirsig

I first heard of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shortly after I bought my first motorcycle, a Honda CBR600F2. I was stuck in the middle of Dunsmuir, California with a bad rectifier/regulator (a common trouble-spot on that model bike), and a passerby recommended the title. I think they referred the book out of naiveté its content, but obviously the novel, despite its title, would do little to help my immediate problem with my Honda, though it was a good read about some general philosophic ideas, which I could chew-on after I got my CBR bumped-started and back on the road again. Undoubtedly, you have likely heard of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Debuts in China

As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan. Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine. Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

04/04/2017 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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.

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KTM Debuts Fuel Injection for Two-Stroke Motorcycles

03/15/2017 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler78 COMMENTS

The day has finally, come. The rumors can finally be put to rest. Fuel injection for production two-strokes is officially a thing, thanks to the clever minds at KTM.

The Austrian announced today that it will bring fuel injection technology (called Transfer Port Injection) to its 2018 enduro lineup, which will debut later this May.

Two KTM models will have the new technology, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI, and they will be coming to the global market. For the USA and Canada, a third model will come to market as well, the KTM 250 XC-W TPI.

Fuel injection for two-strokes promises better fuel consumption, and it means that riders no longer have to pre-mix their fuel. KTM says that its transfer port injection technology provides a whole new experience for riding a two-stroke motorcycle, with better power and rideability.

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KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

02/06/2017 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others.

Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017.

NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

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How Michelin’s MotoGP Tire ID System Will Work

02/03/2017 @ 9:29 am, by David EmmettComments Off on How Michelin’s MotoGP Tire ID System Will Work

Identifying tires has always been something of a dark art. Ever since MotoGP went to a single tire supplier, identifying which tire a particular rider is on and when has become ever more important. Fast laps mean a lot less when a rider sets them on soft rubber.

So far, identification has been done visually, by colored stripes painted on the sidewall of the tire. That worked fine when Bridgestone was still the tire supplier as the colors they used – red, white, plain, and green – based on their corporate colors were easy to spot, and applied in a big thick stripe.

It got more difficult with Michelin, as their corporate colors – blue, white, and yellow –  are more difficult to spot from the side of the track. Journalists and fans were mostly reliant on the eagle eye of Dylan Gray, pitlane reporter for MotoGP.com, to spot who was going out on what and when.

Identification is to become a lot easier in 2017, with the introduction of an automatic identification system. At the Sepang test, Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert explained how the system will work.

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Honda Debuts Self-Balancing Motorcycle Concept

01/05/2017 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is underway in Las Vegas right now, and while usually the event doesn’t have much overlap with the motorcycle industry, Honda has decided to use CES to unveil its “Riding Assist” technology.

Honda Riding Assist is basically a creative technology package that allows a motorcycle to self-balance, without the use of gyroscopes.

Honda achieves this by raking out the motorcycle’s front forks, and then balances the motorcycle by moving the front wheel back and forth – like you’ve probably seen skilled cyclists do at traffic lights.

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A Glimpse into Kawasaki’s A.I. for Motorcycles

12/19/2016 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

A few months ago, we told you that Kawasaki was working on an artificial intelligence system for motorcycles, and while the term “artificial intelligence” is thrown around too liberally, the proposal from Team Green was an interesting one for the Japanese manufacturer.

Details were light at the time, but now Kawasaki has released a demo video showing how it sees its “A.I.” system working with motorcyclists.

The demo isn’t too compelling, with many of the features being just an implementation of vehicle-to-vehcile systems with a voice-command veneer tacked on top of it,  but it does show that Kawasaki is feigning interest into what the future will hold for motorcyclists.

The question will be though, when true artificial intelligence hits the mainstream, will our robot overlords be more like JARVIS or HAL 9000?

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Continental Developing V2V Platform for Motorcycles

12/07/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

continental-ehorizon

Motorcyclists probably recognize the name Continental for its work in the tire industry, but the company has its fingers in a number of key elements in the motorcycle industry.

Continental is the third largest automotive parts supplier worldwide, and there is a good chance that more than a few parts on your motorcycle (ABS, dash, suspension, etc) comes from the German brand.

So, we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that Continental is developing what it calls “swarm intelligence” for motorcycles, through the Continental eHorizon platform. If you have no idea what that means, it’s cool. More simply put, Continental is trying to make Waze for motorcyclists.

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Divergent 3D Dagger – The Ninja H2 Meets 3D Printing

11/25/2016 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

divergent-3d-dagger-kawasaki-ninja-h2-3d-printed-motorcycle-01

It is hard to think how Kawasaki could make the Ninja H2 more modern, considering the bike’s supercharged engine, radical aerodynamics, and plethora of electronics. But, that didn’t stop the minds at Divergent 3D, a company that is specializing on making vehicles with 3D printing technology.

We have talked about 3D printing here at Asphalt & Rubber before, a technology that when the economies of scale finally take hold of it, should turn several industries on their heads.

For the Divergent 3D Dagger, you can see that the frame, swingarm, and fuel tank are built using Divergent’s 3D printing technology, which uses additive manufacturing to create metal-alloy nodes, and carbon fiber tubes to connect them, when applicable.

In the case of the Divergent 3D Dagger, our best information is that the machine’s chassis comprises solely of metals that have been 3D printed, sans the carbon fiber tubes that can be found on the company’s Blade supercar, though it wouldn’t be hard to change the design of the frame to employ carbon fiber.

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Watch a Tesla Drive Around Town, By Itself

11/21/2016 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

tesla-self-driving-car-video

So, this is what the future is going to look like. “Drivers” will hop into their cars, and zip around town, without paying any attention to the road in front of them. Cynics might say that already happens, but this scenario is about to move from hyperbole to reality very, very quickly, in a very, very interesting way.

When I say it will be interesting, I mean it in the old Chinese curse of “may you live in interesting times” sort of way.

Autonomous vehicles are going to usher in a revolution for transportation. They will change the way we commute, and change the way goods are transported. They will reduce on-road fatalities in motor vehicles, while also increasing the ethical concerns of transportation. It will be interesting.

For motorcyclists, it’s not clear what this all means. Motorcycles might become the two-wheeled escape from the autonomous grind, pushing our industry further into the “consumer discretionary income” realm and novelty. We should ask ourselves: is this a good thing?

It’s also just as easy to imagine a world where “unsafe” non-autonomous vehicles get outlawed, if for no other reason than the divergence they pose to the system.

Our one saving grace is that autonomous vehicle technology has to grow up in a world where it is several standard deviations outside of the norm. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, etc do not feed into the system that pilots a car like the Tesla Models S, shown in the video after the jump.

Instead, these vehicles have to evolve and grow-up in a world that doesn’t cater to them. That’s interesting too, but more so when you look at how a Tesla Model S perceives the environment around it – reading road signs, assessing objects in its path, understanding the markings of its environment.

It’s something to think about on your commute today.

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BMW Says That This Is the Future of Motorcycles

10/12/2016 @ 3:27 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

bmw-motorrad-vision-next-100-concept-02

Fresh as an MBA graduate, in the very early days of Asphalt & Rubber, I had an interview with a prominent Fortune 500 company that was well-known for its 100 year plan.

This was a topic of conversation during my job interview, as I found it intriguing that a company could even pretend to predict what the world will look like in 100 years.

To find the arrogance in this notion, imagine the trying to predict things like social media, cell phones, the internet, automobiles, commercial flying, and space travel…all at the turn of the 20th century.

With the rate of change we have seen in the past 100 years, apply that same trend to the next 100 years, and you will see how futile such a prediction can be. What don’t know what we don’t know, in this regard.

So, it’s with some amusement that we share with you today BMW Motorrad’s vision for motorcycling in the next 100 years.

The German brand calls its the BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100, and says that the concept “embodies the BMW Group’s vision of biking in a connected world – an analogue experience in a digital age.”

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