US Motorcycle Sales Down in 2016, While UK Sales Are Up

For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated. Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015. Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations). We will have to wait for all the motorcycle OEMs to report their final quarter sales results to know who are the big winners and losers of the 2016 sales year. Though, we do know that KTM and BMW (up 5.9%) have shown signs of strong results internationally, whereas Duacti and Harley-Davidson are expected to post overall sales declines for 2016.

BMW R1200R Drag Bike by Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit has a way of inking motorcycle designs that we didn’t even know we wanted. First it was drawings of dustbin motorcycles, and now its his drag bike creation, which is based off the BMW R1200R. BMW’s boxer-twin engine doesn’t lend itself to being a great platform for drag racing, but you have to admit that this is a handsome ride, even if it’s all show and no go. With BMW filling every niche under the two-wheeled sun with its bikes though, we wouldn’t be that surprised to see the Germans follow-up with something similar to what the French designer has done here. After all, BMW Motorrad is rumored to be working on an XDiavel-killer, and then there’s…

MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market. Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia. According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles. “We are very excited to build a successful relationship with Urban Moto Group as a new partner also overseeing and developing the presence of MV Agusta in the USA market,” said Giovanni Castiglioni.

New Triumph Street Triple Debuts with 765cc Engine

As expected, today we get to see the 2017 Triumph Street Triple, with its new engine capacity: 765cc. The new engine displacement comes from both an increase in bore and stroke on the iconic three-cylinder motor, with Triumph using a new crank, pistons, and barrels in its construction. Three flavors of Triumph Street Triple will be available for 2017, with S, R, and RS-spec (above) machines being available, with obvious performance differences existing between the trim levels. As such, peak horsepower will be 113hp (S), 118hp (R), and 123hp (RS) – a notable boost over the 675cc machine’s 105hp. Meanwhile, peak torque has been improved from 50 lbs•ft, now to 53 lbs•ft (S) and 56 lbs•ft (R & RS). All the models tip the scales at 166kg (dry) according to Triumph, which is a 2kg reduction over the outgoing model.

Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand. Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence. Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand. Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

Triumph Set to Become the Official Moto2 Engine Supplier

The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017. There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found.

Walt Siegl’s Dakar Inspired Ducati Hypermotard

This Dakar Rally inspired Ducati Hypermotard is the latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, and it comes with some very appropriate timing. Not only are we full-swing into the 2017 Dakar Rally, but this 1980s-styled Ducati comes during a week where we have been talking about my not-so-secret love affair with the Ducati Hypermotard. Again, we see the air-cooled version of this street-going supermoto being used as a platform for a unique work, though this time Walt Siegl has been commissioned to make a bike that rolled right off the sand dunes of Africa. The exercise centers around mostly the restyling of the bodywork, to give us a little nostalgia for when the Dakar Rally was actually held in its namesake in Northern Africa.

Mike’s Carbon Fiber Motus MSTR

The Motus MSTR is a beast of a machine, it just oozes raw power and torque from its 1,650cc V4 engine; and to compliment all that grunt, the MSTR also comes tastefully wrapped in painted carbon fiber fairings. But when a composites expert wants one of your motorcycles, painting those carbon fiber body panels might not be the best of choices – it may even be an affront the Gods of Internal Combustion. When customer “Mike M.” wanted to see show off the weave of the Motus MSTR’s carbon fiber bodywork, he opted for his machine to come sans the livery. We think that was a pretty good choice, and the gods are surely pleased as well. So, to help get the New Year off to a proper start, and to return to the appreciation of all things two-wheeled, we give you Mike M.’s Motus MSTR motorcycle – how’s that for alliteration?

10 Things to Look Forward to in Motorcycle Racing for 2017

The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight. If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes. The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again. The single biggest change is to simplify the structure of the championship with the GNC1 class now just for twin-cylinder engined bikes, with the GNC2 class using the smaller singles.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Report: Apple Looking at Acquiring Lit Motors

09/22/2016 @ 4:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

lit-motors-c-1

I had to check the A&R archives to see if we have even mentioned Lit Motors before, mostly because the the San Francisco startup has been slow to develop its self-balancing motorcycle, and I’m not terribly bullish on the project.

That doesn’t mean the concept is without merit though, and its apparently caught the interest of Apple. If that sounds strange to you, then you need to understand that Apple, along with a bevy of other tech giants, is working on an autonomous car for the masses.

This “Project Titan” as it’s called, has already seen Apple poach a couple of Lit Motors’ personnel, and now the most valuable company in the world is looking at acquiring Lit Motors, and/or other automotive entities, according to the New York Times.

Kawasaki Working on Artificial Intelligence for Motorcycles

08/31/2016 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

blade-runner-voight-kampff-machine

Motorcyclists often romanticize about their bikes, talking about a motorcycle’s personality, or lack thereof.

This is total bullshit by the way, but there is something to be said about the connection between man and machine, as it is the same emotional bond that makes one a devout believer of one brand, and detractor to another.

Usually we make these connections through something visceral, like the sound of an engine, the power going down the road, or the handling of the chassis. Rarely does one speak about a motorcycle’s personality in the same breath as its electronics, but that might change.

This is because Kawasaki is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) project that will see its motorcycles grow and evolve personalities to compliment its owners.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Spielberg: Cold Temperatures, Fast Ducatis, & Interfering Teams

08/12/2016 @ 10:33 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

MotoGP-2016-Austria-Rnd-10-Tony-Goldsmith-311

It’s the Sachsenring all over again. Or almost: when the MotoGP bikes were here in July, air temperatures were in the low 30s, and track temperature was around 50°C. During FP1, the air temperature was just 9°, and track temperature was 14°C.

“The temperature this morning was pretty extreme,” Jorge Lorenzo said after practice was over. “Only a few times in my life have we been riding in such cold conditions.”

Cold temperatures meant cold tire crashes, especially in the morning. The most obvious was Dani Pedrosa’s crash, who fell at Turn 9 as he touched the front brake, the front folding as if the track were wet.

The crash caused the session to be red-flagged, as Pedrosa’s Honda ended up puncturing the air fence and landing on top of the tire barrier.

The crash seemed to be a warning of the excesses of tarmac run off, but Pedrosa was happy that there wasn’t a gravel trap at the edge of the track. “I crashed in fifth gear, so I was going very fast,” Pedrosa said.

“From one point of view I think, most of the run-off area was asphalt so maybe the bike didn’t decelerate enough. But on the other side I was very lucky it was only asphalt, because I crashed so fast that if I went into the gravel I would have tumbled over and over with a lot of speed.”

There are upsides to asphalt run off sometimes.

MotoGP Considering Team Communication via Dashboards

08/12/2016 @ 1:16 pm, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

box

Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes.

The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track.

Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.