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.

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.

BMW K1600B – Germany’s Six-Cylinders of Bagger

10/11/2016 @ 5:40 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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We’ve expect for some time to see BMW Motorrad debut a bagger model, based off its K1600 touring bike platform, and now the wait is over. The attractive BMW Concept 101 teased this much to us, and today that speculation can be put to rest, with the release of the 2017 BMW K1600B.

Like the Honda Gold Wing F6B, the concept behind this six-cylinder motorcycle here is pretty simple, and its hope is to go after a large motorcycle segment that is dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson.

As has been BMW’s playbook for the 2017 model year, the K1600B floods a space that BMW is already a heavy-hitter in, offering even more options to riders who are looking to pound some pavement, this time with some bagger appeal.

Helping make that appeal, BMW’s inline-six engine will make 160hp for the 2017 model year, thanks to Euro 4 regulations. The BMW K1600B will also see a 2.75″ seat height drop, fixed side cases (hence the “bagger” name), and various subtle styling changes from the GT/GTL models.

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The New Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight Engine Debuts

08/25/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson-Milwaukee-Eight-engine

What you are looking at above is Harley-Davidson’s ninth iteration of its “Big Twin” engines. It’s called the Milwaukee-Eight, named after Harley-Davidson’s home town and the fact that the engine head design employs a very modern eight valves in total (four per cylinder head).

Time will tell if the Milwaukee-Eight becomes as iconic as Harley-Davidson’s other designs, like the Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead, etc. But, we do know that the Milwaukee-Eight marks a more modern approach to engine design from the Bar & Shield brand.

To this end, Harley-Davidson says that the new power plant offers a quicker throttle response, more passing power, purer sound (whatever that means), and a smoother ride (read: less vibrations).

The Milwaukee-Eight will first be used on Harley-Davidson’s touring and trike lines, though we can expect the engine design to permeate through Harley-Davidson’s lineup.

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Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

07/02/2016 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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You may have already seen the leaked photo from World Ducati Week, which shows that the Ducati Supersport is making a return to Bologna’s lineup.

We haven’t seen the “Supersport” sport-touring line in almost a decade, but it will be making a return for the 2017 model year, with two bikes.

Since yours truly is at World Ducati Week this year, I was able to get a peak at the Supersport, and can share with you some details on the machine.

First off, a clarification for those who aren’t acquainted with Ducati’s history with the Supersport line. The name is different from our normal usage of the term “supersport” and doesn’t imply that this motorcycle is Ducati’s answer for a 600cc racing machine.

Instead, the Ducati Supersport has a rich history as a sport-tourer; back when that segment actually existed, and was distinct from being just a superbike for the road. This model seems very much a return to that past.

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Updates Coming for 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

03/21/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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It looks like updates are coming for the KTM 1290 Super Adventure, as the Austrian company has been caught testing the machine.

What those updates will be though, is anyone’s guess, as the photos captured of the new KTM 1290 Super Adventure don’t reveal too many changes (see the photos here).

Most noticeable are some revisions to the front of the Super Adventure, with the fairing/headlight and windshield getting some minor shape corrections.

This is likely to improve airflow around the rider, which makes sense as KTM has fitted their test rider with a bevy of wind telltales for aerodynamic assessment.

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2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

FJR1300A USA 2016

The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

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Triumph Debuts Six New Tiger Explorer Models

11/18/2015 @ 9:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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For 2016, Triumph is revamping its Tiger Explorer offering, and like with the Tiger 800, the big adventure-touring machine gets a bevy of different variations to cater to a wider variety of riders.

The lineup is a bit of an alphabet soup, so we’ll try and break it down for you. First up, there are two basic models: the Tiger Explorer XR & Tiger Explorer XC. The XR is Triumph’s on-road ADV bike, while the XC is geared to go off-road.

Within the Triumph Tiger XR on-road line, the base XR model is the cheapest and most basic model, and the line has two higher-spec machines: the XRx & XRt. Similarly, the the Triumph Tiger XC off-road line and the XC is base model. The higher-spec off-road models are the XCx and XCa.

We asked Triumph to clarify the differences between the four higher spec models, and the six models in general, but it seems that the OEM doesn’t have that answer at their fingertips. I have no words to respond to that with.

There’s no information on the company’s website, we’ll tell you just about everything that is in the company’s press release in this article, and it seems even other publications don’t seem to have an answer – this is a first for me, in my seven years of running Asphalt & Rubber.

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KTM 1290 Super Duke GT – The Be(a)st Sport-Tourer?

11/17/2015 @ 5:31 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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I recently was pleased to get the chance to ride the KTM 1290 Super Duke R – machine that truly lives up to the name “The Beast”, yet shows enough comfort to be a potent touring machine, if you could mount bags and a windscreen to it.

That thought is exactly what drove KTM with its latest model, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, which takes the 173hp streetfighter, and gives its bags, more fairing, and a windshield — all for 502 lbs, ready to ride.

Unless the Austrian massively botched this relatively easy task, this could mean that the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is the best sport-tourer on the market.

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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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Reitvergnügen – Day One – Autobahning

09/02/2015 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Our first day in earnest sees our group leaving our Radisson hotel in Munich, walking across the street to the massive München BMW dealership, grabbing our respective bikes – a fleet of F800R, F800GT, R1200R, R1200RS, R1200GS, and S1000XR motorcycles – and heading out on the autobahn, towards Austria.

Since our group is full of early risers, we got things moving ahead of schedule. For some, this meant extra time to meet our fellow riders; though for one member of the group, it meant a little extra time to shake off the cobwebs with a pre-ride beer – an occurrence that unfortunately became more of a ritual.

Joining me on our trek through the better parts of Europe is a dynamic group of individuals: there are a bunch of NY/NJ guys from N2 Track Days, an Apple engineer with an affinity for Triumphs, a designer with the gift of gab, and a former World Champion motorcycle racer.

The show is orchestrated by Cat MacLeod, a tall Scotsman with bleached white hair that ends in a ponytail, and his team of European tour guides and logistic personnel who are eager to help us navigate some of the best roads in the world, as well as the nightlife that surrounds them.

With nearly 500km of riding to report for Day 1, we better stop stalling and get to it, eh?

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Reitvergnügen – Day Zero – München

08/28/2015 @ 10:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber will have a decidedly European kick the next few days, as David and Tony are in the UK for the British GP, and I will be in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy for a bit of motorcycle touring.

I got this amazing opportunity to join Leod Motorcycle Escapes for their “Alps & Sachsenring Dream” tour, which means for the next five days I’ll be riding in the German/Swiss/Italian Alps, as well as the Italian Dolomites. Once that’s done, we head back into Germany for a two-day track day at Sachsenring. Schwing!

Over the course of the trip, I will be riding the new BMW R1200RS (maybe a little seat time on the S1000XR too) during the touring sections, and throwing a leg over the updated 2015 BMW S1000RR while at Sachsenring. It’s a hard life, right?

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