Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains. This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

Trackside Tuesday : A 2014 Photo Retrospective – Part 1

01/13/2015 @ 4:38 pm, by Tony Goldsmith7 COMMENTS

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As the countdown to the new season gathers momentum I thought I’d have a look back at some of my favourite photographs from 2014.

The image above of Scott Redding was taken as he came in for a tire change during qualifying at Le Mans. Sometimes the riders will disappear to the back of the garage during qualifying.

If you’re lucky they will stay on the bike while the crew get to work. If they do, it provides a great opportunity for a portrait as was the case here.

Trackside Tuesday: A Review of 2014 in Photographs

12/23/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

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Having just finished production on the 2015 MotoMatters Motorcycle Racing Calendar, the 2014 season has been on my mind quite a bit over the past several weeks. So I thought I’d take look back at the MotoGP images I contributed here at Asphalt & Rubber and add a bit of perspective to each one.

Trackside Tuesday: You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

12/16/2014 @ 11:17 pm, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

Shayna Texter Superprestigio

While Marc Marquez, Brad Baker, and Jared Mees grabbed most of the attention at this past weekend’s Superprestigio in Barcelona, each of the other forty-five racers has his, or her, own story for the two-day event.

Scott Redding had high hopes of a strong performance, but crashed heavily and tore a muscle in his chest. Guy Martin, with 17 Isle of Man TT podiums and many victories on the Irish roads circuits, never looked at ease on Barcelona’s tiny dirt oval. Moto2 champ Tito Rabat didn’t see his experience or recent practice pay off with a good result.

The greatest disappointment probably goes to Baker, whose crash and resulting concussion and dislocated shoulder forced him to retire from competition, and miss his chance to defend his title. The story of Superprestigio’s unrealized hopes has many characters.

When the story reaches Shayna Texter, the plot takes a unique turn. Miss Texter is the five-foot-tall, 95-pound flat tracker from Willow Street, Pennsylvania, and the only female racer to participate in the Superprestigio competition.

Trackside Tuesday: The Black Box Revealed

12/02/2014 @ 11:45 pm, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

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You may have seen this image in a PHOTO.GP post a while back, one that wondered what this item is. The label reads Intertechnique Pressure Reducer and at PHOTO.GP we’ve speculated about what exactly this apparatus does when placed atop the Yamaha YZR-M1. We’ve come to refer to it as The Black Box.

The photo above is from 2013, and I’ve been wondering about this item at least since Mugello of last season. But only recently did I take steps to find out just what it is.

The fact is that while I wander up and down pit lane as someone who understands, at least in relation to the level of technology on display in MotoGP, only the basics of how motorcycles work, I frequently see exotic bits of engineering that are utter mysteries to me.

Trackside Tuesday: Factory Futures

09/16/2014 @ 2:11 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

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Marc Marquez is only 21-years-old. Likely to win his second premier class title in as many tries, his is a future of on-track tyranny. Assuming he continues to improve and mature with experience, he has the potential to be the Michael Schumacher of motorcycle racing.

That’s good for Honda, assuming Marquez is content to keep on winning with Honda equipment. HRC has probably learned “The Rossi Lesson” well enough to make sure Marquez is happy, and will do everything required to keep him from exploring other manufacturers’ offerings.

As Marquez romps through season after season, Honda has Dani Pedrosa as wingman for another two years, and next year Scott Redding can show what he’s truly got on a leased RCV213 with MarcVDS. Pedrosa’s spot is Redding’s for the taking should his results in the next two seasons earn him an orange and red Alpinstars outfit.

Honda has the youngest and brightest rising stars already wrapped in its warm (and Repsol-funded) embrace. Alex Marquez, Alex Rins, and now Fabio Quartararo are being groomed to take over for Marc when his time at the top comes to an end.

But at 21, Marquez could continue to be, if not a title favorite, at the very least a title contender for another nine or more years! So where does that leave other factories?

Trackside Tuesday: A Manx Perspective on the Classic TT

09/02/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

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The dust has now settled on this year’s Classic TT. For those unfamiliar with the event, the Classic TT was born from the ashes of the old Manx Grand Prix. Run on the same Mountain Course as the TT, the Manx as it was affectionately known, featured racing on modern and classic machinery.

Originally created as the amateur rider’s TT,  TT legends such as Steve Hislop and Philip McCallen first cut their teeth at the Manx before moving on to the TT. Multiple World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty won at “The Manx” in the 1985.

As media interest in the old Manx Grand Prix format dwindled, the Manx government started looking at ways to improve its marketing appeal and increase visitor numbers.  Early proposals to cut the amount of modern classes were met with protests by some local fans, but a new format was eventually agreed and the Festival of Motorcycling was born.

Trackside Tuesday: The Ulster

08/05/2014 @ 3:54 pm, by Tony Goldsmith10 COMMENTS

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Ask someone to name a motorcycle race held on public roads, chances are they will say the Isle of Man TT. The TT is not the only road race, far from it. In fact in a little over a week, practice for the Ulster Grand Prix begins, one of the most popular races on the road racing calendar.

For those of you not familiar with the event, it is held on the 7.732 mile Dundrod circuit near Belfast in Northern Ireland. The Ulster, as it’s referred to by road racing fans, was part of the inaugural Grand Prix motorcycle racing season in 1949, a place it held until 1971.

Unlike the TT’s time trial format, it’s a mass-start race and in recent years has been given the tag “The Fastest Road Race in the World”. The lap record currently stands to Bruce Anstey at an average speed of 133.977mph. Road racing legend Joey Dunlop holds the record for most wins with 24.

Trackside Tuesday: Rookie Rule Redux

07/29/2014 @ 11:23 pm, by Scott Jones39 COMMENTS

Jack Miller pit box losail Qatar 2014

For all the good that accompanied Marc Marquez’s arrival in the premier class, there was one casualty that we should consider reviving: The Rookie Rule.

A brief recap if you don’t recall the details: In 2010 the Grand Prix Commission approved a rule stating that no riders entering the premier class for the first time could ride for factory teams.

This was partly intended as a cost-saving measure and partly intended to placate satellite team owners who complained that without the rule, they would never have a chance to hire top rookie riders.

For several years The Rookie Rule worked nicely with one glaring exception, that of keeping Ben Spies out of the Factory Yamaha squad. Spies came to MotoGP as a multiple national series champion (AMA Superbike), as reigning WSBK champion, and most importantly, at 25-years-old.

Though he’d not ridden all of the GP tracks and didn’t know the Bridgestone tires, his experience with pressure and media attention made him the rookie perhaps most suited to going directly to a factory team. Cal Crutchlow could’ve also made a strong case based on his experience and maturity.

Jorge Lorenzo joined the Factory Yamaha team the year before the rule was adopted, but in my opinion became one of the best case studies to support the Rookie Rule.

Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

Trackside Tuesday: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

07/08/2014 @ 11:51 pm, by Scott Jones20 COMMENTS

Jorge Lorenzo at Catalunya MotoGP Scott Jones

Marc Marquez, 2013 MotoGP World Champion in his rookie season. In 2014, eight wins in eight races. Each day of his life garners another how many thousand fans? He seems able to win any race, to succeed in any situation. He looks bulletproof, invulnerable.

But he’s not the first to appear so in control of his own skills and talents that he can do nothing but succeed. Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 Championship season seemed (until 2014, anyway) about as perfect a campaign as was possible in the current MotoGP environment.

First or Second in all but two races? Lorenzo looked like a machine designed to win titles, unstoppable when things went his way, and savvy enough to grab second place when things didn’t.

He probably would have repeated in 2013 had Marquez not shown up to exceed expectations by such a dramatic degree. And to the previously unflappable, metronomic Lorenzo, Marquez has become something like kryptonite.