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.

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

01/11/2017 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler72 COMMENTS

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).

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Silverstone Day of Champions Tickets Now On Sale

07/21/2016 @ 9:31 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Silverstone Day of Champions Tickets Now On Sale

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After several weeks of uncertainty, the future for Silverstone’s Day of Champions has been settled.

Questions started when the UK arm of Riders for Health ceased operations, but thankfully a new organization, Two Wheels for Life, has taken over the running of the Riders for Health, and will continue to support their programs aimed at providing primary health care in Africa.

The handover means good news for MotoGP fans as well. The Day of Champions is to go ahead as usual, on the Thursday before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

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What Brexit Really Means for the Motorcycle Industry

06/24/2016 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Coverage of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s referendum whether to continue as a member of the European Union, has largely been ignored in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t been a blip on the radar recently within our microcosm of the motorcycle industry.

But of course, the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union will have far-reaching consequences, even in our beloved little two-wheeled world.

If you check the timestamp on the most recent Paddock Pass Podcast posting, you will see that I was up late enough into the evening to get word that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with the “Leave” supporters edging out the “Remains” by the narrow margin of 1.3 million votes.

There is a lot of politics at play here, and I don’t care to rehash it, other than to say that it could be a foreshadow of what could come soon in the United States as well. What I do have to say though is an examination of how the United Kingdom leaving the European Union can and will affect the world of motorcycling.

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Donington Park World Superbike Debrief: Twice Tested

05/31/2016 @ 10:34 am, by Kent Brockman2 COMMENTS

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Donington Park has become the personal playground of 2013 World Superbike champion Tom Sykes.

The Yorkshire rider has now claimed an incredible eight wins in a row at his home circuit, and after Sunday’s races Sykes explained how much it meant and also what it means going forward.

In this debrief, Tom Syke’s crew chief, Marcel Duinker, offers his insight into whether Sykes has an advantage at Donington Park due to his riding style.

Also of note this weekend was the addition of new riders to the WorldSBK grid, as for the majority of last year PJ Jacobsen was the sole American riding in the WorldSBK paddock, but last weekend the numbers swelled to three, with Cameron Beaubier joining the Superbike Circus.

The MotoAmerica champion aquitted himself well and we will assess what it means for MotoAmerica, having him race against some of the world’s finest.

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World Superbike Race Results from Donington Park – Race 2

05/29/2016 @ 4:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

World Superbike Race Results from Donington Park – Race 1

05/28/2016 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Video: Chaz Davies’ Ducati Panigale R Erupts in Flames

05/27/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. That was the case for Chaz Davies at Donington Park today, as the Ducati rider found his Panigale R race bike going up in flames during FP2.

An unknown mechanical issue forced Davies to pull off the track, and not long after getting his bike to a stop did flames started erupting out of his Ducati Panigale R.

The bike was a total loss, and the whole ordeal cost Davies a valuable time during the practice session, but at least Davies didn’t have to abandon ship at full-speed – like Colin Edwards did on the Aprilia RS Cube.

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Motorcycle Charity Riders for Health Shuts Its Doors

05/24/2016 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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If you are a regular reader of Asphalt & Rubber, then you surely have seen our banners supporting Riders for Health, one of the great charities to come out of the motorcycle industry.

The non-profit organization, based out of the UK, provides healthcare services to remote locations in Africa, utilizing motorcycles to traverse the uncertain terrain.

Started by Andrea and Barry Coleman, along with Randy Mamola (yes, that Randy Mamola), Riders for Health even had HRH Princess Anne as its patron, with major support from the FIM and the MotoGP Championship as well.

If you attended a MotoGP round in the US or UK, then you may have seen the Riders for Health auctions, or participated in the Day of Stars or Day of Champions events.

Therefore, it is unfortunate for us to report that Riders for Health will be closing its UK offices, effectively ending the charity’s operations.

Thankfully, some of Riders’ operations in a number of African countries will continue on despite this closure, as their operations have already transferred to local actors, governments, or organizations.

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Cameron Beaubier Racing WSBK at Donington Park

05/20/2016 @ 9:07 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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American race fans will see a familiar face during next weekend’s World Superbike races at Donington Park, as its has just been announced that MotoAmerica’s Cameron Beaubier will be ridng with the Pata Yamaha factory team.

Cameron Beaubier will be filling in for the injured Sylvain Guintoli, who fractured his ankle during the Superpole session at the Imola round – an injury that is taking longer to heal than expected.

While it’s bad news for the Guintoli, the move is a boon for Beaubier, as the weekend will likely serve as a public audition for the young American in the World Superbike paddock.

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Ducati Sold 54,800 Bikes in 2015 – Another Record

01/14/2016 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As expected from earlier sales reports, Ducati Motor Holding is posting a banner year for 2015. The Italian motorcycle maker says that it sold 54,800 bikes last year, a 9,683 unit (+22%) increase over the number of bikes sold in 2014.

Helping break the 50,000 units barrier, the Ducati Scrambler line accounted for virtually all of Ducati’s sales growth in 2015, with over 16,000 Scrambler models sold worldwide. As we have reported before, this paints an interesting picture of what is going on behind Borgo Panigale’s walls.

“The record sales of 2015 are the result of our company’s courage and skill,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding.

“Ducati closes 2015 with record volumes and also a substantial growth of 22% over 2014. During the year Ducati not only launched successful new motorcycles, but also a new brand, Ducati Scrambler, which immediately won global acclaim with over 16,000 sales worldwide.”

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