BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

The Z800 Becomes the 2017 Kawasaki Z900

The naked sport bike segment continues to push into larger displacements, with the Kawasaki Z800 turning into the all-new 2017 Kawasaki Z900. With that change in number comes an obviously new 948cc inline-four engine, slung into a light-weight trellis frame, amongst other improvements. For the marquee differences between the machines, the Kawasaki Z900 brings with it a 13hp power increase to 124hp, and a weight reduction of over 50 lbs, for a curb weight of 458 lbs (non-ABS). For creature comforts, the 2017 Kawasaki Z900 comes with assist and slipper clutch, with optional ABS brakes. Priced at an aggressive $8,399 ($8,799 for the ABS model) though, that tradeoff comes from the Z900 being sans any advanced electronics and high-spec components.

Vintage Done Right, The Fantic Caballero 500

You probably haven’t heard of Fantic Motorcycles, but you won’t want to miss the company’s two new 500cc models, which are tastefully done heritage models. Bringing Italian sexiness to a segment dominated with an American aesthetic, the Fantic Caballero 500 street tracker and scrambler bikes are remarkable examples of purposeful and elegant machines. Based around a 449cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine that makes 43hp, the Fantic Caballero 500 scrambler comes with a 19″ front wheel and 17″ rear wheel, whereas the street tracker model comes with 19″ hoops fore and aft. The chassis is done in the old style, with a backbone frame made out of chromoly steel, mated to a more modern aluminum swingarm. Upside down forks and a rear monoshock handle suspension, both of which are fully adjustable.

Ride Review: Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/24/2013 @ 11:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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New for 2013, Ducati has added another model to its Superbike range, the long awaited Ducati 1199 Panigale R. Asphalt & Rubber was first to break the news on the “R” version of Borgo Panigale’s namesake, so it is fitting that we were one of the first publications to ride this homologation-special — taking part in Ducati’s international press launch at the new, and very technical, Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas.

A purpose-built facility for the Formula 1 Championship, the Circuit of the Americas also has a ten-year contract with motorcycling’s premier class, the MotoGP Championship. This means three races will be held in the United States of America this year, which makes America MotoGP’s second-most visited countries in 2013. That distinction seems fitting, as the United States has also officially become Ducati’s number one market, not just for superbike sales, but in overall bikes sold.

Seeing a shift not only in the Italian company’s DNA, as it explores lines like the Hypermotard, Multistrada, and Diavel with great sales success, Ducati is also moving beyond being just a boutique Italian brand, into a truly global motorcycle company — being recently acquired by the Audi Group doesn’t hurt things either.

With so much change occurring at the foundation of the Ducati brand, bikes like the Panigale are extremely important to the Bologna Brand, as they anchor the company’s racing and performance heritage. Worry not loyal Ducatisti, the race-ready Ducati 1199 Panigale R lives up to the high-expectations, and is quite simply the finest machine to come from Ducati Motor Holding. We review it, after the jump.

Lap the Circuit of the Americas on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/22/2013 @ 3:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.

As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.

Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.

That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.

Ducati Reports 21% Sales Gain in 2012

03/12/2013 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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As was predicted, Ducati Motor Holdings has posted a very impressive 2012 sales report, with 44,102 motorcycles being delivered to customers last year. Appeasing its new German owners, Ducati also grew 16% in revenues over its 2011 figures.

Perhaps more importantly, the American market has solidified its position as the brand’s most important market (the US market posted 21% sales gains as well). With this news, 2012 now officially marks Ducati’s high-water mark in terms of yearly sales figures. Swish.

452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

02/05/2013 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

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After first forecasting a sales decline for 2012, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has tallied the number of motorcycles sold in the United States last year, and once again discovered that the motorcycle industry is slowly, but surely recovering from the recession. With the US making a very slight 0.3% sales gain in 2011, A&R‘s home market has posted a 2.6% gain over the figures from 2011, with OEMs selling 452,386 motorcycles in 2012.

Though all the two-wheeled segments showed growth in the MIC’s figures, it was the dual-purpose and scooter market that posted the biggest gains, 7.4% and 7.7% respectively. For the street bike market, sales were up a modest 1.8%, despite a much larger gain made by Harley-Davidson, which dominates over half of the US on-road market by volume. Dirt bikes also posted a modest 2.1% growth, with 71,535 units sold in 2012.

Ducati Anticipates 20% Growth by the End of 2012

11/15/2012 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Although Ducati hasn’t closed out the year yet, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding Gabriele Del Torchio was confident when speaking to the press at EICMA that the company would top last year’s record numbers, with a solid 20% grow margin. Expected to take the company to 44,000 units sold worldwide, 2012 is the best sales year by volume in the history of the company, and comes just after the company’s acquisition by Audi AG.

Doubling its marketshare worldwide, the Bologna Brand says it has made a 10% increase in what it calls its “Ducati Relevant Market” – the company’s core demographic of buyers (or what Mitt Romney would call, the brand’s 53%). For fun facts, nine out of ten Ducatis made in Borgo Panigale are destined for foreign markets (read: Italy now accounts for 10% of Ducati’s sales). We already knew that the US is Ducati’s top stronghold, with the American market growing by double-digits this year.

Three Moto Guzzi V7 Models Coming to America for 2013

09/26/2012 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

For the new model year, Moto Guzzi is bringing three variations of its V7 line to the United States with includes the 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer, and 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Special. Based around the Italian company’s revised 750cc 90° longitudinally mounted v-twin motor, all three models also sport a cardan-shaft drive and double-cradle “Tonti” frame, for that classic Guzzi retro look.

The three Moto Guzzi V7 models should be popular with riders who are looking for a throw-back aesthetic, with a bit more modern engineering. That being said, Moto Guzzi has struggled for traction in the US market, due in part to an inadequate supply/support chain, but also because of some confusing marketing and segment placement.

While the Piaggio Group subsidiary struggles to find its identity, we think the company should further explore bikes like the V7, which provides a unique alternative to the standard modern-bike fare, and creates a bit of distance between Moto Guzzi and the rest of the Piaggio Group line-up.

MotoGP: GP Tech Racing a Suzuki CRT Wild Card at Indy GP

05/15/2012 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The folks at GP Tech are no strangers to running wild card entries at Indy, as the American motorcycle parts seller fielded one-off wild card rides in the Moto2 Championship at both the 2010 and 2011 Indianapolis GP’s. Using FTR-built bikes, GP Tech raced with Jason DiSalvo in 2010, were the American rider finished a very respectable 9th place, while in 2011 Jake Gagne rode to a forgettable 31st spot.

Stepping up to the big-boy leagues, GP Tech has been granted a wild card entry for the 2012 Indianapolis GP, and will run a Suzuki GSX-R1000 motor in a billet aluminum frame that is being prepared by BCL Motorsports. GP Tech has also tapped Vesrah Suzuki/MCJ Motorsports to help with the project, which should give us some clues as to whom the unnamed rider will be for the Grand Prix race.

Question Marks for MotoGP at Austin – WSBK Instead?

03/09/2012 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

News of a possible MotoGP round in Austin, Texas sent GP fans in the United Stats into a flurry, but the proposed third US round has been anything but a sure thing since its announcement, and continues to be so even after the signing of a 10-year contract. Trouble first started brewing as the Circuit of the America’s had trouble finalizing its deal with Formula 1, a deal that was the linchpin to the circuit’s financing. With the issues with F1 resolved, and the premier car racing series set to take the green flag at Austin later this year, MotoGP seemingly is having the same problem of coming to Austin.

Reported by the local Austin news site the Statesman, the issue is both complex and relatively simple. As with Formula 1, the rights to host MotoGP at the Austin track reside with Full Throttle, a promotion company owned in part by Tavo Hellmund, who in turn was a partner of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) project. When last year Formula 1’s contract with Hellmund was found to be in breach, F1 Boss Bernie Eccelstone terminated his contract with Hellmund, which then sent the F1 deal at Austin into a tailspin, and caused COTA to deal directly with Formula 1 in securing the racing series.

With Hellmund also being the bond that tied MotoGP to Austin, the same issue has arisen with COTA and Dorna, the media rights holder to the MotoGP Championship. According to court documents, Hellmund alleges that COTA had an opportunity to buy the rights to host MotoGP for $18 million from Full Throttle/Hellmund when it bought the similar rights to Formula 1. Clearly unable to close that deal at the time, unless the Circuit of the Americas can secure those rights in the coming months, the Austin GP scheduled for 2013 will likely not be held.

Leadership Change at BMW Motorrad USA

02/24/2012 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

After serving 18 years in the ranks of the BMW Group, Pieter de Waal will be stepping down as head of BMW Motorrad USA in March and formally retiring from BMW. Replacing de Waal will be Hans Blesse, who will leave his position as VP of Sales and Marketing at BMW Motorrad Germany, and take on the role of Vice President of BMW Motorrad USA. With 25 years of experience working for the BMW Group worldwide, Blesse has served in the company’s Canadian, Spanish, and German offices with roles in sales, marketing, and after-sales.

Ducati North America Posts 43% Sales Growth in 2011 – Now Ducati’s Top Market Worldwide

01/23/2012 @ 9:01 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

If you read A&R with any sort of regularity, you should know by now that the European motorcycle companies have been cleaning house during these otherwise tough economic times, with 2011 being the high-water mark for many of these more premium brands. BMW Motorrad posted its best sales year ever in 2011, while Triumph and KTM have been holding their own as well.

The same has been true for Ducati, and now Ducati North America has posted its sales numbers for 2011, which show a 43% gain over the previous year. This increase in sales has now established North America as Ducati’s #1 market for the first time ever, and the Italian brand continues to grow here in the United States, Canada, and Mexico (while declining back home in Italy).