Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

beIN Sports to Continue Televising WSBK thru 2015

05/19/2014 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

beIN Sports to Continue Televising WSBK thru 2015 wsbk television 635x423

World Superbike fans may, or may not, be pleased to hear that beIN Sports will continue televising WSBK for the American market, through the 2015 season.

As was the case previously, beIN Sports will continue as the sole-television provider for the American and Canadian television markets, while the beIN Sports online streaming service will operate alongside World Superbike’s own internet property.

US Motorcycle Market Drops 14.7% in Q1 2013

05/21/2013 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

US Motorcycle Market Drops 14.7% in Q1 2013 united states text map 635x425

While we have mostly been lamenting the loss of the European motorcycle market, thanks chiefly to the Spanish and Italian economies, things here in the United States appear to be a bit tougher than was thought. While Americans contemplate whether or not we are headed into a double-dip recession, the American motorcycle market certainly seems to be headed that way.

While last year showed signs that motorcycling in the US had hit rock-bottom, and even posted very modest signs of growth, the first quarter of 2013 is anything but reassuring. With the US motorcycle market down 14.7% overall in Q1 2013, the MIC is reporting losses pretty much across the board (off-highway bike sales are more or less flat).

Reuters: MotoGP Seeks to Reduce Presence in Spain & USA

05/16/2013 @ 1:24 am, by David Emmett63 COMMENTS

Reuters: MotoGP Seeks to Reduce Presence in Spain & USA spanish bull 635x423

That MotoGP is too Iberocentric – too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders – is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.

This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race.

In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.

Say Hello to the 2013 Honda…Grom?

05/14/2013 @ 4:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Say Hello to the 2013 Honda...Grom? 2013 Honda Grom 06 635x635

We already covered the Honda MSX125 monkey bike when it debuted at the start of this year, and at the time we knew that the tiny street-terror would be a world market machine. Confirming our hopes at the time of its launch, Honda Motor Corp. has announced that it intends to bring the MSX125 to the United States, renaming it the Honda Grom.

The 2013 Honda Grom will come with just under 10hp, and features a four-speed gearbox that is mated to a 125cc single-cylinder motor, which comes from the common-parts bin of the Japanese company’s popular Honda Wave 125i scooter. Fuel-injected, 225 lbs at the curb when topped-off with its 1.45 gallons of fuel, and priced at $2,999 MSRP, we think Honda hit its mark with an affordable, bulletproof, and fun grocery-getter.

Track day enthusiasts, we have found your perfect pit bike; new riders, we have the ideal machine for you to cut your teeth on, while still being “cool” in the eyes of your more experienced riding friends; and for those who are vertically challenged, your 29.7 inch inseam machine is ready. More photos after the jump, but note America will only be getting the red & black models.

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

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

Lap the Circuit of the Americas on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R Ducati 1199 Panigale R wheelie Circuit of the Americas 635x423

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.

Harley-Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012

01/30/2013 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012 Harley Davidson 635x423

Helped by a strong fourth quarter, Harley-Davidson is reporting signs of growth for 2012, with the company’s global sales again up 6.2% over the figures from last year. With sales up 6.6% in the United States, and 5.6% abroad, Harley-Davidson sold 249,849 motorcycles in 2012, and those sales figures translated onto the balance sheet into a 6% growth in revenue ($4.9 billion) and a 4% increase in net income ($623 million).

“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our employees, dealers and suppliers, Harley-Davidson achieved its growth and restructuring goals in 2012,” said CEO Keith Wandell. “The ambitious restructuring of our manufacturing operations, aimed at delivering better responsiveness for customers and greater operating efficiency, is now largely behind us.”

Uh-Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales-Year Ever in 2012

01/11/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Uh Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales Year Ever in 2012 ktm moto3 635x423

If we asked you which Germanic company was the largest motorcycle brand by volume, you would likely guess BMW Motorrad…and you would be wrong. Snap! Displacing the venerable brand from Bavaria, which set its own sales record, KTM’s 2012 sales year of 107,142 units has handed the Austrian brand the distinction of being the best-selling Germanic brand worldwide (by a margin of less than 1,000 machines).

2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Outed – Team Green’s Answer for a Small-Displacement Sport Bike in the USA?

08/27/2012 @ 7:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Outed   Team Greens Answer for a Small Displacement Sport Bike in the USA? Kawasaki Ninja ZX 6R cutaway 635x476

Two curious things happened today: an EPA certification document outed details on the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R and Kawasaki USA announced the “global debut of its 2013 line of iconic Ninja motorcycles in New York’s Times Square.” Add in to the mix that the EPA documents also make mention of Kawasaki Ninja 300 & Kawasaki Ninja 400R models, along with the recently updated Kawasaki Ninja 250R, and Team Green could very well be dropping the news about three or four brand new models for the US market.

Of course what is really interesting about this news is how Kawasaki could do a two-fold offer of 300cc & 400cc bikes in the US market, and how those two models would fit alongside the Ninja 250R, which we can only assume will be updated in the United States to the model that was debuted in Indonesia earlier this month. Or will it?

WSBK: Sunshine & Motorbikes for Race 1 at MMP

05/29/2012 @ 5:21 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

WSBK: Sunshine & Motorbikes for Race 1 at MMP Memorial Day Miller Motorsports Park 635x423

Memorial Day was finally greeted with some proper racing weather at Miller Motorsports Park, and World Superbike racing was underway Monday at WSBK’s only stop in the USA. With the Ducatis lacking speed on Miller’s long front straight, the Italain contingency made up for its horsepower deficit in MMP’s many curves. Surprisingly, this lead to Jakub Smrz taking the Superpole on Sunday, and with Carlos Checa and Davide Giugliano sitting on the front row, only Tom Sykes could mix things up with his #3 spot on the grid.

The Dainese D-Air Racing Airbag Suit Comes to America

01/26/2012 @ 7:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The Dainese D Air Racing Airbag Suit Comes to America Dainese D Air Racing airbag suit 635x668

Getting a look at Dainese & AGV’s 2012 collection, Asphalt & Rubber was down in Orange County earlier this week to see the highly anticipated Dainese D-Air Racing leather suit, which has a four liter airbag system that helps reduce the risk of injury during a motorcycle crash. Dainese has been working on the D-Air Racing system for 10 years now, and after soft-launching the airbag suit in Europe, the Italian company is ready to bring the game-changing technology to American soil.

If you watch MotoGP or World Superbike, you have likely already seen the roughly one pound (650 grams) D-Air Racing suit at work, as riders like Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, Stefan Bradl, Leon Haslam, and Max Biaggi have been wearing Dainese’s airbag leathers while racing, and have also been providing the company with feedback on the D-Air’s design and development. In addition to deploying an airbag that protects a rider’s neck, chest, and shoulders, the Dainese D-Air system also provides a telemetry package that track riders can use in lieu of a basic motorcycle data acquisition system.