How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

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).

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

10/16/2014 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida today and tomorrow, covering the new bikes that are debuting on North American soil. We’ve already seen the new Yamaha YZF-R3 released here, as well as the Alta RedShift electric motorcycles (formerly BRD Motorcycles).

While both bikes are impressive, and are massively important to the American motorcycle scene, the buzz remains about the Kawasaki Ninja H2R. The AIMExpo is the first venue for Americans to get a glimpse of Kawasaki’s hyperbike, and the H2R sits like a praying mantis, waiting to strike you with its supercharged charms.

Naturally, we had to get a closer look…and bring you a bevy of high-resolution detail shots from the trades how floor. Enjoy!

Up-Close with the Ducati Scrambler Icon

09/30/2014 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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The 2015 Ducati Scrambler has officially debuted at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany today, in case you missed the news. Before today though, Ducati North America invited us out to get a sneak peak of the new Scrambler Icon, along with a little time in a photo studio.

As a result, we have a bevy of our “up-close” photos for you, as well as some first impressions of the machine.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Ducati Scrambler is how bare bones the motorcycle is. Ducati did a good job of not over-thinking the Scrambler, leaving the model true to its name.

The dash is a tastefully small round unit, which sits nestled between the high and wide handlebars. This gives the rider a good open feeling from the seat, though the exposed wires and cables are a bit distracting, with nothing else to hide them.

Artfully exposed is the air-cooled v-twin DesmoDue engine, which is borrowed from the Monster 796, and thus is a confusing 803cc. The header shape should look familiar as well, as it mimics those found on the Ducati Diavel.

The seat seems practical for two-up riding, and the Scrambler Icon is fitted with passenger pegs. The cheapest ($8,595 for the yellow one) of Ducati’s four Scrambler variants, the Icon is perhaps the most vanilla model. That’s not a bad thing, but the other three models are clearly present to appeal to certain niche riders.

Up-Close with the Energica Ego Electric Superbike

07/17/2014 @ 12:05 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber had the fortunate chance to ride the Energica Ego today, and before I get to a proper review of riding the electric superbike, I wanted to reintroduce this Italian machine to our readers, because while A&R might have been one of the few outlets to cover Energica, this new player in the “E2V” space might still strike you as unfamiliar.

A project from Italy’s respected engineering firm CRP Racing, I first had the opportunity to see the Energica Ego at the 2011 EICMA show. The machine wasn’t a runner at the time, as CRP was still looking for a drivetrain partner that could supplement CRP’s already extensive knowledge in chassis design.

Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, and the Energica sub-brand debuted its first production electric superbike, the Ego. The naming might be a bit tough, especially for us Anglophones, but this 134hp, 143 lbs•ft superbike packs a punch, and is remarkably well-refined.

I will leave the full review for a more-detailed article, but the short version of it is pretty positive. I came to the launch skeptical of Energica and the Ego, but left very impressed with the company its machine — the conversation about production electric motorcycles now has to include this potent Italian brand and its first product offering. Enthusiasts should take note.

Up-Close with the 2014 Mugen Shinden San (神電 参)

06/04/2014 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The TT Zero event for the 2014 Isle of Man TT is about to kick-off in about an hour, so we thought we’d show the electric superbike that everyone in the paddock is talking about, the Mugen Shinden San. The third iteration of the machine from Mugen, this year the Japanese tuning brand has two riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

With Bruce Anstey on fire this TT fortnight, and McGuinness off his pace in the previous sessions with a wrist injury (and sitting out today’s Supersport TT race), it seems like anything can happen before the starter’s flag drops.

Assuming the two-rider format remains, Mugen has said to Asphalt & Rubber that both riders will likely run the same electronic maps during the race, which should rest the race’s results squarely on the riders. In order to do this, Mugen must feel confident with its energy management and overall racing package.

Video: An Intimate Look at the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

05/23/2014 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1199 Superleggera is finally here, Ducati’s exclusive 500 customers are starting to receive their bikes, and Ducatista around the world are acting like its Christmas in May. We can’t blame them; after all, the Superleggera is a rolling showcase of what the engineers at Borgo Panigale can do with a street-legal machine.

Our friends at Moto Corsa were lucky enough to get three fine specimens in the first wave of deliveries — the Portland, Oregon shop will receive nine Superleggeras in total — a pretty sizable sum when you consider that less than 200 will make their way across the pond to US soil.

Naturally Arun and his cohorts took the opportunity to examine up-close what $200,000 worth of carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum looks like. Even better, they documented the experience, for our viewing pleasure of course.

Up-Close with the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Race Bike

11/13/2013 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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One of the advantages of actually going to the yearly EICMA show, as opposed to phoning it in like some other outlets do, is that you get see things that don’t find their way into a press release.

Take for example the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP race bike prototype that Randy de Puniet has been developing and Davide Brivio has been heading. On display at the Suzuki stand, it was perhaps the most technologically advanced motorcycle at EICMA, yet you would only know that if you went to Milan last week.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago

11/07/2013 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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What would an EICMA show be without a special commemorative machine from that little company in Varese? Behold the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago, a special edition motorcycle to celebrate one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time, Giacomo Agostini.

On hand for the unveiling of his special edition machine, Mr. Agostini signed the very first model, which sports his signature Tricolore and gold racing livery, and is fitted with copious carbon fiber bits.

No mechanical work has been done to the MV Agusta F3 800, though we think the effect from the paint and carbon is very fetching. A small collection of photos are after the jump.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800

11/06/2013 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta’s big announcement at the 2013 EICMA show was of course its new sport-tourer, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800. Based around the Italian brand’s 800cc three-cylinder engine, the Turismo Veloce is a big step for MV Agusta, though one taken cautiously both in terms of progress and design.

Borrowing heavily from the firm’s F3 and F4 sport bikes, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce feels like its stuck in the Varese company’s past, though in many ways it is MV Agusta’s future.

We are sure that the sport-tourer is just the first of many line-extensions for MV Agusta that will borrow from the same common elements found in all the current MV Agusta motorcycles, but the real highlight of the Turismo Veloce 800 is that it debuts a number of new technologies for MV Agusta, which have all been packaged into the MVICS 2.0 system.

Despite the impressive advancements made with the MVICS 2.0 system, as with all MV Agusta motorcycles, the real connection with the machine is a visual one, and the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 certainly makes an impression.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

11/05/2013 @ 10:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The highlight of the 2013 EICMA show has to be the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, which Ducati formally introduced to the press last Monday night. The “super light” street bike may not have the dynamism of being a completely new machine, as was the case with the Desmosedici RR, but the 155kg (dry) Superleggera is just as impressive when you pause to take a moment and examine all of its details.

With only 500 units being made, Ducati says roughly only 50 are unspoken for as of Sunday morning — a pretty impressive figure considering that up until that moment, only a handful of people had actually seen the Ducati 1199 Superleggera in the flesh. Once the 500th bike is sold, that will be it for the Superleggera, Ducati having learned its lesson from the Desmosedici launch.

The most obvious part about the Superleggera is its orange-red paint scheme, which matches the Rosso Corsa paint found on the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. If you only examined the Ducati 1199 Superleggera skin-deep, this would be your big takeaway from the experience, but the beauty really resides in the details.

Up-Close with the 2013 Honda RC213V

07/29/2013 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

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The Honda RC213V and its predecessors have always been formidable machines in MotoGP, but for 2013 HRC has truly managed to make a peerless motorcycles for its four riders: Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl, and Alvaro Bautista.

In the past, the Honda was all about its motor and its ability to rocket out of the corners, whereas the Yamaha YZR-M1 was more about its chassis and the ability to have supreme edge-grip through the turns.

This dichotmy created two bikes that required two very different riding styles to be fully utilized; and also it meant sometimes the Honda was the weapon of choice, and sometimes the Yamaha was the better tool for the job — depending on the track, of course.

But all that changed this past season and a half. Finding a solution to the RC213V’s chatter problem (a problem that was courtesy of the raised minimum weight requirement for 2012), in the latter part of last season, HRC watch Dani Pedrosa storm after Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship points.

Helping the Repsol Honda rider was of course HRC’s seamless shifting gearbox, which at some tracks on the calendar is good for a tenth or two per lap, but what really spurred on Pedrosa was engineers at Honda overcoming the one weakness in the RC213V’s design.

No longer was the race between a bike with power and the other with handling — now the Honda had both; and better yet, Yamaha had no reply for this development.

While Yamaha Racing is still hoping to debut its own seamless gearbox during the 2013 season, it will likely do little to change the course of events in the Championship standings. The 2013 Honda RC213V is a matchless machine right now, and it is the hands of two very formidable riders.

Don’t count Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha YZR-M1 out of course, but the reigning World Champion has more than hisfill when it comes to fending off the two Repsol Honda riders.

Making it a point to capture this fine machine in detail at the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, I dodged bikes in the very busy MotoGP pit lane to bring you a bevy of high-resolution photos of the 2013 Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, which are waiting for you after the jump (be sure to check-out my similar photo sets of the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 and Yamaha YZR-M1 from Austin, TX as well).