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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

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).

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Up-Close with the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/05/2013 @ 12:54 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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In a few hours, the TT Zero race will kickoff for the 2013 Isle of Man TT, and if the practice and qualifying sessions are any indication, it should be a close-fought race between the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni of John McGuinness and the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc race bikes of Michael Rutter and Mark Miller (Update: The SES TT Zero race report can be found here).

McGuinness has been fastest so far with the Mugen Shinden Ni, posting a 109.038 lap during Monday’s qualifying session, while Rutter and Miller posted 107.817 mph and 105.806 mph laps, respectively. On the course, this means McGuinness is roughly 16 second faster than Rutter, a notable difference, but not a huge margin in this class, which sees huge (by TT standards) speed leaps from session to session.

Hoping to make it four wins in a row, it goes without saying that the MotoCzysz crew is working hard to close the gap. However, having Team Principal Michael Czysz stuck back in the US, undergoing cancer treatments, must certainly add another level of motivation for the on-island MotoCzysz crew.

Making time in their busy schedule, Asphalt & Rubber got to take some up-close photos of the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc. Check them out after the jump, you won’t see better photos of the ’13 E1pc anywhere else.

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Up-Close with the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳)

05/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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At the 2013 Isle of Man TT, when it comes to the TT Zero race, there are really only two entries being talked about: MotoCzysz and Mugen. Rumored last year to be a black hat electric superbike project for Honda, Mugen of course denies such involvement, though admits that company’s share a very special and close relationship.

Whether you believe that an association exists or not, the paddock gossip says that Mugen (or Honda) has spent nearly $4.3 million on its electric bike project, and that sounds like a number that is well within the ballpark. With John McGuinness at the helm, Mugen is taking the TT very seriously, and looking at the 120 hp Mugen Shinden Ni, you can see that the Japanese squad has spared no effort in giving McPint the most potent weapon possible.

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Up-Close with the 2013 Yamaha YZR-M1

04/29/2013 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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In case you missed our exhaustive coverage of the Grand Prix of the Americas, those fools at Dorna gave me pit lane access this MotoGP season. So while the whole paddock waits for the Spaniards to come to their senses, I don’t plan on wasting the opportunity to share with our readers our extreme access to motorcycling’s premier racing class. Accordingly, here comes another installment into our ever-continuing “Up-Close” series, featuring the very finest Iwata has to offer: the Yamaha YZR-M1.

Over the past few seasons, Yamaha has managed the power-deficit created by the Honda and Ducati machines by having ballerina like handling. Truly at home only when the machine was tipped-over to the extreme, the edge-grip and handling of the Yamaha YZR-M1 has been its counterpoint in the ongoing MotoGP-design argument.

A true GP bike, in the sense that it requires a riding style that has been cultivated from years of 125cc & 250cc two-stroke racing, the flowing lines of the M1 on the race track have been a stark contrast to the harsh point-and-shoot styles seen more so on the Ducati Desmosedici, but also more recently on the Honda RC213V as well.

However now with HRC having developed a seamless gearbox for the RCV, the battle of Honda’s motor vs. Yamaha’s chassis has changed. Where Yamaha riders used to beg the Japanese factory for more horsepower (they still do, by the way), they know find themselves asking for parts to combat the Honda’s ability to get on the power while still at extreme angles — an attribute once reserved only for the Tuning Fork brand.

Thirty 2000px-wide photos are waiting for you after the jump.

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Up-Close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13

04/25/2013 @ 12:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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It’s hard to get up-close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. For starters, she’s always traveling somewhere — a slave to her jet-setter lifestyle. And, when she finally touches down long enough for you to get a glimpse of her, she’s surrounded by men in red uniforms, who whisk her out of sight almost immediately.

Occasionally though, she gets all buttoned-up and makes a public appearance, and if you have the right credentials (not an easy feat in its own right), you can elbow your way in for a look at her scarlet glow.

Dodging other bikes, riders, and mechanics in the hot pit lane of the Grand Prix of the Americas, we had such a brief opportunity, and thus bring you our spoils from the moment. We have been up-close with a number of race bikesexotics, and even exotic race bikes, but the Desmosedici GP13 stands out even in that prestigious crowd.

A rolling piece of unobtanium, with the very best of what is available in the two-wheeled world gring its chassis, and yet Ducati’s four MotoGP riders struggle mightily with the machine. Maybe if we look closely enough, we can figure out why. Twenty-two 2000px-wide photos are waiting for you after the jump.

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Up-Close with Ian Hutchinson’s Swan Yamaha R1 Superbike

06/11/2012 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Ian Hutchinson may not be a household name here in the United States, but over on the Isle of Man, “Hutchy” is a pretty big deal. Winning five solo-class races in the 2010 season, the English rider’s hot-streak was cut short after a tragic closed circuit racing accident, which saw him sidelined for the 2011 TT fortnight.

Suffering another leg injury going into the 2012 racing season, Hutchinson was still physically not 100% as he headed to the TT, with the Swan Racing Team making obvious adjustments to his Yamaha YZF-R1 to accommodate Hutchy’s injured leg.

While Hutchinson would ride through the pain, he was noticeably off the pace during this last TT meeting.

While a large component of those results are surely products of his physical state, where were compound by the fact that his practice and racing schedule has been truncated, many also wondered about Hutchinson’s mental state as well.

Twice beaten, once shy, one Swan team member explained to me that when you looked into the his eyes as he got on board the bike, there was something there that didn’t exist before in Hutchy’s eyes. “Fear?” I asked. The team member wouldn’t comment further.

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Up-Close with McGuinness’s Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR

06/06/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The bike that carried John McGuinness to his 18th career Isle of Man TT win, the very same Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR could be the King of the Mountain’s stead to an even 20 wins this TT fortnight. Making 200+ bhp, the factory-backed Honda CBR1000RR has to contend with some of the most gruel miles in racing, and has the scars to prove it. Pitted and potted with rocks and pebbles from the course, McGuinness’s ride on the CBR is an equally tumultuous affair.

Splitting his time equally between head shakes and wheelies, it is no small feat in keeping a TT bike on-line at the famous road course. Only able to complete two laps before needing to be refueled, the Honda TT Legends race team has not only optimized the Honda CBR1000RR for the 37.733 mile Snaefell Mountain Course, but also for the single and double pitstops it will have in the Senior TT and Junior TT races, respectively.

Looking at the bikes of the other teams, what is most striking about McGuinness’s ride, aside from its drool-worthy livery homage to the Honda RC30, is how stock the bike appears. Sure, there is a heavily massaged and tuned motor underneath that bodywork, and the bike’s top-shelf brakes, wheels, and quick-shifter are readily apparent, but for a bike that any racer would kill to ride, the Honda TT Legends CBR is rather unassuming, as is its portly rider. Maybe that is how they like it.

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Up-Close with the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/01/2012 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

More evolution than revolution, it is easy to see the lines of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc peaking out from underneath the complex shapes of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc. Building upon the design that won his company the 2011 SES TT Zero, Michael Czysz says he has finally had time to truly address the aerodynamic aspect of his designs, though he admittedly had to make some aesthetic concessions to find the right aerodynamic package for the job.

These concessions cause the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to have a bit of Buck Rogers feel to it at first glance, as the winglets, ducts, and neon colors hit you all at once. While it all seems a bit over the top, there is some method to the madness. Relying on computational fluid dynamics to develop his designs, Czysz’s designs aim to make the 2012 E1pc as slippery as possible in the wind, but also serve to allow the team to continue a design philosophy that first started way-back with the MotoCzysz C1 project.

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Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

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Up-Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike

05/31/2012 @ 7:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Norton SG1, as it is now being called, is the talk of the Isle of Man TT paddock (we presume the SG designation stands for Norton’s new owner, Stuart Garner). Completed just before the TT fortnight, the Norton squad has an enormous amount of work ahead of it to bring the SG1 up to speed. Norton’s rider, Ian Mackman, posted a 112.364 on Tuesday night’s practice, and was out again Wednesday night, scaring the hell of out of elderly Manx women.

What is rapidly becoming the Norton SG1’s defining feature, is the bike’s anti-wildlife system, which is able to produce enough of a intone a sound somewhere between “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out. Scaring virtually anything within earshot, the anti-wildlife system also doubles as the bike’s exhaust, and would be banned twice-over at noise-restricted tracks like Laguna Seca.

Drawing some resemblance to the rotary-powered Norton NRV588 project, the Norton SG1 also features an Aprilia RSV4 motor in a custom Spondon frame. With all the trappings of a CRT bike, it doesn’t take too much imagination to link the SG1 to the rumors about Norton’s return to MotoGP, which makes for some interesting conjecture on the trajectory of the team’s racing future.

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