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.

April Fools: Ducati V4 Superbike Spied in Trademark Docs

04/01/2017 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

The worst-kept secret in Bologna right now is the fact that Ducati will be switching to a V4 format with its 2018 model year superbike – this being the last year (at least at the top of the model lineup) that Ducati will use a v-twin engine design for its race-focused motorcycles.

We expect the Panigale-killer to be a horsepower beast (220+ hp), and the production motorcycle might even sport some of the aerodynamic enhancements that we have seen Ducati use on the race track in the MotoGP Championship (hopefully just not the company’s “hammerhead” fairing design).

Now, we have name for this next-generation superbike machine, as Ducati has filed trademarks with the United States, European, and Japanese trademark offices (click here for the US filing).

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Ducati CEO Confirms V4 Superbike Project

01/21/2017 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler77 COMMENTS

At the launch of its 2017 MotoGP team, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali confirmed to the assembled press that the Italian marque was working on a V4 superbike, which echoes the rumors we have heard over the past two years. 

It shouldn’t surprise readers to hear that the model’s development comes directly from Ducati’s work in MotoGP, which is based around the 1,000cc 90° V4 engine that currently powers the Ducati Desmosedici GP race bike.

“The engine development we have made in MotoGP is exceptional,” Domenicali told our man David Emmett at the MotoGP team launch. “We have an engine which is very reliable, very light, compact and has a lot of interesting technology. We are seriously thinking of introducing it to regular customers, because it is a masterpiece of engineering.”

“Of course, translated into a something that can be sold for a reasonable, if not premium price,” Domenicali added. “So, it will not be a kind of exotic bike like the Desmosedici, but a more regular high-end sport bike.”

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The New Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight Engine Debuts

08/25/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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What you are looking at above is Harley-Davidson’s ninth iteration of its “Big Twin” engines. It’s called the Milwaukee-Eight, named after Harley-Davidson’s home town and the fact that the engine head design employs a very modern eight valves in total (four per cylinder head).

Time will tell if the Milwaukee-Eight becomes as iconic as Harley-Davidson’s other designs, like the Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead, etc. But, we do know that the Milwaukee-Eight marks a more modern approach to engine design from the Bar & Shield brand.

To this end, Harley-Davidson says that the new power plant offers a quicker throttle response, more passing power, purer sound (whatever that means), and a smoother ride (read: less vibrations).

The Milwaukee-Eight will first be used on Harley-Davidson’s touring and trike lines, though we can expect the engine design to permeate through Harley-Davidson’s lineup.

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Bottpower BOTT XR1R – The Street Tracker You Deserve

07/07/2016 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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If you missed our teaser on the Bottpower BOTT XR1R, then you are in for a real treat, as the race version Spanish firm’s street tracker is a very fetching machine.

The Bottpower BOTT XR1R is the bike that Harley-Davidson should be building right now, and it’s the kind of machine that actually would have benefitted from Buell’s “innovations” for street bikes.

With 150hp and a target weight of 150kg, the BOTT XR1R should be plenty of fun on tight circuits, but still powerful enough for longer courses.

And then of course, once you’re done flogging the XR1R for the day, you will still want to spend a couple hours drooling over its titanium frame, carbon fiber bodyworks, and modern-day electronics.

We have always been a fan of Bottpower’s work, but it still feels strange to say that the Spanish builder has created the bike that America has been dreaming of for the past decade or more.

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The Bottpower BOTT XR1R Is Coming to a Track Near You

07/05/2016 @ 11:43 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Bottpower-BOTT-XR1R-studio-teaser-01

We’ve been following the guys at Bottpower for quite a while now, with their latest efforts revolving around the Bott XR1 – an intriguing street bike concept that uses a Buell “Thunderstorm” v-twin engine.

They project lead to the Bottpower XC1, a café racer variant of the street bike, and today we are going to give you a preview about Bottpower’s third iteration, the BOTT XR1R.

A torquey track bike, for those who want something a little different. For right now, the Bottpower BOTT XR1R is a testing platform for the Spanish outfit, serving as a the proving grounds for new bike components and systems.

As such, the BOTT XR1R features a titanium frame and a full suite of racing electronics, which includes traction control, launch control, three selectable engine maps, and data acquisition. Bottpower’s aim with the BOTT XR1R is to achieve a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio, with a target of 150hp and 150kg.

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The Venerable Suzuki SV650 Returns for 2017

11/17/2015 @ 9:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

2016-Suzuki-SV650-A-02

The Suzuki SV650 is easily becoming an iconic model in the Japanese brand’s history, with new and experienced riders enjoy what the 650cc v-twin sport bike has to offer.

An ideal starter machine for learning motorcycles, the Suzuki SV650 is also a popular choice with track day enthusiasts and racer. It’s just a versatile, cheap, and fun motorcycle to ride.

For the 2017 model year (available early/mid-2016), Suzuki is bringing the SV650 back to its lineup, with both an ABS and non-ABS model. Getting some updates along the way as well, the 2017 Suzuki SV650 should continue to be a popular model for Suzuki.

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Rumor: Is Ducati Working on a Four-Cylinder Superbike?

08/26/2015 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS

Ducati-1299-Panigale-concept-10

We have a love/hate relationship with unverified rumors here at Asphalt & Rubber. On the one hand, we strive to break timely and accurate stories for our readers, which means getting the best information as possible, and sharing it with you as soon as possible.

On the other hand though, some wild rumors are worth repeating, not so much for their accuracy, but for how fanciful and romantic it is to think of them being real. Today’s news falls into the latter category, though it comes from the reliable Carlo Baldi of Moto.it.

According to the Italian publication, Ducati is working on a four-cylinder superbike platform, which is likely being developed with World Superbike competition in-mind.

We know, we know, the very concept of a Ducati superbike without a v-twin platform borders on heresy. The rumor isn’t that crazy though, if you think about it, which is probably why it is so delicious to share with you.

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KTM Plans New Smaller V-Twin Engines, Husqvarna Too

12/02/2014 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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A quick look at KTM’s recent additions to its model lineup sees significant attention being given to the company’s large and small-displacement machines, yet the middleweight bikes have remained seemingly untouched.

That seems set to change, according to an interview MCN had with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer.

Saying that KTM would develop new v-twin engines in the 600cc to 800cc range over the next three years, the Austrian company seems set to its entire lineup revamped within the next few years.

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Is Ferrari Working on a Motorcycle?

10/07/2014 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Ferrari-Motorcycle-Patent-01

Lately we have seen a lot of car manufacturers taking an interest in the two-wheeled world — Audi bought Ducati from Investindustrial, and MV Agusta is expected to announce that Mecerdes-AMG is taking a minority stake in the Italian motorcycle company.

These collaborations and consolidations make a lot of sense from a business perspective: economies of scale, common four-stroke technology, shared R&D, and CAFE standard benefits, just to name a few.

So that’s why the latest news that Ferrari has filed a patent on a motorcycle engine doesn’t surprise us in concept. Nor does the press’ intensity of the subject.

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Bologna Confirms 2015 Ducati Scrambler

06/09/2014 @ 8:42 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

2015-Ducati-Scrambler-teaser-02

Ducati has officially acknowledged its well-known Scrambler model today, after giving its employees an sneak peak over the machine at Borgo Panigale. A 2015 model year machine, the Ducati Scrambler is being pitched as a fun motorcycle that hearkens back to the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Debuting in autumn of this year, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler is tipped to use one of the company’s smaller air-cooled v-twin motors. Said to have wide handlebars and off-road inklings, Ducati describes the machine as “simple” – perhaps signaling the company’s intention for an affordable two-wheeler that will appeal to both motorcycle enthusiasts, and those outside the industry, alike.

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