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.

Continental Developing V2V Platform for Motorcycles

12/07/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

continental-ehorizon

Motorcyclists probably recognize the name Continental for its work in the tire industry, but the company has its fingers in a number of key elements in the motorcycle industry.

Continental is the third largest automotive parts supplier worldwide, and there is a good chance that more than a few parts on your motorcycle (ABS, dash, suspension, etc) comes from the German brand.

So, we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that Continental is developing what it calls “swarm intelligence” for motorcycles, through the Continental eHorizon platform. If you have no idea what that means, it’s cool. More simply put, Continental is trying to make Waze for motorcyclists.

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Watch a Tesla Drive Around Town, By Itself

11/21/2016 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

tesla-self-driving-car-video

So, this is what the future is going to look like. “Drivers” will hop into their cars, and zip around town, without paying any attention to the road in front of them. Cynics might say that already happens, but this scenario is about to move from hyperbole to reality very, very quickly, in a very, very interesting way.

When I say it will be interesting, I mean it in the old Chinese curse of “may you live in interesting times” sort of way.

Autonomous vehicles are going to usher in a revolution for transportation. They will change the way we commute, and change the way goods are transported. They will reduce on-road fatalities in motor vehicles, while also increasing the ethical concerns of transportation. It will be interesting.

For motorcyclists, it’s not clear what this all means. Motorcycles might become the two-wheeled escape from the autonomous grind, pushing our industry further into the “consumer discretionary income” realm and novelty. We should ask ourselves: is this a good thing?

It’s also just as easy to imagine a world where “unsafe” non-autonomous vehicles get outlawed, if for no other reason than the divergence they pose to the system.

Our one saving grace is that autonomous vehicle technology has to grow up in a world where it is several standard deviations outside of the norm. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, etc do not feed into the system that pilots a car like the Tesla Models S, shown in the video after the jump.

Instead, these vehicles have to evolve and grow-up in a world that doesn’t cater to them. That’s interesting too, but more so when you look at how a Tesla Model S perceives the environment around it – reading road signs, assessing objects in its path, understanding the markings of its environment.

It’s something to think about on your commute today.

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What Brexit Really Means for the Motorcycle Industry

06/24/2016 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Coverage of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s referendum whether to continue as a member of the European Union, has largely been ignored in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t been a blip on the radar recently within our microcosm of the motorcycle industry.

But of course, the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union will have far-reaching consequences, even in our beloved little two-wheeled world.

If you check the timestamp on the most recent Paddock Pass Podcast posting, you will see that I was up late enough into the evening to get word that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with the “Leave” supporters edging out the “Remains” by the narrow margin of 1.3 million votes.

There is a lot of politics at play here, and I don’t care to rehash it, other than to say that it could be a foreshadow of what could come soon in the United States as well. What I do have to say though is an examination of how the United Kingdom leaving the European Union can and will affect the world of motorcycling.

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US Congress Passes Favorable Laws for Motorcyclists

12/08/2015 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

United-States-Congress-Seal

Don’t say that the 114th US Congress hasn’t done anything for you, as the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) is happy to report that our legislature has passed a $305 billion highway bill – The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – which has a number of favorable provisions for motorcyclists.

The big wins come in the form of funding for recreational off-road trails, and the prohibition against motorcycle-only checkpoints, two growing concerns that the AMA has been involved in fighting.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 5 – Terminated

10/22/2015 @ 10:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

The long-awaited Episode 5 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is now up for your listening pleasure. Apologies for it taking so long, but I had to celebrate another rotation around the sun, which sort of got in the way of editing the show this past weekend.

We think you’ll find this episode worth the wait though, and I personally think it’s our best show yet (there’s only five of them though, so I guess that statement has a fairly low bar to beat).

In the show we talk about the Yamaha R1S, the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, Nicky Hayden going to World Superbike, riding the Aprilia RSV4 RR, and trying out the new Icon Airframe Pro Carbon helmet.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Cheers!

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BMW, Honda, & Yamaha Collaborate on Cooperative-Intelligent Transportation Systems

10/06/2015 @ 10:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

terminator-t800-hi

Insert the obvious SkyNet joke here, but the future of two-wheeled transportation is constantly moving ahead of us, to a place previously held only by science-fiction.

We have talked here at Asphalt & Rubber a great deal about connected and autonomous vehicles and its related technologies – insert a massive number of links here – and today we just got a little bit closer to all those concepts becoming realized.

Announcing their latest collaboration, BMW, Honda, and Yamaha have agreed to develop cooperative-intelligent transportation systems (C-ITS) for motorcycles, the first step in adding vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to motorcycles.

The three companies will work together to establish a a consortium named Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC), which aims to have C-ITS devices on the three motorcycle brands from 2020 onwards.

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US Government Gets Closer to Having Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication in a Car Near You

02/03/2014 @ 3:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

vehicle-to-vehicle-communication

Big news dropped today in the world of automobiles and motorcycles. The US Department of Transportation (DOT), along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has announced that the vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) is a step closer to becoming  a reality in the United States.

The DOT has decided to move forward with plans to mandate V2V systems for light on-road vehicles, i.e. cars and presumably motorcycles as well. The technology is complex to implement, but the concept is fairly simple: vehicles broadcast their direction, speed, and relative speed to one another — 10 times every second — in an effort to avoid collisions.

V2V enables other vehicles near by to gauge whether or not a collision or safety concern is about to happen between the two vehicles, and alert the drivers to avoid an accident. In essence, V2V is the first active safety system for automobiles — i.e. we are now enabling safety systems that prevent accidents, rather than just lessening the severity of them.

We have talked at great lengths here at Asphalt & Rubber about what V2V can mean for motorcyclists, especially as autonomous vehicles use the communications system and become more prevalent on the road. In the long-term, V2V will introduce a huge shift in our driving culture, and it is not clear what the means for motorcyclists.

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