US Motorcycle Sales Down in 2016, While UK Sales Are Up

For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated. Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015. Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations). We will have to wait for all the motorcycle OEMs to report their final quarter sales results to know who are the big winners and losers of the 2016 sales year. Though, we do know that KTM and BMW (up 5.9%) have shown signs of strong results internationally, whereas Duacti and Harley-Davidson are expected to post overall sales declines for 2016.

BMW R1200R Drag Bike by Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit has a way of inking motorcycle designs that we didn’t even know we wanted. First it was drawings of dustbin motorcycles, and now its his drag bike creation, which is based off the BMW R1200R. BMW’s boxer-twin engine doesn’t lend itself to being a great platform for drag racing, but you have to admit that this is a handsome ride, even if it’s all show and no go. With BMW filling every niche under the two-wheeled sun with its bikes though, we wouldn’t be that surprised to see the Germans follow-up with something similar to what the French designer has done here. After all, BMW Motorrad is rumored to be working on an XDiavel-killer, and then there’s…

MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market. Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia. According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles. “We are very excited to build a successful relationship with Urban Moto Group as a new partner also overseeing and developing the presence of MV Agusta in the USA market,” said Giovanni Castiglioni.

New Triumph Street Triple Debuts with 765cc Engine

As expected, today we get to see the 2017 Triumph Street Triple, with its new engine capacity: 765cc. The new engine displacement comes from both an increase in bore and stroke on the iconic three-cylinder motor, with Triumph using a new crank, pistons, and barrels in its construction. Three flavors of Triumph Street Triple will be available for 2017, with S, R, and RS-spec (above) machines being available, with obvious performance differences existing between the trim levels. As such, peak horsepower will be 113hp (S), 118hp (R), and 123hp (RS) – a notable boost over the 675cc machine’s 105hp. Meanwhile, peak torque has been improved from 50 lbs•ft, now to 53 lbs•ft (S) and 56 lbs•ft (R & RS). All the models tip the scales at 166kg (dry) according to Triumph, which is a 2kg reduction over the outgoing model.

Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand. Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence. Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand. Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

Triumph Set to Become the Official Moto2 Engine Supplier

The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017. There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found.

Walt Siegl’s Dakar Inspired Ducati Hypermotard

This Dakar Rally inspired Ducati Hypermotard is the latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, and it comes with some very appropriate timing. Not only are we full-swing into the 2017 Dakar Rally, but this 1980s-styled Ducati comes during a week where we have been talking about my not-so-secret love affair with the Ducati Hypermotard. Again, we see the air-cooled version of this street-going supermoto being used as a platform for a unique work, though this time Walt Siegl has been commissioned to make a bike that rolled right off the sand dunes of Africa. The exercise centers around mostly the restyling of the bodywork, to give us a little nostalgia for when the Dakar Rally was actually held in its namesake in Northern Africa.

Mike’s Carbon Fiber Motus MSTR

The Motus MSTR is a beast of a machine, it just oozes raw power and torque from its 1,650cc V4 engine; and to compliment all that grunt, the MSTR also comes tastefully wrapped in painted carbon fiber fairings. But when a composites expert wants one of your motorcycles, painting those carbon fiber body panels might not be the best of choices – it may even be an affront the Gods of Internal Combustion. When customer “Mike M.” wanted to see show off the weave of the Motus MSTR’s carbon fiber bodywork, he opted for his machine to come sans the livery. We think that was a pretty good choice, and the gods are surely pleased as well. So, to help get the New Year off to a proper start, and to return to the appreciation of all things two-wheeled, we give you Mike M.’s Motus MSTR motorcycle – how’s that for alliteration?

10 Things to Look Forward to in Motorcycle Racing for 2017

The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight. If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes. The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again. The single biggest change is to simplify the structure of the championship with the GNC1 class now just for twin-cylinder engined bikes, with the GNC2 class using the smaller singles.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Silverstone: A Golden Age of Motorcycle Racing

09/04/2016 @ 10:25 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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This is truly a golden age of motorcycle racing. The Silverstone race was proof of that. A stunning contest, with positions fiercely fought over. A new winner added to MotoGP’s pantheon.

Five riders doing battle over second place, including some of the greatest riders of their respective generations. Bikes from four different factories in the top six.

And Silverstone is hardly unique this season. 2016 has seen two different satellite riders win races. It has seen seven different winners this season, and the last seven races each won by a different rider.

It has seen relative newcomers win, and seasoned veterans win. 2016 is the culmination of a long period of rich results, with four riders all capable of winning on any given day over the past four or five years. Margins of victory have never been tighter, nor has the gap between the front and the back of the grid.

This cornucopia is not just in the premier class. Racing is returning to Moto2, after a drought of processional contests. Moto3 is overflowing with young talent, with rookies quickly challenging the older guard, who are in turn off to fatten the field in Moto2 next year.

At Silverstone, the Moto2 race was hard fought between a small group of riders, with incidents that had serious long-term effects on the championship. The Moto3 class produced a customary thriller, Silverstone’s long straights and high winds making escape impossible, but making staying out of trouble imperative.

Analyzing Valentino Rossi’s Two-Year Deal with Yamaha

03/19/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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So the first shoe has dropped. Valentino Rossi is to remain at Yamaha for two more seasons, signing on to compete for 2017 and 2018. The signing of Rossi will have major repercussions for the rest of the MotoGP rider market, and has made it all a little more unpredictable.

That Rossi would renew his contract with Yamaha is hardly a surprise. The Italian has a long and storied history with the Japanese manufacturer, from his triumphant and daring switch to Yamaha at the start of the 2004 season, in which he won both a memorable first race on the YZR-M1, going on to become champion, through a total of four world titles and a seemingly endless string of wins.

Rossi was welcomed back into the fold, suitably chastened, after his failed adventure with Ducati, and after a slow start, returned to being competitive in 2014, and especially in 2015.

Even the bitter aftermath of the 2015 season, when Rossi lost the title to his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo could not sour the relationship.

When Yamaha awarded its MotoGP merchandise contract to Rossi’s VR46 Racing Apparel business, and then signed a long-term support deal with Rossi’s VR46 Riders Academy, it was obvious that Rossi would stay with Yamaha, though it was uncertain that he would still be racing.

Rossi repeated publicly that he wanted to take the first few races of 2016 before making a decision, but it was clear that the decision would be continuing with the Movistar Yamaha team and retirement.

No doubt Rossi could have ridden elsewhere if he had chosen to – though the doors at Honda were almost certainly closed to him, after his defection at the end of 2003 – but realistically, Rossi’s future was tied to Yamaha.

When he retires, Rossi will continue as a figurehead for Yamaha, in much the same mold as Giacomo Agostini. The press release from Yamaha states as much, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis saying “When Vale returned home in 2013 it was ‘a decision for life’.”

That is worth a lot more to both Yamaha and Rossi in the long run. Though financial details of the deal were not released – they never are, the world of MotoGP salaries being one which is shrouded in secrecy and myth – the money part of the equation was most certainly not an issue.

Rossi has been racing for glory and the chance to win another title for the past few years, rather than financial compensation. Ironically, the most financially valuable of the four MotoGP aliens is probably on the lowest salary.

What is a surprise is the timing of Rossi’s announcement. The general expectation was that Rossi would stay on at Yamaha for another two years, but that the announcement would come some time in May or June.

Instead, the deal has been announced ahead of the first race of the season. The question everyone is asking now is, why the hurry?

News Tidbits from MotoGP: Brno vs. Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, & Some Holiday Entertainment

12/23/2015 @ 11:08 am, by David EmmettComments Off on News Tidbits from MotoGP: Brno vs. Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, & Some Holiday Entertainment

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With Christmas nearly upon us, and very little happening in the world of motorcycle racing, time for a round up of recent news. Here’s what’s been going on in recent weeks, as well as some recommended reading and listening for over the holiday period.

Brno vs Indy – On or Off?

The news that the Indianapolis round of MotoGP had been dropped came as a huge disappointment to a lot of US fans.

Though few people were fans of the track layout – despite recent improvements which took the worst edges off the layout – the event as a whole was well liked, and, for a US MotoGP round, fairly well attended.

In recent weeks, rumors have been circulating that the event could make a return. Though just speculation at the moment, Indianapolis could be being groomed as a possible replacement for the Czech round of MotoGP at Brno.

Given the troubled recent history of the Brno round, and the excellent organization behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is a chance that behind the smoke, there is a fire powering the rumors.

Analyzing Yamaha’s 2015 MotoGP Launch

01/29/2015 @ 3:04 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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2014 did not go to plan for Yamaha. After the first four races of last year, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo trailed the Repsol Hondas by 76 points in the team championship, and Yamaha was 33 points behind Honda in the manufacturers standings. Marc Márquez was in the middle of an unbeaten run, Dani Pedrosa backing him up strongly.

There were a lot of good reasons for Yamaha’s troubled start. Yamaha was struggling to get a smooth throttle response from a liter less fuel, the new Bridgestone tires were less suited to the YZR-M1’s need for high corner speeds, and Jorge Lorenzo arrived at the start of the season out of shape, after neglecting his training after surgery during the winter.

2015 looks like being the polar opposite. At the launch of their 2015 campaign, the Movistar Yamaha team looked forward with some optimism. Building on the progress made in the second half of 2014, the bike is much more competitive, Valentino Rossi arrives motivated by his strong season, and Jorge Lorenzo is lean and fit, having spent all off-season preparing. They are ready for big things.

Saturday Summary at Catalunya: On Breaking The Streak, The Three Tire Strategy, And Rain

06/14/2014 @ 6:21 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Catalunya: On Breaking The Streak, The Three Tire Strategy, And Rain

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His streak had to come to an end one day, and it turned out to be at Barcelona. Marc Marquez’s run of pole positions stopped at seven – Valencia last year, plus the first six races of this season – after he was forced to concede the place to his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa.

For a change, the front row press conference on Friday afternoon did not feature a jubilant Marquez (well, actually, it did, but more that later) and a couple of dejected rivals, wondering what they can do about the Repsol Honda man. Both pole sitter Pedrosa and runner up Jorge Lorenzo were, if not exactly buoyant, at least rather perky. Hope has returned.

Saturday Summary at Austin: Marquez’s Confidence, Lorenzo’s Engine, and Miller’s Charisma

04/13/2014 @ 5:55 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed.

Marquez’s gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez’s dominance at Austin in sight?

But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez’s four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid.

Second place man Dani Pedrosa’s fastest lap was still slower than Marquez’s slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2’03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2’04s.

During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2’03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2’03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2’04.

Where the others took eight or nine tenths off their best time during qualifying, Marquez only improved on his previous best by a quarter of a second.

“It looks like Marc always rides at qualifying pace,” Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg quipped. Given the string of 2’03s Marquez hammered out on hard tires in race trim during FP4, that bodes ill for the rest of the riders.

A measure of just how confident and comfortable Marquez is at Austin – a local journalist finally got the Spaniard to admit that the circuit favors the Honda, a small triumph in itself – came during FP4, and then again during qualifying.

In Q2, Marquez lost the front in the tight left-hander, saved it, nearly lost it again, then got on the gas again as if nothing had happened. In FP4, while testing a change to the weight distribution, Marquez found himself running straight on at the end of the back straight three laps in a row.

On one lap, the rear came up as he hit one of the few bumps on the circuit, and instead of struggling to regain control, Marquez tried to control it and carry it on as far as possible. He grinned as he recounted the experience to the press conference. This young man is in his element, which bodes ill for the competition.

A Prelude to MotoGP’s Silly Season, Part 1

04/07/2014 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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It is going to be a busy – and lucrative – year for the managers of MotoGP riders. With almost everyone out of contract at the end of 2014, and with Suzuki coming back in 2015, top riders will be in high demand. The signs that competition will be intense for both riders and teams are already there, with the first shots already being fired.

Silly season for the 2015 championship kicked off very early. At the end of last year, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made a few casual remarks expressing an interesting in persuading Jorge Lorenzo to come to Honda. He repeated those comments at the Sepang tests, making no secret of his desire to see Lorenzo signed to an HRC contract.

Lorenzo has so far been cautious, ruling nothing out while reiterating his commitment to Yamaha. He is aware of the role Yamaha have played in his career, signing the Spaniard up while he was still in 250’s, and bringing him straight into the factory team alongside Valentino Rossi in 2008, against some very vigorous protests from the multiple world champion.

Yamaha have stuck with Lorenzo since then, refusing to bow to pressure to the extent of letting Rossi leave for Ducati, and in turn, Lorenzo has repaid their support by bringing them two world titles, 31 victories, and 43 other podium finishes.

Monday Summary at Silverstone: Rossi in the Second Group, An Improving Bautista, & Aprilia’s CRT

09/02/2013 @ 10:09 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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With so much happening at the front of all three races at Silverstone last Sunday, it is easy to overlook the battles behind. Especially when those battles seem to be falling into a fixed pattern, repeating the results of previous races.

A glance at the results of the MotoGP race Silverstone gives you a sense of déjà vu. While the top three swapped places, positions four to six were identical to their finishes at Brno, places seven to nine differed only in the riders who crashed out, and Aleix Espargaro took tenth spot, as he did in the Czech Republic. A pattern is definitely starting to form here.

Saturday Summary at Assen: How Legends Were Born & How History Was Made

06/29/2013 @ 5:55 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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This was a day when legends were born. After race after race of watching clinical perfection, savored mainly by the Grand Prix connoisseur, the 83rd Dutch TT at Assen was a shot of raw, unfiltered passion, emotion, will, strength and determination. It was a day which will live in the memories of everyone there for many years to come, for more reasons than there is space to mention.

It is partially a tale of how a great circuit helps produce great racing, but it is mostly about the way that logic does not always triumph in sport. And that the will to win can drive elite athletes to go beyond themselves, and explore limits they didn’t know they had.

Sunday Summary at Catalunya: Of Boring Perfect, Weird Strength, & Yamaha’s Fuel Tank

06/16/2013 @ 8:01 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race at Barcelona. Well, not quite perfect — he told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that he made just a single mistake. “Luckily nobody saw it, and you cannot see it on the data,” Lorenzo said.

After a difficult qualifying session, Lorenzo put the hammer down from the start, attacking Dani Pedrosa aggressively into Turn 1 once again, just like in Mugello, and then pushing hard all race long, despite a front tire that kept threatening to let go.

So how did he do it? How did he pull off a win when most people were convinced that Pedrosa had the win in the bag? Two factors: his own mental strength, and a radical and inspired set up change during warm-up, in preparation for a hot race with no grip.

Wilco Zeelenberg, Lorenzo’s team manager, explained to me exactly what they had done. “We created a lot less pressure on the front of the bike,” the Dutchman explained. “That’s not what you would normally do, but because you know you won’t be able to do 1:42’s all race, you know you don’t need the best set up.”