Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen Concept

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna 701 supermoto, the Swedish brand had two street concepts to unveil at the EICMA show. First up is the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen concept, which is a café racer inspired model. With a 373cc single-cylidner thumper at its core, the Vitpilen (Swedish for White Arrow) sports an attractive and clean design. A modern riff on the 1953 Husqvarna Silverpilen, the idea behind the Husqvarna Vitpilen is that less is more. Making a modest 43hp, the Vitpilen weights a paltry 297 lbs (135kg). Clever details abound on the Vitpilen, and we particularly enjoy the high-tech LED meets retro-scrambler headlight design that sits prominently at the front of the bike.

2015 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto – 690cc of Street Hooligan

We perhaps over-thought Husqvarna’s first proper street bike announcement, as the firm has debuted the Husqvarna 701 supermoto at the EICMA show today. Refining its 701 concept from last year’s show, the 2015 Husqvarna 701 is a 690cc supermoto, that continues to borrow from KTM’s common parts bin. Already with a race-ready 450cc supermoto in its arsenal, the Husqvarna 701 adds another more street-oriented motorcycle to the Swedish brand’s dirt-heavy 2015 lineup. Putting down 67hp through the big four-stroke thumper, the Husqvarna 701 supermoto tips the scales at 320 lbs (145kg), and comes with an APTC slipper clutch, ABS brakes, WP suspension, and ride-by-wire with different riding modes.

Wisconsin Offers Harley-Davidson Branded License Plates

04/15/2011 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Wisconsin Offers Harley Davidson Branded License Plates Wisconsin Harley Davidson license plateThe great State of Wisconsin has begun to offer Harley-Davidson branded vanity license plates to its four-wheeled constituency. With the words “Share the Road” wedged underneath a double-dose of Harley-Davidson branding, the proceeds of the new plates will go to help fund State-sponsored motorcycle safety programs (a worthy cause).

Admittedly, we’re having a hard time with this story. On the one-hand, we love to see that motorcycle safety courses and programs are getting funded. There is a need to educate new riders, and to generally be good stewards for our sport and industry. On the other hand though, we generally frown on the commercialization of public programs, and while Wisconsin is the home of America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the whole thing just feels dirty.

Harley-Davidson Turns Down $25 Million Tax Credit

11/15/2010 @ 8:56 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Turns Down $25 Million Tax Credit one dollar art by campbell

Two months ago when Harley-Davidson stuck an ultimatum to its union workers, the company asked for work force concessions while it threatend to move production out of its Tomahawk and Menomonee Falls. Hoping to help sway the vote and keep Harley put, the State of Wisconsin extended Harley-Davidson a $25 million tax incentive to help lure the company into keeping production at its Wisconsin facilities. While the unions eventually caved to Harley-Davidson’s will, the Bar & Shield company announced today that it will not be taking Wisconsin up on its offer for tax breaks.

Wisconsin Dropped $25 Million in Tax Breaks on Harley-Davidson to Stay Put

09/20/2010 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Wisconsin Dropped $25 Million in Tax Breaks on Harley Davidson to Stay Put Wisconsin makes it rain fat joe style harley davidson

Through an Enterprise Zone tax credit, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce has handed Harley-Davidson a $25 million tax break for coming to terms with its labor unions in the company’s Tomahawk and Monemonee Falls production facilities. In a move that saw unions cave to Harley-Davidson’s ultimatum, the Bar & Shield brand has disclosed to the SEC that the agreement will save the company $50 million in annual operating expenses, but not before the company writes off a one-time charge of $85 million in restructuring costs, which includes the severance packages for laid off workers.

Unions Cave to Harley-Davidson Ultimatum

09/13/2010 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Unions Cave to Harley Davidson Ultimatum Harley Davidson Sportster XR1200X 635x423

Workers at Harley-Davidson’s Menomonee Falls plants have caved to Harley-Davidson’s labor restructuring ultimatum today, voting to approve a seven-year labor contract that would see 275 jobs cut and a two-tiered workforce implemented in the company’s Wisconsin-based production plants. The vote comes after Harley-Davidson threatened to move its Wisconsin production outside of the state (Kansas City being one of the alternatives), which would see the unions losing its entire 1,350 member workforce.

Harley-Davidson & Labor Unions Edge Closer to Keeping Production in Wisconsin

09/07/2010 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson & Labor Unions Edge Closer to Keeping Production in Wisconsin Harley Davison Softail Fat Boy 635x476

After putting Wisconsin on notice that it was shopping around for other places to build its motorcycles, Harley-Davdison has reached a tentative agreement with local labor unions that would keep the Bar and Shield brand in The Cheese State. Harley and union officials have not disclosed the terms of the deal, but both the Harley-Davidson and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are recommending approval of the deal. The terms of the deal are expected to be released next week, so union members can vote on the contract on September 13th.

Polaris Packs Up Manufacturing and Moves to Mexico

05/21/2010 @ 6:21 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Polaris Packs Up Manufacturing and Moves to Mexico PolarisSnowmobile 560x420

In about 18 months, roughly a thousand workers will be out of a job at the Polaris plant in Osceola, Wisconsin. In that timeframe Polaris plans to close the Osceola plant, and move its production south of the border to Mexico. The move comes about as Polaris looks to increase production efficiency (i.e. lower production costs with cheaper labor), which will then allow the company to be more competitive with its products’ positions in their respective marketplaces.

Harley-Davidson Puts Wisconsin on Notice

04/30/2010 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Puts Wisconsin on Notice Harley Davidson leaving Wisconsin 560x350

Harley-Davidson is looking to slash costs wherever they may be, and that includes its assembly/manufacturing line labor costs. HD and Milwaukee go together like peas and carrots, but Harley-Davidson has warned that if it doesn’t see lowering labor costs, it could walk away from Wisconsin all-together. At issue is nearlt $54 million in what Harley calls “costs gaps”, which the company attributes to the high cost of manufacturing at its Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk facilities.

Buell Builds Last Motorcycle Before Closing

11/19/2009 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Buell Builds Last Motorcycle Before Closing Buell last motorcycle XB12Scg 560x429

The last Buell rolled off the East Troy, Wisconsin assembly line this past November 12th, thus closing the final chapter for the American street bike company. After creating 136,923 motorcycles over the last 26 years, it is a Buell Lightning XB12Scg that will be the last motorcycle to bear Erik Buell’s name.