Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Recall: 2009-2010 Zero DS & Zero S

05/19/2011 @ 10:13 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles is recalling 160 of its electric DS & S motorcycles for an issue with the front brake caliper. Because of the defect, owners may experience permanent deformation of their brake discs when subjected to high braking loads, which induce misalignment of the front brake pads with respect to the front brake rotor. Accordingly, misalignment of the brake pads in relation to the rotor may cause reduced front braking performance, which could lead to a possible crash and potential injury or death of the rider.

The pertinent models and build dates are as follows:

  • 2009 Zero S – September 2, 2009 through December 22, 2009
  • 2009 Zero DS – July 27, 2009 through December 28, 2009
  • 2010 Zero S – February 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011
  • 2010 Zero DS – January 20, 2010 through March 31, 2011

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Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors – But What Does It Mean?

05/17/2011 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has quietly announced some interesting news: that Mark Blackwell, V.P. of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, will be joining the electric motorcycle company’s Board of Directors. With a plethora of reasons as to why an industry veteran like Blackwell would join Zero’s board, it’s been no secret that the Scotts Valley company has been collecting seasoned industry professionals like pokemon characters, seemingly building a brain trust of people who actually know how to run a motorcycle company.

Blackwell’s addition to Zero is interesting because it could signal a relationship with the Polaris V.P. that goes beyond merely an advisory/visionary position, which is the core responsibility of a companies board. The timing is interesting as well, as Polaris has been on a buying spree, first acquiring the original American motorcycle company brand: Indian Motorcycles, and a few days later electric car manufacturer GEM. With a Polaris executive sitting on Zero’s board almost immediately after these aquisitions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a precursor to some sort of larger arrangement between the two companies.

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This is What Electric Mini Moto Racing Looks Like

05/12/2011 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Unless you were there, you probably missed the AMA Mini Moto SX racing action last Friday in Las Vegas, which saw the debut of two bikes by Brammo, an electric mini moto the Brammo Encite, along with the full-sized Brammo Engage dirt bike. Featuring the company’s Integrated Electric Transmission (IET), Brammo took to the dirt to compete with some Zero electric bikes (Quantya seemingly abstained from the event), as well as a field of traditional gasoline-powered mini motos.

With footage from aboard Trevor Doniak’s Zero MX, we get to see what racing in the Vegas Mini Moto SX was like from behind the handlebars. Besides having a traffic jam of slower gas-powered bikes start ahead of them (it’s creepy how quiet the start for the electrics was in comparison), the old addage that “rubbin’ is racing” comes to mind as we see our protagonist hit the dirt, not once, not twice, but three times, seemingly always with a Brammo rider nearby.

We’re not saying that Doniak’s Zero was intentionally looking to take out the Brammo of Kris Keefer, thus assuring a podium sweep by Zero, but others are. Video after the jump.

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The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

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Officially Official: Gene Banman Steps Down at Zero Motorcycles – Karl Wharton in as CEO

04/05/2011 @ 9:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It’s Tuesday, and in the world of electrics that means another Zero Motorcycles press release, and another weekly confirmation that Asphalt & Rubber is still on the Santa Cruz company’s “ultra double-secret probation” list of publications that no longer get media communiqués and press invites to its media events. That clearly hasn’t stopped us though, as today’s news release confirms what we already knew: Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman has stepped down from his position in the company, although he will continue to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.

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“Don’t Call It a Management Shake-up” Continues at Zero Motorcycles – Gene Banman Out at as CEO

03/28/2011 @ 7:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

We’ve gotten confirmation from several Bothan spies sources that Zero Motorcycle CEO Gene Banman will no longer hold a position at Zero Motorcycles. We first reported on a management shake-up at Zero last month, with news that high-level changes at the Scotts Valley electric motorcycle company were underway. At the time we could only confirm that Zero Motorcycles founder Neal Saiki was out of his position as the company CTO, and now we can confirm that then CEO Gene Banman was also shown the door during that uprooting.

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Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

03/17/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

Using strictly the Charlie Sheen sense of the word, Zero Motorcycles is WINNING right now. Announcing today that it closed another round of financing, Zero has $17 million of a $26 million round confirmed ($9 million still outstanding). The funding continues to be lead by the Invus investment group, who have been the major financial backbone at Zero Motorcycles. A funding round of that size can only mean one thing for a motorcycle company: going into mass production. Surely enough Zero states its intended use of the funds will go towards ramping up its US-based production plans.

Out of all the electric motorcycle vehicle players, Zero has been the most active in the funding department lately, closing round after round of capital investment. With those investments we’ve already seen changes at the Santa Cruz company, with the 2011 Zero Motorcycles line-up featuring upgrade motorcycles, as well as founder Neal Saiki departing the company.

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Officially Official: Neal Saiki out at Zero Motorcycles

03/08/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

You can file this one under “news we broke a month ago,” but Zero Motorcycles has finally officially announced the departure of company founder Neal Saiki, despite sending an email to its employees last week that Saiki had not been sacked from his position.

According to Zero Motorcycles, Saiki is leaving his position to enter into the Igor I. Sikorski Human Powered Helicopter Competition, which Saiki first competed in while attending Cal Poly as aeronautical engineering student in 1989. However, our sources have told us Saiki’s departure was prompted by a fundamental shift in the company, precipitated by the Zero’s financial backers.

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Management Shake-Up at Zero Motorcycles – Neal Saiki Out

02/11/2011 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The news coming out of the Santa Cruz area today is that there’s been a management shake-up at Zero Motorcycles, as multiple people at the top of the company’s leadership have been given pink slips, including company Founder & CTO Neal Saiki. Recently talking to PlugBike.com‘s John Adamo, Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman denied that Saiki had been let go from the company, saying that Saiki’s absence at the company was due to his child’s recent birth and Saiki’s desire to spend time with his newborn.

However multiple sources close to the company have confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that Neal Saiki was a part of a larger management shake-up that was precipitated by the company’s lead investor. With many of the terminations expected to be finalized next month, and spanning more than one division at the California-based startup, there appears to be a considerable personnel and culture shift occurring at Zero at this point in time.

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2011 Zero Motorcycles Get Quick-Charge Option and More

02/08/2011 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Fresh off its latest $2 million fundraiser, we get more news from Zero Motorcycles, as the Santa Cruz, CA company has released its 2011 line of electric motorcycles. Immediately noticeable is new livery and color schemes, but we think it’s the technical changes that will get people truly excited. Most prominant in the model year unveiling is the fact that every bike in Zero’s 2011 line-up can have a quick-charge option installed.

A major highlight, the quick-charge system will allow Zero Motorcycles with the add-on feature to be charged in nearly half the time of the standard version. Also a part of this technology’s allure is the ability for Zero Motorcycles to be charged off the J1772 public charging stations, which municipalities are starting to install in public parking spots.

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