Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

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.

Zero Not Racing A Mavizen at Infineon TTXGP

05/01/2010 @ 10:35 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Zero Not Racing A Mavizen at Infineon TTXGP Zero Motorcycles 560x374

After hearing that Werkstatt Racing and Repair would soon be taking delivery of the first Mavizen to hit US soil, our ears piqued because we were under the impression that Zero Motorcycles must surely have recieved their Mavizens already, after announcing that the team would field two Mavizen bikes in the TTXGP series a while back.

With that apparently not the case, rumors suggested that Zero would be using another non-proprietary chassis at the first round of the TTXGP series at Infineon Raceway. While Zero wasn’t able to comment on their racing plans to us before the weekend, we do have some clues on what the company has up its sleeve from what we know already. More after the jump.

California Rebating $1,500 on Electric Motorcycle Purchases with Clean Vehicle Rebate Project

03/26/2010 @ 6:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

California Rebating $1,500 on Electric Motorcycle Purchases with Clean Vehicle Rebate Project Zero Motorcycle Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

After Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), the Governator took a tour of electric vehicle companies in the Golden State. The new law lops $1,500 off the sticker price off an electric motorcycle for California residence, which in many cases means over 15% off the sticker price.

Taking a look at both Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors, Gov. Schwarzenegger made endorsing comments about the two companies and how they are allowing California to take the lead in the emerging electric vehicle markets.

Zero Motorcycles Grabs Ex-Bueller Abe Askenazi

02/27/2010 @ 12:25 pm, by John Adamo11 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles Grabs Ex Bueller Abe Askenazi zero motorcycles hires buells Abe Askenazi 560x283

Zero Motorcycles and other electric manufacturers are rising stars in the motorcycle industry where few American companies have seen large scale success. Late last year one of the most loved to hate American motorcycle companies in history closed it’s doors just as it was starting to win AMA races and claimed an AMA Daytona Superbike Championship.

Years of motorcycle experience hit the streets after Buell closed it’s doors and it appears Zero was able to grab 14 years of it by bringing on Abe Askenazi as Vice President of Engineering. With that much knowledge of motorcycles under his belt, it is a great sign companies like Zero are on the right track. Check out the press release after the break for more details.

Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler Talks (a lot) on The Motorcycle Nation Podcast

01/25/2010 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubbers Jensen Beeler Talks (a lot) on The Motorcycle Nation Podcast DSC 7777

It was a busy weekend in the A&R office, not only was John Adamo out talking on the EVcast, but our own editor Jensen Beeler took some time this Sunday talk (at length!) to Steve McQueen and the Motorcycle Nation podcast. Jensen and Steve cover everything from how Asphalt & Rubber got its start (spoiler alert: he lost a bet with Warren Buffett), A&R StreetLevel, electric motorcycle startups, American motorcycle companies, and just about anything else that came up in-between.

Listen to the podcast after the jump, subscribe to Motorcycle Nation on iTunes, and listen to Jensen learn what life is like on the other side of the interview table after the jump.

Zero Motorcycles Raises Additional $5.5M in Funding

01/06/2010 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles Raises Additional $5.5M in Funding Zero Motorcycles Series A 560x374

Zero Motorcycles has raised an additional $5.5 million in its Series A funding, bringing it’s total war chest to just over $10.5 million in funding to date. The Invus Groups seems to have lead, if not solely financed, the Series A round, and retains two seats on Zero’s Board of Directors. The funding is reported to “help grow the company”, which in these financial climates could mean anything from paying looming costs to amounting cash for harder days ahead. Whatever the reason, it’s a positive sign for Zero Motorcycles, and an early high-point to their 2010 accomplishments.

Zero Enters TTXGP Racing Series [Updated]

12/02/2009 @ 10:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Zero Enters TTXGP Racing Series [Updated] Zero Motorcycles gauge

UPDATE: Neal Saiki comments about using the Mavizen chassis.

Zero Motorcycles has announced their entry into the 2010 TTXGP series, where they will race against Team Agni, and competitors using the CRP Racing and Mavizen platforms. Early reports peg Zero as also using a Mavizen TTX02 platform, essentially a KTM RC8 chassis gutted of its ICE components. Despite using the Mavizen/KTM chassis, the race bike will be powered by Zero’s Z-Force battery packs and motors.

Zero Motorcycles Enters Asian Markets

11/01/2009 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Zero Motorcycles Enters Asian Markets taiwan traffic 560x373

Zero Motorcycles continues its sales push with an announcement about its entrance into the Asian market by partnering with Singapore-based AMPLE World. AMPLE will distribute Zero’s product line through-out Asia, starting with the Zero X and Zero MX, and later in 2010 taking orders for the Zero S and Zero DS.

Zero Motorcycles Launches Fleet Sales Program

10/30/2009 @ 6:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles Launches Fleet Sales Program Zero Motorcycles fleet sales police

Zero Motorcycles has announced its launch of a fleet sales program aimed at corporations, non-profits, government bodies, and small business owners who are looking to make multiple unit purchases. The program is set to launch November 2nd, with pricing being based on volume and support requirements. It’s hard to make B2B sales sound sexy, but consider the missed opportunity that was Erik Estrada on a Zero DS…if only we could turn back time.

Zero Motorcycles Delays Zero S, Recalls Zero X & MX

10/21/2009 @ 6:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles Delays Zero S, Recalls Zero X & MX Zero X motorcycle recall 560x349

Problems seem to be afoot at Zero Motorcycles this month as the company has recalled nearly 200 Zero X and Zero MX motorcycles for malfunctioning throttles. Zero is also delaying its 2010 Zero S supermoto because of problems with the motor over-heating. More on both announcements after the jump.

Zero Expands Lineup With Zero DS Dual Sport

08/03/2009 @ 7:50 pm, by John Adamo7 COMMENTS

Zero Expands Lineup With Zero DS Dual Sport zero ds electric motorcycle 560x437

Zero Motorcycles recently introduced a 4th model to their electric motorcycle line up. The Zero DS is a dual-sport bike built on the Zero S supermoto platform. The front suspension of the DS gains 2″ of travel over the S for a total of 10”, while rear travel remains unchanged at 9”. A 50/50 street/dirt tire is fitted to the 17″ front rim and a 90/10 street/dirt tire is fitted to the 16″ rear. This is an unusual tire combination for a production dual sport but the semi-aggressive front is a welcomed change from the tires found on most dual-sports, which are more suited to street than dirt use.