It will be a new year soon, and for some of Asphalt & Rubber‘s more international readers, New Year’s Eve may have already given way to New Year’s Day (Happy New Year, if that’s already the case). Going through my RSS feed, it seems obligatory that we make some sort of Happy New Year proclamation, summarize the stories the site has covered, and share some insight on the inner-workings of our operation here at A&R. The Dude abides.
Unsurprisingly, the starting point to our story begins roughly 12 months ago, as with the start of each year I like to look back on the 365 or so days we just completed, and outline my plans for the coming year. Some of that planning is just basic business stuff like benchmarks I hope to achieve with the site traffic, readership, and financials, while the rest of that planning is comprised of stories or events I would like the site to attend and cover.
Four continents, a dozen or so timezones, and more countries than I can remember, the 1,000+ articles written this year on Asphalt & Rubber are truly international in their origin, as are the 4.5+ million of you who came here and read those stores 10 million times. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the site continues to grow in the double digits, with the A&R readership growing another 30% in 2012 over last year.
Pushing over 20 TB (the TB stands for terabytes, or 1,024 gigabytes) of data, those numbers make Asphalt & Rubber not only just the largest motorcycle blog in the United States, but one of the largest in the world — something I find mildly amusing, since yours truly is more than mildly dyslexic.
As for trends, being an online publication means that we are on the front line of watching the motorcycle industry’s adoption of social media, with 10% of our readers finding us on social networks. The real interesting part? This figure is up 40% over last year.
Instead of just listing our top ten or so stories this year, something which most of you could probably guess the list of quite easily, I have tried to cultivate some basic topics from within the industry and the stories that drove those topics this year, as well as some stories that stood out to our editorial eyes. Enjoy them after the jump.
In case you missed our build-up coverage and didn’t know, the 2013 Dakar Rally officially starts this Saturday, January 5th. Already shaping up to be an interesting race, KTM’s Marc Coma has already had to resign from this year’s rally because of injury, as well as two of the Honda’s factory riders.
Navigating their way through Peru, Argentina, and Chile, riders will compete over 16 grueling days, which will feature some of the most challenging terrain a motorcycle racer can face. A truly epic competition, count The Dakar as one of the great motorcycle races of our time.
To help you get in the mood, we have the official rally trailer and a couple longer highlight reels from last year waiting for your after the jump. Enjoy.
It hasn’t even been two months since MV Agusta debuted it line-up of motorcycles for the 2013 model year, but the Italian company is already revising its European pricing ahead of the 2013 bikes’ debut in the coming spring. With most models getting a €200 to €300 boost in MSRP, the only MV’s unaffected by this strange price increase are the base model MV Agusta Brutale 1090 and base model MV Agusta F4.
The three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 and MV Agusta Brutale 675 machines get a €200 kick across the board, while the four-cylinder machines get the €300 price increase. No word as to why MV Agusta is increasing the price (though we can guess that the Varese brand is looking for some more euros on its bottom line).
The price change is an especially strange move after releasing its 2013 line so recently, and shows MV Agusta second-guessing itself on one of the company’s more important decisions. It is not clear at this time how this news will affect pricing in North America, if at all (we suggest contacting your dealer). A full breakdown of the price changes is after the jump.
For the past five years, Yamaha has held a competition among the 30,000 or so graduates of its Yamaha Technical Academy (YTA). Hosting regional competitions first, 28 of the top mechanics from 20 nations come to Yamaha Motor’s headquarters in Iwata, Japan for a final competition to see who is the best Yamaha mechanic in the world.
With two classes to compete in (sport & commuter/business), the first part of the competition consists of a written exam, which includes questions that extend beyond just mechanical theory, and into current industry and customer trends.
Getting their hands dirty as well, mechanics have to perform typical maintenance tasks, as well as troubleshoot a broken motorcycle, which culminates with the competitor handing the bike over to a judge and explaining the work done as they would to a customer who is receiving back their worked-0n machine.
Putting together a short video on the 2012 Yamaha World Technician Grand Prix, we get a glimpse of this program from Yamaha, as well as the story behind Le Truong Qui Tu of Vietnam, who won the Commuter/Business Model Class (Thorsten Brand of Germany won the Sport Model Class).
Wondering how our local boys rated? Mark William Sagers (South Valley Motorsports in Draper, Utah) finished 2nd in the Sport class, while Eric John Romanowicz (Mondus Motorsports in Hudson, Wisconsin) tied for third with France’s Damien Vincent.
Not exactly working at 100%, the Asphalt & Rubber news machine is still draining a bit of ‘nog that was left in the system from the holiday celebrations, and as such isn’t firing on all its cylinders yet. So, if your week is anything like ours, family is still lingering around the house and the daily routine isn’t quite back to normal at the office. Excuses, excuses, excuses…
With the the Christmas to New Years news lull well in affect, what is a motorcycle blog to do? Well, to get the ball rolling, we have a nearly hour-long Al Jazeera documentary on the Isle of Man TT. A good primer to the historic road race for those not familiar with it, we think there is enough meat here for die hard TT enthusiasts to enjoy it the video as well.
Be sure to checkout the cameo of A&R reader, and our favorite man from Lincolnshire, Shay who talks about marshaling at the TT in the video. Truly the lifeblood of the event, the volunteer marshaling squad is perhaps the biggest unsung hero of the TT fortnight. Not just a job for locals, foreigners can volunteer as well, so check out the Isle of Man TT Marshals Association website if marshalling is something that interests you.
Seasons Greetings from Asphalt & Rubber. While we stoke the fires on the yule log, everyone at A&R would like to wish our readers a Happy Holiday. We will be taking the day off as we sip some cider and gorge ourselves on delicious home-cooked nom noms (yeah…nom noms), but we should be back in the swing of things later this week.
Whatever your denomination may be (bagger, café, sumo, etc.), we hope you are with good friends and family, and that the two-wheeled vehicle in your garage gets some seasonal merriment as well. We hope you are as excited about 2013 as we are…now go get you ‘nog on!
Have you ever wondered what the backstory was to building a motorcycle? Perhaps no greater version of that story exists than the rebirth of MV Agusta from the hands of Harley-Davidson, and the building of the company’s supersport model, the MV Agusta F3. Making an appearance on National Geographic‘s “Mega Factories” show, the doors of MV Agusta were opened up to the film crew’s cameras, and a fairly candid look at what is behind the curtain takes place.
The reason for the show’s success is because it is always interesting to see what goes into building our favorite machines, and for motorcycle enthusiasts, the insight given by MV Agusta tells more of the saga that surrounded the development and production of the F3, and the reason for its delays to market.
It is looking increasingly likely that energy drink company Monster is to take on a role as co-sponsor of Yamaha’s MotoGP team. Spanish website Motocuatro is reporting that Yamaha has bought Jorge Lorenzo out of his personal sponsorship by rival energy drink maker Rockstar and that both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi are to carry Monster sponsorship on their leathers and on the fairings of their Yamaha M1s for 2013 and 2014.
According to Motocuatro, the story started earlier this year, after Lorenzo renewed his contract with Rockstar, and Valentino Rossi announced he would be signing with Yamaha. Both Rockstar and Monster had been in talks with Yamaha to step up their sponsorship of their riders – both men have personal contracts with their respective energy drink brands – to increase exposure for the brand.
At first, Motocuatro reports, Monster showed an interest in moving up as co-sponsor on Rossi’s bike, gaining the same level of sticker coverage as ENEOS, the Japanese oil brand which also adorns the Yamaha’s fairings.
In response, Rockstar started negotiations with Yamaha to match Monster’s offer, meaning that both Lorenzo and Rossi would have equal levels of energy drink sponsorship on their bikes. Lorenzo would have Rockstar stickers, while Rossi would have Monster badges.
As expected yesterday, KTM made an official announcement today regarding the participation of Marc Coma in the 2013 Dakar Rally, and simply stated that the three-time winner of the race will be unable to compete due to injuries he sustained to his shoulder in the Rally of Morocco. The news leaves KTM’s Cyril Despres as the runaway favorite for winning this upcoming edition of The Dakar.
“We worked really hard with the doctors and the physiotherapists right up until the last minute but we have to be realistic,” said a disappointed Marc Coma. “One of the muscles in my shoulder is still giving me problems and there is a lack of movement. This is the logical consequence and we must be honest and clear about the situation.”
I have to admit, the whole E15 controversy that has been brewing between the EPA and AMA has me a bit confused. Namely, I do not know how the EPA ever thought that a four-gallon minimum purchase requirement solved anything for powersport users who were concerned about putting E15 in the tanks of their motorcycles and ATVs.
Realizing that a solution to the actual problem had to be devised, the EPA has now dropped the four-gallon minimum on fuel pumps that dispense E10 and E15 from the same pump, and instead the government body says it will likely require gas stations to label shared pumps, as well as offer a dedicated E10 pump/hose for vehicles.
If you like your sport bikes racer-only, your v-twin cylinders over-square, and your livery in carbon and black, then we have got the bike for you: the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13. Borgo Panigale’s 1199cc race bike is finally headed for World Superbike duty this coming season, and factory riders Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini have been busy this off-season testing Ducati’s latest superbike in preparation of the season’s opener at Phillip Island in February.
Shaking things down at Mugello, Ducati Corse has put together a quick little teaser of the RS13 with Checa and Bayliss on-board. With development of the machine said to be “laborious” (to put it mildly), it will be interesting to see how competitive out of the gate the new Ducati superbike will be against the rest of the WSBK field. One thing is known though, the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is wicked light, especially now that WSBK has dropped the weight penalty for v-twins.