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March 2013

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Not soon after KTM CEO Stefan Pierer dismissed the viability of electric motorcycles, and told Italian journalists that the Austrian company was scrapping its plans to build an electric dirt bike, the KTM Freeride E, KTM has announced the KTM E-Speed electric scooter study, with Pierer even making the bold statement that “we at KTM are completely convinced of electric mobility as a perfect complement to conventional powertrains.”

Debuting the machine at the Tokyo Motor Show, KTM has appropriately recycled the same battery and motor technologies from the Freeride E concept, and put them in the unimaginatively named E-Speed scooter. Using a liquid cooled 14.75 hp / 26.5 lbs•ft motor, KTM has opted for a larger 4.36 kWh battery pack for its metro-targeting scoot.







There was much consternation ahead of the Jerez MotoGP test, when it emerged that the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team had imposed a new social media policy. Given that Yamaha has perhaps the strongest presence on social media of all MotoGP teams, fans feared that the access they had been given would be restricted.

Apart from riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha also has Alex Briggs, mechanic to Valentino Rossi, Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo, and Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager to Jorge Lorenzo on their payroll, all three popular figures on Twitter.

At the official launch of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, we spoke to Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis to ask about the policy, and try to clear up any confusion surrounding the situation. Our first question was naturally, did Yamaha indeed have a new social media policy?













Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.













Marc Marquez entered MotoGP surrounded by hype and with high expectations. After a wet test at Valencia, where he showed he was fast, but not quite how fast, the Spaniard went to Sepang, where he posted very good times in a private test. At the full Sepang MotoGP tests, Marquez was genuinely impressive, never finishing outside the Top 4.

At Austin, Marquez stunned observers. The young Spaniard, still only a rookie in the MotoGP class, with only a few days on a MotoGP bike under his belt, dominated at the Austin test, topping the timesheets on all three days of the private test. It was not as if he didn’t have any competition at the circuit: both the factory Yamaha and Honda teams were at the Austin test, and Marquez beat Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi to set the fastest time.

So it was something of a surprise when Marquez failed to duplicate his impressive pace in Malaysia and Texas when MotoGP rolled up at Jerez for the final test of the season.







Though Marquez was 3rd fastest in the wet, once conditions improved – though they were never perfect – the Repsol Honda rookie got left behind a little, finishing the second day in 7th spot, nearly 1.2 seconds behind fastest man Valentino Rossi, and 5th spot on day three, 0.6 behind Cal Crutchlow.

Marquez left the three day test as 6th overall, six tenths behind the fastest man of the test Cal Crutchlow, and over a tenth behind Stefan Bradl, his main rival during the 2011 Moto2 season.

So what happened? Where did Marc Marquez’ speed suddenly disappear to? When asked by reporters on Sunday, the Spaniard had a few explanations. “Today was difficult,” Marquez acknowledged, “but I think it’s normal. It was the first time in dry conditions on this track.”













With the water-cooled BMW R1200GS official debuted and soon to be released for the 2013 model year, it was only a matter of time before we saw the same “precision liquid-cooled” version of the BMW R1200RT make its spy shot debut.

Coming to us in a very blurry form, a blogger at the french publication MotoMag caught the 2014 BMW R1200RT out for a spring time jaunt in the South of France.

Heavily disguised in camouflage, it is hard to understand how far zie Germans have strayed from the old model’s lines, though we hope that the touring machine gets as much of an overhaul as the Gelände Straße.







To our eyes, the fairings look physically much larger, and it looks like the headlights could be borrowed from the KT1600GT platform. More photos after the jump, call out any other changes you might see.







I don’t know who sold HRC and the Repsol Honda on their aggressive social media strategy, but it is winning over our hearts and minds. It seems it was only last year that we bemoaning the un-dynamic duo of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, two riders through either their shyness (Pedrosa) or PR whitewashing (Marquez) were about as lovable to the global MotoGP audience as metal flakes in an oil change.

At that same time of course, we were being entertained by the online banter between Yamaha’s mechanics and riders, who were adding to the on-track spectacle with their off-the-track banter, insights, and analysis. What a difference a year makes though, because Yamaha Racing has reportedly clamped down on its members taking to social media, and HRC is looking more and more like a social media genius.

Latest from Repsol’s media pool is a video that pits young-gun Marquez against old-hat Pedrosa. The two Spaniards give their thoughts on each other, and…gasp…come across as the human beings that paddock insiders knew existed all along. Between Pedrosa’s late-season surge last year, and his smiling and laughing personality here, you can’t help but root for the Honda rider. The rapture is near my motorcycling brethren.













Last week we reported to you that Suzuki Motor of America was set to cut 10% to 20% of its powersports dealerships, as a part of its corporate restructuring and bankruptcy of the now defunct American Suzuki Motor Corporation. Clarifying that news, Suzuki has given a clearer figure, saying that 98 of the company’s 930 dealers will be getting the axe.

According to Suzuki, the roughly 10% of dealerships that did not see their contract assumed by Suzuki Motor of America accounted for only 2.5% of the company’s retail sales in the past 12 months (2.8% of retails sales in the past three years), making Suzuki’s actions more of a culling of the herd than anything else.







In its May issue, Consumer Reports dives into the topic of motorcycle reliability, and confirms what many of us already knew: bikes from BMW and Harley-Davidson were reported to be less reliable than those from the Japanese OEMs.

Interestingly enough however, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners were also far more likely to make a repeat-purchase with their chosen brand than were owners of Japanese motorcycles, sans those of Hondas, which scored just slightly lower than BMW and Harley-Davidson on customer retention.

Looking at customer complaints of “major” mechanical problems from the last four years, the report from over 4,000 motorcycle owners confirms the high-water mark set by the Japanese OEMs on motorcycle reliability, but also shows the power of good branding as it translates into brand loyalty and customer retention.







While Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha may be winning the minds of riders with their production prowess, they are losing the hearts of consumers, which is interesting since any salesman will tell you it is easier to keep a current customer, than to make a new one.







Both the premiere and premier event of the AMA Pro Road Racing season, the Daytona 200 is a unique beginning to the American road racing season as it coincides with the Daytona Bike Week, and features the 32° banked turns on the NASCAR oval course.

Morphing in recent years from Superbikes, to Formula Xtreme, and now to Daytona SportBikes, the machinery may have changed for the race teams, but the endurance-factor of the race remains the same for the riders.

A crucial component to winning a race like the Daytona 200 are the pit stops. The only race of the year that sees AMA riders enter pit lane for fresh tires and fuel, valuable seconds and place-positions can be won or lost here, and racing truly takes on a team aspect.







After the jump we see the RoadRace Factory team help rider Jake Gagné take a fourth place finish at the Daytona 200 with a very quick pit time. Looking tidy boys, looking tidy. Thanks for the tip Rory!







Remember when the Ducati 1199 Panigale hit the shores of Japan, and the Bologna Bullet got an ugly mid-pipe and exhaust can welded into place, whiled the underslung exhaust cans welded shut? It was such an affront to the senses of some of our loyal Ducatisti readers, our comments section was flooded with the word “hoax” and the cry to burn it with fire.

Unlike Santa Claus, the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale is very real Virginia, and it features other changes beyond its monstrous exhaust to help quiet the beast that resides within its fairings.

Ducati is not alone in the list of brands that have seen the gorgeous lines of their machines ruined by the strict noise and emission standards of Nippon. Committing yet another crime against motorcycling, we have for your viewing terror official photos of the Japanese edition of the MV Agusta F3 675 — yes, the exhaust can of doom makes a return appearance.













Three days of testing at Jerez is over, and the real star of the show is obvious for all to see: The Weather. Of the 18 hours of track time that the MotoGP riders had at their disposal, only about 4 were in consistent conditions, and that was in the pouring rain on Saturday.

An afternoon of dry track time – well, dryish, with groundwater seeping through the track from the hills at Jerez, which have been lashed by unusually heavy rain all winter long – on Sunday and a bright start to Monday morning left the riders hopeful, but it was not to be.

It took 15 minutes for the first rain to arrive. The track opened at 10am. At 10:15am, the rain started to fall, leaving most of the teams twiddling their thumbs in the garages and hoping for some dry track time.