Jensen Beeler


Well before the firing of Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich (and it was a firing, no matter how much the Bar & Shield brand touts its “mutual decision” narrative), there has been a wrestling of control over the future of the iconic American motorcycle brand.

Dwindling share prices on the New York Stock Exchange necessitated a change of regime at Harley-Davidson, as shareholders saw a continued loss on their investment with the Milwaukee firm; and thus, a loss of confidence in management’s ability to run the company.

Now with Matt Levatich out and Jochen Zeitz taking on the role of interim CEO and President of Harley-Davidson, a new battle is being fought – what is known in the investing world as a proxy fight.

Where will you be in 100 years time? It is certainly an interesting question, especially when you consider what we have seen in the past century of time.

Before the internet, before cellphones, before computers or televisions…before even sliced bread…there was Suzuki. That is right, this stalwart of the motorcycle industry just clocked its 100th birthday.

What you are looking at here is a Ducati Hypermotard 1100. Well…it started life as a giant Italian supermoto, but after finding itself in the workshop of Russian outfit Balamutti, this Bologna Bullet is leading a very different life as a three-wheeled ice machine.

If you look closely, you can still see the Hypermotard’s steel trellis frame, single-sided swingarm, and its air-cooled v-twin engine. But, you will also notice the extra wheel at the front of the leaning reverse-trike, as well as a supercharger, studded tires, and controls that look like they belong on a Star Wars speeder.

This is because Balamutti’s Vitaliy Selyukov intends to race the machine, which he calls “Yondu” (after the Guardians of the Galaxy character), at the Baikal Mile – an ice speed festival that takes place each year in Siberia, near the Mongolian border…and Selyukov intends on making his ice runs in style.

It would perhaps be easier to list which models BMW Motorrad USA is not recalling today with NHTSA, as many of the brands newer motorcycles fall afoul of the vehicle code pertaining to rear brake light operation.

Nevertheless we will give it a go, as the following bikes (4,026 units in total) are being recalled for failing to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, “Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment”:

BMW F900R, BMW F900XR, BMW S1000RR, BMW F750GS, BMW F850GS, BMW F850GS Adventure, BMW R1250GS, BMW R1250GS Adventure, BMW R1250RS, BMW R1250R, BMW RnineT, BMW RnineT Pure, and BMW RnineT Scrambler from the 2020 model year. The 2019-2020 BMW S1000R motorcycles are also affected by this recall.

It was perhaps only a matter of time before Harley-Davidson would have to halt the production lines at its US factories, but that time is now, and it comes after the Bar & Shield brand discovered yesterday that a worker tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee worked at the Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility, and tested positive Wednesday afternoon for the coronavirus. As a result, Harley-Davidson is halting production at this factory, as well as suspending operations at its York and Tomahawk facilities.

Harley-Davidson says that it will close these factories until March 29th, in order to help “support employee health and further bolster coronavirus containment efforts.”

Long time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will surely know that I have tough criticisms regarding the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). As the leading organization to represent motorcyclists and to co-ordinate our efforts and thoughts to policy makers, industry stakeholders, and the public at large, I often find the AMA's actions (or lack thereof) to be wanting.

Nothing illustrates this better than the AMA's policy regarding helmet laws, where one side of the AMA's mouth touts how the organization is against any sort mandatory helmet laws being passed in the USA, while the other corner of the mouth preaches that all motorcyclists should wear a helmet when they ride a motorcycle.

The issue is an example of how the AMA is held hostage by motorcycling's libertarian population, and by catering to this vocal group's whims, this organization that is supposed to represent all motorcyclists ends up alienating the very people it is supposed to serve.

It is a great metaphor for how the motorcycle industry operates as a whole in the United States, and while the industry is starting to realize that it needs to cater to members of the population who aren't just old, white, male, or politically conservative, the AMA has been slow to get with the program.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

Episode 136 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one comes to us from the WorldSBK paddock, as Steve English and Gordon Ritchie give us a more technical look at what is going on in the production-class paddock.

Accordingly, this show takes a deep dive on the differences between the inline-four engines and V4 engines in the World Superbike Championship.

Helping us understand this two unique engine types are Leon Haslam, Eugene Laverty, and Michael Laverty, who provide some experienced insights into riding these two types of bikes.

I am pretty sure that 26-time world champion (indoor and outdoor) Toni Bou is a Spanish god, walking around with us mere mortals, because the factory-Honda trials rider does things on a motorcycle that surely no actual human can perform.

In fact, I would go on to say that trials riding is perhaps the most impressive thing you can do on a motorcycle, and within that sport, Toni Bou is the undisputed Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T.).

Of course, with Europe on lockdown now because of the coronavirus, getting out and riding trials is a bit tougher to do, but Toni has improvised an easy way to train while he is stuck at home.

As the spread of the coronavirus continues, motorcycle manufacturers in Europe (especially in Italy) are having to continuously adjust their plans and expectations.

Accordingly, we get news that Ducati Motor Holding will continue to suspend and augment its factory activities through March 25th, pushing back its reopen date as the situation in Italy continues to worsen.

For the Italian brand, the move isn’t a total disruption, as the factory was already slated for closure between March 13th and today, March 18th.

As closures begin to hit the United States due to the coronavirus, changing life as we know it into an isolated and dull affair, AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman has issued an open letter both to motorcycle organizations and motorcyclists individually.

The letter is full of good tips for how motorcycle groups can work within the constraints of the virus outbreak, and like any good AMA president, Dingman encourages us all to continue riding our motorcycles as much as possible.

While Dingman is certainly correct that there is plenty we can do as motorcyclists to distract ourselves from the seriousness of the events that are around us, I would caution just one thought to his “get out there and ride” message.

Before you take that ride, that track day, or that race, consider what effect those actions could have on the healthcare industry.

The point of social distancing is to help ease the strain that the coronavirus will put on our medical system, and before we get too far on that point, I know we are all aware of how dangerous riding motorcycles can be.

If the trends in China, Italy, Iran, Spain, and so on have taught us anything on what to expect here in the United States, it is that there will come a point in time when risky activities, like motorcycle riding, could legitimately put doctors and other healthcare staff in the tough position of deciding whether to save our life, which was threatened by an elective activity, or instead to save the life of someone who has contracted the virus and is having serious health results because of it.

Riding motorcycles has always been about taking managed risks, and we usually manage these risks quite well as motorcyclists. But, we also as a group tend to be a congregation of self-thinkers.

Before you swing a leg over a motorcycle, consider what the full repercussions of you crashing on the road, in the woods, or at the track will have not on just yourself, but also on others, especially in terms of medical resources, which are rapidly becoming a rare commodity.

If that still doesn’t compel you to have pause, let me float another thought that might have some bearing: do you really want to be laid up in hospital bed while a viral pandemic is going on?

Cake Kalk INK, Cake Kalk INK, Cake Kalk INK…say that three times fast. This Beetlejuice of electric motorcycles is the epitome of the growing “not a motorcycle” segment of the motorcycle industry, which is straddling the divide that sees bicycles on the other side of it.

This is of course nothing new for the Swedish company Cake, which has been working on its e-mopeds since 2016. Now, we have the latest iteration of the Kalk series, the Cake Kalk INK, which tackles perhaps the biggest criticism of the Kalk line: its price tag.

Coming with a price of $9,500 MSRP, the Cake Kalk INK still isn’t as cheap as many would like, but it does fit in the pricing scheme of being just above high-end e-bikes and just under pricing of potent electric dirt bikes.