A Year in Review with Asphalt & Rubber: 2012

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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.

Pump fake! Ok, one more thing. The categories are rank-ordered, and to give some idea of magnitude, I have put traffic multipliers in parenthesis. The multipliers are relative in their application, meaning that they apply within that specific category only, and not overall (a 3x in one category could mean more or less traffic than a 3x in another category). Ok, here we go for reals now.

The Most Popular Bikes of 2012 on A&R:

One of the biggest stories on A&R this year, Kawasaki’s update to the Ninja 250R (along with the Ninja 300) was a big shot in the arm for small-displacement motorcycles. On the larger-displacement side of things though, the Ducati 1199 Panigale continued to captivate, as the superbike finally landed in the hands of customers and the press at the beginning of the year.

However, attention is now turning as the BMW HP4 has recently hit dealers and is bringing some serious tech to the sport bike demographic, namely its semi-active suspension. KTM rounds out the group with a two-pronged attack with its single-cylinder KTM 390 Duke and its twin-cylinder KTM 1290 SuperDuke prototype that Kiska put together.

  1. Kawasaki Ninja 250R (2x)
  2. Ducati 1199 Panigale (2x)
  3. BMW HP4 (2x)
  4. KTM 390 Duke
  5. KTM 1290 SuperDuke Prototype

Most Viral Stories on A&R in 2012:

With 1,000 Facebook likes, and 100 twitter retweets, the photos of Yamaha’s YZF-R1 jumping through the sand dunes of Morocco were a huge hit with social media outlets, proving that there is a strong inner-child within motorcycle enthusiasts.

Sex also seemed to sell on the internets (shocking, we know) as MotoCorse’s seDUCATIve & MANigale campaigns showed some skin, and got the hetero men of American internet in a tizzy, especially when it came to talking about their penises, BMWs, and lawsuits.

Further abroad, our coverage of the Kawasaki Ninja 250R launch blew up in southeast asia, providing only more insight as to how important those markets are becoming for motorcycle brands (something we have talked about, at length). Wrapping up the social media blitz was Suter’s 500cc track bike, which insists that two-strokes are not dead.

  1. Yamaha’s 180hp Adventure Bike is Our Kind of Crazy (3x)
  2. Photos: seDUCATIve vs. MANigale (2x)
  3. 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Breaks Cover in Indonesia
  4. Man Sues BMW for Causing Erection – No, Seriously
  5. Suter 500 Factory V4 – Thank You for Smoking

A&R‘s Top Motorcycle Racing Stories from 2012:

In motorcycle racing, we saw some big moments with the announcement of Casey Stoner from the sport, the moving of Valentino Rossi back to Yamaha, and witnessing Max Biaggi and Tom Sykes finish the closest World Superbike Championship in history.

Other big stories from racing included the saga of Ben Spies and his results in MotoGP on the factory Yamaha team, as well as Tyler O’Hara’s “interesting” pass on Michael Barnes at NOLA during the XR1200 class race. Both of these story lines were unbelievable in our eyes…we hope they get explained in a memoir some day.

While from an editorial point-of-view the above were the top stories, in terms of traffic, the big stories were the production racers from KTM and Honda. While KTM’s bike will live only in GP racing, Honda plans on bringing its V4 bike to consumers, though the price will be steep from what we hear. We wouldn’t kick it out of our garage though.

  1. KTM’s Moto3 Race Bike (4x)
  2. Honda MotoGP Production Racer & Street Bike (3x)
  3. Valentino Rossi Signs with Yamaha Racing (3x)
  4. Tyler O’Hara’s Pass on Michael Barnes at NOLA (2x)
  5. The Ben Spies MotoGP Saga
  6. Casey Stoner’s Retirement from Motorcycle Racing

Electric Motorcycle Coverage on A&R in 2012:

The past year saw moves in both directions for the electric motorcycle scene. While the 100 mph average speed barrier was broken at the Isle of Man TT, we saw the TTXGP and FIM e-Power series slip farther into the “I don’t care” box for general motorcycle enthusiasts.

On the production side of things, Brammo finally debuted its Empulse street bike, only 22 months late and $5,000 more than expected (the first units have just gotten into the hands of customers), while Zero underwhelmed again with some modest updates to its line for the coming year.

Breaking our hearts by not putting the Mission R into production, Mission Motors twisted the knife by making their race bike street legal (though they were kind enough to give A&R a ride on it). The company’s OEM parts supply business is reportedly not going well, as layoffs have been reported at the San Francisco company.

While we continue to wait for the BRD RedShift, just about the only positive news is the MotoCzysz race program. First and third at the 2012 TT Zero event, the Portland-based company has some new competition: the Mugen Shinden electric sport bike, which some guy named John McGuinness rode to a 100+ mph lap with a second-place finish at the TT. The rivalry continues next year, and we hear rumors of a two-rider team from Mugen in 2013.

  1. MotoCzysz (3.5x)
  2. Brammo (3x)
  3. Mission Motors (3x)
  4. Mugen (3x)
  5. Zero Motorcycles (2x)
  6. Lightning Motorcycles
  7. BRD Motorcycles

Top Motorcycles Reviews by A&R in 2012:

Starting the year off on a pair of Ducati motorcycles, our ride reviews from Bologna showed two potent machines, and even got this Ducati Streetfighter 1098 owner wondering why his bike wasn’t as good as the “lesser” 848cc version. The real highlight to our year though was riding three sets of machines that mortals almost never get a chance to swing a leg over.

Taking BMW’s WSBK race bikes for a jaunt around Misano, we grinned ear-to-ear at what these “production” machines can do on a race track. Our exclusive test rides continued with the MotoCzysz E1pc and Mission Motors Mission R, two bikes that few publications have gotten a chance to ride…let alone both.

  1. Ducati Streetfighter 848 (5x)
  2. Ducati 1199 Panigale (3x)
  3. Mission Motors Mission R
  4. MotoCzysz E1pc
  5. BMW World Superbikes

Editor’s Top Stories on A&R from 2012:

The influence of  the articles on Asphalt & Rubber continued in 2012, with a bevy of stories getting some interesting follow-up emails and responses from the industry and readers.

Perhaps most interesting were the emails from Japan and the US regarding our “Chrysanthemum and the Sword” article, though we think it is a coincidence that Honda announced its intentions to build a premium “production racer” sport bike just a few months after we examined the issue in depth.

In our race coverage, we were excited to welcome the voice of David Emmett to our pages, as he continues to be the rock the MotoGP paddock with his insightful analysis and opinion. We all look forward to shaking things up further across the industry in 2013, and we have some exciting new things in store for 2013.

  1. BMW Erection Lawsuit & Follow-Up (17x)
  2. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (5x)
  3. An Analysis of Valentino Rossi’s Options for the Future (5x)
  4. Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever (3x)
  5. Lies, Damned Lies, & The MIC’s Electric Range Estimates

Happy New Year & See You in 2013!