The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson’s Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka. No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well. Milwaukee even impressed with its more “core” offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be “a real motorcycle” in our eyes…we think.

Ducati’s Project 1309 Reveals a New Diavel Coming

We didn’t hear too much about “Project 1309” from World Ducati Week 2018, which is surprising considering what the past has shown us about Ducati’s secret reveals, but the Bologna brand was once again giving a teaser to fans in Misano. In the past, World Ducati Week has been the place where Ducati showed us the first Scrambler model, and last year the event debuted the return of the Ducati SuperSport. This year, it is another new bike. A new Diavel, to be precise. Set to compliment the current XDiavel model, the new Diavel features the same 1,262cc DVT engine with variable valve timing, but puts it into the more sport Diavel riding platform. This means tucked in feet on rearsets, rather than the XDiavel’s foot-forward controls.

VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

The Clash’s hit song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” might perhaps perfectly fit the business situation for Ducati, within its parent company, Volkswagen AG. The Italian motorcycle brand’s status in the German conglomerate has for the past few years been held on a tenuous string. Rumor about its divestiture, its selling to another company, are constantly dogging the iconic brand. Talking to Bloomberg TV after Volkswagen’s quarterly earnings report, VW CEO Herbert Diess explained that there are two paths forward for Ducati, and one of them includes selling Ducati to the highest bidder. “We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati,” said Diess to Bloomberg.

KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

Cutaway Photos of the Ducati Superquadro Engine

01/31/2012 @ 7:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

I was flipping through some photos from the 2011 EICMA show, and found these shots of the Ducati 1199 Panigale‘s Superquadro engine. Unfortunately at the show, Ducati had its 1199cc v-twin motor behind a Lexan case, which created a bit of a glare, reflections, and of course had smudges from the touchy-feely Italian crowd. But still, the photos give a good idea of what’s going on in Ducati’s most-advanced production engine to date, and are better than just looking at the CAD renders (photos & movie).

If you look at the shots very closely, you can almost see where the 195hp and 98 lbs•ft of torque is lurking inside. Visible are the gear/chain-driven cams, which help aid the 15,000 mile service interval (and help avoid the almost yearly Ducati tax that came with the old motor design). Also visible is the new wet slipper clutch ride-by-wire system, which help complete the Superquadro’s departure from what we used to think of as iconic elements to Ducati’s twins. Photos after the jump.

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Up-Close with the MV Agusta Brutale 675

12/06/2011 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Finally making its public debut, the MV Agusta Brutale 675 was easily one of the most anticipated motorcycles of the 2011 EICMA show. Representing Varese’s commitment to more affordable motorcycles, the Brutale 675 comes with a €8,990 price tag in the EU (US pricing is still up in the air, but should be competitive with the Triumph Street Triple). No exactly a surprise in its design, the 2012 MV Agusta Brutale 675 is true to the Brutale format, and follows the lines of the F3 supersport…without fairings of course.

In person, the MV Agusta Brutale 675 comes with the fit and finish you would expect from the historic Italian brand. For as much as I bag on MV Agusta for its various monetary and business troubles, the Italian factory is trying to make available a gorgeous motorcycle at a very attractive price tag. For all the concerns made about how MV Agusta was going “down market” with its brand, the basic bullet points of what defines an MV still remain true with the Brutale 675, which should make it a winner when it comes to market.

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One of the nice things about actually going to motorcycle events, instead of phoning it in like many publications seem to do these days, is that you get to see all the treasure trove items that didn’t find their way onto some press release mill for mass consumption.

Such is the case of the Pierobon X60R, a custom sportbike that will surely cause some revisions to your Christmas wish list to Santa. We’ve featured Pierobon’s work before, with the Bologna company’s Pierobon F042 causing quite a stir earlier this year.

Like the F042, the Pierobon X60R features an air-cooled Ducati v-twin power plant, and the tuning firm’s own proprietary chassis design. There are plenty of performance parts and carbon fiber to drool over, and the design strikes as one that would have occurred had Ducati made a true air-cooled sportbike.

With Pierbon’s extensive experience in the racing scene, we can imagine how much fun an X60R would be on the track, we’ll just have to wait and see if a street model also makes a debut. If you’re a Ducatista and want to stand out from the cappuccino crowd, there are some photos after the jump that might interest you.

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Up-Close with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept

11/22/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

While KTM made waves with the debut of the KTM Freeride E electric dirt bike, the Austrian brand wasn’t the only OEM hocking an electric offering at the 2011 EICMA show. Unveiling a very rough electric concept, Husqvarna continued to redefine itself for the future with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept. The physical size of a 125cc dirt bike, the Husqvarna E-Go is the exploration of entry-level electric street motard.

Like the KTM Freeride E, the battery pack looks a bit small for serious street duty, and we’re not so sure about the air-cooled brushed motor, but honestly the E-Go is more about the Swedish brand exploring electric motorcycles in anticipation of that market developing further. With OEMs hoping that electrics will bring in a new generation of rider, the Husqvarna E-Go seems to hit all the right bullet points for that concept, but as always, time will tell.

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Loyal readers to Asphalt & Rubber should know by now that on semi-regular basis I like to lambast motorcycle companies, both individually and as a whole, for they’re dismal understanding of what often gets referred to as “new media” (the fact that such a title is applied to a medium that has been in commercial form for over two decades should shed some insight on the situation I’m dealing with here). Now often this tradition of mine revolves around pointing out some of the gems of imagination that emanate from our industry, which in turn leads to me saying things that result in A&R being uninvited to future events held by the company in question. C’est la vie.

Of course if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. So in the interest of trying to make the world a better place, I’ll offer these three videos by KTM as examples to the companies that have received my ire, and suggest that if you need some inspiration on how put together a rich and compelling video media campaign for a motorcycle you’ve recently launched, then compare and contrast the following with your own work-product in order to highlight your deficiencies.

Lastly, a couple points to ponder. If motorcycles are an aspirational purchase, then put some aspiration into your message. If motorcycles are an expression of individuality, then make sure your bike’s identity shines through. If motorcycles are supposed to be a form of recreation, then better damn well be grinning ear-to-ear after you are done. Videos after the jump.

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Video: 2012 KTM 690 Duke Teaser

10/31/2011 @ 5:47 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We should probably just start copy/pasting this following text, as we suspect more than a few motorcycle companies will be releasing teaser videos of their upcoming models ahead of the 2011 EICMA show. Last week we already caught a glimpse of the MV Agusta Brutale 675, and today KTM has an unlisted YouTube video for the 2012 KTM 690 Duke.

Rumor has it that the new Duke won’t be coming to the US market, which seems to be confirmed by KTM North America’s leaked product road map. Still, our friends across the pond are surely in for a treat, as the “Ready to Race” brand knows how to make a good hooligan machine or two. While we wait for official specs on the new Austrian thumper, check out the Kiska-vibed video after the jump.

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