Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

Pro Italia Online Sold to AMS Ducati Dallas

01/12/2016 @ 12:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Though the announcement is only going public today, Pro Italia Online was sold to AMS Ducati at the end of last year, on December 31, 2015.

The news is a big deal in the world of Ducatisti, as Pro Italia’s online store is one of the largest online retailers for Ducati parts in the United States.

Therefore, its movement from one top Ducati dealership (Pro Italia in Glendale, CA) to another (AMS Ducati in Dallas, TX) is tectonic shift in the retail power found in Ducati’s online landscape.

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Marzocchi Bought by Italian Automotive Company VRM

01/05/2016 @ 2:19 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Suspension brand Marzocchi has been saved from liquidation, as Tenneco is set to sell the Italian company to VRM – an Italian automotive company from the Bologna province of Zola Predosa.

Last year, Marzocchi seemed destined for the chopping block, as Tenneco seemed set on shutting down the business, and its 70 employees, rather than selling the company.

However with intervention from the local government in Bologna, and its strong labor unions, Marzocchi has been seemingly saved before the new year.

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LVMH to Acquire the Deus Ex Machina Brand?

12/02/2015 @ 11:34 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Like the word “cool” itself, it is hard to describe what exactly Deus ex Machina is, especially to the uninitiated. The motorcycle/surf lifestyle brand is 10 years old now, and will go down in moto-history as being partially responsible for the “post-authentic” motorcycle movement.

The easiest explanations is that the Deus ex Machina brand is known both for its two-wheeled creations, and also its destination stores in Sydney, Bali, Japan, Los Angeles, and Milan.

In talks now with L-Capital, the private equity arm of LVMH (which is better known for its Louis Vuitton, Moët, and Hennessy brands), Deus ex Machina looks to be the second major exit for its founder and majority shareholder Dare Jennings, who sold his Mambo brand to Gazal Corporation back in 1990.

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Wells Fargo To Buy GE Capital’s Vendor Finance Businesses

10/13/2015 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Even if you’ve financed the purchase of a motorcycle recently, we doubt you noticed that GE Capital has removed itself from the vehicle lending business, but it was a big deal for dealers and manufacturers.

A major player in financing not only the inventory and flooring for dealers, lending money to smaller OEMs to create product and inventory, as well as helping consumers finance their expensive play toys, GE Capital has been one of the larger lenders in the motorcycle space for the past decade or so, and likely has helped you save a fraction of a percent or two on your lending rate.

That fraction of a percent though means that GE’s decision to get out of the automotive lending game has had serious ramifications in the two-wheeled world, even if it’s not the sexiest subject to talk about on a moto-news site.

This is why it’s a pretty big deal that Wells Fargo is poised to acquire GE Capital’s commercial distribution finance and vendor finance businesses, as well as some of GE’s corporate finance business, as it means another major lending body will service the motorcycle industry.

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Motorcycle Industry Council Buys the AIMExpo

09/15/2015 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Interesting news, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), the American trade group that is comprised of most of the motorcycle manufacturers, has acquired the motorcycle group of Marketplace Events LLC. What this really means is that the MIC has bought the AIMExpo, America’s largest trade, consumer, and media event.

We say this news is interesting, because you don’t usually see trade groups like the MIC in the mergers and acquisition realm, though the acquisition makes sense from a promotional point-of-view.

For those who don’t know, the MIC serves the interests of the motorcycle industry as a whole in the United States, and thus there is a lot to be gained by the MIC also controlling arguably the most important expo event for the American motorcycle industry.

This likely means that we will see more US models debuting at the AIMExpo, giving the show a status similar to the EICMA show in Italy and the INTERMOT show in Germany.

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Gas Gas Employees: “KTM, This is Not Your House”

07/30/2015 @ 1:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber regulars should be aware by now that Spanish trails/enduro manufacturer Gas Gas is in a bit of financial trouble, and is now up for liquidation. One of the suitors of Gas Gas is of course KTM, as the Austrian company is likely eager to add a robust trials machine to its lineup.

There’s a slight problem with that thought though: the Gas Gas employees are well aware of what happened to Husqvarna and its Italian employees, after KTM purchased the Swedish brand from BMW Motorrad, and moved Husky’s Italian operations to Austria.

We don’t think we need to parse too many words explaining the position of some Gas Gas employees, this video says it quite well enough. Watch it, after the jump.

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India’s Royal Enfield Acquires the UK’s Harris Performance

05/13/2015 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Indian motorcycle brands getting involved with Western companies for R&D isn’t anything new, in fact the entire Erik Buell Racing story seems to center around that very issue.

So, it shouldn’t shock anyone to hear that the iconic Royal Enfield motorcycle brand has acquired famed British performance house Harris Performance.

“Royal Enfield is working on its new generation of products and platforms; to have the Harris Performance team dedicatedly working with us will clearly enhance our engineering and product design capabilities,” said Siddhartha Lal, CEO Royal Enfield.

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China Set to Buy Pirelli for €7.1 Billion

03/23/2015 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) is set to buy into tire-maker Pirelli, with what is currently a €7.1 billion deal. The move would put the 143-year-old Italian company in Chinese ownership, with ChemChina being the majority and controlling shareholder.

ChemChina had planned to offer €15/share to existing Pirelli stock owners, but that number may have to be lifted after a recent rally in the stock’s price. Once the deal concludes though, it is expected that ChemChina will take Pirelli private once the buyout is complete.

The impetus for the buyout is that Pirelli’s knowledge making tires would be a huge asset to ChemChina’s current tire production, not to mention that Pirelli’s free production inventory could be used to make other ChemChina products.

The deal would also give Pirelli a strong footing in the massive Chinese tire market, a significant leg-up in Asia for the Italian brand over its other European competitors.

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Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

01/15/2015 @ 4:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains.

This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

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Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

01/13/2015 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock.

Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati.

Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “we had a past experience of cross-marketing with Ducati that was promising, but the company was acquired by Audi and the experiment ended.”

“We now have a new partnership with MV Agusta, a very prestigious brand,” the Mercedes CEO continued. “Again, we have established a cross-branding strategy between AMG and MV Agusta and we believe that the two brands are complementary. However, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

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