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.

Harley-Davidson Livewire Gets Closer to Production Form

Harley-Davidson made a big push today, showing a number of bikes and concepts that it plans to bring to market by 2022. All of them were a big surprise, but one of them we already knew about: the Harley-Davidson Livewire. While not as big of a shock as the adventure-touring Pan America concept, or the Harley-Davidson Streetfighter or Custom models (to say the least about its upcoming electric lineup), Harley-Davidson has given us something to talk about with this electric power cruiser. Namely, the Harley-Davidson Livewire looks ready in production and in form, even though its official debut is still a year away. Since we first saw the Livewire concept (below), a number of things have changed for the production model.

MV Agusta’s Moto2 Race Bike Predictably Looks Awesome

After a 42-year hiatus, MV Agusta is returning to the Grand Prix Championship. This iconic Italian motorcycle brand will not be competing in MotoGP however, and instead MV Agusta will make its return in the Moto2 category. Partnering with the Forward Racing team, MV Agusta aims to take advantage of the rule changes for the 2019 season, which will see a 765cc Triumph three-cylinder engine replacing the 600cc Honda four-cylinder engine that is currently in use. This change in the spec-engine rule will likely upheave the Moto2 Championship, and MV Agusta wants to be part of that sea change. As such, the bike you see in the photos here will be the machine that launches MV Agusta’s assault on the GP paddock.

The Harley-Davidson “Custom” Is the First Cruiser We Like

In case you missed the new, Harley-Davidson dropped a number of new model concepts on us today, all which are to go into production by the 2022 model year. We have already shown you the ADV concept, as well as the Streetfighter concept. There are a bevy of electric bikes to see as well, along with an e-bike program, but right now we want to focus your attention on the Harley-Davidson Custom, a modern take on the Sportster platform. It might be the first cruiser that we have actually lusted over. For the loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers on this page, that statement should certainly say something about how much we are digging this potent v-twin concept. Using the 1,250cc version of Harley-Davidson’s new modular engine, the Custom takes a number of cues from Harley-Davidsons of the past and future.

For years, Benelli has lain dormant, at least in the US market. That changes with the Chinese owned, but Italian-run, firm releasing the first of many street bikes for American consumption. It kicks things off with the 2018 Benelli TnT 135 ($2,499).

US importer, SSR Motorsports, hosted a quick day ride that began atop Southern California’s Ortega Highway, and concluded in Newport Beach.

Renowned for its twists and turns, Ortega Highway is an amusing, but also very high-traveled ribbon of blacktop that links the bustling inland and beach communities.

This stretch of roadway is known for accidents as well – would the tiny TnT be able to keep up with “always in a hurry” SoCal drivers?

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Gone Riding: Benelli TnT 135

04/05/2018 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We have covered extensively the rise of the small-displacement motorcycle segment here at Asphalt & Rubber, and today we are swinging a leg over a bike that is probably well off your radar, the Benelli TnT 135.

Benelli is better known for its larger sport bikes in the US market, with the Italian brand making an exodus from our two-wheeled lexicon at the turn of the century.

Now under ownership by China’s Qianjiang Group, Benelli is better known for its smaller motorcycles, which sell better in emerging markets than they do in the United States.

American importer SSR Motorsports is hoping to change that, and today we have sent motorcycling’s favorite wild man, Adam Waheed, to go ride the Benelli TnT 135 in SoCal and report back to us on this unique brand and motorcycle.

Per our new review format, Adam will be giving you a live assessment of the Benelli TnT 135 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there he will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the TnT 135, before even Adam’s own proper review is posted. As always, if we don’t know an answer, we will try to get a response from the Benelli personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #TnT135

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Check Out the New Mini Ducati XDiavel…

12/27/2017 @ 11:11 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then the folks at Benelli are positively glowing for their fellow Italians at Ducati, as the Benelli 402S seems somehow very familia to our eyes…

Ok, let’s just call a spade a spade here: Benelli wholesale copied Ducat’s XDiavel motorcycle when the Pesaro company designed its latest machine, the Benelli 402S.

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The 2017 EICMA show is rapidly approaching, and if history is any indication, leaks of the motorcycles from Italy will start dropping any day now. Sooner, if we have our say in it.

As the motorcycle industry gears up for the largest show of the year, we thought we would put together an exhaustive list of everything we expect to see at EICMA.

It goes without saying of course, be sure to stay tuned into our up-to-the-minute coverage of the EICMA show, as we will be bringing you the first glimpses and details of all the machines that will be coming for the 2018 model year, and beyond.

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Benelli 302R – Rebranded & Now Euro4 Compliant

09/19/2017 @ 1:09 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Benelli Tornado 302 is an adorable motorcycle that boasts Italian design with Chinese manufacturing. When we showed it to you two years ago, it received positive acclaim, and was one of a handful of stand-out bikes that the Italian brand surprised us with at the 2015 EICMA show.

It seems now that Benelli is relaunching the Tornado 302, under a new name, the Benelli 302R. Little seems to have changed in the past two years, aside from a new graphics package on the bodywork, Euro4 compliance, and over course the new moniker.

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Italian Court Rules Benelli into Bankruptcy

07/25/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Benelli-Logo

The story of Italian motorcycle companies falling into bankruptcy is not a new one, but Benelli’s version of the narrative is a strangely interesting departure from the norm. Let us explain.

Things apparently kicked off when Benelli failed to pay WP Suspension roughly €120,000 for suspension pieces. WP eventually took Benelli to court, despite the Italian company’s commitment to repay its debt.

An Italian court in Pesaro then declared Benelli bankrupt, and ordered the sum owed to be paid. Somewhere in this process, some of Benelli’s completed motorcycles were seized by a trustee, as collateral for payment.

This spurred Benelli’s Chinese owners, the Qianjiang Group, to release a statement after the court’s ruling, saying that the Italian brand is strong, and has ample cash on-hand to repay its debts (rumored to be in the €1 million range), and has already begun doing so.

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The 2015 EICMA show is finally over, and of course the guys from the Two Enthusiasts Podcast have something to say about everything that was unveiled in Milan. There is so much to talk about, in fact, that we had to break up the EICMA coverage into two separate shows.

So first up is Episode 9, which is Part 1 of our EICMA round-up. It covers all the happenings from the Italian OEMs: Aprilia, Benelli, Bimota, Ducati, Energica, Moto Guzzi, and MV Agusta.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 (Episode 10), which should debut on Wednesday, and will feature an in-depth discussion on the rest of the OEMs. Yes, that means double the Two Enthusiasts Podcast goodness for this week. Booyah!

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Benelli Tornado 302 – Bringing Sexy Back

11/18/2015 @ 6:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Just like the Benelli Tornado Naked T, the Benelli Tornado 302 treads on one of motorcycling’s iconic names, replacing it with a budget-oriented model that has none of the pizazz of its namesake.

This is what Benelli has been reduced to as a motorcycle brand, and the reason why the West no longer takes Benelli seriously.

That all being said, if we beat our head against the wall long enough to forget the Benelli Tornado, in either its 900c or 1130cc variants, the Benelli Tornado 302 is a fetching small-displacement machine.

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Benelli Tornado Naked T – An Italian Monkey Bike

11/18/2015 @ 5:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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The Honda Grom has been a sales success that no one saw coming. But in true Honda fashion, the adorable monkey bike wormed its way into our hearts, and has been flying off dealership floors ever since.

A domain that’s normally dominated by Asian manufacturers, namely the Chinese, it is perhaps not surprising then that we see the Benelli Tornado Naked T breaking cover at the 2015 EICMA show.

Available in either a 125cc or 135cc air-cooled, four-valve, dual-spark, single-cylinder format (like there’s really a big difference between the two), the roughly 12hp machines are a stylish alternative to the Grom’s…gromness.

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2016-Benelli-TRK-502

Comments on certain stories are predictable, and as such, we always expect some enduro rider to show up on an ADV story, and lament the weight of the bike in question, calling it too heavy to really go off-road.

That argument is bullshit, of course. Though, it is easier to handle a lightweight machine in the dirt than a heavy one, but you would be surprised at how capable any motorcycle is with a pair of knobby tires on it.

Just in case you are not convinced, we have got a little something for you. Behold the Benelli TRK 502. It’s got the profile of a condor, but the little 500cc adventure-tourer looks like it should do the job you are asking of it.

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