Report: Harley-Davidson Looking to Buy Ducati

Rumors and reports continue to swirl around Ducati, as the Italian manufacturer is linked to one brand or another for a potential divestiture from the Volkswagen Group. And now, the latest name being thrown into the hat is none other than iconic American brand Harley-Davidson. In a report by Reuters, Harley-Davidson is linked to buying Ducati by unnamed sources, with a purchase price that is pegged around €1.5 billion, a number that has been put together by the bean-counting minds at Goldman Sachs. Volkswagen is said to be taking bids on Ducati this July, which means the fate of the Italian motorcycle brand could be decided by the end of this year.

Beauty Is Wedging an RZ350 Motor into an RS250 Frame

I am about to ruin your day, because I am going to show you something that you will want very badly, but can’t have. It is what happens when you have the best of both worlds. It is the two-wheeled version of having your cake and eating it too. This machine is called the Yamaprilia, and as the name implies, it is a mashup of the Yamaha RZ350 and the Aprilia RS250. Using the two-stroke, twin-cylinder engine from the RZ350, and the twin-spar aluminum chassis of the RS250, owner Gareth Evans is looking for the best of both worlds. The build is an interesting one – and is featured by our friends at BikeEXIF – as it involves Evans fabricating more than a few parts himself – something that is easier to do when you have a background in mechanical engineering, like Evans does.

The Ducati Panigale R and Its Carbon “Wheel Cover”

While everyone else seems to be turning a blind eye to aerodynamics, Ducati continues to be the brand pushing the aero envelope with its designs. As such, World Superbike fans may have seen this weekend that Chaz Davies was sporting a unique rear end, as Ducati Corse continues to experiment with a lenticular wheel setup. A piece of technology borrowed mostly from cycling, the carbon fiber disc “wheel cover” provides a more slippery surface for the wind to flow over, than the chaos that comes from a spinning spoked wheel on a motorcycle. Ducati has played with a lenticular wheel before, with Michele Pirro sporting the design in the recent MotoGP testing season.

Pirelli Responds to WorldSBK Tire Woes with Change

The Misano round of WorldSBK was dominated by talk of tires. As such, following a weekend fraught with failures, Pirelli will revert to an older specification of tire for the Laguna Seca round. The move sees Pirelli at a crossroads, after a series of high profile incidents during the scorching weekend in Italy. This includes Michael van der Mark’s crash from the lead of Saturday’s race, after a tire failure saw the Dutch rider robbed of his chance to claim his first podium for Yamaha. One has to remember too, Jonathan Rea also crashed out of the lead at the previous round in Donington Park, as it was a shock to see the previously robust Pirelli fail once again.

Oh My, The “Miracle Mike” Is One Tasty Indian Scout Build

That’s it. Hell must be freezing over, as I just had to mop up the floor after looking at photos of a cruiser. What you see here is called the “Miracle Mike” and it is the creation of the minds at Young Guns Speed Shop. The bike is built off the Indian Scout, an affordable entry-level cruiser that boasts pretty good performance for its $10,000 price tag, but is generally a pass for anyone that likes leaning more than 31°. Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we’ve had a bit of time on both the Scout and its sibling, the Victory Octane, and found the models to be potent, but in need of a better gearbox and front brakes…and a serious diet wouldn’t hurt too. The Swiss minds at Young Guns seemed to think the same, making smart improvements to the Indian Scout for their creation. And heck, a little nitrous “go juice” never hurts, right?

In Search of the Ultimate Motorcycle Paddock Stand…

Here is something interesting that popped up in my social media feed recently (see, online maketing does work!), which I thought was worthy of sharing with Asphalt & Rubber readers, as I am in search of the ultimate set of paddock stands for my fleet of motorcycles. Dynamoto is a new brand name in the age-old paddock stand business. It is rare to see new things in this space, but the folks at Dynamoto seem to have an interesting concept, as its a bike lift that can move freely around the garage with the bike still on it, using a novel dual-axis wheel design. If your garage is as choked full with motorcycles as mine is, being able to move a bike easily, especially on a service stand, is a valuable ability to have. Dynamoto seems to have this very need in its mind with its clever design, though their design does have its flaws.

2018 Yamaha YZ450F Debuts with Tuner App

Not one to let the other brands have all the fun, Yamaha has debuted its all new 450cc class motocross bike, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, which features the first engine tuning app available for a production MX bike. The new Yamaha YZ450F is truly an all-new machine, with a new engine, frame, and bodywork. For bonus points too, the new YZ450F comes with an electric starter, which means MX riders can now skip leg day at the gym, and still get their bikes running on race day. Available in July, in either “Team Yamaha Blue” or “White” color schemes, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F will cost $9,199 MSRP. This price includes the onboard communication control unit (CCU), which allows the rider to connect to the bike via smartphone.

Pikes Peak Gets EMT Motorcycles from Ducati

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is rapidly approaching, and the iconic “Race to the Clouds” continues to mature, despite this year being its 95th running. Helping mitigate the safety issues that come with racing on the mountain’s 156 turns is Ducati North America, which already supports racer mentoring with the Squadra Alpina program. Now, Pikes Peak is taking another step forward. Again with the help of Ducati North America, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will have emergency first-responders on motorcycles. This is a page taken straight out of the Isle of Man TT, where traveling marshals move by sport bike between checkpoints, and are often the first medical personnel on the scene of a crash.

More Photos and Details of the MV Agusta RVS #1

Yesterday we showed you the MV Agusta RVS #1, the first creation from the Italian marque’s Reparto Veicoli Speciali program, which is making limited run machines out of MV Agusta models. Reparto Veicoli Speciali comes straight out of the Castiglioni Research Center, MV Agusta’s design studio, and this division will focus solely on making dedicated bikes for special customers. One bike, one customer, is the premise. The RVS #1 might bear familiar lines to the MV Agusta Brutale 800, but this machine is hand-built and features the most powerful three-cylinder engine in MV Agusta’s lineup, with 150 hp coming from the 350 lbs (and Euro IV compliant) machine.

The Updated 2018 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto Debuts

Husqvarna continues to be the only motorcycle manufacturer with a race-ready supermoto, straight from the factory, and what a machine it is, the Husqvarna FS 450. For the 2018 model year, the Swedish brand has added more updates for the Husqvarna FS 450, keeping it at the pointy end of technology. The big changes come in the form of a new slipper clutch from Suter, and brand that any MotoGP team should be familiar with, along with a new map switch control on the handlebar, which continues to toggle on and off the bike’s traction control, dual engine maps, and launch control features. The last change of note for the 2018 model year that Husqvarna wants us to share is that fact that there is a new graphics package…this year, the seat is blue.

Matchless Brand Sold & Set for Comeback

12/04/2012 @ 10:17 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

One of the oldest motorcycle brands in the world has changed hands, yet again, as the British marque Matchless has reportedly been sold. Changing hands from Greek to Italian ownership, the Matchless brand is now in the hands of Franco Malenotti, of Belstaff apparel fame.

Hoping to revitalize the motorcycle brand in a similar way as he did with Belstaff, Malenotti plans at first to build a limited production series of motorcycles, which will draw their inspiration from the G80, Silver Hawk, and Silver Arrow designs.

Continue Reading

Vaporware: MV Agusta F3 USA Delivery Pushed Back…Again

06/07/2012 @ 12:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

I will be honest about my ego, I like being right…but that doesn’t mean that sometimes I wish I was wrong, and such is the case with the delivery date of the beautiful MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro. It is hard to believe that we first saw the MV Agusta F3 break cover back in October 2010, with the Italian company’s three-cylindered supersport being spied and rumored well before even that date, as far back as 2009. Then breaking the hearts of many Italian motorcycle fans, MV Agusta announced that the F3 would not be a 2011 model year bike.

Having issues getting its parts suppliers to deal with a company with a horrible credit record, pricing of the MV Agusta F3 quickly rose from $9,000, to $10,000, and then finally to $13,495 MSRP (Note: All US bikes will comes with a quick-shifter, pushing the MSRP now to $13,995). This of course would not be the price for the limited edition MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro, which was set to sell ahead of the base model. At $27,900 MSRP, the “gold series” F3 has been operating on a similar sliding scale as the price tag of the base model, as the delivery date of the bike was first pushed back from March, to May, and now is set for early July. But wait, there’s more.

Continue Reading

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Continue Reading

Willie G. Davidson Retires from Harley-Davidson

03/16/2012 @ 6:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Grandson to William A. Davidson, one of the founders of Harley-Davidson, and son to William H. Davidson, Harley-Davidson’s second President, Willie G. Davidson is the personification of the Harley-Davidson brand as we know it, and has been the personal link between Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners and the corporate entity.

Both literally and figuratively the brand’s goodwill ambassador, Willie G. has spent the past 49 years helping forge the iconic brand of Harley-Davidson, and has defined the Harley-Davidson aesthetic by serving as the company’s Chief Styling Officer.

Announcing his retirement today in a company press release, Willie G. will stay on as an ambassador of sorts, and also retain the title Chief Styling Officer Emeritus, though his day-to-day duties at the Bar & Shield brand will be over, effective April 30th, 2012.

Continue Reading

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever

01/24/2012 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

The first Ducati 1199 Panigale rolled off the assembly line at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory today, officially starting production of the Italian company’s flagship model. While maybe the the production of the first Panigale is not the most newsworthy of subjects, make no mistake at how important this motorcycle is for both Ducati and sport bikes in general going into the future. Featuring a new step in production motorcycle chassis design, we’ve also already talked at length about the number of firsts that the 1199 Panigale is bringing to the production motorcycle market.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment.

However features aside, what will truly be the most important aspect of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is whether or not the flagship model can live up to the hype that has been generated around the machine. While most of the attention to-date regarding the Panigale has centered on whether Ducati’s monocoque chassis design can work on the production motorcycle, after it has failed so miserably in MotoGP, the real issue for the Italian brand has nothing at all to do with the 1199’s race track prowess.

Continue Reading

Harley-Davidson Makes the Interbrand 100 for Another Year

01/17/2012 @ 11:03 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Every year Interbrand releases a list of the Top 100 global brands — ranking each company on its brand value and then assigning a dollar amount to that value. As such over the years, the Interbrand 100 has become the de facto metric on the strength of a company’s brand. For some time Harley-Davidson has been a stalwart of the Interbrand 100, with the Bar & Shield brand regularly getting the nod from the consultancy’s specialists — after all, how many brands are responsible for enthusiasts tattooing its logo on their body? However the past few years have seen a worrisome trend, as slowly Harley-Davidson has fallen farther and farther down the Interbrand 100 rankings.

Continue Reading

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

12/22/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts.

While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.

It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans.

While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products.

Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.

Continue Reading

Valentino Rossi Finally Joins the 21st Century & Twitter

10/11/2011 @ 9:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

For being a motorcycle mega-brand in his own right, Valentino Rossi has been slow to adapt to this crazy new thing called the internet. A series of tubes, the internet has been a remarkable breakthrough on a variety of levels, changing the paradigm of how we eat, sleep, and waste our lunch breaks at work. Helping teenage girls gossip about their latest crushes, aiding in the massive distribution of pornography to middle-aged men who hide in their basements from their wives and children, and allowing no-talent journalistic hacks to masquerade around as proper motorcycle journalists, there is literally no telling how the internet will change our lives next, and what industries it will turn on their head.

Well get ready for another shockwave ladies and gentlemen, as the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, has hopped on this interweb bandwagon with full 0 & 1 force, first by finally creating his own official website, and now by signing up for a thing called Twitter. Tweeting, twatting, twittering so far in only Italian, Rossi was one of the last hold-outs of MotoGP riders to embrace the micro-blogging service (Randy de Puniet just got on Twitter this week too we might add. Thanks Lauren). Rossi’s move is sure to create a stir with the VR46 crowd, as his legion of fans can now take time out from their busy days of lathering neon yellow paint all of their bodies, and hang onto every one of Rossi’s 140 character messages.

So far, Rossi has tweeted about go-karting, his injured finger, and traveling to Melbourne. We wait with bated breath to see what photo the nine-time World Champion first tweets from his account. Bellissima.

Continue Reading

The Business Case for the Husqvarna Nuda

09/20/2011 @ 2:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Not too different of an analysis from the one I did regarding the Ducati Diavel, the business case surrounding the Husqvarna Nuda is all about extending brand attributes, reaching new demographics, and putting more volume into sales figures. While I will reserve judgment on what the Nuda 900 is as a motorcycle for when A&R actually gets a chance to swing a leg over one, the positioning and reasoning behind Husqvarna’s first true-blooded street bike can be analyzed by us before the Nuda hits dealership floors early next year.

A Swedish brand based in Italy and owned by German company, there can be little wonder as to why Husqvarna suffers from an identity crisis. When the small, but eclectic, dirt bike manufacturer was brought into the folds of BMW, many loyal to the Husqvarna brand wondered and were concerned about what was in store for the company.

If brand loyalists were waiting for the first shoe to drop, then surely the release of the Husqvarna Nuda 900 & 900R is that moment. A departure from a history of motorcycles that like to get grime under their fingernails, the Nuda 900 represents Husqvarna’s attempt at a pure-street offering — a move both Husqvarna and BMW hope will pave the way for more street models, and thus more sales volume. The positioning and branding of the Nuda 900 is also especially interesting, as adding a street dimension to the Husqvarna name is certainly a new dynamic to the brand, but how to do so with parent company BMW looking over one’s shoulder is another affair all together.

Continue Reading

I’m Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata, Bitch.

08/05/2011 @ 5:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The tale that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s business card at one point read “I’m CEO, Bitch” is in fact true. Perhaps tired of dealing with investors and businessmen that didn’t take him seriously, or perhaps the young entrepreneur faced a tough time telling industry specialists twice or three times his age how the world was about to change, ol’Zuck was surely responding to the titles others had placed on him. Enervated at hearing phrases like “that kid” or “the Harvard dropout”, Zuckerberg’s “I’m CEO, Bitch” business card was not only about the young CEO having an equal seat at the table, but also about his personal brand, and reminded whomever held the card that were talking to the creator of one of most popular websites ever on the internet.

If we can stretch that metaphor a bit further, the new Ducati Superbike has its own identity crisis in the eyes of the public. Like the Ducati Vyper and Ducati Cayenne that came before it, we were first introduced to Ducati’s new flagship with its internal name: Xtreme. Whether out of the desire to drive webpage hits by creating controversy, or just actually being that gullible/naive about the story, mainstream outlets began using the nomenclature as if the Bologna brand had adopted product names that tugged on a common heart strings from the Twilight faithful.

Cleverly deciphering Ducati’s secret model numbering scheme, more educated publications latched onto the more likely Superbike 1199 verbiage. There was over course precedent for this +1 trend, after watching the Superbike 998 become the 999. Knowing that Ducati would be releasing a ridiculously over-square v-twin motor with the new Superbike, we also learned early on that the new power plant would be known as the Superquadrata, which sounds far more clever in Italian than its translated English. With all these different names being banded about for the same machine, we wanted to definitely put the business card wars to bed, and say conclusively that the new flagship from Bologna will be called the Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata.

Continue Reading