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.

Is Ducati thinking about making a 300cc sport bike? Is it going to do so in India? With Hero MotoCorp? That is the talk of the motorcycle industry today, though this isn’t the first time that this idea has been floated in the two-wheeled rumor mill.

The reason this rumor keeps coming around is that Ducati seems to be one of the last motorcycle brands really to adopt the small-displacement motorcycle strategy.

Motorcycle manufacturers are continuously investing in motorcycle models that would sell well with entry-level riders or in developing nations. This has lead to a boom in motorcycles that that are under 400cc – most of which are produced in Asia, though also sold in the western markets.

Despite Ducati’s continued commitment to staying out of the 300cc displacement category (it does have the 400cc Scrambler Sixty2 though), rumors continue to speculate on this future for the Italian brand, this time with Hero MotoCorp in the picture.

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Hoping to pressure Harley-Davidson into keeping its production in the United States, President Trump this weekend tweeted words of encouragement to riders who planned to boycott the American motorcycle brand.

This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that Harley-Davidson has increasingly found itself at odds with the White House, primarily over President Trump’s trade negotiations and agreements.

The tension started with the United States withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, and reached a boiling point when President Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel.

Now with Harley-Davidson signaling its plans to move into new segments and create a new business plan for the 21st century, the Trump Administration is increasing the pressure for Harley-Davidson to maintain the status quo.

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Ducati Sales Down 7.4% Worldwide So Far In 2018

08/08/2018 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

More doom and gloom for the motorcycle industry, as Ducati Motor Holdings sales are slumping for the 2018 model year. Selling 32,250 motorcycles so far this year, the Italian brand is short 7.4% the volume it sold this time last year.

To translate unit sales into fiat currency, the 32,250 motorcycles sold equals €448 million in revenue going into Audi’s coffers. Of note, Ducati’s revenue contribution to Audi AG accounts for 1.4% of the automaker’s total revenue.

For the second quarter of this year, Ducati sales were down 8.9% compared to Q2 2017. This means that 20,319 Ducati motorcycles were sold in Q2 2018, compared to the 22,300 sold in Q2 2017.

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The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

08/08/2018 @ 1:23 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

Let us too not forget that the iconic American brand is poised to lead the motorcycle industry with the first full-size, production, electric motorcycle from an established OEM. Stodgy, old, conservative Harley-Davidson will be an industry-leader this time next year, with its Livewire machine. Crazy.

Sprinkled into the news was a look at Harley-Davidson's lineup of electric vehicles, which creates a pathway for non-riders to become diehard Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.

Harley-Davidson talked about its plans abroad; its desire to make entry-level / price-point motorcycles; its goal to add more riders, from more diverse demographics; its plans to add another engine platform that would range from 250cc to 500cc in displacement, and power bikes for the American, European, and developing markets.

Oh yes, there were certainly high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week, but it wasn't because everyone was talking about all of this information that Harley-Davidson sprung on the motorcycle industry.

Instead, there were high fives in Milwaukee last week because no one was talking about Harley-Davidson's shrinking Q2 sales, or the fact that the company's stock price dropped 0.5% on the news.

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MAG Appoints Interim CEO & New Chairman

08/07/2018 @ 9:46 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The past year has been a tumultuous one for the Motorcycle Aftermarket Group (MAG). In November 2017, the conglomerate filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections, as it restructured its debt from missteps during the economic recession.

That process concluded in April of this year, with the company’s creditors (Monomoy Capital Partners, BlueMountain Capital, and Contrarian Partners) taking control and ownership of MAG.

Now trying to move forward, MAG has announced that Mike Buettner will become the company’s interim CEO, while Bob Peiser will serve as chairman of MAG’s Board of Directors.

The news comes as the Sturgis motorcycle rally kicks off in South Dakota, where both Buettner and Peiser will be in attendance, in order to meet customers and dealers who were affected by MAG’s restructuring. The pair will also be at the AIMExpo and the Tucker Dealer show, later this year.

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VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

08/06/2018 @ 10:19 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

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The second-quarter sales results from OEMs continue to roll in, and another brand is showing a decline, this time it is BMW Motorrad. Usually one of the stronger brands, in terms of yearly and quarterly growth, the Germans are reporting a 3.1% sales decline for Q2 2018.

In total, BMW Motorrad sold 51,117 units worldwide, compared to the 52,753 units it sold during the same time period last year. In terms of money, this sales drop means a corresponding 5.8% decline in revenue (€658 million) and a 6..8% decline in profits before tax (€174 million).

This is also translating into a 1.6% sales decline (by unit volume) for the first half of the year, with only 86,975 motorcycles and scooters sold to customers.  This has resulted in a 10.1% revenue drop (€1,182 million), and a profit decrease of 23.7% (€196 million).

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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.

Continue Reading

A Revelation is coming…and by that, I mean Harley-Davidson’s awkwardly named electric motorcycle, which is due to debut in roughly one year’s time from now.

The Bar & Shield brand stunned the motorcycling masses when it brought out its Project Livewire demo bikes, showing that the iconic American brand was seriously considering an electric motorcycle model.

Now, Project Livewire is to become the Harley-Davidson Revelation, and the folks in Milwaukee are looking for some help in bringing that bike to market, posting a number of job opportunities online for those who want to work on the electric bike.

Along with the more typical roles that one would see at a motorcycle company — e.g. chassis engineers, infotainment designers, suspension gurus, etc — Harley-Davidson is also looking for some folks to fill its EV ranks.

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The Real Reason I Will Never Buy a Zero

07/24/2018 @ 10:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I first rode a Zero back in 2009. It was a horrible machine. It was so bad, I don't even dare call it a motorcycle - the execution on that goal was just too far off the mark to warrant calling that creation a motorcycle.

For an example of this, I remember going for a ride on an early Zero S and the on/off switch was marked in sharpie, right on the frame.

The brakes were like wooden blocks attached to the wheels, which didn't matter much because the tires were cheap rubber from China that were absolutely useless (and terrifying) in the rain.

It wouldn't take long to learn that Zero's focus on lightweight components was a bad decision as well, as we would see frames on the dirt bike models collapsing when taken over any sort of jump.

The bikes from Zero were so bad, the product reviews on them could serve as a litmus test of who in the media was bought and paid for, and who was actually speaking truth to power.

These machines were objectively awful, and anyone telling you otherwise was getting paid - straight up.

I could probably go on and on about the quality issues of these early machines, but it would rob us time from discussing the constant management issues that Zero has faced in the past decade, its failed dealership and servicing model, not to mention just the general branding issue of calling your product a "Zero".

To their credit though, the folks at Zero have improved their product with each successive iteration. The management team finally seems to be stable; Zero now uses a traditional dealership model, and isn't wasting time sending technicians all over the country in a van; and well...the branding is still tough, but there is a new corporate logo.

Most importantly though, Zero's motorcycles are actually now motorcycles. The quality of these machines has improved dramatically, and generally the bikes are fun to ride.

So what is keeping me from putting a Zero in my garage, and using that massive electric torque to put a grin on my face? The answer is right there above these words, in the lead photo of this story.

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