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.

New Wave of Ducati Divestiture Talks Emerge

04/26/2017 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

We have been here before, with financial news outlets discussing the possibility of Volkswagen divesting Ducati Motor Holding from its collection of companies. Let’s be clear, this talk about talk…not talk about action.

The idea of VW selling Ducati isn’t new. We first reported on this rumor back in September 2015 – when VW was found fudging around with its diesel-powered cars. Many thought the ramifications of Dieselgate would mean a bevy of brands being unload by the German car company. Nothing came of that.

Then last year, around June 2016, more talk of Ducati’s divestiture came to the forefront. The rumors were so strong, that Audi AG (the direct owner of Ducati) had to publicly state that the Italian motorcycle brand wasn’t for sale.

So here we are today, again with reports that the highest levels of Volkswagen are considering looking into selling their little motorcycle brand.

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MotoGP: Avintia To Continue with Ducati thru 2018

04/26/2017 @ 8:37 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Avintia To Continue with Ducati thru 2018

The jockeying for manufacturers among satellite teams has begun. First out of the gate is the Reale Avintia Racing team, who have renewed their contract for another year with Ducati. Ducati will supply two Desmosedici GP17s to the team for the 2018 season.

The question of who will follow is still open. The Tech 3 team is firmly tied in with Yamaha, and the Marc VDS team has a strong commitment from Honda, though the results they have booked with the RC213V have not been as expected.

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Harley-Davidson Laying Off 118 York Plant Employees

04/20/2017 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

On the heels of Harley-Davdison’s lackluster first quarter results of the year, the American brand has announced that it will be laying off 118 employees at its vehicle operations plant in York County, Pennsylvania.

Harley-Davidson says that the staff reductions are coming as part of a “production realignment” and that the layoffs will begin June 23rd, with a completion date around the end of July 2017.

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Harley-Davidson Q1 2017 Sales Down 4.2% Worldwide

04/18/2017 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Though a couple brands are showing gains, 2017 looks like it will be a tough year for the motorcycle industry – a statement supported by Harley-Davidson’s Q1 2017 sales figures, which are down 4.2% compared to last year, with 70,831 motorcycles sold to consumers.

That figure gets worse when you zero-in on Harley-Davidson’s domestic numbers, with the brand’s motorcycle sales in the United States down 5.7% for Q1 2017. Still, it is important to note that Harley-Davidson maintains a 51.3% marketshare figure in the 601cc-plus category, in the USA.

Compare that to Harley-Davidson’s progress abroad, where on its face things don’t seem to be going too poorly, with sales down only 1.2%.

However, it should be noted that shipments abroad are down considerably, 14.7% to be exact, a sign that bikes aren’t moving as quickly as expected in markets outside of the United States.

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India’s Struggle to Sell Millions of Vehicles Before Tougher Emissions Law Comes into Effect

04/13/2017 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

If you think emission regulations in the United States or Europe are onerous, then you should see the hash of things that is being played out in India right now, as hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been sitting on showroom floors, flirting with disaster at the possibility of being declared unsellable in the country.

The exact figure varies from which source you believe (and their understanding that “lakh” means 100,000 in Indian parlance), so the affected number of vehicles ranges from 700,000 to 1.4 million units – most of which are trucks and two-wheelers.

As such, just days before the deadline 600,000 motorcycles soon-to-be non-compliant motorcycles were believed to be still unsold, the result of an interesting intersection of a rapidly changing environmental landscape, an unforgiving legal system, and a slowly reacting vehicle industry.

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Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

04/12/2017 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships.

Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters.

As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

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BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.5% for Q1 2017

04/12/2017 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

BMW Motorrad looks to have 2017 off to a strong start, with the German brand reporting a 5.5% increase in sales so far this year.

Selling 35,636 motorcycles thus far, BMW’s first quarter results were reinforced by the brand’s strong March, with over half of this year’s units sold last month (18,265 two-wheelers in all) for a 10.9% increase over March 2016.

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Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

04/12/2017 @ 11:27 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank.

The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year.

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Triumph Boasts Big Sales Increases for Q1 2017

04/07/2017 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Triumph Motorcycles America is reporting today a healthy 15% gain in its sales over Q1 2017, compared to the same time period from last year.

Triumph doesn’t breakout its sales figures by model, but we can expect that most of those gains come from the company’s “heritage” lineup, which has seen the addition of five new post-authentic motorcycles for the 2017 model year.

Of course, anyone who has followed the Triumph brand in the United States will greet this news with an ounce of skepticism, as the British marque has earned itself a reputation for being less than forthright with its sales figures.

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April Fools: Aprilia Engaging with Future Motorcyclists

04/01/2017 @ 12:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Get them while they’re young. It worked for the tobacco industry, it worked for Michael Jackson, and it is the new mantra for Aprilia Motorcycles, as the Italian marque is getting aggressive with its offerings for young and future motorcyclists.

Regular Asphalt & Rubber readers will know that we have talked at length about the motorcycle industry’s aging demographic, and that the younger generations are not filling in sales that are being left behind by Baby Boomer motorcyclists.

Getting Gen-X and Millennials on motorcycles has been a key part to every motorcycle brand’s marketing strategy, and now Aprilia is taking that move to its next logical level, and focusing on getting kids on bikes at as early of an age as possible.

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