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.

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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Italian Court Approves MV Agusta Debt Restructuring Plan

03/24/2017 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The future of MV Agusta has hinged on a crucial court decision for the past five months now – one that would allow the Italian motorcycle brand to restructure its debt, thus reducing its financial liabilities and freeing up a greater portion of its cash flow for continued production.

News comes today from Varese, Italy that a local court has approved MV Agusta’s new business plan, and allowed the motorcycle manufacturer to restructure its debts with creditors and suppliers.

This is positive news for MV Agusta, and it sets in motion a number of possibilities for the Italian brand, namely closing its investment deal with Black Ocean, an Anglo-Russian private equity firm.

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One New MV Agusta Debuting in 2017, Two in 2018

03/13/2017 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

It has been a long road for MV Agusta, over the past few years. However, the Italian brand seems ready to finally move on from its financial troubles, once we see its debt restructured in the Italian courts, and the investment secured from Black Ocean.

MV Agusta latest issues, which concern cash flow difficulties, seem to be balancing out as well, though the effect on the company’s new model lineup has been noticeable, with a disappointing lack of new machines to show at the 2016 EICMA show.

As such for the 2017 edition of the trade show, we should have measured expectations, with Giovanni Castiglioni saying in an interview with MCN that only one new model will debut later this year, and only two new bikes will be shown in 2018.

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What It Really Means for Harley-Davidson Now That Trump Has Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

03/07/2017 @ 9:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

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The Subtle Big Deal That Is Ducati Premier Financing

03/02/2017 @ 7:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

Ducati released a new financing program this week, maybe you saw the announcement already. If you even bothered to read one of the copy/paste jobs on this announcement, you probably got three sentences into it, and then realized you just lost a minute or two of your life, which you will never get back.

It is hard to make this topic sexy, and motorcycle journalists are lazy creatures (myself included)…which is why you probably just saw the press release reprinted on a website, with some Ducati advertising placed next to it, just for good measure.

The Ducati Premier Financing program is a big deal though, just not in a way that is immediately sexy to the casual motorcycle buyer.

In realities, Ducati Premier Financing is not that different from the BMW 3asy Ride financing program, in that it is a finance plan that is not too dissimilar from a leasing program, and it is aimed at making the monthly payment on a motorcycle incredibly affordable*.

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Caution: Radioactive Material

03/02/2017 @ 10:02 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The warning label for radioactive substances (technically, the warning label for ionizing radiation) was born in 1946, at the UC Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, and the now iconic symbol began life a bit different from how we know it today, originally colored with a very hip magenta "trefoil" on a blue background.

The shape of the three-bladed trefoil is quite specific and purposeful - drawn with a central circle of radius R, an internal radius of 1.5R, and an external radius of 5R for the blades, which are separated from each other by 60° of empty space.

It's shape is tightly defined because it is to noticeably and clearly warn you against the dangers of ionizing radiation, which at their very worst would cook you instantly like an egg, or in less worse conditions, still potentially cause life-changing mutations to your cells and DNA.

The yellow and black trefoil is supposed to be a literal warning (the IAEA and ISO adopted this new coloring in 2007) of course, but labeling something radioactive carries with it a metaphorical weight as well. And, it too demands a cautious interaction from the user.

In the motorcycle industry, we have our fair share of radioactive elements, though few come with a warning label. On Episode 45 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you may have heard me refer to a motorcycle company as being radioactive. I thought it was worth spending some words on what that means in that context.

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Report Says Sport Bike Sales in USA Dropped 4.7%

02/27/2017 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

The data continues to support the notion that sport bike sales are contracting, with Powersports Business releasing a report that sport bike sales dropped by 4.7% over a 12-month period that ended in October 2016.

According to the dataset put together by Statistical Surveys Inc., 75,469 sport bikes were registered in the United States during last year’s time period, compared to the 79,225 motorcycles that were registered the previous year.

While the general trend across the country is a drop in sport bike sales, the research also showed some interesting locations where sport bike sales actually increased dramatically, showing that there may be a location element to the demise of the sport bike.

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