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.

All Hail the Demonic Ducati Diavel Diesel

01/19/2017 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Ducati and Diesel have been cross-promoting with each other since 2011, first with the jeans brand sponsoring the motorcycle company’s efforts in the MotoGP Championship. The relationship then blossomed into a bike collaboration, with the Ducati Monster Diesel.

With the naming thing going on, you really can’t blame people for thinking that the tank-colored motorcycle shared a fuel source with a piece of mobile artillery. We don’t think anyone will be making that mistake with the Ducati Diavel Diesel though.

Possibly fueled by fire and brimstone and with 666 units to be made, it should be very clear that Ducati and Diesel wanted something a bit edgier in their limited edition power cruiser. We know this because phrases like “hyperkinetic dynamism”, “post-apocalyptic”, and “retro-futuristic world” are used in the press release to describe this Diavel (which is Bolognese for devil, by the way).

Snark aside, the Ducati Diavel Diesel is a pretty interesting collaborative design from the two brands, and it features hand-brushed stainless steel panels that have been welded and riveted together. We can also see some intriguing pieces built for the exhaust and seat.

Of course, the brake calipers have been painted red, as have been five links on the drive chain – unfortunately the latter are not visible to us in the photos. Take a gander for yourself, after the jump.

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Why the Honda Rebel Is The Hot New Bike for 2017

11/24/2016 @ 1:32 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-500-300-lifestyle-17

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New bike season is just about over, now that INTERMOT, EICMA, AIMExpo, and IMS Long Beach trade shows are behind us.

We could still see some new models and concepts debut later this year in Japan, and there is always the possibility of something interesting showing up at the IMS New York show, but those are less popular venues for new bike releases.

In that case then, we can start making some conjecture about the bikes that debuted this year, many of them for the 2017 model year. Let’s start with the best of the best — I am of course talking about the new Honda Rebel models. No? Not the bike you were expecting?

Sure, these unassuming 300cc and 500cc street bikes don’t have the same sex appeal as some of the more wild machines we saw in Germany and Italy, but make no mistake, the revamped Honda Rebel is the most important new bike we have seen debut this year. Let me explain.

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How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

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The following is an example of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

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New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

11/17/2016 @ 8:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-300

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one.

Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show.

The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin)  and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Available starting in April 2017, tentative pricing for the Honda Rebel 300 is set at $4,399, while the Honda Rebel 500 is priced tentatively at $5,999, both sans ABS, though ABS models will be available as well.

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Two New BMW Models Debuting a INTERMOT

09/12/2016 @ 1:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Every other year, the motorcycle industry gathers in Cologne, Germany in October, for the INTERMOT trade expo. The show provides a good alternative for the Germanic brands to launch new machines, with BMW and KTM often showcasing new models at the show. This year will be no different.

To that end, BMW Motorrad is already getting its hype machine warmed up, telling us that several models will debut updates in Cologne. More importantly, zie Germans tell us that two new motorcycles will also debut at the INTERMOT show.

What those models will be is certainly the conjecture du jour, since there are several possibilities that BMW Motorrad could be working on.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that BMW often leaves something interesting for the yearly EICMA show in Milan, Italy, which happens a month later, in the first week of November. This might make decoding BMW’s game plan all but impossible, but we can still give it a try.

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Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

08/15/2016 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Roland-Sands-Design-RSD-Ducati-XDiavel-custom-motorcycle-Sturgis-13

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel.

Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches.

This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog.

There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel. It makes for an interesting mixture. We’ll be curious to see how this resonates with American cruiser riders.

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Understanding the Ducati XDiavel, A Review

08/06/2016 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The Ducati XDiavel is another big step for the Brand from Bologna, as the modell pushes further into the territory first pioneered by the Ducati Diavel, and hopes to give cruiser enthusiasts a design that speaks a little bit more of their native language.

With forward controls coming standard, along with a low and raked chassis design, the XDiavel is unlike any other Ducati on the market, and it takes some time to wrap your head around that fact.

These changes though allow Ducati to move boldly into an area dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson. That is a tall mountain to climb, as the Bar & Shield brand has a chokehold on the cruiser-riding faithful, who flock to the American brand not because of what it does, but because of who it is.

This makes winning the hearts and minds of cruiser riders an exceptionally difficult task – one too that is not easily undertaken. The first step in mounting the assault on that summit is to develop a motorcycle that has no equal. In this regard, Ducati has a fighting chance.

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2017 Yamaha SCR950 – Bolting into a Scrambler

06/08/2016 @ 8:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

"XVS950XR USA CAN 2017"

We knew last year at the 2015 EICMA show that scrambler and other post-authentic models would finally be coming from the major manufacturers, especially as the Japanese OEMs caught up to the trend du jour.

At the time, the worry was that this marked motorcycling’s “jumping the shark” moment when it came to these throw-back machines, with the mainstream pushing out the fringe adopters, who would move on to their next counter-culture statement.

Today, we see the first of that momentum, with the 2017 Yamaha SCR950 – a scrambler-type model, which is based off the Yamaha Bolt cruiser platform.

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Say Goodbye to the Kawasaki W800

06/01/2016 @ 1:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Kawasaki-W800-Final-Edition-02

Kawasaki announced today that 2017 will be the last model year for the Kawasaki W800, as the retro-classic machine is going the way of the dodo, thanks largely to the advent of Euro4 emission standards.

Any hope of a model refresh down the line seems to have been squashed, as Kawasaki says that this is “the end of the iconic W series of four-stroke vertical twin motorcycles” and that the “W800 ‘Final Edition’ marks the end of an era” in its press release.

That’s an interesting move from Team Green, considering the popularity of post-authentic machines right now – bikes like the Triumph Bonneville and Ducati Scrambler.

This is as much of the death of a motorcycle line, as it is a shift of focus by one of the largest motorcycle OEMs.

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Yamaha Folds Star Motorcycles Back into Its Core Brand

05/02/2016 @ 7:26 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

star-motorcycles-logo

The eagle eyes at Motorcycle.com have noticed that Yamaha Motor Corporation is in the process of folding its Star Motorcycles cruiser brand back into the company’s core motorcycle business, under the Yamaha name.

The move is a tectonic shift for the space, as Star Motorcycles was Yamaha’s attempt to give Harley-Davidson a run for its money with superior “metric cruiser” offerings.

As such, the brand was originally set aside from Yamaha’s other motorcycle models, in an attempt to set Star Motorcycles away from the “Jap Bike” mentality that existed at the time in the cruiser demographic.

Yamaha, along with Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki have had limited success in this regard, despite offering superior machinery on virtual every metric, save one: their bikes are not from the Bar & Shield brand.

Surely now realizing this, Yamaha has pivoted its “sport heritage” lineup back into Yamaha’s core brand, though we expect the “Star” name will remain in the model branding to some degree.

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