WorldSBK Approves the Use of Winglets*

The World Superbike Championship released the latest decision from the SBK Commission today, which clarified a few rules for the 2018 season, most notably the new rev-limiter and parts cost rules, which have been discussed already at great length here on Asphalt & Rubber (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3). There was another interesting rule change of note though, which is likely to get over-looked by the racing community, and that is the World Superbike Championship permitting the use of winglets, although there is a catch. In its rules update, the SBK Commission decreed that teams and manufacturers may fit aerodynamic components (e.g. winglets) to their superbikes so long as the winglets are fitted to the homologated motorcycle.

Crunching the Numbers: Rea vs. MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured. How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX Priced at $19,000 for the USA

Kawasaki’s newest supercharged motorcycle is also its most affordable supercharged motorcycle, with the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX coming to the USA with an MSRP of $19,000. Even the better-equipped 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE is an “affordable” $22,000, when compared to the more sport-focused H2 models. Featuring a 200hp version of Kawasaki’s supercharged, four-cylinder, 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 SX is a fully faired sport-tourer, with an emphasis on the sport side of the equation. The base model comes in any color you want, so long as it’s black, while the Ninja H2 SX SE comes in the traditional Team Green color scheme of Kawasaki.

Oh Yes, The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Is USA Bound

Good news sport bike fans, Kawasaki USA in its infinite wisdom has decided to bring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE to the United States for the 2018 model year. Debuted at this year’s EICMA show, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE takes the potent superbike and most notably adds Showa’s new semi-active suspension to the package. Other perks include the seven-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, found already on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, as well as an up/down quickshifter. Like what you hear? Well brace yourself…If you want a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE in your garage, you are going to need to shell out $21,899 MSRP for it. That sticker price represents quite the premium over Team Green’s race homologation machine, the ZX-10RR, which goes for $18,899.

PJ Jacobsen Racing in WorldSBK for 2018

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yamaha Selling Shares in Yamaha Motor to Raise Money

The Yamaha Corporation announced today that it will be selling 8 million shares of its holdings in Yamaha Motor Co., a movement of shares that will see roughly 2.3% of the voting power in the powersports company changing hands. This deal is expected to close on December 4th, and the Yamaha Corporation says that it will be selling its position to various unnamed securities companies, presumably to then be sold on the open market. At the current market price for Yamaha Motor stock, this deal should be worth close to ¥26 billion, and ¥18 billion after tax expenses have been factored. The news means that while the Yamaha Corporation will remain the single largest shareholder in Yamaha Motor Co., its ownership position as a shareholder will drop from 12.22% to 9.93%, as a result of the divestiture.

Valentino Rossi’s Winter Test Helmet Gets Mexican Flair

It is another winter testing period for the MotoGP riders, and that means that Valentino Rossi has another special “Winter Test” AGV helmet design for us. This year, The Doctor takes his inspiration from Huichol bead art, after he visited the region on a recent vacation to Mexico. As such, Rossi’s winter test AGV Pista GP R helmet features a hand-painted bead design that plays on the winter motif, with the Italian’s usual affinity for symbols. “Huichol art immediately intrigued me, because it uses many of my symbols, like the sun and moon or the turtle,” explained Valentino Rossi. “We have tried to recreate the effect of the beads that the Mexicans use to bring color and shape to these objects, but to do so with a Valentino Rossi twist.”

Jonathan Rea Talks About New WorldSBK Rules

Three years of unparalleled success has seen Jonathan Rea notch up 39 victories, 70 podiums, and 3 WorldSBK titles. To put those numbers into context, only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, and Noriyuki Haga have won more races in their WorldSBK careers. It truly has been a historic run of form for Rea and Kawasaki. For WorldSBK though the achievements have been outweighed by the reaction of fans to these results. Feeling that significant changes were needed to ensure a more competitive balance for the field, WorldSBK has introduced a wide range of new regulations to curtail the Kawasaki dominance. The goal isn’t to stop Rea and Kawasaki winning but simply to allow other manufacturers to get on an even keel.

The “Smart” Approach to Writing the WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes. “There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”

Ben Spies Returns to Motorcycle Racing…On Dirt Bikes

Ben Spies fans will be happy to hear that the Texan is returning to racing motorcycles, announcing the news while talking to Matthew Miles at Cycle World. However, the news might not be as expected, as Spies isn’t returning to the superbike paddock, but instead will compete in the AMA National Enduro series next season. As such, Spies will take part in several rounds on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro calendar, in the mid-level “Pro2” class; as well as an ISDE qualifier, with an eye on making the squad for Team USA. Certainly not the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship bid that was reported earlier, though Spies confirmed that he had been in talks with Ducati about racing a Panigale, and had also spun some laps on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at a track day in Texas.

BMW Tops Pied Piper Dealership Rankings

05/01/2017 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

For as long as we have covered the Pied Piper dealership rankings, one brand has stood above all others in customer satisfaction, and that brand has been Ducati.

But for the 2016 rankings, we have a new boss in town, as BMW dealerships have taken the top honors in the most recent Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index.

For those readers who aren’t that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of a dealership network experience, and acts as a measuring stick for how a brand is performing when it comes to interacting with potential customers.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences, along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

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The Great Motorcycle Buyer Divide

12/13/2016 @ 12:13 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

In my last A&R Pro article, I argued that the recently debuted and updated Honda Rebel was the most important new motorcycle that we have seen thus far for the 2017 model year.

That is a bold statement, as many pointed out, especially when you consider the bevy of intriguing new models that were unveiled at the various industry trade shows this year, and also considering the lack-luster product the outgoing Honda Rebel 250 proved to be for many.

In that story, the bulk of my argument was that motorcycling needs an affordable gateway for young and new riders to come into the industry, and with cruisers accounting for over half of the new motorcycles sold in the United States, having cruiser-styled entry models is a shrewd move by Honda.

There is more to that argument though, which I want to touch upon today. It concerns the growing divide of motorcycle buyers, and how their access to capital greatly affects the motorcycles they can, and do, purchase.

American motorcycles sales fall almost entirely under what is called consumer discretionary income, and when it comes to how we spend our hard-earned money, there are two ways we do so: with cash and with credit.

That is the fairly obvious part of this argument, but this is an important concept for us as enthusiasts and consumers to understand, as it allows us to make better sense of the strategies behind the new models we see from manufacturers. It also allows us to peer into the future of the motorcycle industry.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

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The gearbox recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 was a massive undertaking. In total, the recall affected 2,921 motorcycles, with Yamaha estimating almost 16 hours of labor per bike in order to change out the gearbox. That’s a lot of shop time for each individual motorcycle.

That time isn’t cheap either, and the cost of the labor alone was somewhere around the $5 million mark. By the time you threw in the cost of the parts, the R1 recall likely cost Yamaha somewhere north of $10 million.

To get a sense of how long that recall work took, checkout this time-lapse video that a mechanic made while working on one of the affected superbikes. Be sure to note that the video spans two days of shop time. It’s quite the process.

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Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

pied-piper-psi-results-2016

Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

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2015-Yamaha-YZF-R1-74

By now, Asphalt & Rubber readers should be well aware of the recall being issued on all the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA.

We broke the news back in November, and even covered how recalls work in Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast – the show is well worth having a listen to if you want to know more about how recalls work.

In the show, we speculated a bit about what Yamaha would do to fix the gearbox issues with the latest R1 superbikes, and now we have official confirmation from Yamaha Motor Corp. USA on how it will handle the 3,500 or so models that need to be recalled.

Yamaha was kind enough to supply us with a letter, which will be sent to all affected R1/R1M owners, as it outlines what is being recalled, what actions Yamaha and its dealers are taking, and what owners should do going forward. Read it, after the jump.

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Yamaha YZF-R1 Gearbox Recall Affects All USA Units

12/09/2015 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

yamaha-yzf-r1-recall

More trouble looms for Yamaha and its pending recall of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, as our sources have indicated that all of the superbikes sold in the USA will be affected by the new R1’s transmission issues.

You may recall that Asphalt & Rubber broke the story two weeks ago about the upcoming recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, and we explored the topic in-depth on Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast.

Still, we are surprised that a more formal announcement hasn’t emerged from Yamaha Motor USA regarding the matter.

In the meantime, Transport Canada – the importer for Yamaha motorcycles in Canada – issued a recall for 240 units, while some YZF-R1 owners in the USA have begun to receive letters from their local Yamaha dealers concerning the recall procedure.

For 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 owners who haven’t received a recall notice from the dealer, you should expect one, as it’s our understanding that ultimately all of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA will need to have their transmission replaced.

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Ducati Dealers Top Pied Piper Rankings, Again

05/04/2015 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Pied-Piper-PSI-chart-2015

Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) is one of the major ranking systems out there assessing the US motorcycle industry and its dealerships.

To give you a quick primer on how scoring works, Pied Piper takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences, along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement.

For this year’s assessment, it comes with little surprise that Ducati is once again taking the top honors, followed closely by Harley-Davidson and Victory — two brands that have high customer satisfaction, according to Consumer Reports.

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Newspeak: BMW Removes “Enduro” from Its Lexicon

11/17/2014 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

bmw-enduro

If you go in to your local BMW dealer and ask to look at their latest enduro models, you should brace yourself for a Laurel & Hardy routine, as the e-word is now persona no grata at US dealerships.

Instead, BMW dealers have been instructed to use the word “adventure” instead, newspeaking would-be customers into a segment that BMW literally invented (with a little help from Ewan and Charley).

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EBR 1190RX & SX Get CARB Certified, California Bound

08/04/2014 @ 10:35 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Good news for California riders who want Erik Buell Racing’s latest motorcycles, as the EBR 1190RX and EBR 1190SX have been certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

A necessary step to selling in the Golden State, the news means that Erik Buell Racing can begin shipping RX and SX models to its California dealers, who in turn can now begin selling the bikes to the eager Californian biking public.

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Erik Buell Racing has announced that over 60 dealerships will be carrying the 2014 Erik Buell Racing 1190RX, the new sport bike from EBR that is slated to be released in March of this year.

After unveiling the new bike last October at the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando, EBR began to scout dealerships in major metropolitan areas that were prime motorcycle markets.

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