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.

Once again, you are going to see a number of Brembo brake recalls in the coming days, if not weeks, as the Italian company has yet another sweeping recall this year.

Unlike the first recall, which affected the piston on the high performance master cylinders found on a number of superbikes and other sport bike motorcycles, this recall affects the rear brake pads.

Sport bikes will be the focus of the recall, as the again the parts are performance based, and specifically the recall concerns the brake pad friction material which may detach from the brake pad backing plate.

Brembo says that its brake pad supplier (Federal Mogul) improperly thermal treated the brake pads at a higher temperature, which resulted in a reduced bonding of the pad material to the backing plate. This was caused by human error.

Because of this error, it is possible that the friction material on the brake pads could come off during a braking procedure, which would increase the braking distance required to stop. This is an obvious safety hazard.

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Here is a common joke that you will often hear: "How do you make a small fortune in the motorcycle industry? Start with a large one." Well, the next time you hear the lead-up, here is a new punchline for you: "Sell a limited edition model."

Motorcycle manufacturers have been onto this gag for a while now, offering limited edition, numbered for collectors, pure unobtanium motorcycle models to the well-heeled masses.

There may not be that many people that can afford a motorcycle that costs as much as a modest house, but there enough of these people in the world that selling a couple hundred expensive superbikes a year is a pretty trivial feat - it helps too that many of these enthusiasts are return-customers too.

Take the case of Ducati, as our Bothan spies have provided us with some interesting information about the Borgo Panigale brand. Last year, the Italian company made more money on its special edition superbikes, than the regular models it sells.

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Yesterday we broke the news about a massive recall that is affecting a number of sport bikes with Brembo master cylinders. The first wave of that recall included Aprilia’s two offerings, the Aprilia RSV4 superbike and the Aprilia Tuono 1100 streetfighter.

Today, we get our first official word of another manufacturer that is involved with this massive Brembo brake recall, and it is Ducati. With six affected models, spanning four model years, Ducati North America is recalling roughly 8,000 units because the piston in their master cylinder may crack.

If you recall our previous coverage, the issue stems from the plastic piston in the master cylinder possibly cracking after hard use. If this happens, the master cylinder can stop operating, which can lead to front brake failure. This is an obvious safety concern

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Don’t call it a comeback, Troy Bayliss has been here along, as the Australian never really hung up his racing leathers.

Partaking over the years in numerous one-off and short-term racing endeavors, the 48-year-old Australian is looking for a little bit more two-wheeled action in his life though, and accordingly has his eyes on a proper championship go.

As such, Bayliss has announced that he will compete in the 2018 Australian Superbike Championship, riding with the DesmoSport Ducati team, which he co-owns with team manager Ben Henry, with an eye on the series’ #1 plate.

“Initially I did want to see another young guy on the bike, but after I rode it I felt that I needed to contest the championship and try and win myself the elusive Australian Superbike title,” explained Bayliss.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #58 – California Dream

07/19/2017 @ 12:36 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 58 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast chronicles a busy week in California, as we head down to Laguna Seca for the World Superbike and MotoAmerica racing rounds.

The weekend involved getting the first glimpse of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, the last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand. We also got to talk to Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali about the company’s new V4 superbike, with more than a few surprises being told about the new machine.

Of course there was the on-track action, which includes yours truly getting a some seat time the Monday after the races, riding at a no noise restriction track day (something that almost never happens) with the good folk at Pirelli tires.

While there, we sat down with Giorgio Barbier, the Director of Pirelli’s Motorcycle Racing program. We talked a bit of shop while at the track day, and have included that conversation towards the end of the show, for your listening pleasure.

The audio isn’t perfect, since we’re right on the track – did I mention there was no noise restriction for the bikes? – but you should be able to hear Giorgio with no problems.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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As far as venues go, there might not be a better place on Earth to launch a new motorcycle than Pebble Beach, California – that is, if you are into the whole breath-taking view sort of thing.

The party of course was for Ducati’s last v-twin superbike, the aptly named Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, which is part Superleggera, part road bike, and part spaghetti dinner.

Clad in a the an Italian tricolore livery, the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition puts out a potent 209hp, and features some of the best pieces of Ducati’s v-twin superbike lineage – part of a long goodbye to the desmodromic v-twin platform.

Not a limited edition bike, but instead a numbered edition machine, Ducati plans on making the Panigale R Final Edition models for as long as there is consumer demand for the superbike (and while there are enough numbers to count them by).

For American Ducatisti, owning one will mean a $40,000 commitment, which isn’t such a lofty price tag, if you considered its half the cost of the carbon-fiber-everything Ducati 1299 Superleggera.

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Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition Finally Debuts

07/07/2017 @ 11:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Ducati has finally released its Final Edition of the Ducati 1299 Panigale superbike, and the aptly named Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition packs a punch.

Sharing engine parts with the Ducati 1299 Superleggera (sans its aluminum sleeved engine cylinders and sand-cast casings), the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition makes 209hp on Ducati’s chassis dynamometer, which should be a comparable figure to the Superleggera, as the latter has power figures quoted from an engine dyno.

Though they may produce similar power figures, the Final Edition Panigale does not quite take the Superleggera’s obsessiveness with weight to the same level, using more traditional fasteners and materials for its design. That is to say, it is without all the carbon fiber goodness found on the SL, including its chassis.

As such, the FE tips the scales at 419 lbs wet at the curb. For those keeping score, that mass is just a pound lighter than the Ducati 1299 Panigale S; and 13 lbs heavier than the Ducati Panigale R, which uses the 1199 motor.

Priced at $40,000 for the US market though, this “half a Superleggera” still packs a considerable punch, and of course it holds the distinction of being the last of Ducati’s v-twin superbikes…for the foreseeable future at least.

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In a couple hours, we will get our first glimpse at what for the foreseeable future will be the final v-twin superbike from Ducati, but thanks to a Ducati dealership posting photos of the machine on Facebook (and our friends at MaxxMoto spotting them), we get an early look at the machine.

As expected, the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition borrows heavily from the Ducati 1299 Superleggera (we understand that the motors share more than a few pieces from the “go fast” parts bin), and the exhaust is of the World Superbike inspired undertail design.

Also noticeable from the photos is the obvious tricolore design, that sees the Panigale R Final Edition in the green, white, and white of the Italian flag – final nod to the Italian company’s history with v-twin superbikes.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #57 – Chocolate Rain

07/04/2017 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 57 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast helps us celebrate America’s birthday, by talking about some freedom-loving motorcycles.

Our first topic of interest is a teaser to a project that we are working on here at Asphalt & Rubber. If you’ve been following us on social media, you might already have an idea about what it is.

That conversation quickly moves into a rabbit hole about racing though, and how closed-circuit motorcycle racing can evolve for the 21st century.

Our attention then turns to some news items, like how Honda is getting more serious about electric motorcycles, how Harley-Davidson might buy Ducati Motor Holding, and what we can expect to see from Ducati with its Final Edition Panigale superbike.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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It’s official, the folks in Bologna are about to launch the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, the name being confirmed in emission filings made to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) this week.

The CARB document confirms a couple items for us (most notably the name of the final v-twin superbike), but it also raises some interesting questions.

For instance, the CARB document shows that the “FE” Panigale will have a 1285cc engine, just like the rest of the Ducati 1299 Panigale lineup, yet the bike will still carry the “R” badge, which is usually reserved for Ducati’s race homologation machine.

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