Harley-Davidson Recalling 174,000 Motorcycles Because Owners Might Be Bad at Basic Bike Maintenance

Yup. You read that headline correctly, and thus here is our second recall notice of the day, and as you might expect, it is an interesting one. Harley-Davidson is having to recall over 174,000 motorcycles because their brake components may form deposits internally if the brake fluid is not replaced after a prolonged period of time, i.e. beyond the two-year maintenance schedule specified by Harley-Davidson. In total, 31 Harley-Davidson models are affected by this recall, namely the Touring, CVO Touring, and VSRC models that have ABS brakes equipped.

This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor

A new Suzuki Hayabusa is coming, this much we know. What that bike will be, what features it will have, and what it will look like though have been open to much speculation. Unsurprisingly then, the rumor mill surrounding the Suzuki Hayabusa continues to churn out ideas about what this hyperbike will be, and today’s latest tidbit of gossip comes courtesy of Italy’s Insella publication. In it, the Italian journos wager that the Suzuki GSX-1300R will in fact become the GSX-1400R for the 2019 model year, with the venerable Suzuki Hayabusa getting a displacement increase to the tune of 1,440cc for its four-cylinder engine. The folks at Insella go on to say that the 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa will be an-all new machine (that much is a given), with features like traction control, semi-active suspension, and cornering ABS rounding out the package.

Details Emerge about the FIM MotoE World Cup

After announcing the 2019 FIM MotoE World Cup roughly a year ago, details have been slow to emerge about this electric motorcycle series, which will run in parallel to the MotoGP Championship. Late last year we learned that Italian firm Energica had won the contract to supply MotoE with race bikes, which would be based off the Energica Ego production superbike, and now today we learn a little bit more about this fledgling series. In a press event announcing Enel as the title sponsor (more on that in a minute), Dorna and the FIM laid out the basics for MotoE, in terms of teams, bikes, tracks, and race format. As such, Dorna envisions 10-lap races for the MotoE World Cup, with little desire to increase the race distance as the series continues beyond its 2019 start date.

Introducing the MOTR Podcast

Today we are announcing the third podcast that Asphalt & Rubber is involved with, the Motorcycles on the Record Podcast…or as we like to call it: the MOTR Podcast. The concept is pretty simple, as the MOTR Podcast is designed to compliment our popular Two Enthusiasts Podcast production. For those who don’t listen to it aleady, on the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, myself and co-host Quentin Wilson take an outside perspective on what is happening in the motorcycle industry. So, to contrast that with the MOTR Podcast, this new show will provide an insider’s view of what’s going on in motorcycles, with a focus on interviews and discussions with the industry’s leading figures.

Say Hello to the New Triumph Speed Triple RS

Back in 1994, Triumph created the streetfighter segment with the Speed Triple. But, the bike of 20 years ago is very different from the one debuting today, however the basic ethos remains: an aggressive sport bike for the city streets. In this time span though, the streetfighter segment has changed. Brands like KTM and Aprilia rule the roost, with high-horsepower bikes that come competently packed with high-tech electronics. Hoping to stay relevant with the same basic 1050cc platform, the British marque shows us now the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS – which boasts over 100 “new” parts just in the engine alone. The changes are subtle to the outgoing model though, but the highlights do stand out.

2018 Alta Motors Redshift MXR Officially Debuts – More Power, More Torque, Less Weight, and “Overclocking”

Here it is. After we broke the story that Alta Motors would be debuting an R-spec machine for its motocross line, we get our first glimpse of the 2018 Alta Motor Redshift MXR. A souped-up version of the 2018 model, which already gets some upgrades over last year’s bike, the Redshift MXR boasts some impressive features, in the pursuit of a no-compromises MX race bike. As such, Alta is quoting a stout 50hp and 42 lbs•ft of torque for the Redshift MXR, while the “wet” weight of the machine has been reduced by 8 lbs, to 259 lbs ready-to-ride. Recharge times have also been reduced, to just 1.5hrs on a 220v system – a savings of 30 minutes over the standard model.

Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle Coming in 18 Months

Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich dropped more than a few bombs during today’s earnings report, first saying that the Bar & Shield brand would close its Kansas City factory and consolidate production around its York, Pennsylvania plant. The American brand isn’t stopping the news there though. Offering a carrot of good tidings, Harley-Davidson reports that it will make its first production electric motorcycle within the next 18 months, effectively bringing its Livewire concept into production. The Livewire was a purpose-built concept done by Harley-Davidson in order to gauge the market reaction to the Bar & Shield brand going electric. Offering limited test rides, Harley-Davidson got positive responses to the Livewire experience, and the project has been internally green-lit ever since.

Harley-Davidson Will Close Its Kansas City Plant

The economic outlook for Harley-Davidson right now is not looking good. Just last year, the Bar & Shield brand cut 118 jobs from its plant in York, citing the need to cut production costs, and to reduce factory capacity so that it was more inline with consumer demand. That demand has seemingly dropped even further though, as Harley-Davidson will cut 260 jobs from its production ranks, losing roughly 800 positions in Kansas City, but adding 450 positions back to its York facility, where it is consolidating. The news comes as part of Harley-Davidson’s recounting of its rough go at 2017. The American brand saw its sales in the United States down 8.5% (down 6.7% worldwide), with the fourth quarter of the year taking a particular beating: down 11.1% in the USA (9.6% worldwide).

Hervé Poncharal Talks About Replacing Jonas Folger

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement. It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. “You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from,” he told us. “There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract.”

Honda and Forever 21 Create Clothing Line for Millennials

An interesting news item for you today, as Honda has teamed up with Forever 21 to bring young adults a unique motorcycle-branded line of clothing. The apparel line is inspired by Honda liveries from the 1980’s and 1990’s, though with a healthy dose of on-trend fashion, for both men and women. “Honda’s motorcycle racing success in the ’80s and ’90s was legendary, with our riders earning many championships in domestic and international series,” said Mike Snyder, Senior Manager of Honda Powersports Marketing. “While we’re focused on winning with our current teams, it’s fun to see our racing heritage honored by Forever 21 with a completely new audience.”

Take a Look at Ducati’s Last V-Twin Race Bike

02/10/2018 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

For the 2018 World Superbike season, Ducati will once again campaign its v-twin platform: the venerable Panigale R superbike. This will be the final season for the two-cylinder Panigale R, before the Italian firm replaces it with its V4 package (likely too to be named the Panigale R).

This makes the upcoming season a hallmark occasion for Ducatisti, as they watch Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri compete with the Superquadro engine for a final time.

The zenith of v-twin engine design, Ducati’s Superquadro motor is an impressive power plant, but the race team in Borgo Panigale (the bike’s namesake) have reached the limits of their development with it – at least within the constraints of World Superbike regulations.

Looking closely at Ducati’s launch photos for its WorldSBK, we can spot some of those developments.

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Introducing the MOTR Podcast

02/05/2018 @ 9:52 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Today we are announcing the third podcast that Asphalt & Rubber is involved with, the Motorcycles on the Record Podcast…or as we like to call it: the MOTR Podcast.

The concept is pretty simple, as the MOTR Podcast is designed to compliment our popular Two Enthusiasts Podcast production. For those who don’t listen to it aleady, on the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, myself and co-host Quentin Wilson take an outside perspective on what is happening in the motorcycle industry.

So, to contrast that with the MOTR Podcast, this new show will provide an insider’s view of what’s going on in motorcycles, with a focus on interviews and discussions with the industry’s leading figures.

We will loosely be publishing shows on a weekly basis, with yours truly on the mics as I pop from one industry event to the next, and steal time with various motorcycle experts.

To jump right into it, we already have a show for you to sink your teeth into, straight from Spain and the Ducati Panigale V4 S press launch.

In this Episode 1, I sit down with motorcycle journalists Adam Waheed (freelance) and Rennie Scaysbrook (Cycle News), after a fun day of riding Ducati’s new flagship superbike around the Valencia circuit.

Talking about the new Panigale V4, we give our riding impressions of the new Ducati, which we all agreed was a potent track weapon. We don’t agree on everything though, and the back-and-forth between this gathering of journalists is pretty interesting.

To get our full opinions on the new Ducati Panigale V4 you can read my review here on Asphalt & Rubber, as well as Adam’s reviews on Ride Apart & Sports Bike Inc., and Rennie’s review on Cycle News.

You can find the latest episodes of the MOTR Podcast on iTunes, Google PlaySoundCloud, or via your RSS feed, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

If you’re not already, you should also listen to our sister podcasts, the Two Enthusiasts Podcast and The Paddock Pass Podcast.

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Normally, when comparing times from a test, it makes the most sense to stick to a single year. But sometimes, there are good reasons to look back at past years, in search of a larger and more universal pattern.

Comparing the best laps of riders who were in the championship last year and this year proves to be a highly instructive exercise.

Doing that, there is one thing that immediately leaps out at you. The two riders who improved the most between the two seasons are the two who switched between a Honda and a Ducati.

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Is the Ducati Panigale V4 S the most anticipated motorcycle of 2018? If you are a diehard sport biker, the answer is probably yes, though a number of significant models are debuting this year, from several manufacturers.

Still, in terms of ground-changing machines, the Panigale V4 has to rank high up on the list, as it is Ducati’s first proper four-cylinder motorcycle to go into mainstream production.

Yes, the Apollo came before it – all ~1.9 models that were produced – and the Desmosedici RR was also a MotoGP-inspired V4 motorcycle, but those were only available to a select few, with a total of 1,500 units ever made.

The Ducati Panigale V4 and its progeny, however, are here for everyone…and Ducati has taken quite a gamble in producing this “New Opera” – as the tagline goes.

I am writing to you today from Valencia, Spain – where we just finished a day of riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is better known as the final stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar.

It is a new track for me to ride, and I have to give Ducati credit for picking a venue that doesn’t play just to the strengths of its new motorcycle. A short and technical course, the Valencian circuit is fun and rewarding to ride, but it is also a torture-rack test for a motorcycle’s handling prowess.

It would have been really easy for Ducati to take us somewhere, say like Mugello, where a fast and flowing circuit could hide any flaws in the Panigale V4 chassis design, while in-turn it could also hightlight the superbike’s claimed 214hp.

But here we are in Spain, getting to ride the first entry into this next chapter of Ducati superbike history, so let me tell you what you need to know about Ducati’s new flagship motorcycle, the Panigale V4 S. 

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Gone Riding: Ducati Panigale V4 S

01/20/2018 @ 9:39 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Asphalt & Rubber traveling circus doesn’t stop, and after spending less than 12hrs at home after the Honda Gold Wing launch, I’m back at it…this time in Valencia, Spain for the Ducati Panigale V4 international press launch.

Arguably the most anticipated motorcycle to debut for the 2018 model year, the Panigale V4 is a huge step for Ducati, mostly because of the Italian company’s radical departure from its iconic v-twin power plant configuration, in favor of the 90° V4 engine configuration.

Now with four-cylinders of fury, this 1,103cc, 214hp, V4 machine is set to tackle the superbike market, but will it live up to the hype? Well, that’s what we’re going to find out.

To do so, Ducati has us riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is just outside of Valencia and home to the final round of the MotoGP Championship. A fun and flowing track with a little bit of everything, Valencia should be a good spot to see how the Panigale V4 truly handles.

We will have five track sessions, four of which will be on the Ducati Panigale V4 S, and of which will be on the 226hp Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale.

With a bevy of electronic upgrades and plenty of features, we will need all the time that we can get to in order to play around with Ducati’s flagship model, and see how it goes.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the new Ducati Panigale V4 S right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Ducati Panigale V4, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Ducati personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtag #PanigaleV4.

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The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond.

Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.

That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday.

While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall’Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season.

New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.

Andrea Dovizioso has spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to.

A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years” is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge.

Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. “The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years,” he said. “There are many riders who can win races. It wasn’t like this in the past.”

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MotoGP team launches are always the triumph of hope over experience. Each year, the bosses of every factory in the series tell the media that their objective is to win races and fight for the championship. Sometimes, they even believe it.

At last year’s launch of the Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna said they hoped to be fighting for the championship. That, after all, is why they signed Jorge Lorenzo to what is reported to be a very lucrative contract.

The assembled press was skeptical, despite the clear progress that Ducati had made in the past couple of seasons, its first wins coming in 2016.

Such skepticism was unwarranted, though you get the distinct feeling that even Ducati was surprised at how close Andrea Dovizioso came to clinching the 2017 MotoGP title.

Ducati was delighted by the Italian’s first win at Mugello, amazed at his victory in Barcelona a week later, and impressed by the way he beat Marc Márquez at Austria.

By the end of the season, Ducati had come to expect to win races, and realized just how far they had come on their journey since the dark days of 2013, when they didn’t score a single podium all year.

So on Monday, when Dall’Igna echoed the words of Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali in Bologna, that Ducati’s objective was to win races and challenge for the championship in MotoGP, they were deadly serious.

There is no doubt that Ducati is capable of doing just that – Dovizioso’s results and Lorenzo’s improvement in 2017 demonstrate that – and though they are all too aware of the dangers of complacency, Ducati start the 2018 season with both a firm expectation and belief that they are candidates for the 2018 MotoGP title.

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Ducati Debuts Livery for the 2018 Desmosedici GP

01/15/2018 @ 11:05 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

This is almost certainly not the 2018 Ducati Desmosedici GP race bike for next season’s MotoGP Championship, but it does look a lot like it. That is because today Ducati unveiled its 2018 MotoGP team, with its fresh new livery design.

The bikes used in these photos of course are of the 2017 model, complete with its hammerhead front fairing design. We expect the 2018 edition of the Desmosedici GP to have more obvious changes (likely improved aero), though it is hard to tell when Ducati will take the wraps off that race bike officially.

Strong money would be on a Qatar debut, just ahead of the 2018 MotoGP Championship’s season-opener. However, the Italian brand could surprise us at Sepang with some new fairings or mechanical pieces.

One thing is for certain though: Ducati aims to win the championship this next season.

With Andrea Dovizioso finishing as last year’s runner-up, taking the fight all the way to Valencia; and Jorge Lorenzo finally looking comfortable and fast on the Ducati; the Italian brand is looking stronger than ever before (save for maybe the 2007 season, with Casey Stoner on-board).

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After yesterday’s news of BMW Motorrad’s modest 1.3% sales drop for 2017, today we have another brand reporting its year sales: Ducati Motor Holding.

Like BMW, Ducati’s sales figures from last year didn’t move the needle much, with the Italian brand showing only 0.7% gain over the previous sales cycle. In total, Ducati delivered 55,871 bikes to customers worldwide, compared to the 55,451 units it sold in 2016.

This marks Ducati’s eighth year of positive sales growth, but over the past two years we have seen that growth crawling almost to a halt, as the Bologna Brand has run out of new markets to develop, and new segments to pursue.

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Just over a week ago, we broke the news that a massive recall was coming to motorcycles equipped with a particular Brembo master cylinder. Since then, we have seen recall notices from Aprilia and Ducati (affecting roughly 10,000 motorcycles in the USA) with more recalls expected from other brands.

Because recalls in the United States typically come from the motorcycle manufacturer and not the part supplier, mum was the word from the folks at Brembo, though there were a number of questions regarding these recalls that weren’t answered in the NHTSA documents.

Today, Brembo has finally decided to speak about the recalls that are underway in the United States, and presumably will be occurring in other markets as well.

Though not discussing the cause of the issue, or any particulars, from Brembo’s terse statement we at least now know what other brands have been affected by this master cylinder recall. You can read Brembo’s statement, after the jump.

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