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.

What the Honda Kumamoto Factory Closure Means for You

05/09/2016 @ 5:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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After devastating tremors in the region, Honda’s Kumamoto factory, as well as the facilities of their nearby suppliers, were closed for equipment and structural repairs.

Making progress on those repairs, Honda partially re-opened its Kumamoto facility two weeks ago, though the factory’s production capabilities currently remain limited.

Now, the latest word from Honda is that Kumamoto will be back to full capacity by mid-August of this year, though it goes without saying that the production time will affect the rollout of several Honda machines.

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Gas Gas Rescued by Spanish Firm Torrot

02/16/2016 @ 11:38 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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In case you missed the initial reports, those in the off-road world will be especially happy to hear that Spanish motorcycle maker Gas Gas has been saved from the deadpool. Infusing €13 million into the failing motorcycle brand, Torrot is our unlikely hero, the Spanish firm a producer of electric bicycles and urban mobile two-wheelers.

The cash infusion will come into Gas Gas over the next three years, with a focus on updating the company’s product lineup. This will include bringing Gas Gas back to the trials market in a big way, as well as developing new enduro models. Even electric models in the works.

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See How the Honda RC213V-S Is Painstakingly Built

01/12/2016 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Whatever your thoughts are on the Honda RC213V-S, you have to appreciate the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into the $184,000 MotoGP bike with lights.

With just over 200 units being made, Honda had little incentive to design the RC213V-S for mass production, opting instead to make each unit by hand, with a small team of highly skilled builders.

There is something about that process that gets lost in description, so we are fortunate that Honda Hong Kong released a video (after the jump) that shows the Honda RC213V-S build team hard at work.

A couple mech-geek things of note: at 1:32, the jig used to bring the chassis pieces together for welding; at 1:50, the one-off shaping of the sheet metal for the headstock; at 2:12, how virtually ever metal piece is hand-welded. There is plenty here to geek-out over, enjoy!

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Gas Gas Employees: “KTM, This is Not Your House”

07/30/2015 @ 1:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber regulars should be aware by now that Spanish trails/enduro manufacturer Gas Gas is in a bit of financial trouble, and is now up for liquidation. One of the suitors of Gas Gas is of course KTM, as the Austrian company is likely eager to add a robust trials machine to its lineup.

There’s a slight problem with that thought though: the Gas Gas employees are well aware of what happened to Husqvarna and its Italian employees, after KTM purchased the Swedish brand from BMW Motorrad, and moved Husky’s Italian operations to Austria.

We don’t think we need to parse too many words explaining the position of some Gas Gas employees, this video says it quite well enough. Watch it, after the jump.

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Watch Ducati Assemble the New Multistrada 1200

03/05/2015 @ 3:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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When you think about the assembly process involved in making a motorcycle, it is pretty staggering. Not only do Ducati engineers have the task of making the best motorcycle possible, but they also need to design the machine to be easily built by the factory workers at Borgo Panigale.

Which parts should go on before the next? where a cable should be routed through the frame and bodywork? The planning that must go into building out an assembly line is certainly an undertaking I would not want to have.

So while the latest video from Ducati is perhaps not the most ouvertly entertaining, it is certainly impressive nonetheless to watch Italy’s finest assemblying a 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200.

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KTM’s Austrian Factory Hits 100,000+ Bikes for 2014

12/19/2014 @ 3:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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KTM has been the highest volume producing European motorcycle company for the past two years running, and zie Austrians are looking to make that a trend in 2014.

As such, the Austrian brand will has some stiff competition this year, seeing as BMW Motorrad already broke last year’s sales figure in the first 11 months of this year — an impressive feat, to be certain.

KTM has the advantage of dabbling in small-displacement machines, with KTM-branded bike coming out of India, courtesy of its minority owner Bajaj. The Indian market has been a larger contributor to KTM’s sales success, but things have been growing in Austria as well.

Announcing that the company’s Mattighofen factory reach 100,000 units this year, for the first time ever, KTM is already celebrating some sales success.

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MV Agusta Factory Flooded by Nearby Lake

11/18/2014 @ 3:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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After torrential rains this weekend, the MV Agusta factory has been flooded by the nearby Lake Varese. The MV Agusta factory sits on the edge of the lake, and the recent weather has brought the waterline to include the Italian company’s R&D, racing, and testing facilities.

Because of the flooding (nearly a meter higher than usual), production has been halted, and the ~100 employees have been sent home. It’s not clear how long the flooding will continue in Varese, though the current weather, and future forecasts, are favorable to the water subsiding.

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Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions – Reduced Hours, Higher Wages

10/14/2014 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Ducati Motor Holding has reached a new agreement with its workforce, particularly those workers who are responsible for building the Italian company’s iconic two-wheeled machines.

The agreement with the unions sees 13 new jobs created in the Italian factory, which will now stay open on seven days a week — a big move for a country that is usually resistant to working on Sunday.

The factory workers will also go from 15 to 21 shifts per week, with a format of three days on, and two days off. In exchange, factory employees will work fewer hours per week on average, though will make higher average wages for their time.

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Factory Tour: Agostini vs. Rossi – It’s Not What You Think

04/04/2014 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Towards the end of last year, I spent some time bumming around Italy, and one of my many stops was the Dainese headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. A company that is responsible for protecting many of the top motorcycle racers, as well as Yours Truly, Dainese is a company focused on safety, but this focus is really a bi-product of the Italian company’s thirst for competition.

Competition is of course about finding out who is the best, and at the pinnacle of that decision is finding out who is the Greatest of All Time, or G.O.A.T. And in motorcycle racing, when you think of the term “G.O.A.T.” two names come to mind: Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi.

Motorcycle racing fans can debate well into the night as to which of these Italian racers is truly the greatest. Regardless who you pick though, both men are legends, and both men have been supported throughout their careers by Dainese.

That brings us back to my trip to Vicenza, because the battle between these two great riders continues, just not in the way you would suspect.

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Benelli Adds Factory Space & Opens First Store in Brazil

02/12/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Aakash Desai8 COMMENTS

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“Have you ever been to Brazil?” is a common question amongst pale twenty-somethings that have been to the Brazillian Carnaval or New Year’s and come back with a few venereal diseases under their belt (so to speak). Brazil has much more to offer than hedonistic festivals and pristine beaches though.

It’s also home to nearly 200 million people, many of whom ride two wheelers everyday as the ideal form of personal transport. Italian brand, Benelli, has recently announced the opening of 12,500 square meters of additional factory space to the existing 100,000 square meters of space at the Bramont Motorcycle facility in Manaus.

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