Ben Spies Making a Return to Motorcycle Racing?

Could we see the return of Ben Spies to motorcycle racing? That’s the talk of the paddock right now, and the former MotoGP racer is helping fuel the fires with his social media posts. Our sources point to Spies gearing up for a return to domestic racing, as he looks to ride in the MotoAmerica Championship (presumably on a superbike), and possibly also as a team owner as well, fielding his own entry. This should come as a surprising but welcomed bit of news to motorcycle racing fans, as the 33-year-old seemingly retired from motorcycle racing after the 2013 MotoGP Championship season, after extensive damage to his shoulders seemed to rule him out of a future of racing motorcycles.

Ducati Will Stay as a Part of Volkswagen

Reports out of Italy are confirming the news that Ducati will remain as a part of the Volkswagen Group, with the German company ceasing its pursuits of divesting the Italian motorcycle company from its ranks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following Ducati’s business situation, as reports of the divestiture stalling out were circulating this time last month. The news seems to come with a bonus, with Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali reportedly confirming the news internally (other reports quote Audi CEO Rupert Stadler doing the same as well). With that, Evercore Partners – the investment bank that was hired to solicit bids on Ducati Motor Holding – will stop pursuing brands that may want to see Ducati within their corporate holdings.

Rumor: Street-Touring Version of the Kawasaki H2 Coming?

I like this rumor. I like what this rumor says. And, I like that this rumor doesn’t seem to go away. The scuttlebutt of the motorcycle industry right now is suggesting that the street-shredding Kawasaki Ninja H2 might be joined by a sport-touring variant. This Kawasaki Ninja H2 GT – as some are calling it – takes the potent supercharged liter-bike, and makes it a little bit better suited for long-distance riding…well, as better suited to touring that a 200hp+ fire-breathing motorcycle can be. It remains to be seen how Kawasaki plans to expand its supercharger lineup of motorcycles: whether these rumored new machines will vary slightly in form-factor to accommodate different kinds of riding (using the current H2 as a platform for new models), or if Kawasaki will debut an all-new chassis design for these rumored motorcycles.

Solid-State Batteries, A Game-Changer for EVs?

This week’s big news is that California is looking at how it can join China, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the banning of internal combustion engines in the coming decade(s), a move that will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicles. While the social and political pressures are coming into alignment for electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the technology for these next-generation vehicles is still not fully baked, and the biggest rate-limiter for EVs are their batteries. That is about to change, however, with solid-state batteries (a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes) looking like the silver bullet that could make electric vehicles comparable in performance and price to their internal combustion counterparts.

Investigator Releases Report on Nicky Hayden Crash

On May 17th, 2017, Nicky Hayden was out training on his bicycle, near the Adriatic Coast, when he was struck by car in an intersection very close to the Misano World Circuit. The incident would prove to be a fateful one, and send ripples through the motorcycle industry, as Hayden died five days later in a hospital outside of Rimini, Italy. Since then, the accident has been under investigation by the local prosecutor, and the results of that forensic investigation have now been released to the public. Reconstructing the incident through statements made by the driver, eyewitnesses, and CCTV video footage, the investigation has found fault on both sides of the crash – assigning 30% of the blame to Nicky Hayden, for running the stop sign, and 70% of the blame to the driver, for excessive speed.

California Considers Killing Internal Combustion

Bloomberg is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown is considering ways to ban the sale of vehicles that use internal combustion engines – a move that could have massive implications not only for vehicle sales, the environment, but potentially the motorcycle industry as well. Still in the early days of consideration, the news comes from remarks made by Mary Nichols, who is the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and her remarks and relaying of thought from Gov. Brown don’t make it clear if the ban would apply only to passenger vehicles, or if it would include modes of transportation like trucks, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles. However, the move mimics similar bans that we have already seen in places like China, and follows a trend that is catching on in European countries as well.

MV Agusta F4 LH44 Limited Edition Debuts

Italian motorcycle maker MV Agusta, and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton have re-upped their contract for collaboration, and one of the first fruits of that labor is a limited edition MV Agusta F4 superbike. Confirming our story from earlier today, the MV Agusta F4 LH44 picks up where the MV Agusta Dragster RR LH44 left off, adding Hamilton’s “unique” tastes and stylings to MV Agusta’s tapestry of motorcycles. Like with the MV Agusta F4 RC, the exercise is primarily visual, though like on the RC edition, MV Agusta adds its race kit to the package, which is good for a claimed 212hp. The big technical change of note is the titanium race exhaust from SC Project, which does away with the beautiful four-pipe undertail exhaust that Massimo Tamburini made famous.

Eugene Laverty Explains His 2017 WorldSBK Season

A return to World Superbike, with the bike that he came so close to winning the championship on – it all appeared like a dream opportunity for Eugene Laverty, to put himself into a position to win the title. The dream quickly turned to a nightmare, and from the start of winter testing it was clear that major work needed to be done to return the RSV4 to the front. Moving to the Milwaukee Aprilia squad understandably led to heightened expectations. In their second year in WorldSBK, the former British Superbike champions were expected to make a leap forward. Teething problems were expected with the switch from BMW to Aprilia, but not the struggles that lay ahead. “During the winter you can go in the wrong direction with the bike,” commented Laverty. “Unfortunately, that was the case for us.”

Superbike Deathmatch Round #1: Aprilia vs. Ducati

Hello and welcome to the first installment of Asphalt & Rubber’s 2017 Superbike Deathmatch – our take on the motorcycle media’s superbike shootout review format, and the solitary path for a motorcycle to become the A&R Superbike of 2017. For those just tuning into the Superbike Deathmatch, the rules are easy. In each round, two bikes enter the race track, but only one bike leaves. We have six motorcycles from the eight superbike manufacturers on the market. For our first round, we have started things off with a special treat, and a battle for the right to call a bike the “Best Italian Superbike” on the market. That’s right, we are going to pit the Ducati 1299 Panigale S against the Aprilia RSV4 RF.

Photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Leak Online

What you see here are early leaked photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing – one of the most successful and important motorcycles for the Western markets. Honda is expected to debut this new model at a media event in October, but our friends at MaxxMoto and Oliepeil managed to get their dirty Dutch-speaking mits on these low-res gems, ahead of time. Beyond the styling refresh, the most obvious change that we can see for the Honda Goldwing is the new front-end, which appears to be a Hossack-styled design – similar to what BMW uses on its K-series motorcycles. The engine continues to be a flat-six, from the view in the photos, though we can expect some changes to the massive block – likely with fewer emissions, maybe with more torque/power.

Two labor unions have ended a partnership agreement with Harley-Davidson, citing differences with how the Bar & Shield brand handles staffing issues at its factories (Harley has been accused of replacing hourly union workers with temporary seasonal workers).

The move comes after a meeting on Monday, which saw leaders from the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), and Harley-Davidson President & CEO Matt Levatich unable to agree on how to handle staffing issues going forward.

While the disagreement ends an accord that has existed between the unions and Harley-Davidson for the past two decades, it does not affect the collective bargaining agreement that the unions have with Harley-Davidson, which has been incorrectly reported elsewhere.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #61 – Wasted Talent

09/11/2017 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 61 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we talk about riding some motorcycles…and driving some motorcycles. We also talk about new motorcycles, recalled motorcycles, and how to fuel motorcycles in our coming Mad Max future.

For the past month, we have been riding the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800, so we rant and rave about how great that bike is, and how I think it might be the best street bike on the market.

We also discuss my recent trip to SoCal to drive the Polaris Slingshot, and how Polaris has created the autocycle category in 40 states now.

Our attention then turns to Harley-Davidson’s new batch of motorcycles, and discuss where the American brand is headed. We also talk about BMW Motorrad’s plethora of recalls in the recent weeks.

The show ends with us talking about Bosch’s synthetic fuel strategy, which could have interesting implications…especially if fuel prices increase over the coming years.

There’s a little something for everyone in this show. We think you’ll like it.

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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Harley-Davidson Quietly Kills Off the V-Rod

08/29/2017 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

After a 17-year run, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod is finally going to the great motorcycle rally in the sky, as the Bar & Shield brand is quietly dismissing the V-Rod from its 2018 motorcycle lineup.

The V-Rod has always been the black sheep in the Harley-Davidson motorcycle offering, with the motorcycle featuring a high-tech liquid-cooled engine that was developed in collaboration with German automaker Porsche.

The problem with the V-Rod was also its biggest strength: it was unlike anything else in the Harley-Davidson lineup. The Harley-Davidson V-Rod line eschewed everything that was central to the core Harley-Davidson product attributes.

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There is big news from the other side of the motorcycle industry, as Harley-Davidson has merged its Dyna and Softail lines into one, while releasing 13 “new” motorcycles for the 2018 model year.

The new bikes fill out the Softail and Touring lines for the Bar & Shield brand, and feature the company’s new Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engines.

These changes for the 2018 model year mark the most performance that the Softail line has ever seen, with Harley-Davidson Product Portfolio Manage Paul James saying that the new bikes required “the most extensive research and development program in the company’s history.”

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Remember last year when Harley-Davidson had a Brinks truck dropped on them, for performance tuner kits that failed to comply with EPA emission regulations for street motorcycles?

At the time, the government was looking for $12 million in cash for penalties, as well as another $3 million in emissions mitigation, in the form of Harley-Davidson paying to retrofit or replace wood-burning appliances with cleaner stoves.

Now, an article from Reuters is reporting that Harley-Davidson won’t have to spend that $3 million dollars, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to drop the penalty.

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Reuters continues to dish on Ducati’s possible divestiture from the Volkswagen Group, with news that several bids have been placed on the Italian motorcycle brand. Reuters says that amongst the bidders are several key brands like, Polaris, Bajaj, and Royal Enfield’s owners Eicher Motors.

Noticeably absent from the list of potential buyers however was the much talked-about Harley-Davidson, a name that the same Reuters reporters first offered as Ducati’s potential future owner.

Now Reuters offers us another name as the likely front-runner, pointing to Italy’s Benetton family (as in, the United Colors of Benetton), which has reportedly submitted a bid of $1.2 billion, through its investment arm Edizione Holding.

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Harley-Davidson Q2 2017 Sales Tank 9.3% in the USA

07/18/2017 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Harley-Davidson Q2 2017 Sales Tank 9.3% in the USA

Any hopes of the US motorcycle market making gains in 2017 appear to be going out the window, as Harley-Davidson reports that its Q2 2017 sales are down a whopping 9.3% – prompting the Bar & Shield brand to readjust its delivery numbers to dealers in the United States.

Sales worldwide were equally bleak for the American company, with international figures down 2.3% for the same time period. This means Harley-Davidson’s combined worldwide sales numbers are down 6.7% for Q2 2017.

As a result, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said that Harley-Davidson would see a reduction in its workforce, though he would not offer specifics on what that could look like for its mostly union workforce.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #57 – Chocolate Rain

07/04/2017 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast #57 – Chocolate Rain

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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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #56 – Nicky Bobby

06/29/2017 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast #56 – Nicky Bobby

Episode 56 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast gets us back into our normal format of talking about motorcycles, and whatever rabbit holes present themselves along the way.

Before we get to that part though, we take a somber moment to remember Nicky Hayden, who passed away just a couple weeks before the recording of this episode.

We had recorded a special episode just about Nicky, the day that he passed, but it didn’t feel right to publish it. Our emotions were too raw.

Modestly philosophical during the show now, we also discuss the passing of Davey Lambert, who on the day of this recording succumbed to his injuries sustained at the Isle of Man TT. Two more racers would later die at the TT, Jochem van den Hoek and Alan Bonner. We hold all these racers in our thoughts.

Getting back to our normal selves, we discuss a bit of news, namely Harley-Davidson’s new factory in Thailand, and what that says about the state of the motorcycle industry. We also talk some racing action, as Andrea Dovizioso had just won the Italian GP at Mugello.

The show wraps up with some discussion about supermoto racing, as I participated in the Cascadia Supermoto round held here in Oregon, near Portland.

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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Report: Harley-Davidson Looking to Buy Ducati

06/21/2017 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Report: Harley-Davidson Looking to Buy Ducati

Rumors and reports continue to swirl around Ducati, as the Italian manufacturer is linked to one brand or another for a potential divestiture from the Volkswagen Group. And now, the latest name being thrown into the hat is none other than iconic American brand Harley-Davidson.

In a report by Reuters, Harley-Davidson is linked to buying Ducati by unnamed sources, with a purchase price that is pegged around €1.5 billion, a number that has been put together by the bean-counting minds at Goldman Sachs.

Volkswagen is said to be taking bids on Ducati this July, which means the fate of the Italian motorcycle brand could be decided by the end of this year.

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