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.

Ducati Panigale V4 Pricing Revealed for 2018

Fancy yourself the new Ducati Panigale V4? It’s going to cost you a pretty penny if you do, as pricing for the USA and Europe has been revealed, and the 215hp superbike is not going cheaply into that good night. As such, Ducati lists 2018 pricing for the Panigale V4 as €22,590 in Europe, with pricing in the US set at $21,195 for the base model. For those keeping score, this is a premium of $1,200 over the outgoing Ducati 1299 Panigale. When you get to the Panigale V4 S though, things start getting considerably more expensive. European pricing on the Ducati Panigale V4 S is set at €27,890, while pricing for the USA will be $27,495. For the American market, this is a $1,700 bump on pricing when compared to the 2017 Ducati 1299 Panigale.

MAG Files for Chapter 11

The Motorcycle Aftermarket Group (MAG) is not a name that motorcycle enthusiasts are usually familiar with, but the family of brands that the company owns certainly is: Performance Machine wheels, Roland Sands Design, Renthal handlebars, Vance & Hines exhausts, Tucker Rocky, J&P Cycles, etc. The network of brands has been struggling over the recent years though, and today we learn that many of them will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while the overarching MAG Group business restructures its debt and finds new ownership. While this is not the sexiest news story to happen in the motorcycle industry this year, it is certainly one of the most important and complicated. As such, we will try to break it down in a digestible way for you.

Valentino Rossi’s Special Yamaha XJR1300 Flat Tracker

It is good to be Valentino Rossi. Not only do you have nine world championships to your name, legions of yellow-crazy fans, but you also get pretty nice gifts from your friends. Take “Mya” for example – a special Yamaha XJR1300 custom flat tracker that the folks at VR|46 built for their fearless leader. Now, when you think about bikes that should be the basis for a custom project, the Yamaha XJR1300 doesn’t exactly come to mind. It probably doesn’t help that this decades-old model is only Euro3 compliant, and set to sunset at the end of this year. The XJ1300 certainly doesn’t strike us as the appropriate starting point for a flat track bike either, especially with its 530 lbs weight figure. That all being said, the VR|46 crew have done a pretty good job of spiffing up the old girl.

2017 EICMA Motorcycle Show Cheat Sheet

11/05/2017 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The EICMA motorcycle show in Milan is the biggest motorcycle event in the world, and each year a bevy of manufacturers come to Milan to show next year’s production machines, as well as the two-wheeled concepts of the future.

For 2017, things are no different, and we expect see dozens of new machines for the 2018 model (here’s a list of all the new models we expect to see in Milan), as well as a few concepts and prototypes for 2019 and beyond.

Since there will be a barrage of article over the next few days, and we don’t want you to miss a single new motorcycle, we have created a single page to consolidate the different stories that we will be covering this week. Right here!

Go ahead and bookmark this link, and check back often, as we will be reporting 24/7 all week on this year’s EICMA show.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #64 – Sol Crushing

10/28/2017 @ 1:45 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 64 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and celebrates another trip around the sun for our lovely podcast…and one of its hosts.

In the show, we talk about Harley-Davidson’s vanishing motorcycle sales, which could be a canary in the mine for the future of the American motorcycle industry.

We also look at two intriguing models that Yamaha will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show: version of the Yamaha Motobot and the Yamaha MOTOROid concept – both which are intriguing machines, with tragic names.

Our show wraps up with KTM’s launch of the new Freeride E-XC electric dirt bike, and what it means for the future of the Austrian brand, and where transportation is headed.

There’s plenty for everyone in this show, and we think you’ll enjoy 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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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 BeelerADD COMMENTS

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 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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