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.

How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

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Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

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Harley-Davidson Laying Off 200 US Workers

09/01/2016 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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News out of Milwaukee is that Harley-Davidson will be laying off roughly 200 workers, as the company adjusts its workforce to reflect expected motorcycle production volumes for the coming year.

This news is directly associated with the current slowdown in Harley-Davidson sales, and as such, the layoffs will affect primarily production line workers.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the layoffs will occur at multiple Harley-Davidson production facilities: 117 employees at the York plant, 35 at the Tomahawk plant, and a handful at the the engine plant in Menomonee Falls.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #30 – The Need for Speed

08/30/2016 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 30 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees us discussing three different powertrains, the motorcycles that they power.

First up is Harley-Davidson’s new Milwaukee-Eight engine, which will power its Big Twin touring models for the 2017 model year. We then turn our attention to Ducati (no surprise there), and discuss the seeming return of the air-cooled Ducati Monster, which was spied last week.

We finish the show with a lengthy debrief on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, as Quentin and I had previously spent a day riding this electric dirt bike in the mountains near Portland, Oregon.

As always, 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. Enjoy the show!

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The New Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight Engine Debuts

08/25/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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What you are looking at above is Harley-Davidson’s ninth iteration of its “Big Twin” engines. It’s called the Milwaukee-Eight, named after Harley-Davidson’s home town and the fact that the engine head design employs a very modern eight valves in total (four per cylinder head).

Time will tell if the Milwaukee-Eight becomes as iconic as Harley-Davidson’s other designs, like the Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead, etc. But, we do know that the Milwaukee-Eight marks a more modern approach to engine design from the Bar & Shield brand.

To this end, Harley-Davidson says that the new power plant offers a quicker throttle response, more passing power, purer sound (whatever that means), and a smoother ride (read: less vibrations).

The Milwaukee-Eight will first be used on Harley-Davidson’s touring and trike lines, though we can expect the engine design to permeate through Harley-Davidson’s lineup.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #29 – Motocyclisme

08/22/2016 @ 10:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 29 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees Quentin and I discussing about the recent lawsuit against Skully, which alleges a number of pricey corporate perks, on the helmet startup’s company dime.

We also discuss some racing news: the sacking of Romano Fenati and the prospect of team communications with riders in MotoGP. We also discuss the settlement reached by the EPA and Harley-Davidson, over the use of engine tuning devices, and what that can mean for the industry as a whole.

Lastly, Quentin tells us a tale about getting back on an air-cooled Ducati, and camping in Eastern Oregon, while I give a glimpse into my review of the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, as I was in Julian, California riding the scrambler at the US press launch. It’s another great show for our Two Enthusiasts fans.

As always, 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. Enjoy the show!

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EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

08/18/2016 @ 4:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler102 COMMENTS

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices.

Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. Boom goes the dynamite.

While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Compounding the issue though, Harley-Davidson has sold an amazing number of these tuners. Accordingly the EPA and DOJ came down on the Bar & Shield brand like a box of bricks, but the likely costs to take the boxes off the market will make the fines pale in comparison.

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Is the Presidential Election Hurting Harley-Davidson’s Sales?

08/03/2016 @ 3:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

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No matter your political leanings, you cannot deny that the upcoming presidential election is grabbing a lot of headlines, and dominating our social discourse – and that is perhaps the way it should be, as electing the leader of the free world is no trivial matter.

Whoever leads the United States of America after January 20th will have a dramatic affect, not only on the American public sector, but also on the American private sector. The daily business and life of America are intrinsically linked to this country’s politics.

It is therefore not that uncommon to hear of American business leaders voicing their opinions, and endorsing political candidates for office – sometimes they themselves even run for office – so, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised to hear that Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich weighed in on the 2016 election cycle.

It is a bit surprising to hear what he has to say though…

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #26 – Return of the Kickstands

08/03/2016 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Episode 26 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out for your listening pleasure. To make up for a lack of shows the past few weeks, this episode is a two-part recap of the Jensen’s adventures in Italy, California, and North Carolina. As such, keep an eye out for Episode 27, which will be out later this week, to give you something extra to listen to over the weekend.

In the meantime, we are going to Tarantino the order of events, and talk first about Jensen’s most recent trip, the press launch for the Yamaha FZ-10 street bike, which he rode at The Tail of the Dragon.

The show starts with some current headlines though, talking first about MotoGP’s decision to ban winglets, Harley-Davidson’s rumored hostile takeover by a private equity firm, and Honda’s decision to abandon support of the supersport street segment.

Naturally, the guys find some rabbit holes to crawl down, along the way, which includes a discussion on the role of prototype racing, the oddity that is the “cripple triple” racing motorcycle, and the realities of a tiered licensing systems.

As always, 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. Enjoy the show!

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Harley-Davidson Q2 2016 Sales Down 1.9%

07/28/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson released its second quarter sales results today, showing the Bar & Shield brand taking a dip in sales in Q2 2016.

According to its report, Harley-Davidson sales are down 1.9% worldwide, a figure that is due mostly to the company’s performance on its home turf in the USA, which are down 5.2% when compared to Q2 2015.

In fact, Harley-Davidson sales abroad saw a modest gain of 4.3%, but since the iconic American brand still sells roughly two-thirds of its units here in the United States, the sales trends here steer the company’s fate heavily.

To that tune, Harley-Davidson notes that the US motorcycle industry as a whole is down 8.6% in Q2 2016 – a fair point to make, but it is also skewed by the fact that Harley-Davidson accounts for one-in-two of every new motorcycle sold in the USA.

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It’s Time Again for Harley-Davidson’s Yearly Clutch Recall

07/27/2016 @ 7:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Call it a hat trick, because today marks three years in a row (2014 & 2015 here) where Harley-Davidson has had to recall a large swath of its model lineup for issues with their clutch actuation.

For 2016, 14 Harley-Davidson models are facing a recall because their clutches may not disengage when the clutch lever is pulled by the rider.

The recall affects 27,232 units in total – more specifically the 2016 Electric Glide Ultra Classic (FLHTCU), Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low (FLHTCUL), Ultra Limited Low (FLHTKL), Ultra Limited (FLHTK), CVO Street Glide (FLHXSE), Street Glide (FLHX), Street Glide Special (FLHXS), Road Glide Special (FLTRXS), Road Glide (FLTRX), Police Electra Glide (FLHTP), Road Glide Ultra (FLTRU), Fat Boy S (FLSTFBS), Softail Slim S (FLSS), and CVO Softail Pro Street Breakout (FXSE) motorcycles.

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