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.

Ducati DTC EVO Will Cost $565 MSRP

08/12/2017 @ 11:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

A couple days ago, we told you that Ducati would be making the updated electronics package on the 2017 Ducati 1299 Panigale, called DTC EVO, available to 2015 and 2016 Panigale owners.

The software update lets the Panigale take full-advantage of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) that is onboard, letting the traction control not only manage wheelspin, as it does on the 2015 and 2016 models, but also allowing it to control how much rear-wheel slide is allowed, as on the 2017 machine.

While DTC EVO is standard on the 2017 model, the software wasn’t developed in time for the earlier 1299 Panigale models. Thankfully, it is an easy feature to add retroactively. Unthankfully though, Ducati is charging a pretty penny for the update: $565 MSRP.

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If you happen already to own one of the 2017 Ducati 1299 Panigale models, including the recently released Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition and Ducati 1299 Superleggera models, then you already have the latest and greatest electronics suite from the Italian manufacturer, dubbed the Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO).

But, if you own a 2015 or 2016 Panigale, whether it be a “base” model or “S” model, you have been out of luck when it comes to taking full advantage of your bike’s Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU)…until today.

Ducati is announcing that it will retrofit its DTC EVO system for older 1299 Panigale machines, so they can take advantage of IMU’s ability to manage sliding the rear wheel, via a revised algorithm.

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Ducati Monster 1200 Gets a Bevy of Updates for 2017

11/11/2016 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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At the 2016 EICMA show, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali said that so many changes had come to the 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 line, that the updated motorcycles were effectively all-new machines.

We are not so certain about that, but you cannot deny that the Monster 1200 gets a sizable update for the 2017 model year.

At the head of those changes is a revised Testastretta 11° DS v-twin engine for the 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 and 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S, which makes 150hp and 93 lbs•ft of torque.

As a result, this means that the base model Ducati Monster 1200 gets a 15hp increase, while the Ducati Monster 1200 S gets a 5hp bump. The Monster 1200 R continues to lead the line with its 160hp unit, and all three Monster 1200 variants are now Euro4 compliant.

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KTM 1290 Super Duke R Gets an Update for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 4:37 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Call it The Beast 2.0, because the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is getting an upgrade for the 2017 model year, debuting today at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy.

The first most noticable change is the new LED headlight, which will debut throughout the Duke line, and draws links to KTM’s remodeled Adventure bikes, which have a similar LED setup.

KTM has also modified the TFT dash, which seems like a minor change, except the old version always made the streetfighter feel cheaper than its price tag suggested. The new dash richens the user experience with its look and feel, and is a welcomed addition to the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R.

Of course, the change your most interested in is the revised 1,301cc v-twin engine, which has a reworked cylinder head and intake, and now produces 177hp. Cornering ABS from Bosch has also been added, with the IMU also helping control the traction control system.

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Photos of the Ducati 1299 Superleggera leaked this past weekend, and well before that we already knew some of the details about Ducati’s “Project 1408” machine, but none of this detracts from the truly impressive machine that Ducati debuted today in Milan, just ahead of the official start to the 2017 EICMA show.

Like its 1199 counterpart, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera is a limited edition version of the company’s venerable superbike platform, and it focuses on being the lightest, most powerful, street-legal machine that Borgo Panigale can produce.

Upping the ante this time around, Ducati has used a carbon fiber chassis (frame, swingarm, wheels, and bodywork) for the 1299 Superleggera, in addition to an array of other exclusive components and exotic materials.

Also of note is the Akrapovič race exhaust, which looks like it fell right off Ducati’s World Superbike project. When combined with the rest of the race kit, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera makes 220hp, and tips the scales at 162kg (wet). Truly impressive.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #36 – Tikka Masala

11/01/2016 @ 11:19 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Recapping the recent INTERMOT show, Episode 36 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast covers the three big themes that emerged from Cologne: homologation specials, vintage motorcycles, and rider aids.

With these themes in mind, we have a good conversation about the three homologation specials we saw from the Japanese manufacturers at INTERMOT: the Honda CBR1000RR SP2, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R, and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

The conversation then turns to the neo-vintage models we saw in Germany, and how brands like Triumph and BMW are investing heavily in this trendy niche.

We finish up the show talking about motorcycle electronics, inertial measurement units (IMUs) to be specific. This game-changing technology continues to permeate through the motorcycle industry, along with other rider aids, so we have a good conversation about the rise of the IMU.

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 Three Big Trends That We Saw at INTERMOT

10/08/2016 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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News from the INTERMOT show is winding down, with the motorcycle industry waiting until the next trade show (AIMExpo) to get its fill of new motorcycles and products.

Such is the time of the season, where we jump from one headline to the next, as we get our first glimpse of next year’s wares. Sorry for flooding your social media feeds.

In my opinion, INTERMOT is the second-most important trade show on the schedule (the first being EICMA), as we always see strong showings from the Germanic brands at INTERMOT, and we can count on a few surprises from the Japanese OEMS as well.

When it occurs (INTERMOT is held every-other year, unlike EICMA and AIMExpo which are held every year), the German show is good for revealing trends in the industry, and this year was no different.

As such, I saw three big trends emerge from INTERMOT this year, which promise to shape the motorcycle industry for several years to come.

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2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX Brings an IMU to the Street

10/06/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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It might seem like the 2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX brings only modest updates to Team Green’s liter-bike street bike, what with Kawasaki touting the machine’s “double-bubble” adjustable windscreen, LED headlamps, revised rider and passenger seats, and pannier mounts.

Yawn. Nothing to see here, right? Thanks for playing Kawasaki…but wait…hold on a second. What really sets the new Kawasaki Z1000SX apart is the fact that it also includes a six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU).

This ties into the brakes, traction control, and riding modes on the 2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX, adding another level of sophistication to this popular sport bike, while also raise the high-water mark in the street bike market.

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2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R – A Two-Pronged Approach

10/04/2016 @ 5:12 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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No, that extra R in GSX-R1000R isn’t a typo – Suzuki is releasing two versions of its superbike at INTERMOT today, the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R being the higher spec model for track enthusiasts.

Available later in mid-2017, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R takes the already robust package that is the Suzuki GSX-R1000, and adds to it an up-and-down quickshifter, launch control, and cornering ABS feature set.

The suspension has also been upgraded, with the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R getting the very noticeable Showa Balance Free forks (note the gas cartridge on the fork bottom), and the Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion rear shock, which is an interesting piece of kit, since Showa says the design does away with the need for separate high-speed and low-speed compression adjustment.

The last item of difference, besides the price of course, is that the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R includes a lighter triple tree top clamp.

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The All New 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Finally Debuts

10/04/2016 @ 4:01 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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We have had to wait nearly an entire year for Suzuki to finalize and release its new superbike, after first teasing us at the 2016 EIMCA show with it. But today at INTERMOT, the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 is finally ready for primetime.

Because Suzuki already teased us the new GSX-R1000 a year ago, much about the machine is already known. But, for a proper plot twist, there will in fact be two variations of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 for 2017, with a higher spec 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R debuting as well.

For the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 base model, of course everything is brand new. The inline-four engine on this liter-bike features a variable valve timing (VVT), a first in the superbike segment. Peak power is just shy of 200hp, with Suzuki claiming 199hp and 86.7 lbs•ft of torque.

The crown jewel of the electronics package is a six-axis IMU, which brings a 10-level traction control system, riding modes, cornering ABS, launch control, up-and-down quickshifts to the once “King of Superbikes” (the latter three items being on the GSXR-1000R).

With a wet weight of 441 lbs, the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 is in the hunt to reclaim that crown, making this a strong return for the Japanese brand in the superbike segment.

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