At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Mega Gallery: BMW HP4 Race

04/19/2017 @ 10:04 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The BMW HP4 Race has finally dropped, the Bavarian brand’s extreme superbike offering that drips in carbon fiber pieces. A track-only liter-bike for true enthusiasts, the BMW HP4 Race sees a potent 212hp engine packed into featherweight 377 lbs wet body.

Of course to hit those weight goals, BMW Motorrad employed extensive use of composite materials to shed weight from the already robust BMW S1000RR superbike. As such, the frame, bodywork, and wheels are made from carbon fiber, including the self-supporting tail section.

BMW doesn’t reveal too much on how it has boosted the power from the 199hp found on the S1000RR’s inline-four power plant, though the result is an increased redline to 14,500 rpm (up from 14,200 rpm).

Keeping inline with its ~$85,000 price tag though (BMW Motorrad hasn’t released pricing figures yet, unfortunately), the BMW HP4 Race comes with top-of-the-line brakes and suspension pieces. It also has a robust electronics package that features the usual suspects of three-letter acronyms.

There is plenty to drool over on the BMW HP4 Race, so we have 64 high-resolution photos of the machine, waiting for you after the jump. Enjoy!

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Too Many Photos of the 2017 KTM 450 Rally

01/02/2017 @ 1:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The 2017 Dakar Rally starts today, and over the next 13 days we will be bringing you all the news of this grueling race for cars, trucks, quads, and of course motorcycles.

Toby Price is favored to win in 2017, the Australian once again on a KTM 450 Rally. He won’t have an easy time of it though, with riders from Honda, Husqvarna, Yamaha, and even within his own KTM Racing team all having a shot at this year’s addition.

To hoist the winner’s trophy though, riders will be tested over 12 stages, seven of which have timed sections of 400km or more. As fans should be well aware of, anything can happen over those 12 stages.

For 2017, the Dakar Rally will start in Paraguay for the first time ever (the race’s 29th host country), before it heads to Bolivia, and then ends in Argentina.

Six days will be spent above 3,000 meters in elevation, and Dakar Sporting Director Marc Coma says it will be the most grueling Dakar Rally ever – as a five-time winner himself, Coma’s words should be taken with a heavy burden.

To get you in the mood for the 38th running of the Dakar Rally (the 9th in South America), we bring you a bevy of photos of the bike that everyone wants to beat: the 2017 KTM 450 Rally.

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More Photos of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

10/13/2016 @ 10:00 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will know how much we like our high-resolution photos here at A&R, so we wanted to make sure you could get a good high-res look at the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 that debuted today at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida.

Yamaha has left its class-leading bike mostly unchanged for the next model year, when it comes to the R6 motor and chassis, which might disappoint some. But with the addition of R1-inspired styling, traction control, ABS brakes, and better suspension pieces, we think supersport fans will be pleased with this update.

With the bar now set higher in the 600cc realm, hopefully we will see other manufacturers take up the challenge, and the supersport class will have new life breathed into it.

We’ll have to wait and see on that. Until then, enjoy this modest photo gallery.

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More Photos of the MV Agusta F4Z by Zagato

09/01/2016 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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It seems MV Agusta really couldn’t wait until September 4th to show us its collaboration with Italian coachbuilder Zagato, because today we have a high-resolution gallery of this one-off machine.

As the name suggests, the MV Agusta F4Z started life as an MV Agusta F4 superbike. Zagato then gave the F4 a visual restyling, with the intake, fuel tank, battery, and exhaust system all having to be redesigned to accommodate the flowing bodywork.

The lines of the MV Agusta F4Z are certainly polarizing, especially for hardcore fans of the MV Agusta brand, and that is probably just fine. This is because the MV Agusta F4Z is to be a one-of-one design, with a wealthy Japanese entrepreneur said to be the bike’s final recipient.

You can continue your love/hate relationship with this motorcycle after the jump, with some very high-resolution photos.

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Enjoy This Yamaha FZ-10 Mega Gallery

07/20/2016 @ 9:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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I’m in North Carolina right now, about to take a ride on the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 – the Japanese brand’s R1-powered streetfighter that looks like it just stumbled off the set of a Michael Bay movie.

This Bumblebee lookalike is growing on me though, and it’s easily one of the top new bikes I’ve been itching to try since last year’s EICMA show debut. Thankfully, I’ll soon get that chance.

Before we get into that though, Yamaha has a bevy of high-resolution photos to share with us for our two-wheeled pleasure. These photos represent the finalized USA-spec machine, whereas previous photos you’ve likely seen on Asphalt & Rubber were either of the European-spec Yamaha MT-10, or the non-finalized FZ-10.

The differences between the motorcycles are subtle, but we didn’t need much of an excuse to share the photos with you. No doubt, more than a few readers will find their future computer desktop picture in the files below.

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Some Thoughts on the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

04/05/2016 @ 9:51 am, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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This story has no timely reason, other than I was working my way through Husqvarna’s media site for a different story, and noticed that there were finally some well-lit shots of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 concept available for download.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, as you may remember, builds off KTM’s Husqvarna’s 690cc platform, but uses the “Vitpilen” neo-café racer aesthetic. The result is what you see here, and it blew the doors off the EICMA show in Milan when it debuted late last year.

With these high-resolution photos, that thankfully were not taken in the dark this time, we can finally see the details of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, which were such a highlight when it debuted.

More importantly though, we can get a greater appreciation of where KISKA is taking Husqvarna, both in terms of separating the brand visually from its sister company KTM, but also on how the brand will sit apart from the rest of the motorcycle industry as a whole.

While I have no doubt that we will continue to see more conservative shapes and graphics on Husqvarna’s going forward, especially from Husqvarna’s dirt bike offerings, the Vitpilen segment is very intriguing as it brings a completely fresh take on a very tired-out market segment.

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Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro Mega Gallery

03/29/2016 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro is perhaps the Italian model we look forward to riding the most this year, as it marks the first modern Ducati that earnestly is meant to go off-road.

Ducati has made some obvious changes to its Multistrada 1200 platform to make the Enduro model ready for the dirt, the most noticeable of which are the spoked wheels (with a 19-incher up front) and the beefier double-sided swingarm. The optionally equipped Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires, slimmer exhaust can, and crash bars help complete the transformation, as well.

With 158hp on tap from the 1198cc Testastretta DVT v-twin engine, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro should be quite potent on-road as well – something we are seeing more of in the ADV space.

It will be interesting to see how the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro stacks up against the KTM 1190 Adventure, which makes 10hp less than the Ducati, but also comes with KTM’s impeccable off-roading credentials.

The ADV market is heating up now, especially with the on-road focused “Adventure-Sport” machines that we have seen from European manufacturers, which are supplanting the sport-tourer markets.

The more off-road leaning selections are getting beefier as well though. Does this mean that we’ll see a 150hp+ ADV bike from BMW? Based off the S1000XR, perhaps?

The German manufacturer is obviously still dominating this sector with its R1200GS offering, but ADV riders certainly have more choices now than they did previously. The ADV market should be an interesting segment to watch.

In the meantime, we have over 100 high-resolution photos of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro available for your photonic consumption. Enjoy!

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Ducati Hypermotard 939 Mega Gallery

03/07/2016 @ 4:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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I will admit a bit of bias to this article, since I enjoy flogging my Ducati Hypermotard SP down the streets of Portland, Oregon on a regular basis.

It’s one of those machines that a brief stint on the press model loaner wasn’t nearly enough to whet my appetite, so I plunked down my hard-earned blogging dollars and made space in my garage for one.

For 2016, Ducati has updated the Hypermotard family with a 937cc engine that is now Euro4 compliant. Overall power hasn’t increased much on the new Ducati Hypermotard 939, but the engineers in Bologna have found some extra midrange torque, which suits the Hypermotard family’s urban punchiness better.

Subtle changes have been made to the plus-sized supermoto: a slightly longer exhaust can, the addition of an oil cooler, and revised body pieces can be spotted here and there.

More noticeable is the new paint scheme, which draws inspiration from the Ducati Corse effort in the MotoGP Championship. Otherwise, the basic formula that makes the Hypermotard such a fun bike to ride has remained.

Hopefully in the coming weeks Ducati USA will have us hopping a leg over the new Hypermotard 939, and we can tell you if the new model is worth the extra coin it’s commanding over its predecessor. Until then, we have over 100 high-resolution photos for your viewing pleasure.

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Ducati XDiavel Mega Gallery

02/19/2016 @ 9:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The Ducati XDiavel is the latest push by the Italian manufacturer into a market dominated by American brands. The XDiavel evolves the Diavel aesthetic, with its longer and lower power cruiser lines, and the controversial addition of forward-controls and a belt final-drive.

The XDiavel model is designed to evangelize non-Ducati riders into the Italian company, and as such the XDiavel sits somewhere between the Ducati Scrambler and other more “traditional” Ducati models, in terms of its integration into the core Ducati brand.

Abandoning the Rosso Corsa of its siblings, Ducati says that the color of the XDiavel is black. Accordingly, we have a slew of black and white press photos for you after the jump.

The test will be whether the XDiavel can grow Ducati’s cruiser lineup, especially with new Ducati riders, or if it will simply cannibalize on the Diavel’s sales. We will have our thoughts on all that in our ride review – look for it tomorrow.

In the mean time, enjoy the super high-resolution photos after the jump.

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Photos of the 2016 Aruba.it Racing – Ducati WSBK Team

02/12/2016 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The start of the 2016 World Superbike Championship is rapidly approaching, and while good money favors the Kawasaki Racing Team, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Team is looking very strong this year, and is poised well to impress at the series-opener in Australia.

Three years now on the same platform, Chaz Davies looks especially strong this year, and should certainly be in the podium hunt on any race weekend. We wouldn’t count him out of winning the Championship outright either. Listen to the latest Paddock Pass Podcast for our further thoughts on this.

“Last year was full of satisfaction. To be the first rider to win a race with the Panigale R meant a lot, not only for me but also all of Ducati and the many Ducatisti all over the world. We improved all the time and gradually achieved a package that was competitive at all circuits.”

“This was exactly the same during the winter tests, where with the latest evolutions in suspension and electronics, we could focus on performance over the distance. I am optimistic and can’t wait to start the championship,” Davies concluded.

Both Davies and teammate Davide Giugliano look very comfortable on the Ducati Panigale R, which will start the season this year with the GP-styled Akrapovic exhaust that debuted last year.

“After a difficult season, we are now looking ahead with optimism. Many things have changed, both on the bike and in my team, and I’d like to thank Ducati for this opportunity.”

“I’m starting to work well with Aligi and Paolo, my new crew chief and electronics technician. In the last test I was once again as quick as the top guys. I’m optimistic and can’t wait to go to Australia,” added Davide Giugliano.

Any high-level race bike is sex on wheels, but there is something about Ducati’s World Superbike effort that seems to produce machines that are extra-worthy of our saliva. The official team debut photos are after the jump, for that very purpose. Enjoy!

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