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.

Investigator Releases Report on Nicky Hayden Crash

09/29/2017 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

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A Tale of Two Americans from Laguna Seca

07/16/2017 @ 7:41 pm, by Andrew KohnComments Off on A Tale of Two Americans from Laguna Seca

Last weekend’s World Superbike race at Laguna Seca was one of mixed emotions for American race fans. On one hand, it was an opportunity to say goodbye to Nicky Hayden, a man who left this life too soon and was revered at this iconic race track.

On the other hand, it was a chance to see another American, Jake Gagne, make his debut in World Superbike as part of the same team of which Hayden was a member.

As I walked around the track, there were tributes to Nicky everywhere. The number 69 was ubiquitous throughout the weekend, with flags, banners, t-shirts, and stickers displayed by proud fans who now miss him so much.

Both Chaz Davies and Toni Elias flew Hayden flags on their respective victory laps; a moving tribute to a man they held in such high esteem.

Additionally, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca sponsored a track walk in memory of Nicky. Hundreds of fans lined up to remember Nicky and support the memorial fund that bears his name.

Both American Honda and Laguna Seca had murals, on which fans could leave messages of remembrance for Nicky and words of support for those he left behind. Nicky’s impact on road racing, and American road racing in particular, was obvious throughout the event.

While the memories of Nicky Hayden were palpable throughout the weekend, Jake Gagne quietly went about the business of adapting to a new team, learning a new motorcycle, and racing in a new series.

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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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Valentino Rossi’s Special Mugello Helmet Explained

06/05/2017 @ 6:20 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Valentino Rossi’s Special Mugello Helmet Explained

You may have noticed during the Italian GP at Mugello, that Valentino Rossi was once again wearing a special AGV Pista GP R helmet for the event. Created by designer Aldo Drudi, this year’s Mugello’s helmet pays homage to Nicky Hayden and Francesco Totti.

To remember the American motorcycle racer, Rossi’s #46 morphs into the shape and colors of Hayden’s #69, complete with the star that precedes Hayden’s number.

The top of Rossi’s helmet also portrays a soccer pitch, where the nine-time world champion is wearing the blue jersey of the Italian national team, and saying “Mo’ je faccio er cucchiaio” which translates (with a Roman accent) to “I made it spoon” – the spoon referring to a type of penalty kick that sees the ball arching into the goal.

This scene too pays tribute to another athlete – Francesco Totti, who played his last match with the A.S. Roma team last week. On the back of the helmet are “Un capitano…C’è solo un capitano!”, which translates to: “One captain… There’s only one captain!” 

This is another nod to Totti, as the chant is something his fans would yell to him while he was playing.

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WorldSBK: Donington Park’s Ups and Downs

05/31/2017 @ 1:12 pm, by Kent BrockmanComments Off on WorldSBK: Donington Park’s Ups and Downs

The World Superbike paddock and the racing community came together at Donington Park, to pay tribute to Nicky Hayden.

But after two great races in the superbike class; a supersport race that saw great battles; and a Supersport 300 race that saw a three rider scrap for the win, it was the racing that paid the biggest tribute to The Kentucky Kid.

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Remembering Nicky Hayden – Becoming A Champion

05/30/2017 @ 10:22 am, by Steve EnglishComments Off on Remembering Nicky Hayden – Becoming A Champion

Like the article that preceded it, there is a backstory to this story and the photos that go along with, which I wanted to share with our readers.

As some of you already know, Steve sat down with Nicky at the Assen round for the World Superbike Championship, with them having a long conversation about his earlier racing career. 

We originally planned to publish this story later in the year (maybe around the Laguna round), to showcase how Nicky came to be a World Champion, as he hunted for wins in the WorldSBK paddock, but with his untimely passing we wanted to share it with you now, as our last feature about the life of Nicky Hayden.

The photos are my own, shot at the 2013 MotoGP rounds held in the US, where at Laguna Seca, Nicky debuted his “Born to Ride” Arai helmet. While not the most recent photos of Nicky Hayden, the shots seemed like fitting photos to include of The Kentucky Kid, as the world continues to share the #RideOnKentuckyKid hashtag on social media. -JB

The choices we make can have consequences for years. Nicky Hayden’s choices as a teenager led him on a path to a world championship

In all walks of life, the decisions that you make at an early age can have untold consequences in later life. Whether it is the college you decide to attend, or your first job, there are certain moments that become cornerstones of your life.

For most people, the choices can be corrected over the passing of time, but for a motorcycle racer with a short career they can have huge consequences.

The pressure on young shoulders, once racing transitions from a hobby to a career, are huge. Families stake their financial future on a child in the hope rather than expectation that it will all work out.

In the current economic climate, this risk is huge, but it has always been the case. The Hayden family rolled the dice on their sons’ racing careers, and with a world title on the mantle back home in Owensboro, Kentucky it has worked out well for Nicky Hayden.

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Remembering Nicky Hayden – Growing Up a Racer

05/29/2017 @ 11:38 am, by Steve EnglishComments Off on Remembering Nicky Hayden – Growing Up a Racer

There is a backstory to this article that I wanted to share with our readers, as we originally planned to publish this piece a couple weeks ago, as something for our A&R Pro readers, to showcase the upbringing of Nicky Hayden, and his early racing career.

Steve and Nicky had been working together on several pieces – we will share the another with you later today/tomorrow – about his career, and we delayed this one because Nicky said that he had a bunch of old photos we could use with the story.

Getting the photos and finally ready to click “publish” on A&R, I woke up on the morning of Wednesday, May 17th with plans to start the day with this great story by Steve, only to read first the horrible news about Nicky’s accident.

Throughout the week that followed, it seemed inappropriate to share this retrospective with our readers, as Nicky clung onto life. Now today, as his family and friends remember him in Owensboro, we wanted to share Nicky’s story with all of our readers, as we say goodbye to The Kentucky Kid. -JB

Growing up in Kentucky, Nicky Hayden was a motorcycle racing protégé from an early age, but winning hasn’t come easy to the Hayden family.

Over the last 15 years, Nicky Hayden has become one of the most recognisable faces in the motorcycle racing world. He’s morphed from the Kentucky Kid to an old hand of the paddock, and now the Kentucky Legend.

But where did that legendary status come from? Hard work, dedication and an insatiable love of racing are the traits that have made Hayden famous, but the cornerstone has always been family and loyalty.

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Remembering Nicky Hayden – Photos by Brian Nitto

05/25/2017 @ 9:33 am, by Brian NittoComments Off on Remembering Nicky Hayden – Photos by Brian Nitto

The untimely passing of Nicky Hayden affected motorcycle fans around the world, the team at Asphalt & Rubber included. To work through the grief, we are going to take this week to celebrate the life of The Kentucky Kid, sharing with you our thoughts and images from the years we worked with Nicky. So, we hope you will enjoy these photos by photographer Brian Nitto, as we all continue to hold Nicky in our thoughts and remember him. – JB

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Remembering Nicky – Words by Steve English

05/24/2017 @ 12:09 pm, by Steve EnglishComments Off on Remembering Nicky – Words by Steve English

I have always been a fan of racing, and from my earliest memories all I can remember is watching racing and loving it. From when I started watching motorcycle racing, I was drawn towards flat track racers from the United States.

Perhaps, it was because the risks they take are so similar to road racing in Ireland, or just their style on a bike. There was always an attraction for me towards flat trackers, and as a child the riders I admired were Americans who grew up on the dirt.

Whether it was hearing stories of Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer, or watching Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz, the Americans held a certain mystique for me.

Nicky Hayden was the next of that lineage and coming into MotoGP as a 21-year-old rookie — as well as being paired with Valentino Rossi, no less — I couldn’t help but root for the underdog.

Having been to Laguna Seca, to see Nicky pick up a MotoGP win, I was firmly a fan of his by the time he claimed his MotoGP title in 2006. Like so many others around the world, it was impossible not to like the rider and the man.

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Remembering Nicky Hayden – Photos by Daniel Lo

05/23/2017 @ 11:35 am, by Daniel LoComments Off on Remembering Nicky Hayden – Photos by Daniel Lo

The untimely passing of Nicky Hayden affected motorcycle fans around the world, the team at Asphalt & Rubber included. To work through the grief, we are going to take this week to celebrate the life of The Kentucky Kid, sharing with you our thoughts and images from the years we worked with Nicky. So, we hope you will enjoy these photos by photographer Daniel Lo, as we all continue to hold Nicky in our thoughts and remember him. – JB

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