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.

Suzuki Patents Hybrid 2WD Scooter with Goofy Front-End

04/18/2017 @ 10:08 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

An interesting find from the folks at Motorcycle.com, it looks like Suzuki is getting crazy with its scooter designs, as a patent for a two-wheel drive scooter has popped-up at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and that is not the only item of interest when looking at the front-end of the motorcycle.

The 2WD system features an electric hub motor on the front wheel, which assists the gas-powered rear wheel, making this a hybrid-powered motorcycle. The patent also shows a a non-conventional front-end suspension setup, on what looks like Burgman scooter design.

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Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

09/22/2016 @ 1:29 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets.

Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings.

This is because motorcycle manufacturers not only patent and trademark the design they intend to put into production, but also the design they don’t intend to produce, but have still shown the public. This is just smart policy when it comes to intellectually property protection.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

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2017 Suzuki GSX-R250 Spotted in Australian Patents

08/04/2016 @ 2:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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The eagle eyes at Australian Motorcycle News have caught the patent design renders of the upcoming Suzuki GSX-R250 street bike.

The Japanese company’s proper foray into the current small-displacement sport bike market, the Suzuki GSX-R250 has been rumored for some time, but never before seen. Until now.

We should point out that the true displacement of this machine is still unknown, and Suzuki would be wise to actually bring a machine that has more punch than 250cc – as the current market trend sees 300cc bikes and larger winning at the dealership.

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Suzuki’s Electric “Grom Killer” Coming to Market?

06/14/2016 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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When the Honda Grom debuted in 2013, the other Japanese manufacturers took note. The first copycat was Kawasaki, which earlier this year debuted the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that Suzuki brought out its EXTRIGGER concept at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, as well.

Listening to our calls, the Suzuki EXTRIGGER coming to market seems to be getting more likely now, as Suzuki has filed for patents in the China, Europe, and the United States for the plucky electric machine. Just in time, to battle with the freshly updated Honda Grom.

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Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

04/22/2016 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine.

We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda.

How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine.

The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

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April Fools: Honda Patents Three-Stroke Engine Design

04/01/2016 @ 8:16 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Fresh from the office of the USPTO, we have confirmation that Honda has just received the patent for the first ever three-stroke motorcycle engine.

As you would expect, the unconventional engine design incorporates the power-to-displacement efficiencies of a two-stroke smoker, with fuel-to-power efficiencies of a four-stroke motor.

For many in the space, the three-stroke engine has been the Holy Grail of engine designs, with many OEMs rumored to have been working on a three-stroke engine.

Still, it is surprising to see the engineers at Honda claim the prize, as the Japanese brand up until recently has been heavily committed to its four-stroke technology.

Obviously, the engine technology can obviously be applied to any internal combustion application, however what makes this news especially A&R worthy is that Honda’s patent specifically states the engine’s purpose in two-wheeled vehicles, watercraft, lawnmowers, and generators.

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Dainese Responds to Alpinestars Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/29/2015 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.

First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.

Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.

You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.

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Alpinestars Issues Press Release Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/23/2015 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Last week we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over their respective airbag suit systems. In response to that story, and the subsequent retellings of that story on other sites, Alpinestars has issued a press release that further clarifies, corrects, and explains the situation between the two companies.

The first big takeaway from Alpinestars’ statement is that at issue in the patent infringement suit is actually the material of the airbag itself, i.e. the actual physical material used in the bladder that holds the air. This corrects the information A&R received that at issue was the algorithm used to detect a crash.

The second big takeaway from the Alpinestars press release is that German retailers were directly contacted by Dainese, and told to cease and desist from offering the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system.

This action resulted in some retailers pulling the product from their shelves, but Alpinestars says that no legal action has taken place in the German market, and that the company continues to offer the Tech-Air Street in Germany.

You can read Alpinestars full press release after the jump. Asphalt & Rubber will be sure to keep you apprised of further developments regarding this story, as it unfolds.

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Alpinestars & Dainese Head to Court Over Airbag Systems

12/17/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain.

Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level.

The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.

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Even More Photos of the Honda Africa Twin

05/18/2015 @ 7:18 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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After a few grayscale photos of the new Africa Twin hit the internet from Honda’s Australian patent filing, now even more photos have emerged, which show the adventure-tourer from every angle…literally.

The Honda CRF1000L, as it is designated, will features a 1,000cc parallel-twin engine, an option dual-clutch transmission that has been tuned for road use, and a setup very similar to Honda’s Dakar stage-winning bike.

If the hype is to be believed, the Africa Twin is going to be a very capable off-road ADV bike, something that the machine’s 21-inch front wheel hints at with a purpose.

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