The Only Motorcycle Statistic That’s Worth a Damn

Every year the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) releases data about motorcycle fatalities in the United States. The results are never that surprising, and despite some fluctuations year-to-year, the basic takeaways are always the same. Motorcyclists are way more likely to die (28x more likely per mile traveled) than automobile drivers and passengers; fatal motorcycle crashes are more likely to involve alcohol than other vehicle fatalities (25% vs. 21% for passenger cars); and motorcycle fatalities closely correlate to new motorcycle sales. The figures are of course important, but reporting the results is an exercise in playing a broken record, over and over again. Except for one statistic that caught our eye this year: motorcycle fatalities as a percentage of overall vehicle fatalities.

Up-Close with the Krämer HKR EVO2 R

If I said that there was an 81hp track bike that weighed less than 280 lbs ready to race, would that be something you’d be interested in? If so, say hello to the Krämer HKR EVO2, a purpose-built track bike from Germany. Built around KTM’s 690cc single-cylinder engine, which is found in KTM 690 Duke and Husqvarna’s 701 series of bikes, the Krämer HKR EVO2 features a bespoke steel-trellis chassis, custom bodywork, and a host of top-shelf components. The real tasty part about the Krämer HKR EVO2 though is the attention to detail and the purposefulness of its design – take for instance the 12-liter XPE plastic fuel tank that doubles as a subframe, which has integrated crash sliders, and a sighting hole for easy adjustment of the rear shock damping.

Motorcycle Sales in Europe Show Strong Growth

Motorcycle sales in the United States might be tanking, but things are looking fairly positive across the pond in Europe, as the ACEM reports a 4.7% increase in motorcycle sales for Q1 2018, for a total of 203,853 units sold in the first three months of this year. The increase in sales is due to key markets like France (+9.1%), Germany (+1.9%), and the UK (+7.4%) showing good growth, compared to Q1 2017. However, not all the European countries are showing increases in motorcycle sales, with the Czech Republic (-17.3%), Poland (-28.7%), and Austria (-18.9%) pulling the sales growth figure down considerably. Not all segments are growing too. While the big bikes are seeing sales increases, European sales for mopeds are down considerably for Q1 2018 (40.2%), to the tune of a 24,996 unit sales decline over last year.

This Week’s Honda V4 Superbike Rumor

I have to admit, this rumor is more than a week old, as Japanese magazine Young Machine breathed new life into the Honda V4 superbike rumor mill about a month ago. And of course, the reality is that this rumor is much, much older than this tiny fraction of time. If you know your motorcycle news history, talk of a Honda V4 replacement for the CBR1000RR line has existed for almost two decades now…but hey, a broken clock is correct twice a day, right? So what is new from the Land of the Rising sun that we haven’t heard before? The big eye-catching component to this story is that Honda has/had a two-stage upgrade path for the CBR1000RR, of which we are about to see the second phase.

Official: Alta Motors Racing at the 2018 Erzberg Rodeo

We broke the story yesterday, but today the news is officially official: Alta Motors will race in the 2018 Ezerberg Rodeo, which is part of the Red Bull Hard Enduro series. The most grueling and difficult single-day event in motorcycle racing, the Erzberg Rodeo sees 1,500 entires whittled down into what is usually a single-digit summation of race-finishers – and not every year sees a racer cross the finish line – that’s how tough this race is. Racing for Alta Motors will be Ty Tremaine and Lyndon Poskitt, two riders with a lot of off-road experience. For those who don’t recognize those names, Tremaine is currently racing with Alta in the 2018 AMA EnduroCross series, meanwhile Poskitt has previously competed in a number of enduro events, including the Ezberg Rodeo, and most notably just soloed the 2018 Dakar Rally to completion. 

Come Drool Over SERT’s All New Endurance Race Bike

The winningest team in the FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team is the standard by which other endurance teams are measured…and that is a measuring stick that has seen a lot of use in recent seasons. This is because the FIM EWC is a hot bed for competition right now, with a bevy of factory-backed teams capable of winning on any race weekend. This has made it tough for SERT, and its riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson, and Gregg Black, who currently sit sixth in the 2018 FIM Endurance World Championship standings. For this season, SERT hopes that a new racing platform will make the difference, as the French team has finally jumped onboard with the current-generation Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Johann Zarco Signs Two-Year Deal with KTM

One of the biggest dominoes of the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place. Today, KTM announced that they have signed Johann Zarco to a two-year contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. That Zarco would leave the Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad had been widely anticipated, the only question being which factory team he would end up in. The Frenchman was an extremely hot property, after displaying blistering speed on the satellite Yamaha M1 in 2017. Zarco had offers from Suzuki, Repsol Honda, and KTM, though only Honda and KTM were in the frame for the Frenchman. Zarco and his management were still unhappy with the way Suzuki had treated the Frenchman, after the Japanese factory failed to honor a pre-contract Zarco had signed ahead of the 2017 season, choosing Alex Rins instead.

The Ducati Panigale V4 Gets Its First Two Recalls

New model teething issues are always a reality, and it seems that the Ducati Panigale V4 is no exception to the rule. Finding not one, but two issues with the Panigale V4’s fueling system, Italy’s newest superbike is being recalled in the United States. Both recalls seem to affect the full-lot of Panigale V4 models that have made it to US soil thus far this year, which means 692 units (base, S, and Special trim levels) are being recalled for two issues related to the bike’s fuel system. As such, the first recall centers around the breathing system valve plug on the Panigale V4, which might have a fuel leak if the O-ring was damaged during production. Accordingly, the second recall involves the fuel tank cap, which can spray gas when opened, because again of breathing issues within the fuel system.

Are BMW’s Heritage Models Finally Done?

Has BMW Motorrad called it quits for its heritage lineup of motorcycles? That is the rumor at least, and there is some good evidence to support the notion. This is because buried on the 60th turn of BMW’s 260-page annual report for 2017 is the headline: “R nineT family now complete” – a nod that the German brand’s lineup of air-cooled retro-styled motorcycles has reached its zenith and logical conclusion. That makes sense, since there isn’t really a category left of the R nineT family to explore. It has a roadster, a standard, a scrambler, an adventure bike, and a café racer model all in the lineup. No hipster stone has been left unturned. The post-authentic styling trend is over. It’s dead. BMW called it, right? Well…Not so fast.

Up-Close with the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE

At the Grand Prix of the Americas, Aprilia USA debuted a special new superbike for the 2018 model year, the Aprilia RSV4 RF LE. Limited to only 125 units for North America (100 for the USA, 25 for Canada), the big feature of the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE is the bike’s fairing winglets, which draw from Aprilia Racing’s aerodynamic progress in the MotoGP Championship. Getting a chance to see the new Aprilia RSV4 RF LE in the flesh while in Texas, we grabbed some up-close photos of this limited edition RSV4, for your viewing pleasure, along with some other details. Aprilia’s wings are an interesting development, and a brave new world for production superbike design. For its part too, it seems that Aprilia isn’t quite sure what to make of the development as well, offering us two narratives for the winglets.

Polaris Is Now Part of the Fortune 500

05/22/2018 @ 5:07 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Fortune 500 is a list of America’s largest companies, and is a constant barometer on the state of the American business landscape. In its 64 years of existence, the Fortune 500 has been an exclusive club, and its newest inductee is one from the powersports industry: Polaris Industries.

Ranked at #496 on the list, the addition of Polaris means that the influence (and decline) of the US motorcycle and powersports landscape will be seen on a much larger national stage.

Mostly it is just a cool milestone for Polaris, and proud bragging point for the company’s executives at the next country club gathering.

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Here’s one you don’t usually see on a motorcycle new site, as Polaris is recalling over 24,000 Slingshot autocycles for issues with their seatbelt and seat design and manufacturing.

This recall is a big one, as it applies to seemingly all Polaris Slingshots sold between 2015 and 2018, for a tally of 24,235 vehicles affected by this recall notice. In its recall documents, Polaris estimates that roughly 1 in 100 vehicles exhibit the problem.

What’s at issue is that the driver and passenger seats might have a seat belt and seat back anchoring bracket that may have been improperly welded.

Additionally, there may have been a difference in the seat assembly at the factory, which may prevent the proper latching of the seat slider, which would allow the driver’s seat to move unexpectedly.

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What A Trade War Means for Motorcycles

03/06/2018 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Strangely enough, we have talked about trade wars several times before, here on Asphalt & Rubber, as the Trump administration has been keen to use this tool in its toolbox, often with effects that reach into the motorcycle industry.

The first time around, we talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affected the motorcycle industry, namely Harley-Davidson, and how the United States' withdrawal from the agreement would likely be a negative effect for US motorcyclists.

We have also had to talk about how fighting over beef imports could lead to possible tariffs on small-displacement European motorcycles in the United States, a tariff that would seriously hurt Piaggio/Vespa scooter sales and KTM dirt bike sales.

This week a new specter is on the horizon, as the Trump administration is eyeing tariffs on both steel and aluminum, at 25% and 10% a pop - respectively.

Naturally, the increase in the cost on importing raw metals into the USA is going to have an adverse effect on manufacturing-based businesses, but not all of these companies are affected equally when tariffs are imposed.

So, let's take a look at what this really means for the American motorcycle industry.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #61 – Wasted Talent

09/11/2017 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 61 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we talk about riding some motorcycles…and driving some motorcycles. We also talk about new motorcycles, recalled motorcycles, and how to fuel motorcycles in our coming Mad Max future.

For the past month, we have been riding the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800, so we rant and rave about how great that bike is, and how I think it might be the best street bike on the market.

We also discuss my recent trip to SoCal to drive the Polaris Slingshot, and how Polaris has created the autocycle category in 40 states now.

Our attention then turns to Harley-Davidson’s new batch of motorcycles, and discuss where the American brand is headed. We also talk about BMW Motorrad’s plethora of recalls in the recent weeks.

The show ends with us talking about Bosch’s synthetic fuel strategy, which could have interesting implications…especially if fuel prices increase over the coming years.

There’s a little something for everyone in this show. We think you’ll like it.

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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What It’s Like to Drive a Motorcycle, A Review

09/01/2017 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

This past week was the first time I have ever driven a motorcycle. I have ridden quite a few motorcycles in my time, just never one with three wheels, a seatbelt, and steering wheel. It felt very weird…like riding a scooter.

The Polaris Slingshot is not a motorcycle though. Three years after its initial debut, the Slingshot is now considered an autocycle in 40 states and counting.

As an autocycle, the Polaris Slingshot is held to the same standards as a motorbike, but these 40 states do away with the requirement for the rider, I mean driver, to have a motorcycle endorsement on their license.

Armed with a normal driver’s license and a helmet (where applicable), there are no boundaries to driving a Slingshot. This opens interesting doors for Polaris, which is good, because the Slingshot is an interesting machine. Let me explain.

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Gone Riding: Polaris Slingshot

08/24/2017 @ 8:45 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Hello from Los Angeles, where today I will be “riding” the Polaris Slingshot three-wheeled “motorcycle” (it says so right next to the driver’s seat). 

Polaris’s three-wheeled car-type thing is a bit of mystery when it comes to definitions and legal distinctions – though we are fond of the autocycle designation – but it competes with motorcycles on the dollars-for-grins category, so here we are.

Polaris has a fun route planned up the California coast line for us today, so we should have a good opportunity to see if you should empty out your garage full of bikes, and fit this Miata-sized three-wheeler into your stable.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2018 Polaris Slingshot models right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to “ride” this interesting vehicle from Polaris, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Polaris personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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Reuters continues to dish on Ducati’s possible divestiture from the Volkswagen Group, with news that several bids have been placed on the Italian motorcycle brand. Reuters says that amongst the bidders are several key brands like, Polaris, Bajaj, and Royal Enfield’s owners Eicher Motors.

Noticeably absent from the list of potential buyers however was the much talked-about Harley-Davidson, a name that the same Reuters reporters first offered as Ducati’s potential future owner.

Now Reuters offers us another name as the likely front-runner, pointing to Italy’s Benetton family (as in, the United Colors of Benetton), which has reportedly submitted a bid of $1.2 billion, through its investment arm Edizione Holding.

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2017 Polaris Slingshot Models Recalled

03/21/2017 @ 9:15 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Polaris is recalling a batch of its 2017 Slingshot models, for an issue that affects the linkage between the steering and the front suspension, which may have been insufficiently tightened, and could reduce steering and suspension performance as a result.

The recall affects the Slingshot, Slingshot SL, and Slingshot SLR models, with 254 units in total getting recalled.

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Indian Working on an Electric Motorcycle?

03/01/2017 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Polaris Industries says it is working on a new electric motorcycle, to replace the now discontinued Victory Empulse TT model that was scrapped when the Minnesota company closed the doors to the Victory brand earlier this year.

According to a report from Reuters, the new electric motorcycle will be released under the Indian Motorcycle brand name, and will be focused towards riders who ride for pleasure, rather than those who commute or do long-distance trips.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #43 – A Flawed Victory

02/02/2017 @ 2:30 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Episode 43 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it focuses on the demise of Victory Motorcycles, which was recently shutdown by Polaris Industries. Of course, when we say that the show focuses on  just this one topic, we mean that in the Two Enthusiasts’ sense of the word.

As such, from the ashes of the Victory discussion spring forth a myriad of topics, the current landscape of the American motorcycle industry, the rise of a new generation of motorcyclist, the industry’s slow willingness to change, and how that all plays into the products and actions we seeing manufacturers making.

There is a lot to chew on in this 75-minute show, and we hope you find the episode as interesting as we do. 

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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