Valentino Rossi’s Special Yamaha XJR1300 Flat Tracker

It is good to be Valentino Rossi. Not only do you have nine world championships to your name, legions of yellow-crazy fans, but you also get pretty nice gifts from your friends. Take “Mya” for example – a special Yamaha XJR1300 custom flat tracker that the folks at VR|46 built for their fearless leader. Now, when you think about bikes that should be the basis for a custom project, the Yamaha XJR1300 doesn’t exactly come to mind. It probably doesn’t help that this decades-old model is only Euro3 compliant, and set to sunset at the end of this year. The XJ1300 certainly doesn’t strike us as the appropriate starting point for a flat track bike either, especially with its 530 lbs weight figure. That all being said, the VR|46 crew have done a pretty good job of spiffing up the old girl.

That Suzuki Katana 3.0 Concept Though…

One of the less-publicized motorcycles on display at this year’s EICMA show was this Suzuki Katana concept, which has since been making the rounds on social media. Rightfully so, we would say, as the “Katana 3.0” is a very intriguing idea into how Suzuki can revitalize one of its most iconic names. A creation by the folks at Motociclismo, with the help of designer Rodolfo Frascoli and Engines Engineering, the Katana 3.0 concept isn’t the “official” concept that many had hoped for from Suzuki. However, the fact that Suzuki hosted the concept inside its EICMA display is a sign that the Japanese manufacturer is certainly listening to the feeback the bike generates.

The KTM 790 Duke’s Killer Feature? Its Price Tag

The KTM 790 Duke launches a new platform for the Austrian brand, based around an 800cc parallel-twin engine. As such, we already know that we can expect the twin-cylinder platform to spawn an adventure version of the bike, with the KTM 790 Adventure R prototype debuting at EICMA as well. We can also expect other “790” models in the coming years, both from KTM and likely from Husqvarna as well. That is a good thing, because the KTM 790 Duke is a potent bike, rich with features. The real kicker though – if early indications about the pricing can be believed – is the KTM 790 Duke’s price tag, as KTM has been quoted as pricing the 790 Duke at below €10,000. This would put US pricing around the $11,000 mark, if not cheaper.

The Three Big Trends That We Saw at EICMA

The 2017 EICMA show has come and gone, and with it our glimpse at the new motorcycles that will arrive for the next model year, and beyond. EICMA week has always been my Super Bowl, as it culminates the year’s work, and also sets the tone for the upcoming riding season. Beyond just my limited world though, EICMA sets the trends and the expectations of the motorcycle industry. There is no trade show in our two-wheeled microcosm that has a larger influence than EICMA. So, while all the new models that we just saw are the week’s big headlines, it is really the trends and movements that will dictate the future of the motorcycle industry. For this round of the EICMA show, three major trends presented themselves in Milan, along with a few more notable occurrences.

ARCH Motorcycle’s Next Bike Won’t Be a Cruiser

ARCH Motorcycle is in Italy right now, and they just took the wraps off three bikes, one of which isn’t so much a cruiser, as it is a naked roadster model. Built using carbon fiber MonoCell chassis technology, a building technique usually reserved for ultra high-end sport cars and Formula 1 racing chassis, the ARCH Method143 features a potent 143ci (2,343) v-twin engine. Though, instead of the performance cruiser layout the company is better known for, the ARCH Method143 will have mid-body rearsets for the feet, and clip-on handlebars for the hands, making for a very sporty riding position. Backing up that notion is the use of Öhlins suspension, which includes a proprietary Öhlins FGRT series front fork with carbon fiber airfoil covers.

No One Seemed to Notice that the MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR Is New for the 2018 Model Year

We had to search high and low for information about the 2018 MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR – it doesn’t help that MV Agusta’s press site is offline right now – but it seems just about every news publication missed the fact that this attractive roadster got some serious changes for the 2018 model year. These unnoticed changes certainly are partially due to the fact that MV Agusta went without a press introduction at this year’s EICMA show, but it is also due to the company’s never-ending line of “bold new graphics” changes, one-off customs, and special livery designs, which only muddy the waters for when actual changes occur.

Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe Brings Modern to Retro

Kawasaki made an impression at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, debuting the new Z900RS standard. The premise was simple there: take the potent Kawasaki Z900 street bike, and dress it in retro clothing. The effect was something that looked incredibly like the Kawasaki Zephyr of old, but with modern brakes, suspension, traction control, and even a slipper-assist clutch. Now we see that Team Green plans on already expanding the line, debuting today the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe. Basically the Z900RS with a bikini fairing, this modern café racer should be a perfect fit for those riders that want an older looking motorcycle that doesn’t run like an older looking motorcycle. Mostly a visual exercise, the basic stats of the Z900RS Cafe don’t stray too far from the donor bike from whence it came.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Debuts with Track Goodies

For the 2018 model year, Kawasaki continues to develop its superbike package. As such, the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE brings some special new features, to earn those extra letters after its name. The big addition is the new Showa electronic suspension, which is the only semi-active suspension system on motorcycles that includes built-in stroke sensors. These stroke sensors are able to measure the movement of the fork and shock internals, allowing Showa’s suspension to measure and change its damping settings on the fly, as you ride. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE also gets the forged aluminum wheels found on Kawasaki’s homologation-spec superbike, the Ninja ZX-10RR, which should help the Ninja ZX-10R SE feel more nimble on the race track, despite its 459 lbs wet weight.

So Many Photos of the New KTM 790 Duke to Drool Over

We are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the new KTM 790 Duke is the bike of this year’s EICMA show. Making a potent 105hp from its 799cc parallel-twin engine, packed into a 418 lbs (wet)steel trellis body, the 2018 KTM 790 Duke brings a host of features to the middleweight sport bike category. In typical KTM fashion, the 790 Duke left no angle behind in its high school honors geometry course, and the LED headlight builds upon the common design features that KTM has been putting together on its street-going machines. Not quite the vision that was the KTM 790 Duke prototype, the production model still evokes the same emotions, and is handsome in its own right – allaying our fears when seeing spy shots of the machine.

Mega Gallery: Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

We have had to wait two years to see it come into production, but the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 will finally be available to motorcyclists in March 2018. As an added bonus, the street-going machine stays true to its concept design, which wowed the crowd at last year’s EICMA show. This year in Milan, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is all the talk of EICMA, and while “Best in Show” at EICMA almost exclusively goes to an Italian marque, the real winners are surely coming from Austria, as both the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 and KTM 790 Duke look like winners. A duality from Mattighofen, KTM and Husqvarna approach motorcycles from two opposite spectrums. KTM lives in the extreme, with an edgy focus on its “Ready to Race” mentality. Conversely, Husqvarna is subtle and sophisticated…maybe even understated.

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 BeelerComments Off on Gone Riding: Polaris Slingshot

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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Bids Come in for Ducati, Just Not from Harley-Davidson

07/20/2017 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bids Come in for Ducati, Just Not from Harley-Davidson

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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Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

01/09/2017 @ 9:02 am, by Jensen Beeler64 COMMENTS

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand.

Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence.

Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand.

Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

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How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

motorcycle-cruiser-evolution

The following is an example of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

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Two More Recalls for the Polaris Slingshot

11/03/2016 @ 1:18 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two More Recalls for the Polaris Slingshot

polaris-slingshot-slr

In addition to the recall for its brake pressure switch, two more recalls have been filed by Polaris for its Slingshot three-wheeler. While both additional recalls affect nearly the 18,000 units that have been made in the lifetime of the Polaris Slingshot, they differ in cause.

The first recall is for the Polaris Slingshot’s rear swingarm, which filings say may not have adequate strength for its application. Polaris dealers will inspect the swingarm, and if necessary, repair/replace the swingarm free of charge. Polaris’ number for this recall is T-16-06.

The second recall is for the hood on the Polaris Slingshot, which may not have enough clearance with a fuel line. Polaris dealers will inspect the fuel line’s retention clips, in order to reduce the risk of interference. Polaris’ number for this recall is T-16-03.

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