That motorcycle sales are down because of the coronavirus lockdown seems like an obvious thing to state. Just for clarity though, American motorcycle sales through the first four months of the year are down 9% compared to last year.
Truthfully, that number is far less than we were predicting here at Asphalt & Rubber, and there is a good reason for that. While the COVID-19 scare has decimate on-road sales (-23%) and scooter sales (-24%), this has not been the case for off-road motorcycles sales totals, which are up 30%.
Even dual-sports seem to be buoyed by having a tire in the dirt, with sales reported to be down only 5% during the same time period.
Looking deeper into the dual-sport numbers though appears to give an insight on this odd dichotomy between street and dirt sales in the motorcycle industry.
When I was putting together the story on the pricing for the Aprilia RS 250 SP race bike, I thought I had shared already some photos of the bike from EICMA, but that wasn't the case.
I am not sure if that oversight comes from the madness of dozens of bikes being released at the same time; a complete lack of sleep for a week coupled to a nine-hour time change; or if simply the paltry number of photos I had taken was the cause of the gallery not going up; but it doesn't matter. Here we are.
I do want to share these meager photos though (still in hi-def, of course), not so much because of how impressive the Aprilia RS 250 SP is as a race bike (especially now that we know it's priced at €9,700), but because of the idea behind the machine. Here are some quick thoughts.
When Freddie Spencer points to a particular day as the highpoint of an extraordinary career that brought about three world championships, and a near constant rewriting of the record books of the time, you’d certainly be expectant of something special. The year, unsurprisingly, was 1985.
Before then, the enigmatic Louisianan had made a mockery of most operating at the pinnacle of the sport, amassing achievements and records at a dizzying rate during his teens and early twenties. No one had done so in such blazing fashion since the great Mike Hailwood two decades before.
As if becoming the youngest 500cc grand prix winner at the time at just 20 years and 196 days of age in 1982 wasn’t enough, his defeating of the legendary Kenny Roberts Sr. a year later marked the arrival of a new shade of American splendor.
Make no mistake, ‘The King’ brought his A-game to the table in ’83. But Freddie took his reputation to the stars as their ferocious year-long battle culminated in Honda’s first 500cc championship.
By the tender age of 21 and 258 days (another new record), Spencer had already earned a place among the pantheon of the greats.
Even alongside these feats, Spencer’s greatest day in the sun doesn’t disappoint: a 250cc and 500cc double at Mugello, one of motorsport’s mythical venues, in a year which saw him operating at the absolute peak of his powers. By the mid-80s it all came so easily to him he likened manhandling a 180bhp 500cc two-stroke to “getting out of bed.”
Part of a new series for our A&R Pro readers, we will be providing regular digests of motorcycle news, topics, and issues from key regions around the world, in an effort to make sure our readers have a firm grasp on the pulse of the entire industry.
Our first edition looks to our friends to the north, where our colleague Zak Kurylyk tell us how the Canadian motorcycle industry is handling the coronavirus outbreak. Look for more installments, from other regions, in the weeks to come. -JB
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is hurting the bike industry as a whole, but for the Canadian motorcycle scene, it is potentially disastrous. Think 2008 financial crisis, but on steroids. If the 2008 recession was King Gong, then COVID-19 is going to be Godzilla.
The timing couldn’t be worse, due to the seasonal structure of the riding season in Canada, and due to the massive drop in oil prices. As a result, most of the problems faced by the American industry are intensified in Canada.
Very few Canadian motorcyclists are actually riding this time of year, but March-April is when deals get done, and money changes hands, Without this, all the major players are going to take a big hit. Retailers, rally organizers, race teams - everybody's looking at having 2020 essentially wiped out.
As a result, most of the problems faced by the American industry are intensified in Canada. With all the questions surrounding the economy, it's likely some major players are never coming back.
Long time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will surely know that I have tough criticisms regarding the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). As the leading organization to represent motorcyclists and to co-ordinate our efforts and thoughts to policy makers, industry stakeholders, and the public at large, I often find the AMA's actions (or lack thereof) to be wanting.
Nothing illustrates this better than the AMA's policy regarding helmet laws, where one side of the AMA's mouth touts how the organization is against any sort mandatory helmet laws being passed in the USA, while the other corner of the mouth preaches that all motorcyclists should wear a helmet when they ride a motorcycle.
The issue is an example of how the AMA is held hostage by motorcycling's libertarian population, and by catering to this vocal group's whims, this organization that is supposed to represent all motorcyclists ends up alienating the very people it is supposed to serve.
It is a great metaphor for how the motorcycle industry operates as a whole in the United States, and while the industry is starting to realize that it needs to cater to members of the population who aren't just old, white, male, or politically conservative, the AMA has been slow to get with the program.
Since we know now that the Husqvarna Norden 901 has been given the green light to go into production, I thought I would share this small gallery of the ADV concept from the EICMA show, and provide my thoughts from the trade show floor.
One of the most talked about machines from the Milan trade show, the Norden 901 is Husqvarna's first adventure-touring machine, and helps marry the brand's extensive dirt biking history with its more recent street bike offerings.
Saying that, it is perhaps surprising that the Husqvarna Norden 901 is so late in its arrival, as one could easily see how an ADV machine would be a more palatable motorcycle to begin Husqvarna's straying from the dirt.
Maybe that doesn't surprise us though, as the controversial motorcycle represents a crack in time for the Italian brand, as it is reborn with the green euros from Kawasaki Europe.
Pivotal moments in a motorcycle company's history should be historic motorcycles in their own right, and it is hard to think how a supercharged two-wheeler with a hub-center steering chassis can't burn its place into Bimota's story.
If you can't tell, I fall into the camp that loves this motorcycle (though, I will admit there aspects of the machine that I do not care for), but overall I love the audacity of the Bimota TesiH2 - and it is for this reason for which Kawasaki invested in the boutique Italian brand.
If you had asked me before the 2019 EICMA show what bike I was most-certain to see debuting for production from BMW Motorrad, the answer surely would have been the BMW R18 cruiser.
The German brand has been teasing this new machine for an inordinate amount of time (since well before the last EICMA show), bringing a bevy of concept bikes to realization in the process to help ease us into the idea of a big air-cooled, pushrod, boxer engine design with an eye on the cruiser scene.
Surely at Milan, we would see the R18 make its debut, and surely were we disappointed when BMW showed us yet another concept for the motorcycle. It is as if no one learned from Yamaha's mistake with the Ténéré 700.
We always knew that the Aprilia Tuono 660 was coming, ever since last year when the Noale brand took the covers off its RS 660 concept, and started teasing us with the idea of a high-horsepower middleweight twin motorcycle.
From there, it was quick to understand that Aprilia would need to make its "half an RSV4" into a platform, with other models soon to come. The most obvious next step then was a naked "Tuono" model.
That brings us to today, where not only do we see the Aprilia Tuono 660 concept looking basically ready for production at EICMA, but the Italian brand is also coyly showing us its plans for its next middleweight model, the Aprilia Tuareg 660.
The new Honda CBR1000RR-R is finally out in the wild, and while Honda was able to keep this machine under wraps for the bulk of its development, there was a lot about the new Fireblade that we knew going into EICMA.
We also had a rough idea on what the bike would look like, thanks to an automotive photographer that was at the Suzuka circuit.
We even knew what the new name for this superbike would be. But yet, the 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade was very much a suprise when it was unveiled at EICMA on Monday night.
Certain to be the talk of the EICMA show throughout the week, here are some quick thoughts and bullet points, now that we have had time to process this new superbike.