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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #63 – Back, To The Future

10/09/2017 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 63 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it is a massive deep dive into the future of transportation and the rise of electric motorcycles.

But before we get back, to the future, we first talk about Jensen’s recent trip to California, to ride the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 (named after a university district of Venice, Italy – by the way) and the Aprilia Shiver 900.

Both bikes are revised for the 2018 model year in the United States, and are interesting machines in Aprilia’s lineup. You can read Jensen’s full review on them here and here.

From there, our discussion turns into a impromptu deep conversation about electric vehicles, urban infrastructure, global politics, and the future of transportation.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #62 – Diss Invited

09/26/2017 @ 11:03 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 62 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it covers an omnibus of motorcycle topics.

Things start with a discussion about the recently spied 2018 Honda Gold Wing, and its Hossack-style front-end. Our conversation then turns to the resurrection of the Skully helmet brand, which culminates in a frank conversation about head safety and concussions.

With injuries on the brain (see what I did there?), we can’t help but talk about Valentino Rossi and his return to MotoGP action after breaking his tibia and fibula. Note, this show was recorded before Sunday’s Aragon GP race.

We finish the show talking about the official unveiling of the Ducati Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, and the unofficial leaking of the Ducati Panigale V4 photos. As you can imagine, Quentin and myself have some strong feelings about both those topics.

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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Superbike Deathmatch Round #1: Aprilia vs. Ducati

09/21/2017 @ 10:53 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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, and the trim-level for each bike has been carefully chosen so that all the superbikes have a similar price and feature set as the other motorcycles in the comparison.

This means that we are looking at motorcycles around the $20,000 price point, all of which have IMU-powered electronics and brakes, along with up-spec components. Our goal here is to compare apples to apples, and see which one tastes best.

Our venue is the Portland International Raceway, and to evaluate these machines we have four riders that vary in skill levels and physical attributes, from professional racers to track day enthusiasts, from tall to short, and from skinny to….less skinny.

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.

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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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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #60 – Diet Pepsi & Milk

08/24/2017 @ 7:53 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 60 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we cover some of the newsy items from the motorcycle industry that have caught our eyes recently.

But before we get to the news, Quentin and I break a pretty big story concerning a certain turbocharged motorcycle, which you won’t want to miss.

We then turn our attention to the plethora of recalls that have beseeched BMW Motorrad, and we also talk about the company’s halo bike, the BMW HP4 Race, and its 3,100-mile engine life.

We also talk about Triumph’s partnership with Bajaj, and how that will affect both brands’ futures, before we talk about Ducati’s software performance upgrade for the 2015/2016 Ducati 1299 Panigale owners.

Before the show ends, Quentin also gives a really insightful talk about plug chops, which unless you have ridden an older two-stroke machine, you have probably never heard of, until now.

There is a lot going on in this episode of the podcast, so you don’t want to miss it. And, if we have and Diet Pepsi and milk drinkers in the audience, please identify yourselves and explain this madness.

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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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #59 – Leticia Cline

08/10/2017 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 59 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it sees a special guest joining the crew, Ms. Leticia Cline (of the internetz). One of the biggest social media influencers in the motorcycle industry, we spent almost two hours talking to Leticia about a number of subjects.

The big bullet points of the discussion revolve around Leticia’s time in the AMA paddock (she used to date some guy named Ben Spies), the state of the motorcycle industry, marketing to women, and how brands are leveraging social media to reach new audiences, like millennials.

Not only does Leticia bring with her a bounty of insight and knowledge, but she is pretty fun to talk to as well. As such, we think you are really going to enjoy this episode.

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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Welcome to the A&R Superbike Deathmatch

08/04/2017 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Hello and welcome to 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 A&R’s Superbike of 2017. Booyah!

What makes the Superbike Deathmatch different from other shootouts, you might ask? Well for starters, instead of renting a track out for a day, and spending only a limited amount of time on the plethora of machines available, we decided instead to take a lesson from college basketball’s very own March Madness.

That’s right, we are using a single-elimination head-to-head bracket system to find out which superbike is the best of the best, and thus worthy of being our Superbike of 2017. Think of it like a two-wheeled Thunderdome: two bikes enter, one bike leaves.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #58 – California Dream

07/19/2017 @ 12:36 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 58 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast chronicles a busy week in California, as we head down to Laguna Seca for the World Superbike and MotoAmerica racing rounds.

The weekend involved getting the first glimpse of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, the last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand. We also got to talk to Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali about the company’s new V4 superbike, with more than a few surprises being told about the new machine.

Of course there was the on-track action, which includes yours truly getting a some seat time the Monday after the races, riding at a no noise restriction track day (something that almost never happens) with the good folk at Pirelli tires.

While there, we sat down with Giorgio Barbier, the Director of Pirelli’s Motorcycle Racing program. We talked a bit of shop while at the track day, and have included that conversation towards the end of the show, for your listening pleasure.

The audio isn’t perfect, since we’re right on the track – did I mention there was no noise restriction for the bikes? – but you should be able to hear Giorgio with no problems.

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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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #57 – Chocolate Rain

07/04/2017 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast #57 – Chocolate Rain

Episode 57 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast helps us celebrate America’s birthday, by talking about some freedom-loving motorcycles.

Our first topic of interest is a teaser to a project that we are working on here at Asphalt & Rubber. If you’ve been following us on social media, you might already have an idea about what it is.

That conversation quickly moves into a rabbit hole about racing though, and how closed-circuit motorcycle racing can evolve for the 21st century.

Our attention then turns to some news items, like how Honda is getting more serious about electric motorcycles, how Harley-Davidson might buy Ducati Motor Holding, and what we can expect to see from Ducati with its Final Edition Panigale superbike.

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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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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