The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson’s Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka. No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well. Milwaukee even impressed with its more “core” offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be “a real motorcycle” in our eyes…we think.

Ducati’s Project 1309 Reveals a New Diavel Coming

We didn’t hear too much about “Project 1309” from World Ducati Week 2018, which is surprising considering what the past has shown us about Ducati’s secret reveals, but the Bologna brand was once again giving a teaser to fans in Misano. In the past, World Ducati Week has been the place where Ducati showed us the first Scrambler model, and last year the event debuted the return of the Ducati SuperSport. This year, it is another new bike. A new Diavel, to be precise. Set to compliment the current XDiavel model, the new Diavel features the same 1,262cc DVT engine with variable valve timing, but puts it into the more sport Diavel riding platform. This means tucked in feet on rearsets, rather than the XDiavel’s foot-forward controls.

VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

The Clash’s hit song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” might perhaps perfectly fit the business situation for Ducati, within its parent company, Volkswagen AG. The Italian motorcycle brand’s status in the German conglomerate has for the past few years been held on a tenuous string. Rumor about its divestiture, its selling to another company, are constantly dogging the iconic brand. Talking to Bloomberg TV after Volkswagen’s quarterly earnings report, VW CEO Herbert Diess explained that there are two paths forward for Ducati, and one of them includes selling Ducati to the highest bidder. “We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati,” said Diess to Bloomberg.

KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

Injuries Soar After Michigan Helmet Law Repeal

01/11/2016 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler64 COMMENTS

Humpty-Dumpty

The link between helmet laws and motorcyclists fatalities may seem intuitive and obvious, but now because of a study published in the American Journal of Surgery we have scientific proof that helmets save lives.

The study focuses around Michigan, which repealed its mandatory helmet law (thanks to help from the AMA) in April 2012, and has since had three riding seasons with a greatly reduce helmet-wearing requirement.

After the repeal, motorcyclists in Michigan can now ride without a helmet if they are over 21-years-old, have had their license for at least two years, and have at least $20,000 in additional medical insurance coverage.

Postulating that legislatures made a mistake in that repeal, the basic conclusions from the study are that the state has seen an increase in injury severity for motorcycles, a higher in-patient mortality for motorcyclists, and worse neurological damage for motorcyclists.

While those are all painful logical results, the numbers paint an even more grim picture.

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Hero Acquires Unfinished R&D from Erik Buell Racing

07/28/2015 @ 11:14 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

money-trap

Hero MotoCorp Ltd (HMCL) has filed paperwork with the Bombay Stock Exchange stating that its wholly-owned subsidiary, HMCL Americas, has entered into a settlement agreement with Erik Buell Racing, which sees the American arm of the Indian brand acquire “certain consulting project” from EBR for $2.8 million.

The filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange reads: “”As part of the settlement agreement, HMCL Americas Inc has agreed to acquire the ownership of certain tangible and intangible assets of EBR Entities, free and clear of all encumbrances, for a consideration of USD 2.8 million.”

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UC Berkeley Study Shows Lane-Splitting to Be Safe

06/03/2015 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

motorcycle-lane-splitting-filtering-sharing

The University of California Berkeley has finished its study of lane-splitting in California, and the results are encouraging for lane-splitting proponents.

Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013, including 997 in which the riders were splitting lanes at the time of the crash.

The big takeaway from this research is that when done reasonably, lane-splitting is just as safe as riding a motorcycle. As such, one of the more important insights found by Rice and his team was that motorcyclists can travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic with no statistical increase in crashing.

This study will be important for shaping the conversation about lane-splitting, not only in California, but throughout the entire United States. It’s no coincidence then that California’s current attempt to codify lane-splitting mirrors these findings from UC Berkeley.

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BMW Getting Closer to a Single-Cylinder 300cc Bike

05/20/2015 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

bmw-tvs-k03

Continued reports suggest that BMW is getting closer and closer to releasing a small-displacement motorcycle single-cylinder motorcycle (codenamed the K03), which is being co-developed with Indian brand TVS.

The machine is expected to be in the 250cc to 300cc range, be engineered by BMW Motorrad in Germany, but built by TVS in India.

Pictures of the test mule have been on the internet (see above), but the final design is said to be similar to the TVS Draken concept that we saw this time last year.

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california-highway-patrol-logo

The topic of lane-splitting is heating up in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted guidelines for the legal practice to its website, and then was forced to remove them after a formal complaint that the posted recommendations constituted the CHP making legal regulations.

Now finishing a year-long study regarding the safety of motorcycles splitting lanes in The Golden State, the CHP has found that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general, provided a rider doesn’t exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 mph.

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harley-davidson-female-motorcyclist

Months ago, while bouldering with my friend Erica, I asked her if she ever wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle; she did a little shoulder dance, scrunched her face and exclaimed: “@#$& yeah, I’ve always wanted to dress up in leathers and be a badass chick on a bike.”

I laughed at the time, thinking her sentiments sounded more performative than substantive, but a recently released report on research conducted by Kelton and commissioned by Harley-Davidson suggests that motorcycling could indeed be a critical lifestyle palliative (or amphetamine?) for women.

Boring statistics first: women now make up 12% of the riding population in the United States — up 30% over the previous decade.

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Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf?

08/05/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

I ride bikes for a living, in case you didn’t know this already. I ride more miles on two wheels in a year, than the average American does in their automobile (I put more four-wheel miles down a year than the average American does as well, if that gives you any idea how much of Asphalt & Rubber is written while on the road). With all this riding, I’ve become increasingly concerned over my hearing, as I’d like still to have it when I’m older. Thus for my own personal benefit, I’ve been trying out the different kinds of ear protection that are available to motorcyclists, as well as a variety of helmets from manufacturers (articles surely to ensue).

So when the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Bear in mind I’m a staunch believer in helmet laws and riding with a full-face helmet (my apologies to the Libertarians in the group), so when the study suggested that my two main concerns regarding my head may be at odds with each other, it piqued my interest.

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If I Were Testing the Waters on a New Motorcycle…

03/14/2011 @ 7:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Making a new motorcycle is a tricky business. Despite the image that motorcyclists are these rebels without a cause and offshoots from the so-called mainstream of society, the truth of the matter is that as a whole, motorcyclists are just about the most resistant group to change as you can find. When a manufacturer wants to release a new motorcycle, it has to take into account that if it strays too far away from what has been previously proscribed, the motorcycling community is likely going to hate it (or at least say it hates it).

This is why manufacturers now make bikes by committee, consult with focus groups/experts, and tease concepts (or spy shots of actual bikes). These processes give motorcycle manufacturers valuable feedback into how their product will be received in the marketplace, and this concept extends to markets outside of motorcycling. If I was a new manufacturer, and I was about to launch a whole new motorcycle, I’d be very careful on how I introduced the bike to the painfully orthodox members of the Church of Motorcycling.

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BRP Developing Hybrid Can-Am Spyder

01/06/2011 @ 10:47 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The Canucks are getting into the hybrid scene, as news from up north reveals that BRP, with help from the Canadian government, will develop a hybrid model of its Can-Am Spyder three-wheeler. Working alongside the Université de Sherbrooke, BRP is investing $5.1 million CAD ($5 million USD) into the school’s Centre de Technologies Avancees (CTA), while the Canadian government’s Automotive Partnership Canada program is matching funds to the tune of $6.2 million CAD ($6.1 million USD).

BRP and the researchers at Université de Sherbrooke will be building a ground-up hybrid system, since apparently the systems currently available for cars have proven to be inadequate for the confines of motorcycles and trikes. We guess they missed the product releases from MotoCzsyz (D1g1tal Dr1ve D1) and Mission Motors (MissionEVT), both of whom have developed their drive trains from electric motorcycles. More info after the jump, along with an obnoxiously French-Canadian video.

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Aprilia Halts RSV4 WSBK Development

09/15/2010 @ 3:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Aprilia is either confident or cocky, because according to MCN, the Italian manufacturer’s racing department has halted development on the 2010 World Superbike spec RSV4 Factory race bike. Comfortable with Max Biaggi’s 58 point lead over Leon Haslam and his Alstare Suzuki, Aprilia wants Biaggi to focus on racing with his current setup, rather than risk having a prototype part breaking, and costing the team and Biaggi the World Superbike Championship.

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