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.

When I was a new rider, I cut my teeth on Pirelli Corsa tires (and later on the Pirelli Corsa III), and as I got into doing track days, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa became my tire of choice, both as a track tire and also as a street tire.

Almost as grippy as “the good stuff” and considerably cheaper than track-focused tires of the time, the Diablo Rosso Corsa hit that sweet spot of performance and price that my relatively unexperienced two-wheeled-self required.

Best of all, after a few track days, I could swap-out the rubber on my track bike for road duty, and thus had a nice supply of new rubber for my street biking needs.

As Asphalt & Rubber became a larger part of my life, this tire strategy had to give way to trying other brands and other tires, but I was recently intrigued when Pirelli told me that they were updating this stalwart in their sport bike tire lineup, as there isn’t a lineage of tire that I am more familiar with on the market.

Creating the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II tire for the 2018 model year, the Italian brand first invited A&R out to South Africa to see if this new incarnation of the Corsa lived up to the high-water mark its predecessor left behind. In short, it did.

But, only a couple days with a new tire can be tough to use to form an opinion. Not content to be so easily swayed, I have since spent a considerable amount of time on this new Pirelli.

Riding three more trackdays (on three different tracks), trying six bikes in total, and plowing down a thousand street miles later, I can honestly say that the Pirelli Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II might be the best sport bike tire on the market. Let me explain.

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The only motorcycle in MV Agusta’s lineup with a tall windscreen, bags, and a passenger seat designed for a human, it would be easy to call the Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso a sport-tourer or an adventure-sport, and indeed we do.

But for the Italian brand, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso is treated like a sport bike…a sport bike that one can ride all day, with bags and a pillion, if you so choose. 

It seems like a fine distinction, or perhaps even splitting hairs, but in reality it is a subtle nuance that shows how MV Agusta thinks of its business, what sort of motorcycles it wants to produce, and for which riders it has in mind when it produces them.

Riding the Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso near MV Agusta’s factory in Varese, Italy, Asphalt & Rubber got to see first-hand how this “sport bike with bags” works in the real world. 

And while the motorcycle looks no different from the last time we saw it, at the base model’s press launch in the South of France, there have been subtle changes to refine the Turismo Veloce, and to make it compliant with Euro4 regulations.

Getting now to see the premium “Lusso” trim level, as well as MV Agusta’s new “Smart Clutch System”, there was plenty to try on this motorcycle, and while we have a few criticisms, the result with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso is an ideal machine, if you could only own one motorcycle in your garage. Let me explain.

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Gone Riding: MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso SCS

06/10/2018 @ 10:30 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Out riding bikes, because that’s what we do, for this edition of “Gone Riding” it is the last three letters of the name “MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso 800 SCS” that you want to pay most attention to.

Those three letters stand for “smart clutch system” and they represent the new semi-auto clutch technology that MV Agusta has developed with Rekluse for its street-going motorcycles, and it is the main reason that we are in Varese today, riding the Italian brand’s up-spec sport-tourer.

The Lusso line of the Turismo Veloce 800 features integrated panniers and semi-active suspension over the base model, and of course the SCS in the name adds the new clutch design, with its attractive clear clutch cover. The special clutch also adds €700 to the price tag, over the regular Lusso.

We have already had some seat time on the base model, a few years ago, and found the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 to be a capable and fun sport bike that was comfortable for longer trips, though we would have liked a few more ponies coming out of the three-cylinder engine.

Getting to see this motorcycle again, our focus today will be on the changes that have been made with the new clutch and the move to Euro4 emission standards, as well as the more premium elements that come with the Lusso name.

Per our new review format, I will be giving you a live assessment of the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 SCS right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there he will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso SCS, before even my own proper review is posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the MV Agusta personnel on-hand. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #TurismoVeloceSCS

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“Ride the Revolution.” That’s Yamaha’s tag line for its latest sci-fi powersport creation— the three-wheel equipped NIKEN.

But the NIKEN is more than just a Transformer-esque motorcycle equipped with an extra wheel, instead, its engineered specifically to increase cornering grip, while maintaining an authentic leaning experience that only a motorcycle can provide.

Easier said than done, right? Well, after spending a day riding high in the Austrian Alps, we can see merit in Yamaha’s latest production concept.

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Some loyal A&R readers may already disappointingly know that Yamaha Motor USA has blacklisted Asphalt & Rubber from Yamaha events, which is a dumb decision in its own right, but when it comes to press launches, Yamaha Motor USA proved this week that it truly has its head completely up its own ass.

This is because the American subsidiary of the Japanese brand has embargoed reviews for the new Niken three-wheeler until next week – a full seven days after American journalists were in the Austria alps on the leaning multi-wheel vehicle.

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing (worthy of mentioning at least), except the embargo is region by region, and other English-speaking publications have been allowed to post their reviews as they write them (check VisordownMCN…even the horrid MoreBikes has a short review up).

This means you won’t read a review on the Yamaha Niken by us, or any other US publication, until next Monday…if you even bother reading them at that point. It almost makes you wonder why Yamaha Motor USA even bothered sending journalists to Europe in the first place, but I digress.

Of course, everyone is very curious to know how the Yamaha Niken handles on the road.

So far from what I’ve read coming from Europe, the three-wheeler comes across as being a bit complex, and a little vague in the front-end. The bike (if we can call it that) loses grip in the rear too often, possibly because of the adventure-touring tires it has mounted, and suffers in general from a lack of power and braking ability.

The Niken makes up for those negatives though with a front-end that is solidly planted to the ground, a bulk that doesn’t feel like a nearly 600 lbs bike at speed, and which turns into a fun ride when carving at speed. The European price-point seems fairly affordable as well.

Surmising from our colleagues across the pond, the Niken sounds like a intriguing touring option, though it seems to miss the boat when it comes to being a sport-bike platform, which is unfortunately how Yamaha has pitched this unique vehicle.

Of course, what you really want to know is whether the Yamaha Niken can wheelie, like any god-fearing motorcycle should. Thankfully Adam Waheed was in Austria to answer that exact question.

You can read Adam’s in depth review next Monday, along with the rest of the American journalists, but until then you should enjoy his behind-the-scenes videos, if you haven’t already. The answer to your most burning question is in Part III, around the 3:19 mark.

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Gone Riding: Yamaha Niken

05/21/2018 @ 7:13 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Today, we get ready to ride one of the most intriguing motorcycles that has ever been released – the Yamaha Niken. This leaning three-wheeler caught our attention last year, not only for its crazy looks, but also for its interesting tech.

It seems that all the manufacturers are exploring what the future holds for motorcycles, and some of that future involves a move away from the traditional two-wheeled format. As such, bikes like the Niken are an exploration of what is possible when you eschew established norms.

Using an advanced parallelogram front-end for its two forward wheels, the Niken is basically a Yamaha MT-09 from the headstock back, with the peppy three cylinder engine providing a familiar power plant to an otherwise unfamiliar machine.

To give us a sense of this radically new machine, we have sent motorcycling’s favorite wild man, Adam Waheed, to go ride the Yamaha Niken in Austria and report back to us.

Per our new review format, Adam will be giving you a live assessment of the Yamaha Niken right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there he will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Niken, before even Adam’s own proper review is posted. As always, if we don’t know an answer, we will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #Yamaha #Niken

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For years, Benelli has lain dormant, at least in the US market. That changes with the Chinese owned, but Italian-run, firm releasing the first of many street bikes for American consumption. It kicks things off with the 2018 Benelli TnT 135 ($2,499).

US importer, SSR Motorsports, hosted a quick day ride that began atop Southern California’s Ortega Highway, and concluded in Newport Beach.

Renowned for its twists and turns, Ortega Highway is an amusing, but also very high-traveled ribbon of blacktop that links the bustling inland and beach communities.

This stretch of roadway is known for accidents as well – would the tiny TnT be able to keep up with “always in a hurry” SoCal drivers?

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Gone Riding: In South Africa with Pirelli

04/10/2018 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Another day, another trip to Africa – the Asphalt & Rubber frequent flyer miles account is strong this year. As such, we are coming to you from South Africa, were we will be among the first to ride the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tire – the Italian company’s new high-performance street/track tire.

Replacing the original Diablo Rosso Corsa tire that debuted in 2010, the DRCII is a tire that is designed for modern high-performance motorcycles, many of which have advanced technologies like cornering ABS and IMU-powered traction control.

Pirelli says that the DRCII is the first multi-zone compound tire for the Italian brand, with two compounds and three zones on the front tire, and 3 compounds and five zones on the rear tire.

To take these tires for a spin (pardon the pun), Pirelli has two rides planned for us. For our street ride, we will be riding the roads near Kruger National Park (including the famous “Road 22”), which is the largest game reserve in Africa, and features perhaps the best riding in the country.

For the track portion, we will head to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, which once was a stop on the World Superbike calendar. Recently renovated, riding this famous track should be a real treat, and a great place to showcase the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires.

So with that said, feel free to pick my brain about the new Pirelli tires, the bikes I’ll be riding (check posts on social media), and what it is like to visit South Africa, Kruger National Park, and the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.

As always, you can follow our thoughts on the tires via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #PirelliNation, #PirelliMoto, #PirelliDiabloRossoCorsaII, & #RossoCorsa2.

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Gone Riding: Benelli TnT 135

04/05/2018 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We have covered extensively the rise of the small-displacement motorcycle segment here at Asphalt & Rubber, and today we are swinging a leg over a bike that is probably well off your radar, the Benelli TnT 135.

Benelli is better known for its larger sport bikes in the US market, with the Italian brand making an exodus from our two-wheeled lexicon at the turn of the century.

Now under ownership by China’s Qianjiang Group, Benelli is better known for its smaller motorcycles, which sell better in emerging markets than they do in the United States.

American importer SSR Motorsports is hoping to change that, and today we have sent motorcycling’s favorite wild man, Adam Waheed, to go ride the Benelli TnT 135 in SoCal and report back to us on this unique brand and motorcycle.

Per our new review format, Adam will be giving you a live assessment of the Benelli TnT 135 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there he will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the TnT 135, before even Adam’s own proper review is posted. As always, if we don’t know an answer, we will try to get a response from the Benelli personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #TnT135

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Gear Review: Shoei NEOTEC II Modular Helmet

04/02/2018 @ 3:30 pm, by Andrew KohnADD COMMENTS

So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat; I’ve always been a full-face helmet guy. The feeling of my cranium ensconced in layers of fiberglass and impact absorbing foam, with a solid chin-bar, has always provided me with a certain level of comfort and confidence while riding.

While some enjoy the wind in their face and bugs in their teeth, I truly prefer the soothing quietness and comfort that only a full-faced cocoon can provide.

Now don’t get me wrong, a full-face helmet is not the most convenient device once the wheels stop and the rest stop starts.

I’ve often envied my friends with their flip-front helmets, chatting easily with each other, having a drink without cramming a straw under their chin bar, and their ability to walk into a gas station, lid still on their head, without causing concerns about a robbery.

But I’ve always questioned the safety of a flip front helmet. I’m not a particularly handsome man, so the idea of the flip-front helmet failing during an accident, allowing my face to slide along the highway, thus making me even less handsome, was always unappealing. So what’s a man to do?

Well, it seems that the folks at Shoei were listening and invited me to the introduction of their NEOTEC II modular helmet.

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