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.

Ducati Sales Down 7.4% Worldwide So Far In 2018

08/08/2018 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

More doom and gloom for the motorcycle industry, as Ducati Motor Holdings sales are slumping for the 2018 model year. Selling 32,250 motorcycles so far this year, the Italian brand is short 7.4% the volume it sold this time last year.

To translate unit sales into fiat currency, the 32,250 motorcycles sold equals €448 million in revenue going into Audi’s coffers. Of note, Ducati’s revenue contribution to Audi AG accounts for 1.4% of the automaker’s total revenue.

For the second quarter of this year, Ducati sales were down 8.9% compared to Q2 2017. This means that 20,319 Ducati motorcycles were sold in Q2 2018, compared to the 22,300 sold in Q2 2017.

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The second-quarter sales results from OEMs continue to roll in, and another brand is showing a decline, this time it is BMW Motorrad. Usually one of the stronger brands, in terms of yearly and quarterly growth, the Germans are reporting a 3.1% sales decline for Q2 2018.

In total, BMW Motorrad sold 51,117 units worldwide, compared to the 52,753 units it sold during the same time period last year. In terms of money, this sales drop means a corresponding 5.8% decline in revenue (€658 million) and a 6..8% decline in profits before tax (€174 million).

This is also translating into a 1.6% sales decline (by unit volume) for the first half of the year, with only 86,975 motorcycles and scooters sold to customers.  This has resulted in a 10.1% revenue drop (€1,182 million), and a profit decrease of 23.7% (€196 million).

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The American motorcycle industry continues to soften, as Harley-Davidson has reported its Q2 2018 sales were down 6.4% in the United States.

That loss translated into a noticeable drop in Harley-Davidson’s total sales, which were down 3.6% for Q2, though it should be noted that international sales were in fact up, 0.7% over the same time period.

This translates into 46,490 Harley-Davidson motorcycles sold in the USA for Q2, with 78,428 bikes sold in total around the world. For the first half of the year though, sales results for Harley-Davidson are looking even worse.

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Energica Motor Company S.p.A is reporting record sales results for the first-half of 2018, though the Italian brand is mum when it comes to disclosing actual sales numbers.

Thus making this a nebulous announcement, Energica says that its revenues have increased five-fold in the first half of 2018, compared to the same time period last year.

Sales are so good in fact, Energica says that the first six months of 2018 have already grossed twice as much as 2017 in its entirety.

With many doubting the sales efficacy of Energica and its three-bike lineup though, this news might not carry considerable weight. To its credit though, Energica has been making a strong sales push in 2018, thanks largely to its involvement in the MotoGP Championship.

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Episode 78 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we talk about an omnibus list of topics. 

As such, the show begins with some racing news, both for the Isle of Man TT and for the World Superbike Championship, with a conversation about Bosch’s safety thruster technology stuffed somewhere in-between those topics.

The conversation then turns to some timely news, namely the continued rumors that Honda is readying a V4 superbike, MV Agusta is building a Moto2 bike, Ducati will return to Pikes Peak, and Alta Motors entering the Erzberg Rodeo.

We then shift gears into a long conversation about the rising trend of motorcycle fatalities, when compared to total on-road vehicle deaths.

The show finishes with a look at how profitable halo superbikes can be for motorcycle manufacturers, and how that could be the future of sport bike sales.

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. 

We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: twoenthusiasts@gmail.com.

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Here is a common joke that you will often hear: "How do you make a small fortune in the motorcycle industry? Start with a large one." Well, the next time you hear the lead-up, here is a new punchline for you: "Sell a limited edition model."

Motorcycle manufacturers have been onto this gag for a while now, offering limited edition, numbered for collectors, pure unobtanium motorcycle models to the well-heeled masses.

There may not be that many people that can afford a motorcycle that costs as much as a modest house, but there enough of these people in the world that selling a couple hundred expensive superbikes a year is a pretty trivial feat - it helps too that many of these enthusiasts are return-customers too.

Take the case of Ducati, as our Bothan spies have provided us with some interesting information about the Borgo Panigale brand. Last year, the Italian company made more money on its special edition superbikes, than the regular models it sells.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #77 – Fifty Shades of BBQ

05/16/2018 @ 12:44 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 77 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we talk about our trip to Austin, Texas for the MotoGP race, as well as some news items we’ve missed in all our travels.

Most notably, we talk about the Krämer HKR EVO2 R track/race bike from Germany, which uses a 690cc single-cylinder engine from KTM inside a bespoke steel trellis frame.

The bike makes 80hp, inside a 280 lbs package, and has been quite the talk of our local road racing club. Once the drool has been mopped up, we change gears at look at what is going on inside the motorcycle industry.

As you can expect, it is not good news. But, the landscape is rapidly changing, and our conversation turns to how manufacturing is about to change dramatically for the motorcycle industry.

Somewhere along the way too, we talk about Erik Buell’s latest project. Overall though, the show is quite interesting and we think you will enjoy 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. 

We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: twoenthusiasts@gmail.com.

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Motorcycle Sales in Europe Show Strong Growth

05/10/2018 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Motorcycle sales in the United States might be tanking, but things are looking fairly positive across the pond in Europe, as the ACEM reports a 4.7% increase in motorcycle sales for Q1 2018, for a total of 203,853 units sold in the first three months of this year.

The increase in sales is due to key markets like France (+9.1%), Germany (+1.9%), and the UK (+7.4%) showing good growth, compared to Q1 2017.

However, not all the European countries are showing increases in motorcycle sales, with the Czech Republic (-17.3%), Poland (-28.7%), and Austria (-18.9%) pulling the sales growth figure down considerably.

Not all segments are growing too. While the big bikes are seeing sales increases, European sales for mopeds are down considerably for Q1 2018 (40.2%), to the tune of a 24,996 unit sales decline over last year.

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Harley-Davidson Sales Free Fall in Q1 2018

04/26/2018 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

After a dismal 2017, there was some hope at the start of 2018 that the US motorcycle industry would begin an upward climb. The industry seemed enthused and optimistic, though no one could pinpoint why they felt that way during our talks with executives and insiders.

Now, it seems that positive energy was simply that…nothing tangible, as the first results from Q1 2018 are beginning to trickle out of OEM headquarters. First up, Harley-Davidson.

Releasing its Q1 2018 report, Harley-Davidson is reporting a global decrease in sales to the tune of a 7.2% drop compared to its 2017 figures, which breaks down into a 12% drop for the US market, with the international market flat at 0.2% in positive growth.

Net income is down too for the Bar & Shield brand, with net income recorded at $174.8 million (on a revenue of $1.54 billion), which is down 6.2% when you compare it to the $186.4 million in net income from Q1 2017 (made from $1.50 billion in revenue).

The only silver lining for Harley-Davidson in this news is that the American brand isn’t doing as poorly as the US motorcycle market overall, which was down 11.1% in Q1 2018, for the over 600cc segments.

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Harley-Davidson Will Close Its Kansas City Plant

01/30/2018 @ 2:48 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The economic outlook for Harley-Davidson right now is not looking good. Just last year, the Bar & Shield brand cut 118 jobs from its plant in York, citing the need to cut production costs, and to reduce factory capacity so that it was more inline with consumer demand.

That demand has seemingly dropped even further though, as Harley-Davidson will cut 260 jobs from its production ranks, losing roughly 800 positions in Kansas City, but adding 450 positions back to its York facility, where it is consolidating.

The news comes as part of Harley-Davidson’s recounting of its rough go at 2017. The American brand saw its sales in the United States down 8.5% (down 6.7% worldwide), with the fourth quarter of the year taking a particular beating: down 11.1% in the USA (9.6% worldwide).

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