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.

Ducati CEO Denies Scooter Plans

12/30/2013 @ 2:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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With the internet buzzing yet again about rumors of Ducati planning to build a scooter model, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali has also once again had to dismiss any truth to the matter. Talking to MCN about the matter, Domenicali said simply that “A scooter is not in the foreseeable future for Ducati.”

Domenicali went on to explain that small-displacement machines were not in the cards for Ducati and the brand’s foreseeable future, with the Italian motorcycle company electing instead to focus on niches with the larger displacement categories. It is no secret that Ducati is looking to introduce a scrambler-style model for the 2015 model year, and other models are presumably in the works as well.

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Epic Scooter Split — Best JCVD Parody Yet?

12/30/2013 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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After a week of watching Netflix with our loved ones, Asphalt & Rubber is finally back to the moto-news grind. If you’re anything like us, your egg is still a bit nogged, your pants don’t fit nearly as well as your pajamas did, and Monday came like the Queen of the Harpies to torment your soul in damnation. For those of you still on holiday, we hate / secretly envy you.

That’s ok though…we can do this. But, to get back into the spirit of things, here is something a little light-hearted: an epic parody, of Jean Claude Van Damme’s epic split. We have nothing but tremendous respect for JCVD and his magical inseam, but we have to give these bros some credit for their feat as well.

After all, this might end up being the one time that you want your friends to see you riding a scooter.

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The rumors about a Ducati Scooter for the next model year are hitting the internet hard lately, and that is perhaps unsurprising. Ducati’s sales stalled in the third quarter of this year, and the Italian motorcycle company at this point in time is simply trying to finish 2013 on par with its 2012 success.

There is also the fact that Audi AG now owns Ducati Motor Holding, and would like to see the ~44,000 unit company bump its figures into the six-figure territory, and help its German owner take a certain Bavarian brand head-on in the two and four-wheeled industries.

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Scooters aren’t really our thing here at Asphalt & Rubber — I mean sure they’re fun to ride, just as long as no one sees you on one, right? That’s the joke at least, but the reality is that the more people we gett on two-wheels in America, the better; and today’s maxi-scooters are essentially just really comfortable motorbikes anyways.

That’s what makes the 2014 Kawasaki J300 such a big announcement at the 2013 EICMA show, as Kawasaki is finally offering a scooter built for the European market, and is now offering its first maxi-scooter.

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Yamaha Hints at Upcoming Leaning Multi-Wheeler

07/08/2013 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Motor Co. recently had its investors meeting, and the Japanese company left a curious item for its second-to-last slide in the presentation: a leaning multi-wheeler. Unfortunately, the proposed machine doesn’t appear to be a production version of the Tesseract concept (shown above), but instead a new sporty three-wheeled scooter, to take on bikes like the unfortunately named Piaggio MP3.

Expected for the 2014 model year, we should see the Yamaha’s Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW) at the EICMA and Tokyo Motor Show later this year. No word yet on what will be beneath the fairings, but it is expected that the leaning trike will around 300cc to 400cc in displacement, and go head-to-head with the MP3 on price (insert 99¢ download joke here).

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KTM E-Speed – An Electric Scooter from Austria

03/31/2013 @ 11:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Not soon after KTM CEO Stefan Pierer dismissed the viability of electric motorcycles, and told Italian journalists that the Austrian company was scrapping its plans to build an electric dirt bike, the KTM Freeride E, KTM has announced the KTM E-Speed electric scooter study, with Pierer even making the bold statement that “we at KTM are completely convinced of electric mobility as a perfect complement to conventional powertrains.”

Debuting the machine at the Tokyo Motor Show, KTM has appropriately recycled the same battery and motor technologies from the Freeride E concept, and put them in the unimaginatively named E-Speed scooter. Using a liquid cooled 14.75 hp / 26.5 lbs•ft motor, KTM has opted for a larger 4.36 kWh battery pack for its metro-targeting scoot.

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A&R’s EICMA 2012 Best in Show: Vespa 946

11/16/2012 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

It is no easy feat in picking the very “best” from a wide array of motorcycles, like we have to do here with the 2012 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy. How do you compare an adventure-touring bike to a sport bike, and then declare one better than the other? As you can imagine, the comparison is very much an exercise in measuring apples to oranges.

If our metric of choice was simply based on how much buzz was generated here on Asphalt & Rubber, and on the various social media networks as a whole, then the clear winner would be the KTM 1290 Super Duke R Prototype. With a bored-out RC8 R motor that makes 180hp, the KTM surely performs as good as it look, and it looks quite delectable indeed.

Maybe the best bike of the show should go to the now water-cooled Ducati Hypermotard, or its touring variant the Ducati Hyperstrada. Doing away with the air-cooled DesmoDue design of Pierre Terblanche, the 2013 Hypers are a new chapter for Ducati, and just further proof that there are no sacred cows in the Borgo Panigale factory. Speaking of Panigales, we also have to consider the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, of course if that conversation is to occur, then we have to also include the Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS.

You see it is no easy feat to pick the “Best in Show” at EICMA, and in even our short thought-process above, there are names that are glaringly omitted. What makes the process possible however is when a new model comes along, and clearly outshines everything else — such is the case with the Vespa 946.

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What happens when you give Southern Californian bike builder Roland Sands few instructions beyond “build something cool”? and a 2012 Yamaha Tmax 530? You get one of the most pimped out Tmax scooters ever seen…and that is saying a lot. A popular choice with bike tuners and builders in both Europe and Japan, the Yamaha Tmax 530 hasn’t caught on here in the “scooters are for girls” United States of America.

Based around a 46hp 530cc parallel-twin motor, the Tmax 530 has some pep underneath its feet-forward design. Disguised as docile scooter, the Yamaha Tmax is no stranger to shedding its clothes for some performance persusasion, and Roland Sands has tapped into that vein of the Tmax here with his build, which will debut at EICMA tomorrow.

A “hypermodified” 2012 Yamaha Tmax 530, Sands has his usual touches in the machine, which is both a tasteful and raw representation of the looming scooter apocalypse. If Mad Max rode a scooter, this might be it. We love the tan leather seat with its subtle beige stitching, and of course the “braaaaaap” of the baffle-less exhaust. More photos after the jump.

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First Sketch of the Honda Scooter/Motorcycle Hybrid

09/25/2012 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

If you want some more proof that Honda’s emerging larger and more “torqueful” two-wheeler, which is based on the Mid Series, is going to be one-part scooter and one-part motorcycle, then look no further than this screen capture of the slide Honda CEO Takanobu Ito used at the company’s end of the fiscal-year event.

While only a very vague sketch of sweeping lines, the image shows a shape that looks striking similar to the Honda DN-01 crossover, which also featured a scooter/motorcycle hybrid design. While Ito-san only talked about the machine in generalities, we do know that Honda’s new motorcycle will be suitable for commuting and touring, built in Honda’s flagship Kumamoto plant, and debut in the North American market.

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Scoot: The Zipcar for Scooters

09/17/2012 @ 4:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

I am actually surprised this idea took this long to come to fruition, but someone has finally built a “Zipcar for scooters” business. For those not familiar with the idea, Scoot promises to offer urban commuters convenient access to its network of electric scooters that it has parked around in major metropolitan areas. From what we can gather, the idea is that members of the Scoot community pay a monthly fee to have access to these scooters (in addition to the hourly-usage rate), and can use the Scoot scooters around to run errands in cities like San Francisco.

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