Introducing the MOTR Podcast

Today we are announcing the third podcast that Asphalt & Rubber is involved with, the Motorcycles on the Record Podcast…or as we like to call it: the MOTR Podcast. The concept is pretty simple, as the MOTR Podcast is designed to compliment our popular Two Enthusiasts Podcast production. For those who don’t listen to it aleady, on the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, myself and co-host Quentin Wilson take an outside perspective on what is happening in the motorcycle industry. So, to contrast that with the MOTR Podcast, this new show will provide an insider’s view of what’s going on in motorcycles, with a focus on interviews and discussions with the industry’s leading figures.

Say Hello to the New Triumph Speed Triple RS

Back in 1994, Triumph created the streetfighter segment with the Speed Triple. But, the bike of 20 years ago is very different from the one debuting today, however the basic ethos remains: an aggressive sport bike for the city streets. In this time span though, the streetfighter segment has changed. Brands like KTM and Aprilia rule the roost, with high-horsepower bikes that come competently packed with high-tech electronics. Hoping to stay relevant with the same basic 1050cc platform, the British marque shows us now the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS – which boasts over 100 “new” parts just in the engine alone. The changes are subtle to the outgoing model though, but the highlights do stand out.

2018 Alta Motors Redshift MXR Officially Debuts – More Power, More Torque, Less Weight, and “Overclocking”

Here it is. After we broke the story that Alta Motors would be debuting an R-spec machine for its motocross line, we get our first glimpse of the 2018 Alta Motor Redshift MXR. A souped-up version of the 2018 model, which already gets some upgrades over last year’s bike, the Redshift MXR boasts some impressive features, in the pursuit of a no-compromises MX race bike. As such, Alta is quoting a stout 50hp and 42 lbs•ft of torque for the Redshift MXR, while the “wet” weight of the machine has been reduced by 8 lbs, to 259 lbs ready-to-ride. Recharge times have also been reduced, to just 1.5hrs on a 220v system – a savings of 30 minutes over the standard model.

Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle Coming in 18 Months

Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich dropped more than a few bombs during today’s earnings report, first saying that the Bar & Shield brand would close its Kansas City factory and consolidate production around its York, Pennsylvania plant. The American brand isn’t stopping the news there though. Offering a carrot of good tidings, Harley-Davidson reports that it will make its first production electric motorcycle within the next 18 months, effectively bringing its Livewire concept into production. The Livewire was a purpose-built concept done by Harley-Davidson in order to gauge the market reaction to the Bar & Shield brand going electric. Offering limited test rides, Harley-Davidson got positive responses to the Livewire experience, and the project has been internally green-lit ever since.

Harley-Davidson Will Close Its Kansas City Plant

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).

Hervé Poncharal Talks About Replacing Jonas Folger

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement. It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. “You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from,” he told us. “There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract.”

Honda and Forever 21 Create Clothing Line for Millennials

An interesting news item for you today, as Honda has teamed up with Forever 21 to bring young adults a unique motorcycle-branded line of clothing. The apparel line is inspired by Honda liveries from the 1980’s and 1990’s, though with a healthy dose of on-trend fashion, for both men and women. “Honda’s motorcycle racing success in the ’80s and ’90s was legendary, with our riders earning many championships in domestic and international series,” said Mike Snyder, Senior Manager of Honda Powersports Marketing. “While we’re focused on winning with our current teams, it’s fun to see our racing heritage honored by Forever 21 with a completely new audience.”

What You Need to Know About the Ducati Panigale V4 S

Is the Ducati Panigale V4 S the most anticipated motorcycle of 2018? If you are a diehard sport biker, the answer is probably yes, though a number of significant models are debuting this year, from several manufacturers. Still, in terms of ground-changing machines, the Panigale V4 has to rank high up on the list, as it is Ducati’s first proper four-cylinder motorcycle to go into mainstream production. I am writing to you today from Valencia, Spain – where we just finished a day of riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is better known as the final stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar. So, let me tell you what you need to know about Ducati’s new flagship motorcycle, the Panigale V4 S. 

What You Need to Know About the 2018 Honda Gold Wing

We just finished riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour in Austin, Texas – a day early I might add…because it’s snowing…in Texas. Still, clocking close to 200 miles on Honda’s sixth generation of this venerable touring machine has provided us with some interesting insights into the next Wing. A bike designed for long-distance riding, we have gathered our thoughts on the new Honda Gold Wing Tour, in a short and sweet format, so you can sound informed at your next bike night or internet forum. Overall, the all-new Honda Gold Wing Tour is a smart update to an iconic motorcycle, and it brings the Gold Wing name inline with the current state of technology. As we found on the road,  the new Gold Wing is an improvement over its predecessor, but that comes with a caveat or two.

Brembo Issues Statement on Its Master Cylinder Recall

Just over a week ago, we broke the news that a massive recall was coming to motorcycles equipped with a particular Brembo master cylinder. Since then, we have seen recall notices from Aprilia and Ducati (affecting roughly 10,000 motorcycles in the USA) with more recalls expected from other brands. Because recalls in the United States typically come from the motorcycle manufacturer and not the part supplier, mum was the word from the folks at Brembo, though there were a number of questions regarding these recalls that weren’t answered in the NHTSA documents. Today, Brembo has finally decided to speak about the recalls that are underway in the United States, and presumably will be occurring in other markets as well.

Get Ready for the 2018 Dakar Rally

12/04/2017 @ 3:24 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Track days are winding down, the new machines for next year have already been revealed, and the cold of winter is upon us. For the motorcycle industry, this is the low-point of the season.

There is something to look forward to in the off-season, however, and it’s the Dakar Rally.

In just about one month’s time, the world’s top off-road racers will take part in what is called the most grueling motorcycle race on the planet.

The 2018 Dakar Rally is the 40th edition of the iconic rally raid, and once again it will take place far from its namesake, with competitors racing through Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

This year’s route will take racers to the Pacific Ocean, through the Huacachina sand dunes, and beyond, until they finish in Córdoba.

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For the second year in a row, Chile will not feature as part of the Dakar Rally, as the Chilean government has opted not to host the iconic rally raid.

The recent decision comes from the Chamber of Deputies of Chile (the lower house of Chile’s bicameral Congress), which failed to get the needed majority vote to continue hosting the race.

With 42 votes in favor of hosting the Dakar Rally again, 33 against, and 17 abstentions, the failed proposal was opposed mostly on environmental grounds, as many deputies thought that the environmental impact of the race on Chile’s terrain has been too great.

This news is an about-face for the Dakar Rally, as the ASO (the organizers of the Dakar Rally) seemed to have all but confirmed Chile and Argentina for competition back in January of this year.

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“Have you ever been to Brazil?” is a common question amongst pale twenty-somethings that have been to the Brazillian Carnaval or New Year’s and come back with a few venereal diseases under their belt (so to speak). Brazil has much more to offer than hedonistic festivals and pristine beaches though.

It’s also home to nearly 200 million people, many of whom ride two wheelers everyday as the ideal form of personal transport. Italian brand, Benelli, has recently announced the opening of 12,500 square meters of additional factory space to the existing 100,000 square meters of space at the Bramont Motorcycle facility in Manaus.

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Inking a three-year deal with Dorna, Argentina will finally be a part of the MotoGP Championship starting next season. The news has been a long time coming, as the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit was originally slated to be a stop for MotoGP racers for the current season.

However, after some political strife caused by the Argentinian government nationalized Repsol YPF, the Spanish oil company’s Argentinian subsidiary, MotoGP cancelled the round just before the start of the 2013 MotoGP Championship.

Though the official reason for the cancellation was because of the Spanish government’s recommendation that its citizens not travel to the South American company, one only has to follow the money and spheres of influence within MotoGP to discern the real motivations behind the rounds cancellation.

With all this seemingly now in the past, MotoGP has concluded its first days of testing at Termas de Rio Hondo, with favorable reviews coming from the riders who were in attendance. It is worth noting though, that no riders from the Repsol Honda team were in attendance.

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In October of last year, we told you about how Ducati Motor Holding was directly taking over its operations in Brazil, and was forming a subsidiary in the South American country. Nine months later now, Ducati do Brasil is officially open for business, and the company’s first showroom floor is in the Avenida Faria Lima of São Paulo.

Helping Ducati side-step the onerous tariffs that come with the Brazil market, the Italian company is continuing its relationship with DAFRA, which runs a complete knock-down (CKD) assembly plant in Manaus, and builds Diavel and Monster 796 motorcycles on Ducati’s behalf.

Ducati do Brasil will be run by Managing Director Ricardo Susini, who will in-turn be assisted by Marco Truzzi as Service & After Sales Manager.

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Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012

01/28/2013 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Honda Motor Co. has reported its 2012 sales figures, with the Japanese behemoth showing a 5% sales drop for 2012, when compared to 2011. Selling 15.6 million units last year, Honda made progress in its home country Japan (+1%), as well as in North America (+25%) and Europe (+22%).

However in Honda’s most volume-heavy markets, the company suffered modest loses: South America (-14%), Asia (-5%), and China (-1%). With three out of four Honda motorcycles being sold in Asia, the region’s 5% dip essentially assured the Japanese company’s sales loss for the year.

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MotoGP: Argentinian GP To Be Canceled?

11/22/2012 @ 2:31 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Even before the Argentinian round of MotoGP had been officially added to the calendar, the race has been in doubt. The race, provisionally scheduled to take place on April 14th next year at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, has been caught in the crossfire between the Argentinian government and Repsol, over the former nationalizing Repsol YPF, the Argentinian arm of the Spanish petroleum giant.

Now, it looks as if the race the race is about to be canceled officially. According to Damià Aguilar, MotoGP reporter for Catalunya Radio, the Argentinian GP is to taken off the calendar, with an official announcement due to be made on Friday.

The cancellation of the race will leave a large gap between the first race of the season at Qatar, scheduled for March 31st, and the second race at Austin, Texas, booked three weeks later on April 21st.  To close up that gap, Qatar will be moved up a week and be held on April 7th instead, leaving just two weeks between the first two races.

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Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

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Official: MotoGP to Race in Argentina in 2013

09/13/2011 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It looks like the rumors were true, as Dorna announced today that the MotoGP World Championship will race in Argentina during the 2013 season. In an event attended by Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Dorna announced that MotoGP will come to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo track in the Santiago del Estero province for three years, starting in 2013 (subject to FIM homologation of course). Bringing premier motorcycle racing back to South America, Argentina is the second stop added so far to the 2013 calendar, as Austin, Texas will also host MotoGP starting in 2013.

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Argentina Wouldn’t Mind Hosting MotoGP

03/30/2011 @ 7:48 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

In the MotoGP World Championship there are 18 stops on the calendar at different race venues, and the series has a penchant for looking to expand its global reach. It seems just about every season there’s a bevy of rumors about possible venues the premier class of motorcycle racing could stop at, and 2011 season is no different.

While a Spanish GP is a sure-fire way of ensuring a massive attendance, there does seem to be some motivation in Dorna to spread the wealth as it were, and the Secretary of Tourism of Argentina has made it clear he’d like to see MotoGP racing back on the South American continent, preferably at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo just outside of San Juan.

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