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.

Triumph’s Bid to Take Over the World with Bajaj

08/09/2017 @ 11:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I'm not sure that the news of Triumph partnering with Bajaj quite made the impact on the motorcycle industry that it deserves.

Maybe it is because we have seen Triumph misstep with smaller displacement machines in the past (with an Indian partner, no less), or perhaps it is because the press release penned by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor was utterly incomprehensible, and devoid of any concrete facts.

Either way, the news is worth spilling some more pixels over, because there is a bit at stake in the coming years for the motorcycle OEMs, and Triumph just made a bid for sizable land grab for it.

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KTM Going After Southeast Asia with Philippines Plant

06/15/2017 @ 4:57 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on KTM Going After Southeast Asia with Philippines Plant

The ASEAN market is a huge concern right now in motorcycling, with Southeast Asia proving itself to be a growth center for the motorcycle industry. This year we have already seen Harley-Davidson opening a plant in Thailand, following a move Ducati made a couple years back.

Those moves come not only because of the large riding populations that these countries hold, but also because of the burdensome tariffs that these countries impose on motorcycles.

Following suit now is KTM, as the Austrian company has announced a new production plant in the Philippines, which will service that local market, and the ASEAN region.

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Harley-Davidson Opening Production Plant in Thailand

05/24/2017 @ 7:01 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Harley-Davidson Opening Production Plant in Thailand

Feeling the effects of international trade, and a future without the TPP, Harley-Davidson is reported by the New York Times to be opening a new factory in Thailand – country that places a 60% tariff on motorcycles in Harley-Davidson’s relevant market.

The news comes at the dismay from Harley-Davidson’s workforce, which has just seen its ranks diminished by 118 jobs at its York plant, in Pennsylvania. Despite this, Harley-Davidson says that the move is about growing sales abroad, not losing jobs in the United States.

“This is absolutely not about taking jobs out of the United States,” said Marc McAllister, the Managing Director of Harley-Davidson’s international sales, while talking to the NY Times. “This is about growing our business in Asia.”

Of course, if Harley-Davidson wasn’t having to side-step a 60% tariff to sell motorcycles in Thailand, one has to wonder if the Bar & Shield brand would be building a factory in Thailand in the first place…

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Yamaha YZF-R15 Gets Updated with Variable Valves

03/31/2017 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

What you see here is the very unassuming 2017 Yamaha YZF-R15, a 155cc single-cylinder sport bike that was designed with the Asian market in mind – as such, the bike will debut in Indonesia in April 2017, and the rest of the ASEAN market later this year.

Hold on before you click through though, as while the R15 might be too small by our Western market standards, the new Yamaha YZF-R15 packs some interesting technology, namely Yamaha’s variable valve actuation (VVA).

Because of this technology, Yamaha says that the 2017 model of the YZF-R15 achieves a 18% increase in power output (19hp in total), and a 4.7% increase in fuel efficiency, all from its 3% engine displacement increase and with the VVA technology.

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An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

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2017 Suzuki GSX-250R Debuts in China

10/27/2016 @ 10:30 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

2017-suzuki-gsx-250r-asia-05

Suzuki has finally gotten into the quarter-liter sport bike game, debuting the 2017 Suzuki GSX-250R in China this month. Before you get too excited, you should know that the GSX-250R is really just the Suzuki Inazuma in new clothing.

This means that the twin-cylinder six-speed street bike makes 25hp, 17 lbs•ft of torque, and weighs 392 lbs at the curb.

Not exactly mind-blowing stats, but Suzuki’s goal with the GSX-250R is to build a more practical and affordable machine, rather than a race bike as seen with the KTM RC390 and Honda CBR250RR. To that end, we’d say they accomplished that goal.

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Honda CBR250RR To Debut Next Week?

07/19/2016 @ 5:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

Honda-Light-Weight-Super-Sports-Concept

The reliable Indonesian news source TMC Blog is reporting that the 2017 Honda CBR250RR could debut next Monday. The news stems from Astra Honda Motor, the importer for Honda motorcycles in Indonesia, which sent out a press invite for a new Honda model that is to debut.

While an announcement like that could mean almost anything, the fact that Astra Honda Motor posted a teaser video of the Honda CBR250RR last week though gives us a pretty good hint as what to expect next week from Big Red.

TMC Blog reports that the Honda CBR250RR will sell for 60 million Indonesian rupiah, which at the current exchange rate is roughly $4,500 USD.

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UberMOTO – Uber with Motorcycles Hits Thailand

02/24/2016 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

UberMOTO

The idea of a motorcycle taxi sounds like a novelty in the Western World, but in Southeast Asia they are an effective and affordable way to cut through the massive traffic jams that occur in these developing countries.

It is only logical then that we see disruptive services appearing in this already lucrative space, so enter into the scheme UberMOTO.

The concept is as simple as the name, UberMOTO is just like Uber’s citizen-based taxi cab system, which allows you to hail a cab from the comfort of your smartphone, except instead of cars, it utilizing motorcycles.

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Honda EV-Cub Entering Mass Production in Two Years

02/24/2016 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

EV-Cub Concept

It is not with great surprise that we learn today that the Honda EV-Cub is coming to market within the next two years. The news comes from Honda President & CEO Takahiro Hachigo, who said as much during his press conference today in Japan.

The Honda EV-Cub is of course the electric version of Honda’s uber-popular Honda Super Cub motorcycle, which is the best selling motorcycle of all time (roughly 87 million units were sold in 2014 since its inception in 1958).

The Honda Super Cub looks also to be getting an overhaul, with a new concept design making the rounds last year at the major trade shows.

For the Honda EV-Cub though, the electric scooter is part of a larger problem in urban transportation, especially in Asian countries where the rapid rise in the local economies is seeing more and more people on the roadways.

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Yamaha MT-25 Debuts in Indonesia

06/06/2015 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Yamaha-MT-25-white

As expected, the Yamaha MT-25 naked street bike has broken cover in Indonesia, thus adding a fairingless option to Yamaha’s small-displacement lineup. As the name implies, the machines is powered by a 249cc parallel-twin engine, the same one found in the Yamaha YZF-R25 sport bike.

This means the Yamaha MT-25 is good for 35.5hp, and 16.7 lbs*ft of peak torque. The quarter-liter machine tips the scales at 363 lbs, just one kg lighter than the R25, and include a 3.7 gallon gas tank.

Made in Indonesia for most markets (we hear India will have local production), the MT-25 will go head-to-head against bikes the Honda CB300F and Suzuki GW250F, and provide a more upright alternative to the current crop of quarter-liter sport bikes.

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