Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Is Finally Ready

03/17/2017 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Every time I hear about how the Japanese brands are abandoning the 600cc sport bike market, I have a little chuckle with myself. Honda et al will tell you that the issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride supersports anymore.

However, I am a firm believer that the real issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride the same old supersports that the OEMs keep cookie-cuttering out of their factories every year. In my mind, the Vyrus 986 M2 proves this point.

I can think of no other machine that has generated a bigger response on Asphalt & Rubber than this 600cc Italian exotic. The sweet irony too is that it’s powered by a Honda CBR600RR engine.

The motorcycle industry keeps trying to sell supersports, pitches them as watered-down superbikes, and then acts surprised when the bikes don’t sell.

Instead, they should take a note from, Vyrus, which has managed to create an inline-four 600cc speed machine that you want so bad, that you would sell a kidney from your middle-child for it.

Carbon fiber fairings, hub-center steering, edgy design…this bike screams unique and special…and no one cares that it’s not a 1,000cc 200hp monster. 

In other news, the street bike version of the Vyrus 986 M2 is finally available for order. You can order one completed, or in kit form.

As with all things from the Italian factory, each bike is built bespoke to its owner’s wishes, though last we heard the Vyrus 986 M2 was fetching a reasonable €25,000 price tag. Strike that, Vyrus just sent us an updated price list: €37,940 for the Vyrus 986 M2, and €27,930 for the street bike kit.

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How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

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Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

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Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

11/18/2016 @ 10:55 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress.

It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design.

Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

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The Z800 Becomes the 2017 Kawasaki Z900

11/14/2016 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The naked sport bike segment continues to push into larger displacements, with the Kawasaki Z800 turning into the all-new 2017 Kawasaki Z900. With that change in number comes an obviously new 948cc inline-four engine, slung into a light-weight trellis frame, amongst other improvements.

For the marquee differences between the machines, the Kawasaki Z900 brings with it a 13hp power increase to 124hp, and a weight reduction of over 50 lbs, for a curb weight of 458 lbs (non-ABS).

For creature comforts, the 2017 Kawasaki Z900 comes with assist and slipper clutch, with optional ABS brakes. Priced at an aggressive $8,399 ($8,799 for the ABS model) though, that tradeoff comes from the Z900 being sans any advanced electronics and high-spec components.

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2017 Aprilia Shiver 900 – There’s No Replacement…

11/09/2016 @ 10:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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There is no replacement for displacement, as the old saying goes. That is the thought behind the 2017 Aprilia Shiver 900, as well. Like the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, which also debuted at EICMA, the Aprilia Shiver 900 gets an engine and electronics upgrade for the 2017 model year.

The new 896cc 90° v-twin engine is a stroked out version of the old 750cc motor (stroke increased from 56.4mm to 67.4mm), which allows Aprilia to meet Euro4 emission standards, while keeping performance specs more or less the same.

To that vein, peak horsepower is now 95hp at 8,750 rpm, while peak torque is 66 lbs•ft at 6,600 rpm. Other changes for the 2017 Aprilia Shiver 900 include a new smoother ride-by-wire throttle, three-level traction control, and dual-channel ABS brakes.

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KTM 390 Duke Gets a Facelift for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The KTM 390 Duke has sold like hotcakes since its 2013 debut, and now the pint-sized street bike is getting a facelift for the 2017 model year.

As has been the case with many of KTM’s new model releases, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will get a similar kendo-styled LED headlight design, which we have already seen debut on the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the recently released KTM 1290 Adventure R.

Bodywork changes come to the 2017 KTM 390 Duke as well, which give the entry-level machine a very edgy look and feel. Other changes include an improved ride-by-wire throttle, a full-color TFT dash, and a rear subframe that now bolts directly onto the steel trellis chassis.

The new subframe also means that the seat design has been changed, and KTM has seen fit to adopt a larger 3.5-gallong fuel tank for the 390 Duke. There are new 43mm WP suspension forks to soak up the bumps, and also a 320mm front disc for better stopping power.

Overall, the changes address many of the complaints levied at the original KTM 390 Duke design, which really should be taken as a compliment since the original model was pretty good out of the box.

The new bike is quite the looker as well, so it looks like KTM has another hit on its hands.

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KTM 790 Duke Prototype Debuts with Parallel-Twin Engine

11/08/2016 @ 5:21 am, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

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For KTM, the 2016 EICMA show is all about the Duke line of streetfighters. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R got a pretty sizable upgrade for 2017, the KTM 690 Duke received a facelift, and the KTM 390 Duke is now easily the best bike in its class.

The Austrians didn’t stop there though, they also gave us a taste of what is still to come for the Duke brand, teasing us with the KTM 790 Duke prototype.

Rumored heavily before the new bike season, this “KTM 800 Duke” features an 800cc parallel-twin engine, slapped into an upright motard-esque chassis.

The Kendo-styled LED headlight that’s finding its way into the entire KTM range features here as well, though that is hardly the most radical part of the 790 Duke’s design – checkout the undertail exhaust, which probably spit plums of fire before the lawyers got ahold of it.

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Ducati Monster 797 – The Air-Cooled Monster Returns

11/07/2016 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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The third amigo to Ducati’s air-cooled posse debuting at EICMA, the Ducati Monster 797 brings back Bologna’s 803cc two-valve engine to the Monster family.

The return of the Monster 797 also happens to add a third model to Ducati’s iconic street-focused Monster line, offering another affordable entry point into the Ducati brand for those who aren’t interested in the Italian company’s scrambler or café racer models.

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Ariel Ace R Set to Debut, Only 10 Will Be Made

11/01/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Remember the Ariel Ace? The VFR1200F-powered street bike from the revived British brand? The attractive street bike is about to get an even sportier sibling (sketched above), as the Ariel Ace R is set to debut at the NEC Motorcycle Live show, this November.

Unless you are well-coined, the NEC show might be your only chance to see an Ariel Ace R in the flesh, as the Brits plan on making only 10 examples of this R-spec machine.

Details are light at the moment, but Ariel does day that the Ace R will have a unique color scheme, and of course there will be better performance pieces and more power from the limited edition motorcycle.

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FGR Midalu 2500 V6 – The Boss Hoss of Sport Bikes

10/31/2016 @ 9:58 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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The FGR Midalu 2500 V6 has been in the motosphere for some time now, but finally the six-cylinder Czech-built motorcycle is available for purchase and going into production. Just in case you wanted a V6-powered street bike, right?

At 577 lbs…dry…it is east to dismiss the FGR Midalu 2500 V6 as being too heavy, and an exercise in excess. The sport bike world’s Boss Hoss, if you will.

But, we have to admit that there is something interesting about FGR’s creation, if for no other reason than the Czech company’s willingness to make something that is a standard deviation or two from the normal motorcycling fare.

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