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.

MotoGP Preview of the Americas GP

04/20/2017 @ 2:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

The most remarkable statistic about the Grand Prix of The Americas is surely this: Since his ascent to the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has won every single race he has competed in, at a circuit in the United States of America.

He won both US races during his two years in Moto2 as well. In fact, you have to go back to 2010, and Márquez’s final year in 125s to find the reigning world champion’s last defeat on US soil. America agrees with Marc Márquez, though that does not automatically include all Americans as well.

So after a decidedly mediocre start to his defense of the 2016 MotoGP title, the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas is the right place to get his season back on track. He comes to COTA knowing he can win, and knowing he can win on an uncompetitive machine.

That knowledge alone will be worth a tenth or two in Austin, perhaps enough to give him the edge over the all-conquering hero of the hour Maverick Viñales.

Why does COTA suit Márquez so well? It is really hard to say. Perhaps because it offers so many opportunities to make up time on the brakes. First, there’s the uphill monster of Turn 1, perhaps the weirdest first corner of the season (fittingly keeping Austin weird).

Then there’s Turn 11, the hard, sharp hairpin before the long back straight, at the end of which there is Turn 12, another spot requiring hard braking. And at the end of the lap, the two final corners, Turn 19 and Turn 20, which are shorter, but just as fierce.

Perhaps it’s not so much the braking, but more the strange section of combination corners stretching between Turn 2 and Turn 10. They are the kind of corners that reward the ability to turn on a dime, and the all-front-end, all-the-time Honda deals well with those.

Or perhaps the corners through the Stadium Section, and around the Grand Plaza.

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Harley-Davidson Q1 2017 Sales Down 4.2% Worldwide

04/18/2017 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Though a couple brands are showing gains, 2017 looks like it will be a tough year for the motorcycle industry – a statement supported by Harley-Davidson’s Q1 2017 sales figures, which are down 4.2% compared to last year, with 70,831 motorcycles sold to consumers.

That figure gets worse when you zero-in on Harley-Davidson’s domestic numbers, with the brand’s motorcycle sales in the United States down 5.7% for Q1 2017. Still, it is important to note that Harley-Davidson maintains a 51.3% marketshare figure in the 601cc-plus category, in the USA.

Compare that to Harley-Davidson’s progress abroad, where on its face things don’t seem to be going too poorly, with sales down only 1.2%.

However, it should be noted that shipments abroad are down considerably, 14.7% to be exact, a sign that bikes aren’t moving as quickly as expected in markets outside of the United States.

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Triumph Boasts Big Sales Increases for Q1 2017

04/07/2017 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Triumph Motorcycles America is reporting today a healthy 15% gain in its sales over Q1 2017, compared to the same time period from last year.

Triumph doesn’t breakout its sales figures by model, but we can expect that most of those gains come from the company’s “heritage” lineup, which has seen the addition of five new post-authentic motorcycles for the 2017 model year.

Of course, anyone who has followed the Triumph brand in the United States will greet this news with an ounce of skepticism, as the British marque has earned itself a reputation for being less than forthright with its sales figures.

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US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

04/05/2017 @ 10:06 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate.

Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan).

Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

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April Fools: Aprilia Engaging with Future Motorcyclists

04/01/2017 @ 12:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Get them while they’re young. It worked for the tobacco industry, it worked for Michael Jackson, and it is the new mantra for Aprilia Motorcycles, as the Italian marque is getting aggressive with its offerings for young and future motorcyclists.

Regular Asphalt & Rubber readers will know that we have talked at length about the motorcycle industry’s aging demographic, and that the younger generations are not filling in sales that are being left behind by Baby Boomer motorcyclists.

Getting Gen-X and Millennials on motorcycles has been a key part to every motorcycle brand’s marketing strategy, and now Aprilia is taking that move to its next logical level, and focusing on getting kids on bikes at as early of an age as possible.

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Gone Riding: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/22/2017 @ 8:30 am, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

Good morning from cloudy California. Today’s adventure takes us to one of my favorite race tracks, Thunderhill Raceway Park, to test the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6.

It should be an interesting day, namely since Northern California is getting some much-needed rain, although that makes it tough to test a 120hp+ supersport machine.

On second thought though, maybe these are ideal conditions for the “new” R6 – with its freshly added traction control, riding modes, and anti-locking brake system.

It’s this electronics suite that will be the focus of our testing today, considering that the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 keeps the same frame and engine as its predecessor.

Definitely more evolution than revolution, other changes to the R6 for 2017 include revised suspension and braking components, magnesium subframe, aluminum tank, and bodywork that improves aerodynamics.

Yamaha calls this its “4th Generation” YZF-R6 model, though the spec list is suggesting something closer to a “3.5 Generation” machine…maybe 3.75, if I have had my Mountain Dew this morning and am feeling generous.

Yamaha feels confident that the 2017 model is a “new” bike though, and they even brought a 2016 model to ride, in order to prove the point to us. So, that will certainly be interesting. It looks like Bridgestone W01 full-wet rain tires will be the order of the day, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that things don’t get too moist out there.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have. So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, before even my own proper review is posted.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at Thunderhill. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #RWorld #R6FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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What It Really Means for Harley-Davidson Now That Trump Has Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

03/07/2017 @ 9:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

Dirt Bikes Persona Non Grata at Pikes Peak

03/07/2017 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

Dirt-focused machines will no longer be welcomed at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), says the race organizers.

With the change in the road surface and race course, the 2017 running of the “Race to the Clouds” will be the last one where competitors can use machinery that was originally intended to operate off-road.

How PPHIC will determine what is a prohibited machine is not really clear, with the press release stating only that “vehicles that were originally designed with the intention of competing on Pikes Peak’s traditional dirt surface” would no longer be allowed to race, after this year’s event.

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New MV Agusta Brutale 800 Finally Coming to the USA

02/24/2017 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

It’s been over a year since MV Agusta introduced us to its revised and updated Brutale 800 – the three-cylinder sport bike getting the Euro4 treatment, a mild facelift, and a bevy of subtle technical changes.

The new MV Agusta Brutale 800 is a no excuses bike from the Italian manufacturer, and while moto-journalists like to joke that each new bike from MV Agusta is the “the best motorcycle yet” from the Italian brand, the new Brutale earns the title legitimately in our eyes.

Now, the machine is finally coming to US soil in the coming weeks, as a 2017 model, which means that American riders in the market for middleweight street bike will have a new brand to consider when mulling over their choice (the new Brutale 800 RR should be available later this summer t00).

Pricing on the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 will be set at an expensive but reachable $13,498 MSRP.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #44 – Michael Lock

02/20/2017 @ 10:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Episode 44 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is very special, because we have our very first guest on the show, Michael Lock from AMA Pro Racing.

Some of you might know Lock as the man behind the freshly rebranded American Flat Track series, and he has deep roots in the motorcycle industry, leading the US efforts for Ducati and Triumph, as well as working for Honda in the UK and across Europe.

As such, we had a very interesting time picking Lock’s brain about the current state of the US motorcycle industry, what is wrong with road racing, and what he is doing with flat track (with a bevy of side topics along the way, of course).

You will want to grab some provisions before hitting the play button on this show, because this one is super long (two hours) – we just didn’t want to cut out any of Lock’s insights.

Duration aside, we think you will find Lock’s comments and perspective to be very insightful, especially during these uncertain times for the motorcycle industry. 

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. Enjoy the show!

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