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.

Triumph Sets All-Time Sales Record in North America

01/10/2017 @ 2:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Triumph Motorcycles is celebrating what it is calling its best sales year ever in North America, boasting a 21% gain on sales in 2016 over the previous year, and for the first time ever, clearing over 13,000 units sold.

“There is no greater testament to the tireless work and outstanding Brand representation of our dealer partners than seeing this kind of success on the sales floor,” said Matt Sheahan, COO of Triumph Motorcycles America.

“We want to thank our dealers for their efforts and our new customers for joining the Triumph Family. We are looking forward to riding with you in 2017!”

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MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

01/10/2017 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market.

Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia.

According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles.

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MV Agusta USA Set to Be Sold

01/09/2017 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

This week brings you more MV Agusta news, as Asphalt & Rubber has learned that MV Agusta USA is set to be sold in the coming days.

The rumored buyer is Joseph Elasmar, the Australian distributor for the Italian brand, who also imports a plethora of other small-volume brands, for the Australian market.

The move is part of an ongoing process to reorganize MV Agusta USA, in order for the Italian marque to re-enter more effectively into the American two-wheeled market.

An announcement of the deal’s signing is expected in the coming days.

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Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

12/29/2016 @ 3:04 pm, by Steve English9 COMMENTS

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. 

At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes.

The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again.

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Federal Tax Credits for Electric Motorcycles Set to Expire

12/28/2016 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

If you are in the market for an electric motorcycle (or any road-legal electric vehicle, for that matter), you have only a few more days to take advantage of the federal tax credit that comes with the purchase of these machines.

For potential electric motorcycle buyers, that means the 10% federal savings (some states offer their own incentives as well) will only be available for purchases made for the remaining four days of 2016.

Once January 1st, 2017 rolls up on the calendar, electric motorcycles will cost their full freight. How this will affect the space though, remains to be seen.

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2017 Honda CB1100 EX Coming to the USA

12/12/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The a “new” retro-styled Honda CB1100 debuted earlier this year in Europe with two flavors for the 2017 model year (along with one interesting concept bike), and now American Honda has confirmed that one of them will be coming to the United States for next year’s riding season.

The 2017 Honda CB1100 EX continues the push for “heritage” models by the Japanese brands, though the CB1100 is certainly no stranger to American Honda’s lineup.

Hoping to compete against the post-authentic models that we have seen from the European brand already, Honda’s horse in this race has a long pedigree that is steeped in classic/vintage motorcycle cues.

The air-cooled four-cylinder engine from the superbikes of yore gives a potent power supply to this reborn UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle), though subtle modern touches abound to the overall package.

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KTM Announces A New President for North America

12/05/2016 @ 5:52 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Big news from KTM, as the “Ready to Race” brand has appointed John Hinz as the new President of KTM North America, effective January 1st, 2017. This means that the buck will stop with Hinz, when it comes to KTM, Husqvarna, and WP Suspension brands in the United States and Canada. 

Hinz will take over from current President Jon-Erik Burleson, who will stay on through January 31st, in order to ensure a smooth transition. After that point in time, Burleson will shift to a brand ambassador role for Husqvarna.

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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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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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The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR Is Coming to the USA

11/13/2016 @ 11:57 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR is a homologation special, through and through, with only 1,000 units (upgraded from the 500 announced in Germany) set to go into production worldwide. And now today, we learn that this special snowflake will come to the US market, as a 2017 model.

For those that don’t remember the bike’s INTERMOT release, the ZX-10RR comes with a bevy of engine upgrades, as well as a special “Winter Test” livery, up-and-down quick-shifts, forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, and single-seat riding accommodations.

The 2017 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR won’t be cheap though, with US pricing set at $18,899 MSRP. After the jump, we have some lovely high-resolution photos of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR going around my home track, of Portland International Raceway.

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