Remembering Nicky Hayden – Growing Up a Racer

Growing up in Kentucky, Nicky Hayden was a motorcycle racing protégé from an early age, but winning hasn’t come easy to the Hayden family. Over the last 15 years, Nicky Hayden has become one of the most recognisable faces in the motorcycle racing world. He’s morphed from the Kentucky Kid to an old hand of the paddock, and now the Kentucky Legend. But where did that legendary status come from? Hard work, dedication and an insatiable love of racing are the traits that have made Hayden famous, but the cornerstone has always been family and loyalty. “I grew up in Kentucky, where horse racing was really big, and my dad always jokes that with horses you’ve got to have the right bloodline,” said Hayden. “Both my mom and dad raced, so maybe he really was looking for a good bloodline!”

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.

BMW Tops Pied Piper Dealership Rankings

05/01/2017 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

For as long as we have covered the Pied Piper dealership rankings, one brand has stood above all others in customer satisfaction, and that brand has been Ducati.

But for the 2016 rankings, we have a new boss in town, as BMW dealerships have taken the top honors in the most recent Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index.

For those readers who aren’t that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of a dealership network experience, and acts as a measuring stick for how a brand is performing when it comes to interacting with potential customers.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences, along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #43 – A Flawed Victory

02/02/2017 @ 2:30 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Episode 43 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it focuses on the demise of Victory Motorcycles, which was recently shutdown by Polaris Industries. Of course, when we say that the show focuses on  just this one topic, we mean that in the Two Enthusiasts’ sense of the word.

As such, from the ashes of the Victory discussion spring forth a myriad of topics, the current landscape of the American motorcycle industry, the rise of a new generation of motorcyclist, the industry’s slow willingness to change, and how that all plays into the products and actions we seeing manufacturers making.

There is a lot to chew on in this 75-minute show, and we hope you find the episode as interesting as we do. 

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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Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

01/09/2017 @ 9:02 am, by Jensen Beeler64 COMMENTS

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand.

Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence.

Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand.

Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

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No Mandatory Noises for Electric Motorcycles, Yet…

11/28/2016 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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In a world with increasingly stringent emission and noise standards, vehicle OEMs are continuously tasked with making their automobiles and motorcycles quieter.

Such regulations have brought us some ridiculous creations in the motorcycle realm, especially for the Japanese and European market, but changes are afoot here in the United States as well.

Today, we bring you such news, but it’s probably not the news that you think. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just set a standard that will see electric automobiles getting louder, instead of quieter, in the name of vehicle safety.

But oddly enough, the new rule does not apply to electric motorcycles…for now.

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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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The following is an example of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

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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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #37 – Dustin Pipes

11/15/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast #37 – Dustin Pipes

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Episode 37 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast covers a bit of motorcycle happenings in the past few weeks, and starts off with a discussion about the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event in Southern California.

An interesting racing format for supercross fans, those in attendance were also treated to the Alta Motors Redshift MX electric dirt bike racing against its 250cc gas counterparts. It did quite well, with Josh Hill finishing fourth overall on the Alta.

Our conversation then turns to cruisers, as Quentin and I got some seat time on the Victory Octane. Neither of us are big fans of the cruiser motorcycle format, but had some interesting thoughts on the Octane, which is a pretty good bike for its $9,999 price tag.

We then turn our attention to the new bike season, with the debut of the Yamaha YZF-R6 at the AIMExpo, the leaked images of the now released Ducati 1299 Superleggera, and other machines.

It’s a classic Two Enthusiasts show, we think you will enjoy it. Also, if you’re in the Portland area on Friday, November 18th, you should attend our live show at the MotoCorsa dealership. We hope to see you there.

As always, 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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Up-Close with the 2016 Victory RR Electric Race Bike

06/10/2016 @ 3:37 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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It has been a while since we’ve done one our “up-close” sets of photos, so we sent our man Tony Goldsmith into the Victory Motorcycles tent at the Isle of Man TT, to get some snaps of the 2016 Victory RR electric race bike.

The Victory RR is an evolved version of the Brammo Empulse RR project, Brammo of course being one of inaugural participants in the Isle of Man TT’s first electric race, which was called at the time TTXGP.

2016 marks the second year in a row that Victory Motorcycles has competed at the Isle of Man, with William Dunlop taking his seat on the Victory RR this year, after missing 2015’s ride due to injury (Guy Martin filled in last year).

This year, it was another podium finish for Victory, and the team improved its result to a second-place finish, and more importantly increased their best lap time to 115.844 mph.

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Are You Ready for This Year’s Isle of Man TT?

06/01/2016 @ 1:26 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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This year marks the 97th running of the Isle of Man TT, and the two weeks of practice and racing sessions should be considered a “must attend” item on any motorcyclist’s bucket list.

The TT is a special event to attend, and I can tell you as a journalist that it is one of the more surreal motorcycle races to cover. First, there is the serenity in watching machines race on public roads, just inches sometimes from where you are sitting. There is no where else that gets you that close to the action.

And then, there is the pound of flesh that comes with the spectacle: the knowledge that statistically speaking, two racers will lose their lives over the course of the fortnight. It is sobering to know going into an event that you will likely report the death of an athlete.

Whether you are a fan of road racing or one of its detractors, I still feel that it should be compulsory to attend an Isle of Man TT before one can make comment one way or another on its continuance.

This isn’t just another motorcycle race, and this isn’t just another extreme sport; this isn’t life in the sand of the coliseum, but it’s also not going through life in the passenger seat.

There is something truly special about the Isle of Man TT, and until you experience it from beyond these words, they will just continue to seem hyperbolic.

It is easy to wax poetic about the TT – you will just have to attend one yourself to understand that. Until you do though, we aim to bring you the best Isle of Man TT coverage available over the next two weeks. So, here’s a primer of information, before we start cluttering your A&R news feed with TT postings.

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Victory RR Electric Race Bike Debuts for the Isle of Man TT

05/23/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Victory Motorcycles will return to the Isle of Man TT this year, competing again with its electric superbike platform, the Victory RR.

Evolving from the ashes of the Brammo Empulse RR project, the Victory RR continues the work on electric drivetrains for Brammo, which now develops the electric drivetrains that power the Victory Empulse TT electric street bike.

With an all-new machine for the 2016 racing season, the Victory RR is the top-pick to upset the recent domination we have seen from Team Mugen, though that will be a tall order, with Mugen updating its Shinden race bike this year as well.

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Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

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