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.

A&R: Disqus Commenting Enabled

02/02/2015 @ 9:27 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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If you were on Asphalt & Rubber this weekend, you probably noticed that I switched the commenting system from WordPress’ basic system to Disqus’ more advanced commenting engine.

All previous comments should be imported now, and I hope there are relatively few bugs to reports. Hopefully this will mean a more engaged commenting section, since Disqus handles threaded comments more properly, and has already a good community following.

The slight downside is that some of our loyal commenters will have to register with the Disqus service, though that shouldn’t be too much of an issue since it is a very reputable one, and they won’t spam you once you register.

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Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

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Harley-Davidson Livewire Teaser Site Setup

06/18/2014 @ 6:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Three Harley-Davidson posts on Asphalt & Rubber in a single day? Surely the gods must be crazy. But like a Coke bottle to the head, things are about to get pretty out of control in the American motorcycle landscape in a big way. Setting up a dedicated launch site for its first electric motorcycle, Harley-Davidson isn’t tipping its hands too much officially, though in 11 hours we should know a lot more.

Usually with marketing lingo, you can see the hyperbole for what it is, but in the case of the Harley-Davidson Livewire, the Bar & Shield brand’s statement seems more like an honest assessment, rather than typical industry grandstanding:

“There are milestones that change history – those pivotal moments where the future is defined. This is one of them. Just like this country, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our 111 years. This is the next chapter of our journey. Whether you’re a rider or not, we’re inviting you to take part in the experience, and be there for this historic ride forward.”

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Yamaha YZF-R25 Launch Outed by Website Metadata

03/24/2014 @ 4:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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It is a brave new world when it comes to the internet and motorcycle companies, and I have no problem saying that Asphalt & Rubber has broken a number of stories simply because we bring a different set of skills to the table when it comes to sniffing out a lead: namely we’re a bunch of nerds, who spend far too much time with computers.

Motorcycle OEMs are still coming to grasp with this internet thing and how the opening of information has changed the landscape, and that is where Yamaha got itself into trouble today. Just hours ahead of their launch, we can confirm that Yamaha is ready to drop the Yamaha R25 250cc sport bike and the Yamaha Tricity three-wheel scooter.

This isn’t exactly new information — it has even been hotly tipped by a number of publications, including A&R — but where the information comes from certainly is: Yamaha’s website metadata.

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No TV for AMA Pro Road Racing, But Live Stream for Events

03/13/2014 @ 4:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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So you want to watch AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track this year, but because DMG screwed the pooch on securing any form of TV deal, you think you’re up an apex without a kneepuck, right? Not so fast there speed racer.

To its credit, the Daytona Motorsports Group has created its own live streaming site for AMA Pro Racing, IMSA, and NASCAR content that is not on television: FansChoice.tv, which will be your go-to destination for watching the Daytona 200 live this weekend.

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.motorcycles Domain Names Coming Soon

11/13/2013 @ 8:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Have you ever wanted a .motorcycle domain name for your website? Us neither, but if did, your chance is coming soon. Dealer software solutions group Dominon Powersports Solutions has been granted…ahem…dominion over the new .motorcycles domain, one of many new interest-specific domain names made available by ICANN.

Like the .xxx domain name that came before it, the ICANN hopes that it can corral specific interests into these domains, thereby relieve some of the overcrowding that is going on with the current top-level domains (.com, .net, .org, etc). Will it work? Maybe yes, maybe no.

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2011 Triumph Speed Triple Outed by Triumph

09/27/2010 @ 6:45 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Triumph is either really trying hard at leaking information about the 2011 Triumph Speed Triple and its other motorcycles ahead of their unveiling, or there is an intern in the UK right now whose job is about to go under the axe. Either way, the keen eyes at Visordown have spotted the fact that Triumph has outed the new Speed Triple in its online accessories catalog. While not showing the whole bike yet, we do see that the 2011 Triumph Speed Triple gets a much needed face lift, along with a substantially lighter frame. Could this be the street naked of 2011? We’re starting to think so.

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Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 on the Way

08/09/2010 @ 12:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

In what must be a case of an over-anxious webmaster, Aprilia’s dealer portal and service manual section now has links to manuals for Dorsoduro 1200 and Dorsoduro 1200 ABS models. Rumored to be in the works since the Dorsoduro 750 came out, the new 1200 will feature an 1197cc v-twin motor, and weigh 492lbs at the curb.

Power figures haven’t been quoted yet, but with the added displacement and increased compression, the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 should be able to handle that heft a bit better, but still would seem to pale in comparison to its rivals.

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Bandit Goes Mobile – BikeBandit Creates iPhone App

02/24/2010 @ 9:25 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Online parts and accessories supplier BikeBandit.com has unveiled its own iPhone application to help motorcyclists deck out themselves and their motorcycle in aftermarket goodness…all from the comfort of the palm of their hand. The app, which rev’s and vibrates when you open it, is complete with the exploded parts diagram that loyal BikeBandit shoppers have come to use and love.

If this post sounds like a thinly-veiled unsolicited advertisement for a fellow Penn State MBA (We are!..), you’d be right, but for the weekend wrencher who needs to remember how to put a clutch back together without hopping on a computer (and then order the bolt/nut/bracket they just lost) this is a well done, and possibly invaluable addition to your iPhone addiction.

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Kawasaki UK Launches Online Test-Ride Booking

02/16/2010 @ 9:02 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Kawasaki UK has announced that it has setup a new website where interested riders can sign up to test ride a Kawasaki street machine from their local dealer. The site, kawasakitestride.co.uk, let’s riders search for new and used green machines by location, and then schedule a test ride directly with the dealerships. While this doesn’t affect us American riders too much, it’s a sign that the at least some portion of the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are revaluating the motorcycle purchasing process.

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