Top 10 Motorcycle News Stories of 2011

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung
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top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

At, we concentrate on news and reviews of the hottest new bikes, but there are plenty of others stories to be told about the motorcycle world. As the year draws to a close, we now look back at some of the biggest news stories from 2011.

top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

Casey Stoner had a lot to prove this year, joining the Honda factory MotoGP team. Despite winning the 2007 MotoGP Championship with Ducati, Stoner’s critics were out in force, questioning his talent and passion, dismissing him as a petulant whiner and mocking the lactose intolerance that sidelined him for the stretch run of the 2009 season.

But the Australian responded in his first season with the Repsol Honda team by dominating the premiere class with 10 Grand Prix victories and another six podium appearances for his second MotoGP title. Even more impressive was how much he outclassed his own teammates Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso riding the same factory-level Honda RC212V machinery. This was a performance that solidified Stoner as one of GP’s great talents.

Now with 2012 about to dawn, Stoner looks to extend his dominance as MotoGP moves into its new 1000cc era. And as if wearing the #1 plate isn’t enough, Stoner will have some added motivation next season: his wife Adriana is pregnant with their first child.

Related Reading
2011 MotoGP Phillip Island Results

top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

Like many of us, Brian Case and Lee Conn dreamed of building their ultimate dream bike. Unlike the rest of us, Case and Conn actually built it. Some rough sketches on a napkin and a whole lot of gumption later, their dream is coming into fruition with their Motus MST sport-tourer.

The two friends established Motus in Birmingham, Ala., and teamed up with automotive performance experts Katech and race car builders Pratt & Miller to build their dream machine. With Katech’s help, Motus developed the KMV4 engine, a logitudinally-mounted V4 engine with gasoline direct injection – the first such application in a production motorcycle engine.

A prototype was unveiled at Daytona Bike Week before the Motus team began a cross-country tour on the Motus MST.

Motus tells us the MST is on schedule for a production launch in mid-2012. Expect news of pricing to come in the months ahead.

Related Reading
2012 Motus MST Preview
Motus MST Track Testing [Video]

top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s to never count out Erik Buell. It wasn’t too long ago that we watched a heart-breaking video of Buell discussing Harley-Davidson discontinuing Buell Motorcycles.

But Buell is back with Erik Buell Racing and the brand new 1190RS, the first new streetbike to bear Buell’s name since 2009. The 1190RS is powered by a Rotax-based 1190cc V-Twin engine claiming 175 hp at 9750 rpm and 97 ft-lb. at 9100rpm and a weight (sans fuel) of 389 pounds.

EBR is only building 100 units of the 1190RS at over $39,995 a pop, which may make it unattainable for most consumers. Fear not, however, as Erik Buell Racing is promising three upcoming models: the RX, SX and AX. Stay tuned for more news to come in 2012.

Related Reading
2011 Erik Buell Racing 1190RS Preview
Erik Buell Racing Reveals 1190RS Details, Hints at Three New Models

top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

Judging by their 2011 quarterly financial reports, it appears the European motorcycle manufacturers have been able to weather the storm of the rough economy and show substantial growth. BMW, Ducati, KTM, Piaggio and Triumph all reported increased sales this year.

BMW reported record motorcycle sales in the first and second quarters of 2011 while impressing with new products such as the K1600GT and K1600GTL, our picks for 2011 Motorcycle of the Year. Ducati reported a 63% year-on-year increase in U.S. sales over the first half of 2011 with its outside-the-box Diavel joining the Multistrada 1200 as some of Ducati’s strong sellers.

KTM is also having a banner year, surpassing its entire 2010 net profit in just the first three quarters of 2011, thanks in large part to its new entry-level Duke line (speaking of which, don’t forget to read our review of the Duke 200).

Piaggio reported a slight dip in profit but net sales are up with the final quarter still to be counted up. A new factory in Vietnam is paying off for Piaggio as sales continue to rise in Asia. Piaggio is continuing to advance its cause, introducing a new engine for Moto Guzzi’s V7 line and working on new fuel -efficient engines and hybrid powertrains.

Triumph reported increased sales and profit this year while introducing several key models including the recently-unveiled Tiger Explorer joining the Tiger 800 and 800XC in its adventure-touring lineup.

The European OEMs continue to stay on the gas while the Japanese draw back. The big question is the Euros can maintain their momentum in 2012 with Europe going through another financial crisis.

Related Reading
BMW Reports Q3 2011 Results
Ducati North America Reports Q2 2011 Results
Piaggio Reports Q3 2011 Results
Piaggio Announces 2011-2014 Business Plan – More Hybrids and Electric Models In the Pipeline
Triumph Reports 2011 Financial results

The motorcycle industry lost an icon this year in Claudio Castiglioni. During his 63 years, Castiglioni has owned brands such as Cagiva, Ducati, Husqvarna, Moto Morini and, most recently, MV Agusta.

Sadly, Castiglioni’s death came just as MV Agusta is in its best financial shape ever. Harley-Davidson bought in to MV in 2008, bringing in much-needed capital and an investment in R&D work on the exciting new three-cylinder F3 675, an updated F4, and wholesale revisions to its line of Brutale nakeds. Then Harley got cold feet and sold the company back to Castiglioni for a song.

Castiglioni leaves MV Agusta in the hands of his son, Giovanni who seems just as passionate about motorcycles as his father.

Related Reading
Giovanni Castiglioni Interview
Massimo Bordi Interview
MV Augusta President Claudio Castiglioni Dead at 64
An Open Letter from Giovanni Castiglioni on his father Claudio and MV Agusta

top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

It was a marketing dream come true. Racing legend Valentino Rossi joining another Italian icon, Ducati, to race for the MotoGP Championship. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, almost everything apparently.

As dominant as Casey Stoner was this year, the bigger story in 2011 was Rossi and his disappointing debut season with Ducati. The Italian god finished the season in very sub-par seventh place, but more stunningly, failed to win a single race for the first time in his Grand Prix racing career.

Rossi has shown the ability to adapt to new racebikes and win in the past. When the premiere class switched from 500cc to MotoGP in 2002, Rossi won 11 of 16 races to capture the title. A couple of years later when Rossi jumped to Yamaha, he won another championship. Unfortunately, the Doctor was unable to continue that magic on the Desmosedici.

Making matters worse, Ducati appears set to adopt a conventional twin-spar aluminum frame next season and drop its monocoque frame – the same design used in its new flagship 1199 Panigale superbike. D’oh!.

Will the lack of MotoGP success hurt the Panigale? Probably, to some degree, though the 1199 will likely still do very well. Just not as well as it would if Rossi was more competitive this year.

Indian Motorcycles bills itself as America’s oldest motorcycle brand, but in truth the brand has been rebooted more times than a Windows PC. The latest iteration was re-launched by a private-equity firm in 2006 but was unable to gain traction to be more than a small-volume boutique brand.

That may change now that Polaris Industries has scooped up the Indian Motorcycle Company, and moving production to Spirit Lake, Iowa, alongside Victory Motorcycles. Together, the two brands give Polaris a two-pronged assault on the heavyweight cruiser and tourer market.

2012 Indian Motorcycles are already rolling off the production line, but their designs are just a continuation of the old Indian’s. We’ll have to wait until 2013 or 2014 before we see a Polaris-designed Indian on the market

Related Reading
Polaris Acquires Indian Motorcycle
First Polaris-era 2012 Indian Motorcycle Rolls Off Spirit Lake Assembly Line

Running in fourth position on the second lap of the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, the #58 Gresini Honda of Marco Simoncelli lost traction and appeared to be headed into the gravel. Another mistake for the brash, aggressive Italian like those committed earlier in the season and made him the most criticized rider in the paddock.

Except this time, something unexpectedly tragic happened. Showing some of the courage that both inspired and inflamed MotoGP fans, Simoncelli held on as his Honda RC212V regained traction while in a lowside crash, sending him into the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi.

At 4:56 pm local time, medical personnel declared Simoncelli dead from severe trauma to his head, neck and chest. And the racing world lost its most colorful personality and a lion among racers.

Related Reading
2011 MotoGP Sepang Report
Marco Simoncelli – 58 Photographs of #58
Marco Simoncelli: Every Good Story Needs a Villain

It took a while but the government finally righted a wrong this year by exempting youth off-highway vehicles from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. When President Barack Obama signed bill H.R. 2715 in August, retailers were once again allowed to sell youth motorcycles and ATVs again.

The CPSIA was created in good faith, with the goal of protecting consumers, and especially children, from products containing harmful substances such as lead. Unfortunately, the CPSIA also effectively banned motorcycles and ATVs as they use components that contain lead, even though experts agreed it was highly unlikely for children to be exposed to the harmful substance.

Apparently it takes three years before the government realizes children are unlikely to suck on battery terminals and tire valve stems. Who knew?

Related Reading
Obama Signs Lead Ban Exemption Bill
Lead Ban Exemption for Youth OHV Passes House and Senate
Nancy Sabater Named 2011 AMA Motorcyclist of the Year

top 10 motorcycle news stories of 2011

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake shook Japan on March 11, sending giant tsunami waves towards the small nation. The earthquake, aftershocks and tsunamis claimed over 15,000 lives, injured thousands more and left countless homeless. The earthquake was the largest to ever hit Japan, and the nation continues its long road to recovery.

The earthquake’s effects on the motorcycle industry were small in comparison to the lives affected by the disaster, but the Big Four Japanese manufacturers, and numerous part suppliers and other Japanese companies in the industry, continue to feel the effects.

Honda was particularly affected, with at least one confirmed workplace fatality and a halt in production. Suzuki and Yamaha also idled their factories. Kawasaki was the least affected by the earthquake but still briefly stopped production.

Related Reading
Honda Reports Earthquake Fatality
Honda Halts Production Following Earthquake
Honda Re-Opening Japanese Motorcycle Plant
Suzuki Suspends Production After Earthquake
Kawasaki Factory Undamaged by Earthquake
Yamaha Closes Japanese Plants

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