Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

Harley-Davidson Lost 36 Dealers in 2010 – More to Come

02/04/2011 @ 7:21 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has instructed its dealers not to talk about how sales have been throughout the recession, but the news that 36 dealerships have closed in the past year, and more closures are expected in 2011, speaks for itself on how sales have been. On a conference call with analysts CFO John Olin said, “This contraction was expected and in-line with our desire to modestly consolidate our U.S. dealer network in response to lower overall volume since the economic downturn took hold,” which is a very glossed over way of saying that American brand has become too bloated over the past years, and needs to go on a diet.

Harley-Davidson expects to ship between 221,000 & 228,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2011, which is up 8% over last year’s figure, but still pales in comparison to the numbers the Milwaukee brand was posting before the economic collapse (303,479 in 2008). Since 2006, sales at Harley-Davdison have continued to slide, but the most dramatic affect was in 2010, where sales were down 30% compared to before the recession (over 36% in the domestic market).

Photo of the Week: It’s Called Marlboro Ducati for a Reason

01/24/2011 @ 8:52 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

Editor’s note: Scott Jones will graciously be running a weekly series of his best photos from the AMA, WSBK, and MotoGP racing events here on Asphalt & Rubber. For more of his work, you can catch him at ScottJones.net.

Besides the Rossi-Ducati situation, how Casey Stoner will fare with HRC’s 2011 bike is on everyone’s mind, not least of all Jorge Lorenzo’s, who was just quoted as saying Stoner, not Rossi, would be his main competition in 2011. Stoner’s rookie MotoGP season showed flashes of brilliance, ruined repeatedly by a Michelin front tire that was not up to the demands Stoner placed on it.

Back on a Honda, Stoner will have the magnificent Bridgestone front tire without the Ducati’s temperament to manage at every corner, plus several years’ experience and a world title in his pocket since that rookie season. Given what Stoner got out of the Ducati, he should be very dangerous indeed on HRC’s final 800cc bike.”

BMW November Motorcycle Sales Up 7.8%

12/08/2010 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on BMW November Motorcycle Sales Up 7.8%

BMW Motorrad continues to shine in this down economy, as the company has reported a 7.8% worldwide sales increase compared to November of last year. For the rest of 2010, BMW’s sales have increased every month compared to last year’s figures, from January to November. In the same time period, BMW Motorrad sold 94,283 units internationally, up 15% from the 81,946 units sold during the same duration last year.

While it isn’t saying much that sales are improving over the devastating numbers from 2009, the motorcycle industry is still considered to be down by roughly 11%, which makes BMW still an outlier from the industry norm.

The Buell 1125CR That Never Was…

11/09/2010 @ 7:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When we talk about Buell motorcycles that fail to see the light of day, people are almost universally referring to the Buell Barracuda, the 1190cc successor to the 1125R series. Dubbed “The Buell We Wouldn’t Have to Make Excuses For”, the Barracuda lives on in many ways in the EBR 1190RR superbike, which we’ll see next year take its street-going form as the EBR 1190RS.

While the limited-production EBR 1190RS certainly is exciting to think about, and the Buellisti are already counting down the days until Erik Buell re-enters the street bike market, what has us chomping at the bit is the fact that in 2009 Spanish design firm Edda Design was commissioned by Buell to revamp the 1125CR street bike; and with the result they came up with, we wouldn’t mind seeing life breathed back into that project, just like the Barracuda.

Recall: BMW K1200/K1300

10/21/2010 @ 5:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

More bad news for BMW owners as the German manufacturer has also released a recall notice for a number of its K-bikes. A problem with the front-wheel bearing could lead the bearing’s corrosion, which would affect the movement of the linkage lever. BMW has not said how many motorcycles this recall will affect, but the issue spans the 2004 to 2010 model years of the following bikes: K1200GT, K1200R, K1200S, K1300GT, K1300R, & K1300S.

Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 16% in 2009

09/14/2010 @ 6:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle deaths in the United States dropped by 16% in 2009 compared to the number of deaths in 2008. With 4,462 deaths in 2009 and 5,312 deaths in 2008, this makes for the first time motorcycle death tolls have dropped in the past decade; however federal officials are reluctant to call this a victory in rider safety.

“While we are pleased that the number of motorcycling fatalities dropped dramatically in 2009, a one-year drop isn’t a trend. We need to determine why, and ensure that the decline continues,” said Ed Moreland, AMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations.

Casey Stoner Ducati 1198S Phillip Island Replica

08/23/2010 @ 6:57 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Missing three races because of a mystery illness, Casey Stoner put any critics he had from his sudden departure in 2009 to bed with his masterful race at Phillip Island. Racing in front of his home crowd, Stoner slid around the Australian course to a decisive victory, in what we called one of the top races of 2009.

Making the moment even more special for Australian fans, and Ducatisti alike, was the special race livery that Stoner ran for his home race. Hoping to commemorate that race and Stoner’s contributions to the Marlboro Ducati team (Stoner is leaving Ducati for HRC next year), a French Ducati dealership in Moulins-lès-Metz has decided to sell a limited number of Casey Stoner Ducati 1198S Phillip Island replicas.

Recall: 2009 & 2010 Kawasaki EX650R Ninja

07/28/2010 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Kawasaki is recalling a total of 676 EX650R motorcycles from 2009 and 2010 because of a right rear portion of the lower cowling that is interfering with operation of the rear brake foot pedal. Because of the issues, a rider might not be able to adequately apply braking force to the pedal, which could result in a crash.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Races of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Part of being a motorcycle enthusiast in the United States means waking up at odd hours to catch live coverage of your favorite racing series. Whether it be MotoGP, WSBK, or AMA, every racing Sunday is more like Easter Sunday as we hunt through the channel listings looking for our beloved sport on the television, sometimes finding the disappointment that the coverage has been pushed far back into the week as far as Wednesday.

For the motorcycle racing fanatics, this sort of Easter egg hunt is a ritual intrinsically tied to our love of two-wheeled racing. Thankfully, 2009 provided us some worthy racing treasures for all our efforts, and it is in this post we celebrate those moments.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Photos of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Keeping the theme going, motorcycling in 2009 was sometimes expressed better in a single frame, rather than in full-motion. With so many great photos coming in from a plethora of talented photographers, it’s hard to pick just a few that stand-out from the rest. But still, we gave it our best shot. Click past the jump for our picks.