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.

Ducati Scrambler Mega Gallery

12/13/2014 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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As with every international press launch from Ducati, there comes a bevy of photos from the Italian company’s latest machines — the Ducati Scrambler is no different.

If you didn’t read our review of the Ducati Scrambler, the tl;dr version boils down to the budget-minded machine being a good, though perhaps uninspiring, motorcycle for the money. However, just as important as the motorcycle is Ducati’s focus with the Scrambler Ducati brand, which is clearly aimed at catering to the “younger” hipster crowd…perhaps to a fault.

The key of course is the price, which starts at $8,500 for the red Scrambler Icon ($8,600 for the yellow model we tested), and goes on up to just below $10,000 for the Full Throttle, Classic, and Urban Enduro models.

The clear winner in the “scrambler” segment, if there is such a thing from the OEMs, the real trick with the Ducati Scrambler however will be with the Italian company’s marketing efforts, which we have already discussed ad nauseum.

Today, we are just here to show you some of the gorgeous photos that came about from Ducati’s recent trip to Palm Springs, and the press launch which is still actually underway at the time of this writing.

You will note that we have included the aftermarket and apparel photos, something we usually omit for these mega gallery postings. We figured they were just as integral to the bike’s look/image/aesthetic as the machine itself. You’ll also note there are photos from the press launch as well, to give you an idea of the event and a look behind the scenes.

Over 220 high-resolution photos await you after the jump. Enjoy!

Ducati Scrambler Will Be “Made in Thailand”

10/20/2014 @ 2:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Almost four years ago, we reported on Ducati opening a new assembly plant in Thailand. The move, which peeved Ducati’s factory workers, would see bikes destined for the Southeast Asian market assembled in the Thai plant, thus side-stepping many of the region’s aggressive tariffs on motorcycles.

Nearing the end of 2014 now, and our Bothan Spies report that the Ducati Scrambler models will be the first motorcycles assembled in Ducati’s Thai plant that will then be shipped to the world market (sans the European market, which will get bikes still from Bologna, according to Moto.it) — a move that comes right after Ducati reached a new contract with its workers and unions, which sees the factory employees working fewer hours at higher wages.

Up-Close with the Ducati Scrambler Icon

09/30/2014 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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The 2015 Ducati Scrambler has officially debuted at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany today, in case you missed the news. Before today though, Ducati North America invited us out to get a sneak peak of the new Scrambler Icon, along with a little time in a photo studio.

As a result, we have a bevy of our “up-close” photos for you, as well as some first impressions of the machine.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Ducati Scrambler is how bare bones the motorcycle is. Ducati did a good job of not over-thinking the Scrambler, leaving the model true to its name.

The dash is a tastefully small round unit, which sits nestled between the high and wide handlebars. This gives the rider a good open feeling from the seat, though the exposed wires and cables are a bit distracting, with nothing else to hide them.

Artfully exposed is the air-cooled v-twin DesmoDue engine, which is borrowed from the Monster 796, and thus is a confusing 803cc. The header shape should look familiar as well, as it mimics those found on the Ducati Diavel.

The seat seems practical for two-up riding, and the Scrambler Icon is fitted with passenger pegs. The cheapest ($8,595 for the yellow one) of Ducati’s four Scrambler variants, the Icon is perhaps the most vanilla model. That’s not a bad thing, but the other three models are clearly present to appeal to certain niche riders.

Ducati Scrambler – For New Riders, Off-Roaders, & Hipsters

09/30/2014 @ 9:36 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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The INTERMOT is in full-swing in Cologne, which means that Ducati is ready to drop its new Scrambler model on the world. A highly marketed machine, which has drawn attention from Ducati’s 1299 superbike and new Multistrada, the Ducati Scrambler is another brand extension for the Italian company.

A further foray into the off-road world, as well as a strong offering for new riders, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon in red is priced at $8,495 — making it the cheapest model in the Ducati lineup. The rest of the range is priced as follows: Icon Yellow $8,595, Full Throttle $9,995, Urban Enduro $9,995, & Classic $9,995.

The 2015 Ducati Scrambler comes in four models, which use the company’s 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine design, that is borrowed from the Monster 796. Power thus comes out at 75hp, with peak torque being 50 lbs•ft, but the focus on the Scrambler is really more about the aesthetic of the bike and experience on the machine.

First Official Photo of the Ducati Scrambler Revealed

09/29/2014 @ 8:20 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is set to debut tomorrow at the INTERMOT show, but Ducati has teased us with a quick photo of the upcoming model. Revealed in an animated-GIF, we can see the Ducati Scrambler from head-on, with its ringed LED marker light illuminated.

Above is the full-monty reveal photo, which unsurprisingly really doesn’t show us anything we haven’t already seen from Ducati. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow for all the details and photos, when Ducati finally ends this magic carpet ride. After the jump however is something worth a little bit more of our time, courtesy again of Ducati’s Tumblr blog.

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Bologna is readying to debut the Ducati Scrambler ahead of the INTERMOT show, in case you missed the bevy of “spy” photos, the World Ducati Week unveil to attendees, the dedicated Tumblr website, the Instagram account, and the claymation animated video series…

A more modern riff on the Ducati models of the 1960’s, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will unveil to the public in a couple weeks’ time, and the model is another motorcycle from Ducati that speaks to outside the core Ducatisti demographic. But, is the new Ducati Scrambler a bridge too far for the Italian brand?

I have talked before about Ducati’s process of brand extension as it related to the launch of the Ducati Diavel, as the iconic Italian brand moved past being a “sport bike brand” and into a robust full-feature motorcycle marque.

Since that writing, we have seen the breakdown of the Italian dream team that was Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse in MotoGP, the floundering of Ducati’s World Superbike efforts with the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike, a stagnation of the company’s yearly growth in terms of motorcycle sales volume, and the abandonment of Ducati’s iconic air-cooled motors (the Scrambler will likely be the last Desmo Due from Bologna).

Where Ducati Motor Holding crescendoed under the leadership of Gabriele del Torchio, growing constantly in unit sales, pushing into new market segments with ease, and debuting compelling new motorcycles year-after-year, this next stanza written by Claudio Domenicali has been more of a coda to Ducati’s symphony of progress.

Yet Another Ducati Scrambler Photo (Not Claymation)

08/05/2014 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Photos of the upcoming Ducati Scrambler seem to be a dime a dozen these days, especially after the still unreleased model was snapped by an attendee at the World Ducati Week 2014 gathering.

We have also seen the Scrambler testing at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory, in various states of build. And now today we get perhaps our best glimpse yet…and no, we’re not talking about the claymation video from Ducati’s marketing, which has been making the rounds this week already (an eyeroll for even having to say that).

Caught again at Borgo Panigale, this picture seems to be a ready-for-production version of the Ducati Scrambler, which we can expect to officially debut in a few months’ time.

It’s perhaps not worth rehashing everything we’ve said and speculated about this new model from Ducati, so we’ll leave you with this simple question: do you like?

Spy Photos: Ducati Scrambler Caught Testing

06/11/2014 @ 3:51 am, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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It seems that no sooner did Ducati tease us its upcoming Scrambler model, than the Italian motorcycle maker was busy sound-testing its latest machine for road homologation.

Luckily, we have some spy photos from that event, and not only do we get to see what the near-finished form of the Ducati Scrambler looks like, but we also get a glimpse into what has to be the most ridiculous looking tests we have ever seen.

Unless we missed the part where the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will operate as a submersible, in addition to its expect on/off-road capabilities, the photos attached here (two more after the jump) show the great lengths that manufacturers must go to in order to pass all the stringent government protocols for motorcycles.

Bologna Confirms 2015 Ducati Scrambler

06/09/2014 @ 8:42 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Ducati has officially acknowledged its well-known Scrambler model today, after giving its employees an sneak peak over the machine at Borgo Panigale. A 2015 model year machine, the Ducati Scrambler is being pitched as a fun motorcycle that hearkens back to the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Debuting in autumn of this year, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler is tipped to use one of the company’s smaller air-cooled v-twin motors. Said to have wide handlebars and off-road inklings, Ducati describes the machine as “simple” – perhaps signaling the company’s intention for an affordable two-wheeler that will appeal to both motorcycle enthusiasts, and those outside the industry, alike.

Are You The New Ducati Scrambler?

10/03/2013 @ 3:45 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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Back in July, Asphalt & Rubber broke the news that Ducati was working on a Scrambler model, which was based on the drawings originally inked by Pierre Terblanche during his tenure at the Italian company.

A month later we confirmed that report, noting the Ducati had trademarked the use of “Ducati Scrambler” for the American market, in relation to a model of motorcycle. Throughout all this time though, we had yet to see a photo of the expected 2015 model — that is, until now.