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.

Watch the Ducati 1299 Superleggera Shred a Race Track

11/09/2016 @ 12:41 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1299 Superleggera is a truly amazing motorcycle. With its carbon fiber chassis, 215hp engine, and state-of-the-art electronics, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera represents everything that the Italian brand is capable of achieving within the superbike format.

More importantly though, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera represents all that the Italian brand can achieve, when it decides to do so. That’s an interesting point to remember with this limited edition machine, as you watch it rip around a race track.

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera’s creation doesn’t come about from some loophole in the rules to some racing organization. It doesn’t exist because it will an incredibly profitable endeavor for Borgo Panigale.

Instead, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera simply is because it can be. It is a line in the sand for Ducati, showing what the Italian brand is capable of creating. If this sounds like hyperbole, it should. We are off the charts now, and in new waters.

Vespa Elettrica – An Icon Goes Electric

11/08/2016 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When it comes to scooters, no name is better known than Vespa, as the iconic Italian brand is recognizable around the world, with 18 million scooters carrying the Vespa name in cities globally.

It is of note then that Vespa has jumped onto the electric bandwagon, and unveiled its first electric scooter this week at EICMA. As such, we get our first look today of the Vespa Elettrica, which will be for sale in the latter part of 2017.

Not quite ready for production at this time though, Vespa says that it will be working with leaders in the electric drivetrain business to develop the Elettrica, making the scooter shown at EICMA more of a concept than a finalized vehicle.

However, the Italian company promises that the Vespa Elettrica will continue to bring the attributes the brand is known best for – which in our mind hinges mostly on its classic Italian styling. To that goal, we say mission accomplished.

KTM 390 Duke Gets a Facelift for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The KTM 390 Duke has sold like hotcakes since its 2013 debut, and now the pint-sized street bike is getting a facelift for the 2017 model year.

As has been the case with many of KTM’s new model releases, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will get a similar kendo-styled LED headlight design, which we have already seen debut on the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the recently released KTM 1290 Adventure R.

Bodywork changes come to the 2017 KTM 390 Duke as well, which give the entry-level machine a very edgy look and feel. Other changes include an improved ride-by-wire throttle, a full-color TFT dash, and a rear subframe that now bolts directly onto the steel trellis chassis.

The new subframe also means that the seat design has been changed, and KTM has seen fit to adopt a larger 3.5-gallong fuel tank for the 390 Duke. There are new 43mm WP suspension forks to soak up the bumps, and also a 320mm front disc for better stopping power.

Overall, the changes address many of the complaints levied at the original KTM 390 Duke design, which really should be taken as a compliment since the original model was pretty good out of the box.

The new bike is quite the looker as well, so it looks like KTM has another hit on its hands.

The BMW R nineT Urban G/S Helps Us Remember When the Dakar Rally Still Raced to Dakar

11/08/2016 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Our Bothan Spies came through once again this EICMA season, bringing us news that the BMW Lac Rose Concept would enter production as the 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S motorcycle.

As the name implies, the Urban G/S is based off the BMW R nineT platform, which means that it uses the iconic 1,170cc, 110hp, air-cooled, boxer-twin engine as its base, and then builds out from there.

As such, the chassis is the same modular frame that powers the rest of the R nineT line, complete with telescoping fork suspension at the front, along with a 19″ wheel wire-spoked wheel in the front, and a 17″ wire-spoked wheel in the rear.

All of this means that the BMW R nineT is mostly an aesthetic exercise – but it is quite the exercise, if you want our opinion.

2017 BMW R1200GS Gets Upgrades, And a Little Rallye

11/08/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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As expected, the BMW R1200GS is getting some updates for the 2017 model year. Beyond the anticipated engine refresh for Euro4 compliance – which sees the 2017 BMW R1200GS continuing to make 125hp at 7,750 rpm, thanks to a new catalytic converter and modified ECU settings – other improvements have also been made to this iconic machine.

The changes run the gamut, and include visual changes to the bodywork, mechanical updates for better operation, ergonomic refinements to the controls, and electronic upgrades to the standard and optional equipment.

BMW Motorrad has also made several model variations available of the 2017 BMW R1200GS, shown here is the very tasty BMW R1200GS Rallye, which shows an off-road focus with its rally seat, sport windshield, radiator and frame guards, wide enduro foot pegs, and spoked wheels with optional studded tires.

The Energica Esse Esse 9 Concept Cannot Be Unseen

11/08/2016 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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When it comes to the technology that Energica uses to make its electric motorcycles, we can sing only strong praises. The Italian firm has one of the best electric motorcycle packages on the market.

However when it comes to more subjective matters, like the styling of their machines, we find Energica’s designs to be challenging to enjoy, if not sometimes impalpable.

The Energica Ego superbike and the Eva streetfighter are not the most beautiful machines we have ever seen, though their designs do grow on you over time.

We don’t think we will be making the same concessions about the Energica Esse Esse 9 concept though, which debuted at EICMA today.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 “Black Arrow” Gets Green-Lit

11/08/2016 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the yin, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s yang, with the Swedish “black arrow” providing a unique twist on the typical scrambler motorcycle.

Another model that is based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a bike we have seen for quite some time, and now it has finally been given the nod to become a production bike for the 2017 model year.

Like its “white arrow” compatriot, the Svartpilen 401 takes a modern approach to an old aesthetic, and creates something entirely new in the process.

Though Husqvarna is a name with deep off-road roots, we imagine the Svartpilen 401 is about as dual-sport capable as the next “scrambler” you’d find, though we should mention that the small-displacement machine does have some qualities that would lend to its success on down a fire road or two.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero Concept Is F’ing Gorgeous

11/08/2016 @ 8:08 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Anyone that reads enough Asphalt & Rubber should know that I don’t particularly shine to the café racer aesthetic. So knowing that upfront should add some gravitas to the statement that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero is blowing my mind right now.

Based on the same unassuming 373cc single-cylinder platform as the Husavarna Vitpilen 401 and Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 motorcycles, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero concept completes the post-authentic holy trinity of retro standards, scramblers, and café racers.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Is Finally a Production Model

11/08/2016 @ 7:48 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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We have known for quite some time that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 would debut at the 2016 EICMA show, with the Swedish brand teasing us with the pre-production model at last year’s gathering in Milan.

Since that time, we have seen numerous confirmations that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 would debut as a production model in 2017, and today we can finally tick off the box on that launch.

Based on the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 (Swedish for white arrow) takes a drastically different tack from its orange-clad sibling, as you can readily see.

The Honda CB1100 TR Concept Gives a Nod Towards Europe’s Flat Track Racing Fascination

11/08/2016 @ 6:08 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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The American Flat Track aesthetic is catching hold over in Europe. We can see evidence of such by the popularity of flat track racing for Europe’s top MotoGP athletes, the rise of the Spanish Superprestigio event in Barcelona, and with the concepts we are seeing come from the European divisions of motorcycle OEMs.

Add the Honda CB1100 TR concept to that pile of evidence, as it is one of two motorcycle concepts that Honda Motor Europe is debuting at the 2016 EICMA show (the other being the very tasty Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept).

Built off the Honda CB1100 street bike, the Honda CB1100 TR concept takes a motorcycle we otherwise would not be terribly interested in riding, and gives it a healthy dosage of sex appeal.

Go-fast parts come from Öhlins and Termignoni, with the #58 numberplate honoring the memory of Marco Simoncelli, who passed away five years ago, and whose passing is still deeply felt in Italy.