Guy Martin Racing A Mugen Electric Bike at Isle of Man TT

Guy Martin’s return to the road racing at the Isle of Man TT continues to draw big headlines, and while we already know that the Lincolnshire man would partner with John McGuinness on the factory Honda Racing team of this year’s TT, that’s not all. Today, we learn that Guy Martin will partner with John McGuinness on another team as well, and he will once again take the seat on an electric bike for the TT Zero class in the process. As such, Martin has been confirmed as Team Mugen’s second rider, replacing Bruce Anstey in the squad. Both McGuinness and Martin will race on the new Mugen Shinden Roku electric superbike – the sixth iteration of the Japanese outfits TT Zero racer – and they will be looking to break the 120 mph barrier for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT.

What the Sepang MotoGP Test Tells Us About Race Pace

What conclusions can we draw from the first MotoGP test of 2017 at Sepang? Well, it’s the first test of 2017, and the factories still have the best part of two months to refine their bikes before the season starts in earnest in Qatar. Any conclusions we draw are at risk of crashing headlong into reality at the end of March. But with all that data from the test available, it is hard to resist the temptation to dive into it and read the tea leaves. To make some sense of the timesheets from Sepang, I examined the lap times of the fastest thirteen riders at the end of Wednesday. The reason for selecting Wednesday was simple: as it was the last day of the test, the riders were all fully up to speed, and the teams were putting together the lessons they had learned on the first two days.

Piaggio Gita, An Autonomous Two-Wheeler for the Future

When you think of the Piaggio Group, in terms of its two-wheeled creations, your thoughts probably conjure up images of motorcycles made by Aprilia or Moto Guzzi, or maybe a scooter with a Vespa badge on it. Surely, the Gita is not what first comes first to your mind, but it might be the most impactful idea from the Italian brand to-date. Sure, the brightly colored self-balancing rolling cylinder doesn’t seem like much of a novel creation, even with its ability to follow its owner, or autonomously navigate a prescribed route. But then again, you have probably been carrying stuff around in our arms, or on your back, like a big sucker.

2018 KTM 790 Duke Spotted in the Wild

We know that we can expect a finalized version of the KTM 790 Duke at this year’s EICMA show in Milan, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the streetfighter model has been caught testing by spy photographers. The bike’s parallel-twin engine can clearly be spotted in the pictures, tipping us to its model, and many of the lines from the prototype machine remain, as further clues. Though, noticeable differences include a new tail section design, different exhaust, as well as a headlight. The headlight is clearly derived from KTM’s new design language, and its shape mimics what we’ve seen already added to the Duke, Super Duke, and Adventure lineup. The KTM 790 Duke prototype hinted that we would see a similar face in the new hoon-machine, so no surprises there.

Ducati’s 2017 World Superbike Team Debuts

Race teams continue to debut their 2017 liveries and riders, and this time around we feature the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike squad that will race in the World Superbike Championship. Chaz Davies of course returns to the team, and this season he will be joined by Marco Melandri. The duo will be an interesting pair to watch this season, with Davies holding onto his impressive form from the last-half of the 2016 season, and Melandri making his return to motorcycle racing, after sitting out last season. With 2017 to be the penultimate season for the Ducati Panigale R in the World Superbike Championship, the v-twin superbike has shown itself to be an extremely mature machine on the race track.

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.

LVMH to Acquire the Deus Ex Machina Brand?

12/02/2015 @ 11:34 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Like the word “cool” itself, it is hard to describe what exactly Deus ex Machina is, especially to the uninitiated. The motorcycle/surf lifestyle brand is 10 years old now, and will go down in moto-history as being partially responsible for the “post-authentic” motorcycle movement.

The easiest explanations is that the Deus ex Machina brand is known both for its two-wheeled creations, and also its destination stores in Sydney, Bali, Japan, Los Angeles, and Milan.

In talks now with L-Capital, the private equity arm of LVMH (which is better known for its Louis Vuitton, Moët, and Hennessy brands), Deus ex Machina looks to be the second major exit for its founder and majority shareholder Dare Jennings, who sold his Mambo brand to Gazal Corporation back in 1990.

Wells Fargo To Buy GE Capital’s Vendor Finance Businesses

10/13/2015 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Even if you’ve financed the purchase of a motorcycle recently, we doubt you noticed that GE Capital has removed itself from the vehicle lending business, but it was a big deal for dealers and manufacturers.

A major player in financing not only the inventory and flooring for dealers, lending money to smaller OEMs to create product and inventory, as well as helping consumers finance their expensive play toys, GE Capital has been one of the larger lenders in the motorcycle space for the past decade or so, and likely has helped you save a fraction of a percent or two on your lending rate.

That fraction of a percent though means that GE’s decision to get out of the automotive lending game has had serious ramifications in the two-wheeled world, even if it’s not the sexiest subject to talk about on a moto-news site.

This is why it’s a pretty big deal that Wells Fargo is poised to acquire GE Capital’s commercial distribution finance and vendor finance businesses, as well as some of GE’s corporate finance business, as it means another major lending body will service the motorcycle industry.

Motorcycle Industry Council Buys the AIMExpo

09/15/2015 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Interesting news, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), the American trade group that is comprised of most of the motorcycle manufacturers, has acquired the motorcycle group of Marketplace Events LLC. What this really means is that the MIC has bought the AIMExpo, America’s largest trade, consumer, and media event.

We say this news is interesting, because you don’t usually see trade groups like the MIC in the mergers and acquisition realm, though the acquisition makes sense from a promotional point-of-view.

For those who don’t know, the MIC serves the interests of the motorcycle industry as a whole in the United States, and thus there is a lot to be gained by the MIC also controlling arguably the most important expo event for the American motorcycle industry.

This likely means that we will see more US models debuting at the AIMExpo, giving the show a status similar to the EICMA show in Italy and the INTERMOT show in Germany.

Gas Gas Employees: “KTM, This is Not Your House”

07/30/2015 @ 1:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber regulars should be aware by now that Spanish trails/enduro manufacturer Gas Gas is in a bit of financial trouble, and is now up for liquidation. One of the suitors of Gas Gas is of course KTM, as the Austrian company is likely eager to add a robust trials machine to its lineup.

There’s a slight problem with that thought though: the Gas Gas employees are well aware of what happened to Husqvarna and its Italian employees, after KTM purchased the Swedish brand from BMW Motorrad, and moved Husky’s Italian operations to Austria.

We don’t think we need to parse too many words explaining the position of some Gas Gas employees, this video says it quite well enough. Watch it, after the jump.

India’s Royal Enfield Acquires the UK’s Harris Performance

05/13/2015 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Indian motorcycle brands getting involved with Western companies for R&D isn’t anything new, in fact the entire Erik Buell Racing story seems to center around that very issue.

So, it shouldn’t shock anyone to hear that the iconic Royal Enfield motorcycle brand has acquired famed British performance house Harris Performance.

“Royal Enfield is working on its new generation of products and platforms; to have the Harris Performance team dedicatedly working with us will clearly enhance our engineering and product design capabilities,” said Siddhartha Lal, CEO Royal Enfield.

China Set to Buy Pirelli for €7.1 Billion

03/23/2015 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) is set to buy into tire-maker Pirelli, with what is currently a €7.1 billion deal. The move would put the 143-year-old Italian company in Chinese ownership, with ChemChina being the majority and controlling shareholder.

ChemChina had planned to offer €15/share to existing Pirelli stock owners, but that number may have to be lifted after a recent rally in the stock’s price. Once the deal concludes though, it is expected that ChemChina will take Pirelli private once the buyout is complete.

The impetus for the buyout is that Pirelli’s knowledge making tires would be a huge asset to ChemChina’s current tire production, not to mention that Pirelli’s free production inventory could be used to make other ChemChina products.

The deal would also give Pirelli a strong footing in the massive Chinese tire market, a significant leg-up in Asia for the Italian brand over its other European competitors.

Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

01/15/2015 @ 4:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains.

This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

01/13/2015 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock.

Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati.

Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “we had a past experience of cross-marketing with Ducati that was promising, but the company was acquired by Audi and the experiment ended.”

“We now have a new partnership with MV Agusta, a very prestigious brand,” the Mercedes CEO continued. “Again, we have established a cross-branding strategy between AMG and MV Agusta and we believe that the two brands are complementary. However, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

11/04/2014 @ 5:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi.

Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself.

Mercedes-AMG Acquires 25% of MV Agusta

10/31/2014 @ 5:15 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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One of the worst-kept secrets in the motorcycle industry, Mercedes-AMG has now officially acquired a 25% stake in MV Agusta S.p.A. The news also sees Mercedes-AMG and MV Agusta signing a long-term partnership agreement, as well as collaboration on future sales and marketing efforts.

Neither Mercedes-AMG, nor MV Agusta, are talking the price of the 25% investment, though rumors peg the cost of the deal around €30 million — a very good valuation compared to the €747 million Audi paid for Ducati Motor Holding just two years ago. Also as a part of the agreement, Mercedes-AMG will appoint one member to MV Agusta’s board of directors.