Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

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. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

LiFePO4 Starter Batteries – The Easiest Way to Shed Weight Off Your Motorcycle

01/23/2014 @ 3:39 pm, by Aakash Desai26 COMMENTS

LiFePO4 Starter Batteries   The Easiest Way to Shed Weight Off Your Motorcycle lipo4 battery review 635x476

There is an easy and quick way to lighten your bike, lower its center of gravity, and marginally improve its dynamic performance for $200 or less: the starter battery.

Lead-acid, absorbed gas mat, and gel batteries have been around for years now, and while they provide cheap, reliable, and robust performance, they are obtrusively heavy and large.

In terms of packaging and placement, most bikes have them mounted high and away from the center of gravity; basically, it’s like carrying around a brick at arm’s length all day.

Luckily, the market for starter batteries has been moving in the direction of new battery technologies with the latest iterations utilizing lithium iron phosphate chemistries.

These batteries are not plagued with the same issues that lithium ion batteries faced (read: exploding when cycled improperly), and are more environmentally friendly and theoretically last longer than the equivalent lead-acid or AGM battery.

We had two companies send us their most popular models for testing and we came away impressed with the weight savings, performance, and overall value that they had to offer.

Are Graphene Supercapacitors the Big Break for Electrics?

02/25/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Are Graphene Supercapacitors the Big Break for Electrics? graphene lattice 635x508

Many of the electric vehicle blogs that I follow are all buzzing right now over the idea of supercapacitors — well, more accurately, graphene-based supercapacitors, which could potentially solve a few of the issues that EV’s currently face with market adoption.

What’s the big deal? Well with batteries, one can store a great deal of energy in the cells, but the rate of discharge (and the rate of charging) is relatively limited. Capacitors on the other hand have the inverse problem, quick to charge and discharge, the amount of energy that they can hold however, is relatively small.

In theory, supercapacitors have the best qualities of both batteries and capacitors, featuring both high-energy capacities and quick discharge/recharge rates, and in this realm graphene is showing to have very promising results.

Basically a molecule-thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a lattice, until recently producing graphene has been a very laborious undertaking, and one that did not scale well for mass production. However, some clever scientists at UCLA have come up with a relatively cheap and easy way to produce graphene sheets, and the technology bodes well for making supercapacitors a more practical solution for electric vehicles.

Allowing vehicles to rapidly charge (as in within a few minutes, instead of hours), supercapacitors solve the great recharge-time issue with EV’s, and would potentially be on par with gasoline vehicles, if not quicker in this regard.

The down side is that graphene supercapacitors are currently about half as energy-dense as the current crop of lithium-ion batteries, which makes them physically cumbersome in applications like on a motorcycle.

Leaked: 2012 Zero Motorcycles Model Range Is Set to Debut Brammo Empulse Killer

11/06/2011 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Leaked: 2012 Zero Motorcycles Model Range Is Set to Debut Brammo Empulse Killer Zero Motorcycles 635x453

Our first proper leak ahead of the upcoming EICMA show in Milan is now officially in the bag, as Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word on Zero Motorcycles’ 2012 electric motorcycles. Completely revamping its model range, our sources tell us that the 2012 Zero Motorcycles will have all-new motors, battery packs, and bodywork. Talking in numbers, the battery pack options will be 6kWh & 9kWh, with prices expected to be $11,000 and $13,000 respectively. Perhaps the most compelling news (and there’s plenty to be compelled about with this news) is that Zero Motorcycles plans to have the new models under production in December, and on dealer floors by January.

Brammo Enertia Plus: The 80 Mile Commuter

10/19/2010 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Brammo Enertia Plus: The 80 Mile Commuter 2011 Brammo Enertia Plus 1 635x423

Brammo has another product announcement for us today, as the Oregon-based company is ready to reveal that it is adding the Brammo Enertia Plus to its 2011 line-up. Basically a Brammo Enertia with a power-pack similar to the Brammo Empulse 80, the Brammo Enertia Plus doubles the range of Brammo’s original model from 40 to 80 miles on a single charge.

This moves comes as Brammo attempts to address the “60-mile barrier” that Brammo believes is holding some customers back from pulling the trigger on an electric motorcycle. With 6.0 kWh on-board, the Brammo Enertia Plus still tips the scales at 324lbs like the original model, and pricing will start at $8,995 MSRP. More info, photos, and a video after the jump.

Electric Motorcycle Break-Even Calculator

08/02/2010 @ 7:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Electric Motorcycle Break Even Calculator Brammo Empulse flux capacitor 560x374

One of the big talking points for electric motorcycles is the subject of price/performance parity, i.e. when electric motorcycles will provide similar performance figures as internal combustion engines (ICE), for the same price. Performance can mean more than just raw power of course, with the cost of a motorcycle over its lifetime also being an important measure.

Considering that ICE motorcycles require more up-keep…and gasoline, the variable costs can stack up over time; whereas electric motorcycles require very little in additional costs, but are more money up-front (fixed costs). If that sounds like a lot of economics and math, it’s ok because a blogger by the name of Empulse Buyer has put together a handy break-even calculator that shows the total cost of owning electric and ICE motorcycles.

Hands on with the MotoCzysz Battery Packs

03/02/2010 @ 3:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Hands on with the MotoCzysz Battery Packs MotoCzysz E1pc battery packs 2 560x372

By now you’ve surely read about MotoCzysz’s new eDD and it’s “suitcase” chassis design. Recently Asphalt & Rubber got a chance to take a peak into the Portland, Oregon based company’s service bay and take a closer look at the 2009 E1pc D1g1tal Superbike, with a specific interest in its quick-release swappable batteries and unique chassis design. We’ll be covering these innovations in a two-part series, starting today with a never before seen look at the MotoCzysz battery packs. More and photos from Peter Lombardi Kustom Photography after the jump.