At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

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

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

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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.

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Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design

08/12/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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It seems Erik Buell Racing has been thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, as the company from East Troy had filed and received a patent for a hybrid drive motorcycle design.

There is nothing particularly astonishing about EBR’s patent, after all with hybrids being all the rage in the four-wheeled world, it was obviously only a matter of time before that same trend transitioned to motorcycles as well.

However, what is interesting about Erik Buell Racing’s patent is that it doesn’t set forth the Prius-inspired setup that you would expect, where an electric motor takes over or assists an internal combustion engine.

Instead, EBR’s setup is more like the Chevy Volt, with a small petrol-fueled generator being on-board to charge the bike’s batteries once they have been depleted by the electric motor, and thus killing the range anxiety that is prevalent in current EV bike designs.

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MotoGP: Hector Barbera Sentenced to Six Months in Jail for Assault on Girlfriend

05/10/2013 @ 12:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Reports are coming out from the Spanish media that Hector Barbera, of the Avintia Blusens MotoGP team, has been arrested for the assault and battery of a woman identified as his girlfriend. The incident took place after the Spanish GP, as Barbera and his girlfriend were staying in Jerez for a few extra days before heading to Le Mans for the French GP. Coming to blows during a heated argument, Barbera’s girlfriend was treated for bruises and contusions, and spent the night in the hospital.

Receiving a lightning-speed trial, both Barbera and his twenty-three-year-old girlfriend were found guilty of assault and battery against each other, with Hector being sentence to six months in jail, and his girlfriend receiving five months of jail time. The sentences can likely be commuted to community service time, according to the Spanish media.

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MotoGP: Disaster Avoided after Garage Fire Strikes Monster Yamaha Tech 3 at COTA

04/18/2013 @ 1:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you from the Grand Prix of the Americas this week, and things are already off to an interesting start. With a fire breaking out in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage during the night, the gear for the satellite Yamaha squad was flooded by the Circuit of the America’s fire suppression system, which also affected the garages for Yamaha Racing, LCR Honda, and Cardion AB.

Yamaha Racing Boss Lin Jarvis explained that while the small fire was quickly put out by COTA’s sprinklers, the team lost one of two servers and several computers to the blaze before it was extinguished. It is not anticipated that the fire will have any affect on Sunday’s race, though it could pose a problem for the teams, since they have a quick turnaround for the Jerez round.

Currently, the cause of the fire is presumed to be the lithium battery to Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s electric starter for the GP motorcycles, making this incident another eyebrow raising episode in the handling of high-tech battery packs, which have different tolerances and operating procedures than conventional battery pack types.

While certainly a setback to the start of the race weekend, the teams involved dodged a serious bullet by having the fire occur while MotoGP is at COTA, since the Texan track has a sophisticated fire prevention system in place.

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2013 Zero Motorcycles – 137 City Miles & 54 Horsepower

10/02/2012 @ 1:51 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles continues to upgrade its model line-up, with the 2013 Zero Motorcycles bikes getting a motor and battery upgrade. Offering bikes now in 8.5 & 11.4 kWh packages, Zero claims city mileage ranges to be 103 & 137 miles, respectively. The motors on the Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero MX have been bumped up to 54hp spec, the Zero XU retains its 27/28hp configuration, and the new Zero FX gets a 44hp lump.

The big addition to the family is the 2013 Zero FX (pictured above), which follows the lines of the Zero DS dual-sport, but uses the same chassis as found on the MX. The Zero FX appears to be the more off-road capable version of the Zero DS. While the DS will have 8.5 & 11.4 kWh options for its battery packs, the Zero FX will come with only 2.8 & 5.7 kWh unit options — the same as the Zero XU and Zero MX. Pricing on the Zero FX starts at $9,495.

The added battery and power boosts should help keep Zero Motorcycles in check with Brammo, which is set to finally bring its Brammo Empulse R street bike to market later this year. With 2013 rumored to have a “Brammo Killer” in the line-up, we’re not quite sure if the Zero S design lives up to the hype, even with its upgraded power train, but considering the sales figures between the two companies, we might be wrong on that assessment. Photos after the jump.

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Recall: Weatherproofing Lacking on 2012 Zero Motorcycles

07/12/2012 @ 5:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Things aren’t going so well for Zero Motorcycles, as the electric motorcycle manufacturer has submitted a second recall to the NHTSA, this one for the 2012 model line-up. Recalling 254 units because of insufficient weatherproofing, the motorcycles may be subject to an electrical short inside the battery management system (BMS) during wet conditions. A short-circuit could cause the electric motorcycle to cut power, which could potentially cause an accident (the recall notice from the NHTSA says nothing about possibility of electrocution).

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Recall: Kawasaki ZX-6R & ZX-10R

02/24/2012 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Kawasaki is recalling certain ZX-6R & ZX-10R motorcycles for a regulator/rectifier that may be improperly charging the motorcycle’s battery. Concerning Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R motorcycles from 2009-2012 and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R motorcycles from 2008-2011, the NHTSA is reporting that 20,544 motorcycles are affect by the recall, all of which were manufactured between December 14, 2007 and July 26, 2011.

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Clarian Labs Rotary Generator Hybrid Solution

06/16/2011 @ 7:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Clarian Labs, a Seattle-based tech startup that has been working on power source for the Department of Defense Humanoid Robot Program, has just pulled-out of stealth mode its rotary generator (read the patent here). A battery-sized hybrid generator solution, Clarian’s invention basically creates an electric power source that can be rapidly refueled by swapping out a fuel source pack (a host of fuels can be used in this regard including bio-fuels and hydrogen).

These fuels then in-turn power the rotary-piston motor, exactly as you’d find in any sort of Wankel-powered vehicle, except for one small detail: there’s no output shaft. Instead of mechanically driving the wheels of the vehicle, the unit uses rotational induction from the rotary-piston to create an electrical current, which would then power the electric motor of your choosing. In reality, the system isn’t that different from what is found on modern diesel locomotives (modern trains use a diesel motor as a generator which in-turn powers electric motors), except obviously more compact.

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Brammo Enertia Plus: The 80 Mile Commuter

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

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.

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Hands on with the MotoCzysz Battery Packs

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

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.

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