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.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

Triumph Recalls Multiple Models for Faulty ECUs

12/09/2014 @ 12:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Triumph is recalling a number of its models for faulty engine control units (ECUs), which may improperly activate the bikes’ fuel injectors.

The recall affects the 2014 and 2015 model year Triumph Thunderbird, Thunderbird ABS, Tiger 800,Tiger 800 ABS, Thruxton, and Bonneville motorcycles manufactured between February 6, 2014 and August 7, 2014.

It’s not clear how many total motorcycles this recall affects, as Triumph lists the number currently as “0” with NHTSA, but given the number of models involved and the wide timeframe given on the production dates, we would expect a massive number of motorcycles to be involved.

Motus Sets Two Land Speed Records at Bonneville

10/03/2014 @ 4:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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This has not been a good year for speed freaks looking to set land speed records at Bonneville, as the Utah course has been subject to a series of storms, which have either left the salt flats flooded, or the salt conditions unsuitable for record-smashing.

That didn’t seem to stop Motus Motorcycles at the AMA-sanctioned 2014 Bonneville Speed Trials event, as the upstart motorcycle company walked away with two records, in the 1650cc P-PP  (165.81 mph) and (168.69 mph) 1650cc P-PG classes –set respectively by Motus founders Lee Conn and Brian Case.

Bonneville: Microclimate of the Salts Video

09/12/2014 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bonneville: Microclimate of the Salts Video

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It’s been a tough season on the Bonneville Salt Flats, as the weather has played havoc on the narrow window that land-speed record pursuers have to operate. One of the groups looking to make history is Triumph, which is looking to break the 400 mph mark on a motorcycle.

Campaigning the Triumph Castrol Rocket, with Jason DiSalvo at the helm, Triumph hoped to be speeding down the salt these past few weeks, but instead the team has been rained out of competition thus far.

There are still opportunities remaining this year for the Triumph Castrol Rocket squad, the next being the rescheduled Mike Cook’s Bonneville Shootout, which will take place on October 5th thru 10th, where the streamliners two Triumph Rocket III engines will roar again search for the outright two-wheeled record.

Bonneville Speed Week Cancelled on Account of Rain

08/11/2014 @ 4:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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It’s that time of year again, when the devote followers of velocity congregate at the alter of speed, and make their pilgrimage to the Bonneville Salt Flats. For the Southern California Timing Association though, this month’s Bonneville Speed Week was a wash, literally.

Getting heavy rain in the Salt Lake City area, the Bonneville Salt Flat course is under water this week, unfortunately causing the SCTA to cancel Speed Week, and what would have been the 100th anniversary of the first land speed record at the iconic venue.

Video: Setting a Land Speed Record on a Stock CBR600RR

01/06/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Bryan Delohery5 COMMENTS

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For SpeedWeek 2013, Shunji Yokokawa  set out on a journey to set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, but what he had not anticipated were the challenges that lay ahead.

Yokokawa had always dreamed of riding on the salt flats, but it was not until 2013 as Assistant Chief Engineer for Honda Japan, that he was afforded the opportunity to fulfill his dream, which he describes as “gliding” across the flats.

Assisted by a 2-man crew, Yokokawa traveled to Utah with a bone-stock 2013 Honda CBR600RR in hopes of adding yet another record to one of the many that Honda holds. The CBR was set up specifically with one goal in mind: to break a land speed record with a production class motorcycle, but as Yokokawa and his team wuold find out, there is a reason why so many fail.

Video: An Honest Review of the Triumph Bonneville

12/11/2013 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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Is there truth in motorcycle reviews? That seems to be a debate that crops up time and time again, as it is hard to believe the journalistic veracity of publications that are entirely dependent on the dollars that flow forth from the major motorcycle OEMs. The conflicts of interest are high, the deadlines are tight, and there is of course the small matter of people having a difference of opinions, which all leads to public mistrust.

So it is refreshing when we see a frank motorcycle review that is free from the entanglements of typical motorcycle assessments — you know, a real honest impression of how a motorcycle is built in the factory and rides on the open road.

With a review as honest as this about the Triumph Bonneville, our protagonist has almost assured himself of a short career in motorcycle journalism. Still, it certainly provides some worthwhile entertainment, as long as you are not easily offended. It is possibly not safe for work as well — not that you read A&R from the confines of your office chair of course.

“World’s Fastest” – Triumph’s 2013 Highlight Reel

10/25/2013 @ 2:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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It has been a busy year for Triumph, and the British marque wants you to know it. Thankfully, they have recapped everything into an awesome three-minute video. From Daytona to Bonneville, from flat track to road racing, and a little stunting sprinkled in for good measure, there are some good audio/video vibes waiting for you after the jump. Happy Friday!

“Castrol Rocket” Makes a Bid on the 400 MPH Mark

08/30/2013 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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With only minor modification, most new liter-bikes have no trouble reaching 200 mph, provided that you have a track long enough in front of you (don’t be an idiot and try to go that fast on the street). However, it is north of 200 mph where things start to get difficult. As we saw with the untimely passing of Bill Warner, reaching the 300 mph mark on a motorcycle is a serious matter, and it doesn’t take much for things to go horribly wrong.

It goes without saying then that Triumph and Jason DiSalvo’s attempt at 400 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats is a serious endeavor. Piloting the carbon/kevlar clad the Hot Rod Conspiracy/Carpenter Racing Castrol Rocket, DiSalvo will have two turbocharged Triumph Rocket III engines, good for a combined 1,000+ hp and 500 lbs•ft of torque when burning methanol, hurling him down the land speed record course on two wheels.

The self-proclaimed most advanced streamliner on the salt, the Castrol Rocket was built not only to break the outright AMA & FIM motorcycle land speed records of 376.156 mph (set in 2010 by Rocky Robinson on the Ack Attack streamliner), but the team also wants to go all the way past the 400 mph barrier. It’s a huge undertaking, and also a breathlessly beautiful machine. Check it out after the jump.

Video: Indian Motorcycle – The Spirit of Munro

07/09/2013 @ 5:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Indian Spirit of Munro, Daytona, FL, March 2013

Indian’s war machine continues to gain momentum, and the challenger to Harley-Davidson’s throne continues to impress. A new video comes our way, this time building on the heritage of the American brand through Burt Munro. One of just many stories around the historic marques, it probably helps that Burt Munro’s name was vaulted into the public consciousness by Hollywood’s The World’s Fastest Indian.

Building an all-metal tribute to Munro’s streamliner, we can find a few flaws that gnaw away at us as we watch this otherwise perfect video campaign (salt veterans know what we’re talking about). Still, Indian is bringing a good fight to Harley-Davidson’s doorstop with marketing promos like these. If you are in the legacy cruiser market, you might have a tougher decisions to make than usual when picking a favorite ride.

Video: Speed Week at Bonneville 2012

03/15/2013 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Video: Speed Week at Bonneville 2012

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Not that California has any real seasons to speak of, but spring has definitely arrived this week in San Francisco, with sun-filled days and warm nights again on the region’s menu. That means our brief winter hibernation from motorcycling  is about to end, as the revving motors of World Superbike at Phillip Island, AMA Pro Road Racing at Daytona, and MotoGP at Doha wake us from our slumber.

For Asphalt & Rubber, our events calendar for 2013 is marked full of great two-wheel escapades that we plan to attend, but at the top of the list, Speed Week at Bonneville ranks highest. Helping us get in the mood for man’s toil against the salt is this great video put together with scenes from last year’s running. Happy Friday people. Get out and ride.