US Motorcycle Sales Down in 2016, While UK Sales Are Up

For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated. Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015. Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations). We will have to wait for all the motorcycle OEMs to report their final quarter sales results to know who are the big winners and losers of the 2016 sales year. Though, we do know that KTM and BMW (up 5.9%) have shown signs of strong results internationally, whereas Duacti and Harley-Davidson are expected to post overall sales declines for 2016.

BMW R1200R Drag Bike by Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit has a way of inking motorcycle designs that we didn’t even know we wanted. First it was drawings of dustbin motorcycles, and now its his drag bike creation, which is based off the BMW R1200R. BMW’s boxer-twin engine doesn’t lend itself to being a great platform for drag racing, but you have to admit that this is a handsome ride, even if it’s all show and no go. With BMW filling every niche under the two-wheeled sun with its bikes though, we wouldn’t be that surprised to see the Germans follow-up with something similar to what the French designer has done here. After all, BMW Motorrad is rumored to be working on an XDiavel-killer, and then there’s…

MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market. Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia. According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles. “We are very excited to build a successful relationship with Urban Moto Group as a new partner also overseeing and developing the presence of MV Agusta in the USA market,” said Giovanni Castiglioni.

New Triumph Street Triple Debuts with 765cc Engine

As expected, today we get to see the 2017 Triumph Street Triple, with its new engine capacity: 765cc. The new engine displacement comes from both an increase in bore and stroke on the iconic three-cylinder motor, with Triumph using a new crank, pistons, and barrels in its construction. Three flavors of Triumph Street Triple will be available for 2017, with S, R, and RS-spec (above) machines being available, with obvious performance differences existing between the trim levels. As such, peak horsepower will be 113hp (S), 118hp (R), and 123hp (RS) – a notable boost over the 675cc machine’s 105hp. Meanwhile, peak torque has been improved from 50 lbs•ft, now to 53 lbs•ft (S) and 56 lbs•ft (R & RS). All the models tip the scales at 166kg (dry) according to Triumph, which is a 2kg reduction over the outgoing model.

Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand. Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence. Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand. Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

Triumph Set to Become the Official Moto2 Engine Supplier

The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017. There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found.

Walt Siegl’s Dakar Inspired Ducati Hypermotard

This Dakar Rally inspired Ducati Hypermotard is the latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, and it comes with some very appropriate timing. Not only are we full-swing into the 2017 Dakar Rally, but this 1980s-styled Ducati comes during a week where we have been talking about my not-so-secret love affair with the Ducati Hypermotard. Again, we see the air-cooled version of this street-going supermoto being used as a platform for a unique work, though this time Walt Siegl has been commissioned to make a bike that rolled right off the sand dunes of Africa. The exercise centers around mostly the restyling of the bodywork, to give us a little nostalgia for when the Dakar Rally was actually held in its namesake in Northern Africa.

Mike’s Carbon Fiber Motus MSTR

The Motus MSTR is a beast of a machine, it just oozes raw power and torque from its 1,650cc V4 engine; and to compliment all that grunt, the MSTR also comes tastefully wrapped in painted carbon fiber fairings. But when a composites expert wants one of your motorcycles, painting those carbon fiber body panels might not be the best of choices – it may even be an affront the Gods of Internal Combustion. When customer “Mike M.” wanted to see show off the weave of the Motus MSTR’s carbon fiber bodywork, he opted for his machine to come sans the livery. We think that was a pretty good choice, and the gods are surely pleased as well. So, to help get the New Year off to a proper start, and to return to the appreciation of all things two-wheeled, we give you Mike M.’s Motus MSTR motorcycle – how’s that for alliteration?

10 Things to Look Forward to in Motorcycle Racing for 2017

The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight. If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes. The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again. The single biggest change is to simplify the structure of the championship with the GNC1 class now just for twin-cylinder engined bikes, with the GNC2 class using the smaller singles.

Lies, Damned Lies, & The MIC’s Electric Range Estimates

06/13/2012 @ 5:58 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Rewind a few years ago in the electric segment of the motorcycle industry, and you found a landscape where manufacturers published wildly inaccurate numbers relating to speed, range, and power. The situation of over-promising and under-delivering was so bad, virtually any figure quoted, whether it was made with the best or worst intentions, was immediately called into question. The issue of course stemmed from the fact that OEMs were unable to deliver motorcycles with specifications that were remotely acceptable to a savvy motorcycle market. 20 mile ranges? 15hp available continuously? 60 mph top speeds if you’re downhill, tucked in, have a tailwind, and add five to the speedo’s reading? Yup, those were the good old days.

As the industry matured, so did our expectations, and it looked like some sanity was going to come to fruition as the MIC began pooling interest on developing a standard to rate the various performance specifications of electric motorcycles. An industry group setup to look after the best interests of the OEMs and other business in the motorcycle industry, you only need to follow the cash to see whose best interests are really being served by this group.

So, it should not surprise us then that the latest “standard” from the MIC, which establishes criterion on how the highway mileage of an electric motorcycle should be rated, is doing a downright scandelous disservice to consumers and the industry itself, as the proposed standard massively overrates the highway range of electric motorcycles.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

2012 Brammo Empulse R – Was It Worth the Wait?

05/09/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Launching last night in downtown Los Angeles, the 2012 Brammo Empulse R & 2013 Brammo Empulse broke their cover and officially debuted. Right off the bat from the designations, you can see that Brammo intends for the Empulse R to be a 2012 model, with the base model Emuplse coming out next year (more on that further down). As we expected, the Brammo Empulse R got quite the price bump after its 22-month marination, and will be $18,995 MSRP. Meanwhile when the Brammo Empulse becomes available next year, it will have a slightly more palatable $16,995 price tag.

Featuring a six-speed gearbox the Brammo Empulse R comes with a 54hp motor, 10.2 kWh battery pack (9.31 kWh nominal), and a bevy of brand-name components like Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks, a Sachs rear shock, and a few carbon pieces (read the full technical specifications here). Getting a revised look, the basic Empulse design is still there with some subtle changes (some for the better, some of the worse, in our humble opinion). Touting 56 highway miles and 120 city miles, the Empulse is going to suffer from the same range-limiting use that other electric bikes on the market are facing, though Brammo has thought to include J1772 Level 2 capability on the bike, which should make for some more rapid charges away from the mothership. We like that.

Photos: One Crashed 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/06/2012 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Retaining the same basic shape as last year’s bike, the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR is still a looker, due mainly to its very “Iconic” livery scheme. Keeping things an Oregonian affair, the addition of Portland-based Icon as a sponsor to the Brammo racing effort bodes well for the team, and brings more validity to the budding electric motorcycle racing scene. It’s just a shame the color scheme lasted all of a few hours for Team Icon Brammo at Sears Point Raceway this weekend.

Crashing in yesterday’s first TTXGP practice session, Steve Atlas was diagnosed with six fractured vertebrae. With a thrashed bike, the Brammo squad managed to cobble together the race bike again, and thanks to its busy black & white design, one could barely see the black gaffer tape and white electrical tape that was keeping things together. Now with 130 hp at the rear wheel, as well as 35 lbs less poundage on its bulk, the revised Empulse RR clearly has a problem with people named Steve, as the electric motorcycle once again bucked a rider off, also again in Turn 7 at Sears Point.

Highsiding Steve Rapp during Saturday’s qualifying session, it is not clear what caused the rear wheel of the Empulse RR to spool up, as Rapp said he was still straight up and down with the bike when he went airborn. With fluid dripping from the bike afterwards, and Rapp stopping a lap earlier or two earlier because of the bike cutting out, the Brammo team is surely still pouring over the data as we type. That effort will do little to change the fact that Rapp has likely broken his hand from the incident, and will be out of racing the rest of the weekend, much to the chagrin to the Attack Performance AMA Superbike team, which Rapp took to a sixth place finish that same day in Superbike Race 1.

As you can see from the photos after the jump, the damage does not look too extensive to the bike — though, our assessment is only skin deep. Two riders, two highsides, one corner…no bueno. Surely not the result the Ashland-based crew wanted before it launches the street-bike version of the Brammo Empulse on Tuesday next week, it’s not clear if Brammo will try and race tomorrow, or if they even can race sans a healthy rider who lapped during Saturday’s qualifying.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

Up-Close with the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/04/2012 @ 11:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brammo is back for electric motorcycle racing in the North American TTXGP series, as the Ashland-based company is set to defend it’s #1 plate this year with Steve Atlas on board ( Shelina Moreda is slated to join the team later in the season). Gaining a title sponsorship from Icon, Brammo arrived at Infineon Raceway Sears Point with some edgy graphics on the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR. Dropping roughly 35 lbs in weight, and gaining roughly 50hp over the bike they ran at last year’s season opener, Brammo is making most of those gains in its revised motor and power inverter for the newest Empulse RR.

The chassis is noticeably the same to last year’s bike, and sans some minor improvements here and there, the bike is technically very similar to last year’s lap-record setter. Unlike the Brammo Empulse R that will debut Tuesday next week, the Empulse RR does not use the six-speed IET gearbox. Brammo’s Brian Wismann explained to A&R that the high-voltage system that the Empulse RR uses does not benefit as much from the IET gearbox as the lower voltage street bike does, and thus hasn’t made it to the race bike…yet.

With these pictures taken just a couple hours before Steve Atlas had a highside crash at Sears Point, we imagine the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR doesn’t look as good as when we last saw it. Atlas took a pretty big hit, but is said to be ok (UPDATE: Atlas has six fractured vertebrae, and will be out for the weekend). The bike on the other hand…well, hopefully the Brammo crew can get it ready in time for this weekend’s two TTXGP races in wine country. More drool material after the jump.

Sticker Shock: Brammo Empulse R Priced at $20,000?

05/03/2012 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A Bothan spy just dropped off a note in the A&R inbox saying that the soon-to-be-released and recently-spotted Brammo Empulse R is to come with quite the price tag. Said to be priced just shy of $20,000, the R-spec Empulse would be commanding a $6,000 premium over the $14,000 MSRP that was quoted when the Brammo Empulse first hit the newswires 22 months ago. Considering the $13,995 price tag offered by the Zero S ZF9, the $20,000 figure being bantered about sounds very high to our ears, at least initially.

Spy Photos: Brammo Empulse R Caught in the Wild

05/01/2012 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Next week we will get to see the Brammo Empulse R officially and publicly unveiled in Los Angeles, but the eagle-eyed lens of Brenda Priddy & Co. and the pages of AutoMoto have caught the electric motorcycle during a movie shoot for its upcoming launch. With an “R” emblazoned on the side, you can be sure this Empulse R and not the base model Empulse we have looked at for the past 22 months, though the two bikes seem to share a bit of similarity.

Zero Is Working on a Brammo-Killer for 2013

04/20/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The nearly two-year wait for the Brammo Empulse is nearly over, as the Ashland-based company is set to debut the Brammo Empulse and Brammo Empulse R in Los Angeles (and online) May 8th. It should come as no surprise then that the A&R Bothan spy network is picking up on murmurings from Zero Motorcycles, and that the Californian company is working on an Empulse-killer for the 2013 model year.

Said to be building a proper electric sport bike, as well as suitable electric dirt bike package, Zero is seemingly finally on the verge of sunsetting its current motorcycle designs for more mature motorcycle offerings, and is putting companies like Brammo and BRD squarely in its sights.

2012 Brammo Empulse R Technical Specifications Revealed

04/18/2012 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Right on schedule, Brammo has released the technical specifications of the Brammo Empulse & Brammo Empulse R electric street bikes. Featuring a 54hp water-cooled Permanent Magnet AC (PMAC) motor, the Empulse will come with a 10 kWh (9.3 kWh nominal) battery pack, and of course the Oregonian company’s six-speed gearbox. With fully-adjustable Marzoochi front forks, a fully-adjustable Sachs rear shock, Brembo brakes, & Marchesini wheels, Brammo has included some nice kit on the Empulse, though the company hasn’t tipped off to what the “R” designation will mean for consumers.

Our best guess is the Brammo Empulse will be a naked version that is very similar to the Empulse prototype we’ve seen from day one, with some cosmetic updates of course, while the Brammo Empulse R will be a fully-faired sport bike that strikes a similar line to the Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike.

Asphalt & Rubber‘s Bothan spies report that the gearbox works incredibly well, allowing the Empulse to operate just like a standard street bike with shifting and gearing control. There’s still some debate as to whether electrics need trasmissions, let alone close-ratio six-speed transmissions, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.

Still not releasing any images of the new Empulse and Empulse R, Brammo will be taking the wraps off its latest bike on May 8th at an event to be held in Los Angeles. The unveiling will also be live-streamed on the web as well. Click after the jump for the full technical specifications of the 2012 Brammo Empulse R.