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.”

California Close to Formalizing Legal Lane-Splitting, And What It Means for the Rest of the United States

05/29/2015 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Out of the 50 states in The Union, only California allows lane-splitting on public roads and highways. California’s position on lane-splitting has always been a bit nebulous though, falling only under the “safe and prudent” provision of the California Vehicle Code.

Several attempts to demystify California’s policy on lane-splitting have come and gone, including the very public kerfuffle with the California Highway Patrol’s riding “guidelines” for lane-splitting.

Most recent attempts to “legalize” lane-splitting have seen laws that were even more restrictive than the CHP’s frankly fair provisions, and created much ire in California’s vocal riding community.

On the table now though is Assembly Bill 51, which would actually grant more privileges than what the CHP deemed reasonable, and could set the tone for a larger national push of lane-splitting.

At the Seventh Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering

05/20/2015 @ 5:47 am, by Andrew Kohn6 COMMENTS

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What happens when you combine a ritzy golf course, an amazing collection of motorcycles, and an eclectic crowd? You get the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club.

Not your typical venue for a motorcycle gathering, the Quail brings together vintage, classic, and racing motorcycles in a setting that can only be described as “chic”.

This is definitely not your standard motorcycle show. The event pays tribute, not only to the significant motorcycles from our past, but also to the heroic racers who risked their lives on some of these machines.

What makes the Quail different from other motorcycle shows is the venue. The tickets aren’t cheap at $75, but admission includes a gourmet catered lunch, an opportunity to see a very diverse collection of motorcycles, and a chance to mix and mingle with a group of very proud and dedicated motorcycle owners.

Zero Motorcycles Gets $1M in Funding from California

05/14/2015 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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It’s been a while since we heard from Zero Motorcycles, but the Scotts Valley company continues to build and refine its electric motorcycle offering.

Helping to ensure that the electric motorcycle company continues to build upon its successes, the California Energy Commission (CEC) has issued a grant to Zero Motorcycles, to the tune of $1,009,220.

Zero’s investors will be matching that sum, and invest the combined $2 million in continued research, development, and assembly at the company’s California headquarters in Scotts Valley.

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

02/20/2015 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery.

I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst.

Our course was the infield section of AutoClub Speedway, which is very tight and short. And to add to the mix, we had intermittent light rain, which made half of the course fairly slippery.

Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler79 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is the bike from Bologna for 2015. Loyal Ducatisti might be more excited by the upgraded Ducati 1299 Panigale, or the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200, but in terms of company growth and the future of the Italian brand, the Ducati Scrambler takes center stage.

With four waves of 30+ journalists coming to Palm Springs for the international press launch, it’s clear that Ducati is casting a wide net with the Scrambler, especially with the number of non-industry publications present.

The term “lifestyle brand” is often a four-letter word in the motorcycle industry, of course ignoring the obvious that all of motorcycling is a lifestyle choice in the first world, but nonetheless the term has been used liberally with Ducati and the company’s racing heritage.

That being said, the Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even.

This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand.

Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

Is A Sea Change Coming to New-Rider Motorcycle Training?

12/03/2014 @ 5:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Movements in how California teaches would-be motorcyclists how to ride their bikes could signal a greater change nationwide, after Total Control Training ousted the long-time running MSF Basic RiderCourse for California’s Motorcyclist Safety Program (CSMP).

Total Control Training will take over the CSMP from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) starting January 1, 2015. The class is administered by the California Highway Patrol, and is a major gateway for new riders in the Golden State — roughly 65,000 new motorcyclists take the CSMP each year, at 120 sites.

Total Control Training is so far the only riding program that meets the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Model National Standards for Entry-Level Motorcycle Rider Training, and the group has won contracts to train new riders in the military.

CHP Study Finds Lane-Splitting No More Dangerous Than Just Riding a Motorcycle*

10/23/2014 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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The topic of lane-splitting is heating up in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted guidelines for the legal practice to its website, and then was forced to remove them after a formal complaint that the posted recommendations constituted the CHP making legal regulations.

Now finishing a year-long study regarding the safety of motorcycles splitting lanes in The Golden State, the CHP has found that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general, provided a rider doesn’t exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 mph.

WSBK: Laguna Seca Round Set for 2015 Calendar

10/22/2014 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The provisional calendar for the World Superbike Championship hasn’t been released yet, but American fans can start planning their pilgrimage to Laguna Seca, as the sole US round has secured its racing weekend. Hosting WSBK July 17th thru July 19th, Laguna Seca is once again host to the premier production racing class.

“We continue to be pleased with the growth of the fan base for the Series,” said Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO & General Manager Gill Campbell. “With the continuation of GEICO as title sponsor, it seems clear that the U.S. motorcycle industry also sees this as an important event in which to reach out to their enthusiasts.”

Yamaha FZ1 Fans Sleep Well, The Fazer Will Continue On

08/15/2014 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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When we saw that Yamaha had a sport-tourer based off the FZ-09, we had some worry for fans of the Yamaha FZ1. The venerable “Fazer” is certainly long in the tooth, and one doesn’t have to have an overly active imagination to see the FZ1 being replaced by an FZ-09 variant.

Applying for CARB certification this week though, Yamaha seems content to sell the four-cylinder Yamaha FZ1 within the borders of the Golden State in 2015, presumably along with the rest of the United States.

Google Wants Broader Autonomous Vehicle Law – Are You Ready for Riderless Motorcycles?

08/14/2014 @ 11:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.

Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.

“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”