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.”

CCM Teases 600cc Single-Cylinder “Spitfire”

02/10/2017 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Clews Competition Machines is probably not one of the most well-known brands in the USA, though the British marque has a solid niche following around the world.

So, we should explain that CCM is best known for its single-cylinder four-stroke motorcycles, namely dirt bikes, though a number of interesting supermoto models wear the company’s monogram as well.

Right now, CCM is focused on selling its GP450 Adventure model, which takes a repurposed Husqvarna 449 engine, and wraps it in an aluminum chassis that’s built with long-distance ADV riding in mind.

CCM is looking to get back into road bikes though, and has begun teasing a new model. Named the Spitfire, this street bike has a 600cc thumper at its core and a chassis that is a lot more “roadster” than what we have previously seen from this rebellious band of Brits.

Walt Siegl’s Dakar Inspired Ducati Hypermotard

01/06/2017 @ 2:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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.

More importantly though, we can see the continuation of the trend, where designers draw upon the awkward time period that is the 1980s. The mash-up of modern machine with a style from 30+ years ago is certainly captivating. We think you will enjoy it. 

Vtopia Hypermotard by Vtopia Design

01/04/2017 @ 5:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good Hypermotard. So, when I saw this inaugural work from Vtopia Design, I was hooked.

Vtopia Design is the business name for Giorgio Cerrato, a 26-year-old designer from Italy. Vtopia has built his creation off the air-cooled generation of the street-going supermoto, creating something that brings the design more into a modern street-tracker aesthetic.

The Vtopia Hypermotard get this from the angular bodywork, which has an interesting geometric quality to it; along with the modified subframe, which cleans up the tail for the machine (for a lack of an undertail exhaust) and helps make for a flatter seat, like you would see on a proper tracker.

Get Ready for the Return of the 1980s to Motorcycles

12/12/2016 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler56 COMMENTS

Mark my words, the next big trend in the custom motorcycle scene is going to be a revival of the 1980s. I am not sure why anyone would want to remember this awkward time in our species’ history, but when it comes to motorcycles, there is quaint intersection of modern and retro that resides in this forgotten decade.

We have already seen a prelude to this from a number of custom builds, bikes like Walt Siegl’s Bol d’Or line or Praëm BMW S1000RR showing us the happy marriage of a modern sport bike platform wrapped up in the 1970s. Here, we see the thought taken to its next logical progression.

If I am being real honest, there is just something pleasing about the 1980s aesthetic, especially when its mashed together with modern chassis and engine design. Don’t take my word for it though, dust off your Air Force 1’s and check out these renders from the folks over at Speedjunkies.

MV Agusta “Ballistic Trident” by Rough Crafts

12/05/2016 @ 7:08 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Recently, we have seen some really interesting motorcycles come out from the custom sport bike scene that surprisingly use MV Agusta’s three-cylinder platform.

Catching our fancy have been bikes like Walt Siegl’s “Bol D’Or” line, which blends old and new together masterfully; or bikes like Deus Ex Machina’s “AgoTT”, which takes on a completely different form of mixing retro and modern.

Today, we add another name to the list, as we bring you Rough Crafts’ “Ballistic Trident”, which is based off the MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR, and gives a nod to the race bike of yore that wore the Varese brand’s logo.

Working out of Taiwan, Rough Crafts plays to our weakness for dustbin fairings, giving a sort of half-shell dustbin fairing to the Ballistic Trident. We’re smitten.

Vanguard Roadster Set to Debut IMS New York

12/02/2016 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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Say “hello” to the very attractive Vanguard Roadster, which is hitting the interwebs ahead of its official debut at the IMS New York show. Based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City, Vanguard Motorcycles was founded by Edward Jacobs and Francois-Xavier Terny.

If the Vanguard Roadster design reminds you of something from Confederate Motorcycles, that’s no accident. The two machines share the S&S X-Wedge v-twin engine platform, but more importantly Jacobs was a former designer for Confederate, while Terny brings his business acumen to the startup.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

11/23/2016 @ 10:55 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine.

A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die.

So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles.

It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

Ariel Ace R Set to Debut, Only 10 Will Be Made

11/01/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Remember the Ariel Ace? The VFR1200F-powered street bike from the revived British brand? The attractive street bike is about to get an even sportier sibling (sketched above), as the Ariel Ace R is set to debut at the NEC Motorcycle Live show, this November.

Unless you are well-coined, the NEC show might be your only chance to see an Ariel Ace R in the flesh, as the Brits plan on making only 10 examples of this R-spec machine.

Details are light at the moment, but Ariel does day that the Ace R will have a unique color scheme, and of course there will be better performance pieces and more power from the limited edition motorcycle.

Brad’s Leggero by Walt Siegl

10/13/2016 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, Brad’s Leggero helps fill the void left behind by the departure of the Ducati Sport Classic from the Italian company’s lineup.

Speaking to those who long for simpler machines, at the core of the Leggero is an air-cooled two-valve Ducati engine, which was built and blueprinted by Bruce Meyers Performance.

Other bespoke items include the frame, which is made of tubes of 4130 chrome moly steel, weighs a paltry 15 lbs, and was built in-house at Walt Siegl Motorcycles.

Helping complete the café racer look is the bullet fairing bodywork, which takes a dash of modern by being made of Kevlar. The modern touches continue, with the use Öhlins suspension and radially mounted Brembo brakes.

The effect is a tastefully done café racer that not only shines with real craftsmanship, but also does post-heritage right: taking the best of design from the past, without snubbing the progress of technology in the future.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #34 – Doohickey

09/27/2016 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Episode 34 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts off by using the two new Ducati Scrambler models, which were spotted in CARB filings earlier this month, as a jumping off point to talk about how motorcycle manufacturers are chasing the post-authentic biker movement.

We then opine a bit about the apparent decline in the number of scrambler and café racer builds we are seeing in the custom motorcycle scene right now, and how we think that superbikes from the 1980s could be the next platform of choice for bike builders.

This takes the show into a discussion about the rise of electronics, and how they not only affect the motorcycle hobbyist, but also custom motorcycle builders. We then finish up the show with a listener question that asks about for selling advice on a heavily customized Japanese motorcycle.

There might be a revolving KLR joke in there as well…all in all, it’s another classic Two Enthusiasts Podcast show.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!