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.”

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. 

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Chaos Ensues

01/06/2017 @ 3:31 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Absolute chaos is the best way to explain Stage 4 of the 2017 Dakar Rally, as the day held surprises for more than a few of the event’s top names.

You may have already heard that KTM’s Toby Price broke his femur, crashing only a few kilometers from the end of the timed special stage. His Dakar is over, and KTM’s winning streak is certainly in danger.

It would be more so in danger though, if the Honda riders weren’t levied with a one-hour time penalty for fueling in a prohibited zone – a move that saw Joan Barreda bumped out of a comfortable lead, and relegated to seventh in the overall standings – 40 minutes back.

As such, Pablo Quintanilla and his Husqvarna technically lead the overall standings, followed by Walkner and three other KTM riders. With this time penalty, it seems very unlikely that the Honda riders will be able to regain their lost positions, though Honda is expected to appeal the ASO’s decision.

As if that entire scenario couldn’t get any weirder, there was still the 416km of timed course for the riders to contend with, including the first set of dunes so far in the 2017 Dakar Rally. With fesh-fesh and plenty of navigational challenges, all at high altitude (3,000 to 4,000 meters), Stage 4 was the mother of all stages.

The challenges only continue with Stage 5, which is set again to be full of navigational challenges, high altitude, and tough terrain.

We would like to give a special shout out to Ivan Jakeš, who was struck by lightning while racing today, and still managed to finish the stage.

Dakar Rally: Honda Riders Handed Massive Time Penalties

01/06/2017 @ 1:57 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Quite some time after Stage 4 of the 2017 Dakar Rally concluded, the ASO handed down massive penalties to a bevy of Honda riders, including the HRC factory team, to the tune of roughly an hour each.

The crime? The ASO says that Joan Barreda, Michael Metge, Paulo Gonçalves, Ricky Brabec, Franco Caimi, and Pedro Bianchi Prata all refueled in an prohibited zone during Thursday’s Stage 4.

KTM’s Toby Price Breaks Leg During Dakar Rally

01/06/2017 @ 1:30 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Marc Coma’s words ahead of the 2017 Dakar Rally seem almost prophetic right now, with the five-time winner and now Dakar Sport Director saying that this year’s edition of the iconic rally raid race would be the toughest ever held. The first four stages of The Dakar have proved this point, quite well.

As of Stage 3, eight motorcycle competitors had already retired, and Stage 4 claimed the Dakar’s first high-profile victim: KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price.

Just a few kilometers from the end of the stage, Price had overtaken Honda’s Joan Barreda on the course, and while navigating a tough riverbed, the KTM rider crashed and broke his left femur.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Barreda Rises to the Top

01/04/2017 @ 11:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Stage 3 for the 2017 Dakar Rally was a beast – especially in the first 70 km- as temperatures ranged from scorching hot to freezing cold; the climate changed from dry desert to patches of mountain rain; and the day saw nearly 4,000 meters of elevation. So, it shouldn’t surprise to see a shake-up on the leaderboard.

As such, Joan Barreda and his Honda are now the combo to beat in this year’s Dakar Rally, the Spaniard pulling out a solid 10-minute gap on his nearest competitor, who is now KTM’s Sam Sunderland.

Navigation was crucial in today’s two-part 364km special, with the terrain offering a bevy of challenges, including the dreaded fesh-fesh.

Where is Toby Price you might be asking? After a mistake during the very difficult first waypoint of the timed section, Price finds himself down in fifth place, over 16 minutes back from Barreda overall.

Stage 3 was also tough on the factory Yamaha team, with Xaiver de Soultrait slipping out of the Top 5, all the way down to 13th overall, after making a series of costly mistakes early in the special.

Conversely, the day was slightly better for the factory Husqvarna riders, with Pablo Quintanilla making some mistakes, but still seeing his name rise in the rankings. He’s just over a minute outside of the Top 3 now.

Tomorrow sees the Dakar Rally entering Bolivia, with high-altitude sand dunes and plenty of over challenges awaiting them. Still, none of the top riders are out of contention for ultimate victory, but they have a tough road to redemption.

However, Joan Barreda must surely be enjoying the padding he’s just given himself. The test, of course, is to minimize mistakes, and more important nurture his machine all the way to the finish line in Buenos Aires in ten days’ time.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Toby Price Takes Over the Lead

01/03/2017 @ 6:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Today marks the real start of the 2017 Dakar Rally, with Stage 2 taking competitors on a 803km trip (275km on the timed special) through the Chaco region of Argentina. Navigation wasn’t too hard on the racers for this stage, though the heat and humidity persisted and road hazards abounded.

This allowed KTM’s Toby Price to pull out a small lead over the competition, which doesn’t mean much in the standings, but sets him up with clear road for tomorrow’s stage start, which could prove to be a strong advantage as the Dakar Rally gains in elevation.

Finishing behind Price was KTM teammate Matthias Walkner, who got caught speeding during the liaison section and suffered a five-minute penalty for it. This dropped Walkner to 15th for the day, and put Paulo Gonçalves into the day’s #2 spot – a good position for the Honda rider.

Yamaha’s Xaiver de Soultrait has another strong day, as he rounded out the third-place position on Stage 2. KTM’s Sam Sunderland finished the day fourth, and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finished fifth.

In the overall standings, there is less than five minutes covering the Top 7 riders, showing that there is still some sifting left to do, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Tomorrow’s 364km special stage should do just that.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: A Half-Hour in Paraguay

01/02/2017 @ 10:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Short and sweet, that’s how the opening day of the 2017 Dakar Rally went down. The stage may have been 454km long, but the timed special was a paltry 39km. This means not much separates the top riders, with many treating the day as a shakedown before the long to come.

The weather was hot and humid, showing just one of the extremes that riders can expect from this year’s edition of The Dakar. Thankfully, the 39km special only took about half an hour for riders to complete, limiting their exertion.

With a bit of confusion from the ASO about who finished where, it seems that Stage 1 belongs to an unexpected name, with Joan Pedrero taking the top honors on his Sherco TVS Rally Factory bike, once the day’s times had been calculated.

The reason for that confusion comes down to Yamaha’s Xavier de Soultrait. Despite being the fastest during the timed special stage, the Frenchman will finish 10th for Stage 1, 58 seconds back, as he was a bit too fast through one of the speed-controlled sections, and suffered a one-minute penalty for his carelessness.

For the rest of the top riders, Toby Price finished 17th overall – a 1’23 behind – despite leading the charge out of the starting gates in Paraguay. Meanwhile, Honda’s Joan Barreda was thirty seconds back, 5th overall, with Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finishing 12th, a minute and one second back.

Too Many Photos of the 2017 KTM 450 Rally

01/02/2017 @ 1:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The 2017 Dakar Rally starts today, and over the next 13 days we will be bringing you all the news of this grueling race for cars, trucks, quads, and of course motorcycles.

Toby Price is favored to win in 2017, the Australian once again on a KTM 450 Rally. He won’t have an easy time of it though, with riders from Honda, Husqvarna, Yamaha, and even within his own KTM Racing team all having a shot at this year’s addition.

To hoist the winner’s trophy though, riders will be tested over 12 stages, seven of which have timed sections of 400km or more. As fans should be well aware of, anything can happen over those 12 stages.

For 2017, the Dakar Rally will start in Paraguay for the first time ever (the race’s 29th host country), before it heads to Bolivia, and then ends in Argentina.

Six days will be spent above 3,000 meters in elevation, and Dakar Sporting Director Marc Coma says it will be the most grueling Dakar Rally ever – as a five-time winner himself, Coma’s words should be taken with a heavy burden.

To get you in the mood for the 38th running of the Dakar Rally (the 9th in South America), we bring you a bevy of photos of the bike that everyone wants to beat: the 2017 KTM 450 Rally.

Yamaha T7 Concept Hints at a 700cc Ténéré for 2018

11/07/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

Honda CRF250L Rally Finally Debuts

11/07/2016 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

2017-honda-crf250l-rally

We have been waiting for the Honda CRF250L Rally to debut for a long time now.

It has been 20 months since Big Red first showed us the Honda CRF250 Rally concept in Japan, and today in at the EICMA show Italy, the 2017 Honda CRF250L Rally finally broke cover.

The idea behind the Dakar-inspired machine is pretty simple. Take the venerable Honda CRF250L platform, and add pieces to make it mimic the design for the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike.

The result is a lightweight adventure bike that appeases those riders who feel ADV machines are to big and heavy.