Guy Martin Racing A Mugen Electric Bike at Isle of Man TT

Guy Martin’s return to the road racing at the Isle of Man TT continues to draw big headlines, and while we already know that the Lincolnshire man would partner with John McGuinness on the factory Honda Racing team of this year’s TT, that’s not all. Today, we learn that Guy Martin will partner with John McGuinness on another team as well, and he will once again take the seat on an electric bike for the TT Zero class in the process. As such, Martin has been confirmed as Team Mugen’s second rider, replacing Bruce Anstey in the squad. Both McGuinness and Martin will race on the new Mugen Shinden Roku electric superbike – the sixth iteration of the Japanese outfits TT Zero racer – and they will be looking to break the 120 mph barrier for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT.

What the Sepang MotoGP Test Tells Us About Race Pace

What conclusions can we draw from the first MotoGP test of 2017 at Sepang? Well, it’s the first test of 2017, and the factories still have the best part of two months to refine their bikes before the season starts in earnest in Qatar. Any conclusions we draw are at risk of crashing headlong into reality at the end of March. But with all that data from the test available, it is hard to resist the temptation to dive into it and read the tea leaves. To make some sense of the timesheets from Sepang, I examined the lap times of the fastest thirteen riders at the end of Wednesday. The reason for selecting Wednesday was simple: as it was the last day of the test, the riders were all fully up to speed, and the teams were putting together the lessons they had learned on the first two days.

Piaggio Gita, An Autonomous Two-Wheeler for the Future

When you think of the Piaggio Group, in terms of its two-wheeled creations, your thoughts probably conjure up images of motorcycles made by Aprilia or Moto Guzzi, or maybe a scooter with a Vespa badge on it. Surely, the Gita is not what first comes first to your mind, but it might be the most impactful idea from the Italian brand to-date. Sure, the brightly colored self-balancing rolling cylinder doesn’t seem like much of a novel creation, even with its ability to follow its owner, or autonomously navigate a prescribed route. But then again, you have probably been carrying stuff around in our arms, or on your back, like a big sucker.

2018 KTM 790 Duke Spotted in the Wild

We know that we can expect a finalized version of the KTM 790 Duke at this year’s EICMA show in Milan, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the streetfighter model has been caught testing by spy photographers. The bike’s parallel-twin engine can clearly be spotted in the pictures, tipping us to its model, and many of the lines from the prototype machine remain, as further clues. Though, noticeable differences include a new tail section design, different exhaust, as well as a headlight. The headlight is clearly derived from KTM’s new design language, and its shape mimics what we’ve seen already added to the Duke, Super Duke, and Adventure lineup. The KTM 790 Duke prototype hinted that we would see a similar face in the new hoon-machine, so no surprises there.

Ducati’s 2017 World Superbike Team Debuts

Race teams continue to debut their 2017 liveries and riders, and this time around we feature the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike squad that will race in the World Superbike Championship. Chaz Davies of course returns to the team, and this season he will be joined by Marco Melandri. The duo will be an interesting pair to watch this season, with Davies holding onto his impressive form from the last-half of the 2016 season, and Melandri making his return to motorcycle racing, after sitting out last season. With 2017 to be the penultimate season for the Ducati Panigale R in the World Superbike Championship, the v-twin superbike has shown itself to be an extremely mature machine on the race track.

Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

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.

The Great Motorcycle Buyer Divide

12/13/2016 @ 12:13 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

In my last A&R Pro article, I argued that the recently debuted and updated Honda Rebel was the most important new motorcycle that we have seen thus far for the 2017 model year.

That is a bold statement, as many pointed out, especially when you consider the bevy of intriguing new models that were unveiled at the various industry trade shows this year, and also considering the lack-luster product the outgoing Honda Rebel 250 proved to be for many.

In that story, the bulk of my argument was that motorcycling needs an affordable gateway for young and new riders to come into the industry, and with cruisers accounting for over half of the new motorcycles sold in the United States, having cruiser-styled entry models is a shrewd move by Honda.

There is more to that argument though, which I want to touch upon today. It concerns the growing divide of motorcycle buyers, and how their access to capital greatly affects the motorcycles they can, and do, purchase.

American motorcycles sales fall almost entirely under what is called consumer discretionary income, and when it comes to how we spend our hard-earned money, there are two ways we do so: with cash and with credit.

That is the fairly obvious part of this argument, but this is an important concept for us as enthusiasts and consumers to understand, as it allows us to make better sense of the strategies behind the new models we see from manufacturers. It also allows us to peer into the future of the motorcycle industry.

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This Time-Lapse Video Shows What It Takes to Recall a Yamaha YZF-R1 Gearbox

06/21/2016 @ 10:22 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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The gearbox recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 was a massive undertaking. In total, the recall affected 2,921 motorcycles, with Yamaha estimating almost 16 hours of labor per bike in order to change out the gearbox. That’s a lot of shop time for each individual motorcycle.

That time isn’t cheap either, and the cost of the labor alone was somewhere around the $5 million mark. By the time you threw in the cost of the parts, the R1 recall likely cost Yamaha somewhere north of $10 million.

To get a sense of how long that recall work took, checkout this time-lapse video that a mechanic made while working on one of the affected superbikes. Be sure to note that the video spans two days of shop time. It’s quite the process.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

Yamaha Releases Letter for R1 Owners Regarding Recall

12/16/2015 @ 2:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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By now, Asphalt & Rubber readers should be well aware of the recall being issued on all the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA.

We broke the news back in November, and even covered how recalls work in Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast – the show is well worth having a listen to if you want to know more about how recalls work.

In the show, we speculated a bit about what Yamaha would do to fix the gearbox issues with the latest R1 superbikes, and now we have official confirmation from Yamaha Motor Corp. USA on how it will handle the 3,500 or so models that need to be recalled.

Yamaha was kind enough to supply us with a letter, which will be sent to all affected R1/R1M owners, as it outlines what is being recalled, what actions Yamaha and its dealers are taking, and what owners should do going forward. Read it, after the jump.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Gearbox Recall Affects All USA Units

12/09/2015 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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More trouble looms for Yamaha and its pending recall of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, as our sources have indicated that all of the superbikes sold in the USA will be affected by the new R1’s transmission issues.

You may recall that Asphalt & Rubber broke the story two weeks ago about the upcoming recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, and we explored the topic in-depth on Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast.

Still, we are surprised that a more formal announcement hasn’t emerged from Yamaha Motor USA regarding the matter.

In the meantime, Transport Canada – the importer for Yamaha motorcycles in Canada – issued a recall for 240 units, while some YZF-R1 owners in the USA have begun to receive letters from their local Yamaha dealers concerning the recall procedure.

For 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 owners who haven’t received a recall notice from the dealer, you should expect one, as it’s our understanding that ultimately all of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA will need to have their transmission replaced.

Ducati Dealers Top Pied Piper Rankings, Again

05/04/2015 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Pied-Piper-PSI-chart-2015

Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) is one of the major ranking systems out there assessing the US motorcycle industry and its dealerships.

To give you a quick primer on how scoring works, Pied Piper takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences, along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement.

For this year’s assessment, it comes with little surprise that Ducati is once again taking the top honors, followed closely by Harley-Davidson and Victory — two brands that have high customer satisfaction, according to Consumer Reports.

Newspeak: BMW Removes “Enduro” from Its Lexicon

11/17/2014 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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If you go in to your local BMW dealer and ask to look at their latest enduro models, you should brace yourself for a Laurel & Hardy routine, as the e-word is now persona no grata at US dealerships.

Instead, BMW dealers have been instructed to use the word “adventure” instead, newspeaking would-be customers into a segment that BMW literally invented (with a little help from Ewan and Charley).

EBR 1190RX & SX Get CARB Certified, California Bound

08/04/2014 @ 10:35 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Good news for California riders who want Erik Buell Racing’s latest motorcycles, as the EBR 1190RX and EBR 1190SX have been certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

A necessary step to selling in the Golden State, the news means that Erik Buell Racing can begin shipping RX and SX models to its California dealers, who in turn can now begin selling the bikes to the eager Californian biking public.

Erik Buell Racing Announces First Dealerships for the USA

02/05/2014 @ 3:04 pm, by Bryan Delohery9 COMMENTS

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Erik Buell Racing has announced that over 60 dealerships will be carrying the 2014 Erik Buell Racing 1190RX, the new sport bike from EBR that is slated to be released in March of this year.

After unveiling the new bike last October at the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando, EBR began to scout dealerships in major metropolitan areas that were prime motorcycle markets.

Suzuki Will Drop 98 Under-Performing Dealers

03/27/2013 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Last week we reported to you that Suzuki Motor of America was set to cut 10% to 20% of its powersports dealerships, as a part of its corporate restructuring and bankruptcy of the now defunct American Suzuki Motor Corporation. Clarifying that news, Suzuki has given a clearer figure, saying that 98 of the company’s 930 dealers will be getting the axe.

According to Suzuki, the roughly 10% of dealerships that did not see their contract assumed by Suzuki Motor of America accounted for only 2.5% of the company’s retail sales in the past 12 months (2.8% of retails sales in the past three years), making Suzuki’s actions more of a culling of the herd than anything else.