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.”

Tamburini T12 Massimo – The Maestro’s Last Work

05/06/2016 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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It has been exactly two years since we lost Massimo Tamburini, the father of iconic motorcycles like the Ducati 916 Superbike and the MV Agusta F4.

Despite his passing, the Italian designer’s influence can still be felt in the motorcycle industry today, and his creations continue to be highly coveted pieces for motorcycle collectors around the world.

Many know that Tamburini was the “ta” in Bimota, which saw The Maestro team up with Valerio Bianchi and Giuseppe Morri, and together the three pillars of the industry would create countless exotic two-wheeled examples.

In essence, Tamburini’s name can be linked to the most lust-worthy motorcycles in the modern era, and we are about to add one more machine to that list.

It would seem that Tamburini apparently had one last design up his sleeve before he departed this world, and it is debuting today. Giving tribute to his name, the Tamburini T12 Massimo is a BMW S1000RR powered superbike that is meant purely for the race track, and maybe the museum.

A New Lambretta L70 Vendetta Scooter Is Coming

05/05/2016 @ 7:19 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The folks at Kiska are better known for their work with KTM and Husqvarna, but the Austria-based firm has several other majors clients it works with as well, one of which is Lambretta.

We don’t normally post a lot of scooter stories on Asphalt & Rubber, but the iconic Italian brand is teaming up with one of the industry’s hottest design firms – that feels like something worth sharing.

Lambretta is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and to help with that commemoration, the company is launching the Lambretta L70 Vendetta scooter.

It will be interesting to see where Kiska takes this fabled marque – those Vespa owners have been strutting around like they own the place.

Some Thoughts on the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

04/05/2016 @ 9:51 am, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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This story has no timely reason, other than I was working my way through Husqvarna’s media site for a different story, and noticed that there were finally some well-lit shots of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 concept available for download.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, as you may remember, builds off KTM’s Husqvarna’s 690cc platform, but uses the “Vitpilen” neo-café racer aesthetic. The result is what you see here, and it blew the doors off the EICMA show in Milan when it debuted late last year.

With these high-resolution photos, that thankfully were not taken in the dark this time, we can finally see the details of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, which were such a highlight when it debuted.

More importantly though, we can get a greater appreciation of where KISKA is taking Husqvarna, both in terms of separating the brand visually from its sister company KTM, but also on how the brand will sit apart from the rest of the motorcycle industry as a whole.

While I have no doubt that we will continue to see more conservative shapes and graphics on Husqvarna’s going forward, especially from Husqvarna’s dirt bike offerings, the Vitpilen segment is very intriguing as it brings a completely fresh take on a very tired-out market segment.

How Would You Redesign the Bimota Mantra?

09/25/2015 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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When you hear the name Bimota, you likely picture in your head bespoke and beautiful Italian motorcycles that borrow some of the most potent engines from motorcycle manufacturers and then build motorcycling exotica around them. Just about every Bimota is a highly coveted collectible…just about.

For some reason the Bimota Mantra is more infamous than famous, it’s design was ahead of its time, to say it politely. I know a few collectors who love the Mantra, and have a few in their collections, but the bulk of the two-wheeled public would rather forget the Mantra was ever penned, and that the V Due was ever built.

Asked what he would build if he had to recreate the Bimota Mantra, designer Sacha Lakic (the artist who was behind the original Mantra, and more currently, the Voxan Wattman) inked the above sketch.

Let us know what you think of the Bimota Mantra 2.0, in the comments. Also, photos showing Lakic’s design process are after the jump.

Could Golf Balls Be the Answer to Helmet Noise?

06/25/2015 @ 4:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Helmets are a rather stagnant segment of the motorcycle industry, with even the more “innovative” designs being evolutions to the basic principles of crash helmets, rather a revolutions.

Helmets like 6D and Bell’s Moto-9 Carbon Flex use two different variable techniques to lessen hard and soft impact types.

Companies like Skully and Reevu aim to add more visual features to helmets, while major brands like AGV, Arai, and Shoei are ever improving their designs for better customer fit, whether it be through additional helmet models, or rethinking how the helmet fits to the rider’s head.

All of these improvements are good for us motorcyclists, of course, yet they are all based on the same basic principles of a hard protective shell, lined with some sort of impact absorbing material.

In fact, the only truly revolutionary helmet design we have seen, comes from the bicycle sector, and involves advanced airbag technology. In 50 years, we’ll be wearing these helmets (or not wearing them, as the case may be). But until then, the basic design continues to evolve.

A Requiem for Kenji Ekuan & The Kando of GK Design

02/12/2015 @ 1:51 pm, by Michael Uhlarik15 COMMENTS

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Industrial design is not a commonly known, much less well understood, profession. To some it suggests arranging equipment inside factories, to others it means some kind of product engineering. In reality it is the search for, and expression of, human satisfaction in inanimate objects that are mass produced.

That’s quite a mouthful, and to the average person it may sound like jiberish written for some pretentious coffee table book, but it is the truth. At least, it is one version of the truth as seen by the GK Design Group of Tokyo, Japan.

If you ride motorcycles, then you are intimately familiar with the work of this large and internationally respected studio. Since only its second production bike, the indigenously designed YA-1, every Yamaha motorcycle since 1958 has been crafted by GK.

At a time when made-in-Japan meant cheap and poorly manufactured imitation, Yamaha endeavoured to build motorcycles that could capture hearts as much as wallets by using a corporate philosophy they call Kando.

Kenji Ekuan, Designer of the Yamaha VMAX Has Died

02/09/2015 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Mainstream news is mourning the death of Kenji Ekuan today, as the 85-year-old Japanese industrial designer is one of the most influential artists in Japan’s modern era, and is most well-known for his designing of the iconic Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.

Ekuan’s lesser-known works though include a number of motorcycle designs for Yamaha, including the now 30-year-old Yamaha VMAX motorcycle, which makes his passing even more meaningful to motorcyclists around the world.

Ducati Scrambler Concept by Gannet Design

12/18/2014 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is certainly the talk of the internet right now, no surprise there since Ducati just hosted its international press launch and the bike reviews are starting to roll out from various publications. You can read ours, right here.

All this press, aided by Ducati’s extensive marketing rollout ahead of the launch, has caused the Scrambler to catch the imaginations of many riders. This is of course to design, as Ducati would love to see the Scrambler become a favorite platform for modders and customizers.

The Ducati Scrambler also caught the eye of concept artist Gannet Design, whose work we have shown on a number of occasions.

Pierre Terblanche Leaves Confederate for Royal Enfield

11/14/2014 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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It’s been 18 months since we reported Pierre Terblanche moving from Norton to Confederate Motorcycles, and now the South African is on the move again. Terblanche’s travels take him this time to India, where he has landed a position at Royal Enfield.

The Indian company is in the middle of a growth spurt, having recently acquired 50 acres of land to host their factory expansion. It’s not clear what sort of projects Terblanche will be working on while at Royal Enfield, but we can get an idea from the designer’s latest work, the Confederate X132 Hellcat Speedster.

More Renders of the Bottpower BOTT XC1 Café Racer

08/18/2014 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Forget the Honda CB350 or the old BMW R-Series machines, this is a proper modern café racer. We have brought you the work of Bottpower before, and have even already shown you renders of the BOTT XC1, but the firm has made another twist on its Buell-powered café.

Adding a half-fairing to the front, and reworking the fuel tank and tail into a more modern shapes, this variant of the BOTT XC1 draws from both newer and older thoughts for inspiration. And if your tastes vary day-to-day, Version 3, as it’s being called, can still be easily turned into the BOTT XR1 street track machine, as most of the changes are only skin deep.

Since Bottpower makes bikes to each customer’s personal spec and taste, we imagine we could see all three variants, and more, roaming the streets…or even hitting the track. Looking good fellas!