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.

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.

Mugen Shinden Yon (神電 四) Electric Superbike Debuts

03/28/2015 @ 5:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

mugen-shinden-yon

Racing again in the TT Zero event at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, Team Mugen will defend its results from 2014 on-board the Mugen Shinden Yon.

The fourth iteration of the Japanese electric superbike, riders John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey should have potent weapons to tackle the Mountain Course with, come a few months’ time.

The main contender for the top podium spot, the Mugen Shinden Yon shows some modest changes from the Shinden San. The tailsection is clearly different in shape, as are the body panels on the front of the machine. We suspect, however, that the significant changes are beneath the skin.

Team Mugen Confirms 2015 IOMTT Entry with Shinden Yon

02/01/2015 @ 12:01 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

shinden-yon-team-mugen

A bit of a formality, since rider John McGuinness already spilled the beans in December last year, but Team Mugen has confirmed its entry into the 2015 Isle of Man TT.

Mugen will have a new bike at the contest, named the Shinden Yon, “Yon” being “four” in Japanese, and the bike being the company’s fourth TT racer — like its lap times, Mugen’s engineers are very consitent with their naming conventions.

Little is known about the Shinden Yon, and Mugen is saying only that the machine is “newly developed to improve over last year’s model.

John McGuinness Confirms 2015 TT Zero with Mugen

12/02/2014 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

john-mcguinness-tt-zero-mugen-shinden-san-richard-musht

John McGuinness has confirmed his place in the 2015 TT Zero race during next year’s Isle of Man TT, and as expected he will be racing with Team Mugen, riding the electric Shinden motorcycle.

McGuinness will once again be partnered with Bruce Anstey, and the 21-time race winner expects the Japanese firm to have an all-new bike for their efforts next year.

What A 117.366 MPH Electric Superbike Lap Looks Like

06/06/2014 @ 8:12 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

john-mcguinness-mugen-shinden-san-tt-zero-isle-of-man-tt-lap

Team Mugen was in force at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, putting in a 1-2 finish at the TT Zero event. To add to that double podium, John McGuinness took his Mugen Shinden San to a new Snaefell Mountain Course record for an electric motorcycle, dropping a 117.366 mph lap during the race…from a standing start.

Faster than both the Lightweight TT bikes and Subaru exhibition car that ran later that Wednesday, the public perception that electrics are slow certainly has to be challenged. The proof of that concept is in the pudding, and we have the entire record-breaking lap to prove it.

Take the next 20 minutes to watch McPint TIE-Fighter his way around the 37.773 mile road course (don’t pretend like you were going to do work on this fine summer day). It’s pretty astounding not only the outright speeds involved, but the rate of progression electrics have made in six year’s time.

As batteries become more power-dense, and thus the weight of these machines drop, the petrol-powered supersbikes will have some serious competition on their hands.

IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

06/05/2014 @ 12:33 am, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Bungalow-Richard-Mushet-01

Before heading up to the Bungalow for today’s races, the weather looked fairly promising with only cloud cover, and no ominous darker clouds threatening rain.

Once I’d arrived it was a different story, with the low clouds covering the tram stop at the top of Snaefell – the island’s highest peak at over 2,000ft – threatening to roll down towards the circuit.

Thankfully it held off long enough to complete the TT Zero and second Supersport races, but had enveloped the surrounding area before the second sidecar race and some practice sessions could run.

The Bungalow is one of the highest points on the course, as the riders exit the Verandah and continue on their way towards Kate’s Cottage. If you watched last year’s TT highlights you’ll recognise it as the point where Michael Dunlop’s CBR600RR made a damn good attempt to throw him off, leaving rubber on the road and forcing him to take a much wider line through the corner than usual.

Usually the backdrop to any image at the Bungalow is a lush, green hillside, but today it was mainly the low, rolling clouds. This makes the camera try to expose the whiteness of the clouds, leaving the bikes underexposed if you don’t work around it.

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/04/2014 @ 3:52 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

john-mcguiness-tt-zero-2014-isle-of-man-tt-richard-mushet

An event we’ve been eagerly waiting for, the 2014 SES TT Zero electric race was billed as a battle for the #1 spot between the Mugen riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey, and battle between everyone else for the third and final podium position. And that is exactly what the 2014 Isle of Man TT fans got.

First to leave Glencrutchery Road, and the first to return, John McGuinness took his 21st IOMTT race win while on the Mugen Shinden San. The first time that the Mugen team has won the electric solo race at the IOMTT, McGuinness’s lap also officially broke the outright record for an electric motorcycle at the Isle of Man TT, with a 117.366 mph lap.

To put that lap time in perspective, rally driver Mark Higgins managed only a 116.470 mph lap during the Subaru exhibition lap, which immediately followed the TT Zero race; that time also bests Ryan Farquhar’s best Lightweight TT flying lap of 116.840 mph from practice.

Up-Close with the 2014 Mugen Shinden San (神電 参)

06/04/2014 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Mugen-Shinden-San-TT-Zero-Isle-of-Man-TT-Richard-Mushet-17

The TT Zero event for the 2014 Isle of Man TT is about to kick-off in about an hour, so we thought we’d show the electric superbike that everyone in the paddock is talking about, the Mugen Shinden San. The third iteration of the machine from Mugen, this year the Japanese tuning brand has two riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

With Bruce Anstey on fire this TT fortnight, and McGuinness off his pace in the previous sessions with a wrist injury (and sitting out today’s Supersport TT race), it seems like anything can happen before the starter’s flag drops.

Assuming the two-rider format remains, Mugen has said to Asphalt & Rubber that both riders will likely run the same electronic maps during the race, which should rest the race’s results squarely on the riders. In order to do this, Mugen must feel confident with its energy management and overall racing package.

IOMTT: Anstey Laps 112 MPH on the Mugen Shinden San

06/02/2014 @ 4:41 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Bruce-Anstey-Mugen-TT-Zero-Isle-of-Man-TT

When it comes to single-lap speed, Bruce Anstey is the man at the Isle of Man this year. Setting the outright fastest lap ever around the Snaefell Mountain Course, on the last lap of the Dainese Superbike TT no less, Anstey has another record to be proud of at the 2014 Isle of Man TT: the fastest TT lap ever on an electric motorcycle, at 112.355 mph unofficial.

For those not keeping up with the TT Zero news, Bruce Anstey is playing teammate to John McGuinness on Team Mugen. The Japanese tuning brand has brought its third-generation electric superbike to the TT, appropriately calling the 500+ lbs behemoth the Mugen Shinden San (san meaning “three” in Japanese).

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

05/06/2014 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

carlin-dunne-pikes-peak-international-hill-climb-lightning-motorcycles-jensen-beeler

Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.

I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.

It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.

It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.

There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.

That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.

The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.

Saroléa SP7 Electric Superbike Debuts Ahead of IOMTT

04/28/2014 @ 6:56 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

sarolea-sp7

After a 50 Year Hiatus, the Belgian brand Saroléa is making a bit of comeback, albeit this time in electric form. Already making its intention to race in the 2014 Isle of Man TT, Saroléa has now finally debuted its racing machine, the Saroléa SP7.

An amalgamation of retro-styling and high-technology, the Saroléa SP7 boasts a carbon fiber chassis, a 174hp (130 kW) motor, and a 441 lbs bulk.

All of that is wrapped into a café racer styled machine, which with all the modern equipment has a certain juxtaposition that is both visually pleasing, and visually glaring — we will let you decide which sensation dominates your senses more heavily.