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.”

2017 Honda CB1100 EX Coming to the USA

12/12/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The a “new” retro-styled Honda CB1100 debuted earlier this year in Europe with two flavors for the 2017 model year (along with one interesting concept bike), and now American Honda has confirmed that one of them will be coming to the United States for next year’s riding season.

The 2017 Honda CB1100 EX continues the push for “heritage” models by the Japanese brands, though the CB1100 is certainly no stranger to American Honda’s lineup.

Hoping to compete against the post-authentic models that we have seen from the European brand already, Honda’s horse in this race has a long pedigree that is steeped in classic/vintage motorcycle cues.

The air-cooled four-cylinder engine from the superbikes of yore gives a potent power supply to this reborn UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle), though subtle modern touches abound to the overall package.

Triumph Street Scrambler – Refined Heritage from the UK

11/08/2016 @ 12:35 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Triumph Street Scrambler – Refined Heritage from the UK

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We’re only a handful of hours into the 2016 EICMA show, and already we can tell you that The post-authentic game is still strong in the motorcycle industry. Helping fuel that trend is Triumph Motorcycles, which has been slowly updating its heritage lineup.

At EICMA, we see the last vestige of Triumph’s heritage line getting a refresh, with the 2017 Triumph Street Scrambler debuting with a bevy of enhancements.

Most notable is the dedicated Scrambler chassis, which houses the same 900cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that is found in the current Triumph Bonneville. This acclaimed power plant comes mated to a smooth-actuating five-speed gearbox.

Here is the Aptly Named Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer

11/07/2016 @ 9:43 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The other addition to Ducati’s vintage lineup, the aptly named Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer adds the last missing piece to Ducati’s post-authentic puzzle: a café racer model.

Following the trend that so many other OEMs have followed, Ducati has wisely used its Scrambler sub-brand for its café racer offering, which features an old-school 803cc air-cooled platform that is easy to own, and cheap to buy.

Tastefully styled, the 75hp machine should be very attractive to retro-focused riders, or those who are simply looking for a basic street bike to add to their garage.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer Cometh Soon

10/19/2016 @ 12:26 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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In addition to bringing the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled to market at the upcoming EICMA show, Ducati will pair its off-road focused scrambler model with a café racer version of the Scrambler, which has cleverly been named the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer.

The models will use the same 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine that we’ve seen already in the Scrambler lineup, and as you would expect, the machine will have the typical café racer aesthetic, with a round headlight and bullet fairing.

As with all of the Scrambler Ducati lineup, you can expect customization to be a big part of the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer’s appeal. Keep an eye out for its debut, November 7th in Milan, Italy.

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.

The Three Big Trends That We Saw at INTERMOT

10/08/2016 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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News from the INTERMOT show is winding down, with the motorcycle industry waiting until the next trade show (AIMExpo) to get its fill of new motorcycles and products.

Such is the time of the season, where we jump from one headline to the next, as we get our first glimpse of next year’s wares. Sorry for flooding your social media feeds.

In my opinion, INTERMOT is the second-most important trade show on the schedule (the first being EICMA), as we always see strong showings from the Germanic brands at INTERMOT, and we can count on a few surprises from the Japanese OEMS as well.

When it occurs (INTERMOT is held every-other year, unlike EICMA and AIMExpo which are held every year), the German show is good for revealing trends in the industry, and this year was no different.

As such, I saw three big trends emerge from INTERMOT this year, which promise to shape the motorcycle industry for several years to come.

BMW R nineT Racer – Yet Another Café Racer

10/04/2016 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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BMW Motorrad’s INTERMOT unveilings centered around two machines for its heritage lineup, the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer. Both bikes are based off the iconic air-cooled boxer-twin engine, and both bikes are exactly what their name implies.

The R nineT Pure is a basic street standard, styled for a forgotten era. The R nineT Racer adds a half-fairing to the mix, adding yet another café racer model to the list of choices the post-authentic crowd can pick from.

Admittedly, BMW’s design team did a good job with the 2017 BMW R nineT Racer, making a tasteful café model from the very flexible R nineT platform. We especially like the subtly done throwback white, blue, and red paint scheme.

The BMW R nineT has done well for itself with urban riders, and the BMW R nineT Scrambler is eagerly awaited, finally launching in the coming weeks around the world.

We expect similarly strong showings for the Racer and Pure models, though if we had to pick from the two, this would be the one.

Things We Like, Part 1: Honda CB4 Concept

11/17/2015 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

CB4 Concept

Honda isn’t saying too much about its CB4 concept, and we are not sure they need to – the motorcycle speaks for itself. Just in case you can’t hear it, the retro-style standard is an appealing machine, which draws a distinct line to the Hondas of a couple generations ago.

The Honda CB4 concept seems to be built off the Honda CBR650F platform, though the concept is certainly as far as you can get from the CBR650F in terms of feeling and inspiration.

To that end, a single-sided swingarm has been added, the exhaust routed stylishly and polished, and we are a big fan of the solid iron front brake discs with radially mounted Tokico calipers, in red…naturally.

Yamaha XSR900 Adds to Yamaha’s Sport-Heritage Range

11/16/2015 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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If you’ve ever wondered what the FZ-09 would look like as a café racer, the Yamaha XSR900 is it. Fresh off its EICMA debut, the 2016 Yamaha XSR900 is the Japanese brand’s attempt to build out its “sport-heritage” line. That is to say, it’s Yamaha’s attempt to appeal to the skinny jean and beard crowd.

That’s about all the hate we can muster for the Yamaha XSR900 though – probably because we used it all up earlier on the Yamaha MT-10 – but truthfully, Yamaha’s appeal to the “heritage demographic” feels a lot more genuine than say, a certain Italian brand that also debuted a hipster bike today.

Triumph Thruxton Gets Updated for 2016

10/27/2015 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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It is only logical that if there’s a new water-cooled Triumph Bonneville T120 for the 2016 model year, then the 2016 Triumph Thruxton should get an update as well, right?

Accordingly for 2016, the Triumph Thruxton gets the same more powerful 1,200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that is debuting on the Bonneville T120.

Triumph is also adding the Thurxton R to the lineup, a more cafe racer inspired design that comes with a larger front fairing, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes. An optional “Thruxton Inspirational Pack” is available as well, which adds a bevy of cosmetic changes, as well as a Vance & Hines exhaust system.

Like on the Bonneville, the chassis and other components have been improved upon as well, though you would have a hard time seeing those changes, as Triumph has been careful to retain that heritage look on the Thruxton.

We expect that retro-riders who are looking for a reliable café racer out of the box will need to look no further than the 2016 Triumph Thruxton. Expect to see the machine officially debut tomorrow, October 28th.