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.

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.

Video: Stefan Bradl Speaks About Moving to WorldSBK

12/08/2016 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s not a change that made too many waves here in the United States, but Stefan Bradl moving from MotoGP to the World Superbike Championship is a big shakeup in two-wheeled motorsport.

The 27-year-old German rider once showed great promise in the GP Paddock, winning the 2011 Moto2 Championship and showing signs of competitiveness while at the LCR Honda team in MotoGP. 

Things didn’t work out for Bradl though, and after a tough year developing the Aprilia RS-GP, he finds himself back with HRC, but in a new paddock. Now a teammate to Nicky Hayden, we think Stefan Bradl is a smart addition to the Honda WorldSBK outfit.

If the new Honda CBR1000RR can give chase to the speed we’ve seen from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and Ducati Panigale R, then we can count on some strong results from the Honda duo. It would be good to see Bradl back on his usual game, as well.

2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto, for France Only

11/30/2016 @ 10:27 am, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

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America might have invented supermoto racing, but the sport’s largest support base easily comes now from that other side of the Atlantic – more specifically, from France.

So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that Honda’s French importer Superboost makes a special supermoto version of the Honda CRF450 for the French market.

For the 2017 model year, the Honda CRF450 Supermoto follows that changes made to Big Red’s 450cc dirt bike, which notably includes the return of fork springs (goodbye air forks), an electric starter, and down-draft fuel injection.

Basically a kit that is added at the importer level, the 2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto lineup has three models, building off the CRF450R (€11,299), CRF450RX (€10,999), and CRF450X dirt bike (€10,999), with each getting their own taste of the supermoto treatment.

For American readers, don’t expect to see these supermoto models at your local dealership, as this is strictly a project undertaken by the Frenchies.

Though, it would be nice to see American Honda supporting the local supermoto scene, and offering some sort of motard kit for its venerable CRF450. The Swedes and the Austrians shouldn’t have all the fun.

Why the Honda Rebel Is The Hot New Bike for 2017

11/24/2016 @ 1:32 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-500-300-lifestyle-17

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New bike season is just about over, now that INTERMOT, EICMA, AIMExpo, and IMS Long Beach trade shows are behind us.

We could still see some new models and concepts debut later this year in Japan, and there is always the possibility of something interesting showing up at the IMS New York show, but those are less popular venues for new bike releases.

In that case then, we can start making some conjecture about the bikes that debuted this year, many of them for the 2017 model year. Let’s start with the best of the best — I am of course talking about the new Honda Rebel models. No? Not the bike you were expecting?

Sure, these unassuming 300cc and 500cc street bikes don’t have the same sex appeal as some of the more wild machines we saw in Germany and Italy, but make no mistake, the revamped Honda Rebel is the most important new bike we have seen debut this year. Let me explain.

How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

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The following is an example of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

11/18/2016 @ 10:55 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress.

It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design.

Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

11/17/2016 @ 8:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

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It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one.

Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show.

The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin)  and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Available starting in April 2017, tentative pricing for the Honda Rebel 300 is set at $4,399, while the Honda Rebel 500 is priced tentatively at $5,999, both sans ABS, though ABS models will be available as well.

The Honda CB1100 TR Concept Gives a Nod Towards Europe’s Flat Track Racing Fascination

11/08/2016 @ 6:08 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

CB1100TR Concept

The American Flat Track aesthetic is catching hold over in Europe. We can see evidence of such by the popularity of flat track racing for Europe’s top MotoGP athletes, the rise of the Spanish Superprestigio event in Barcelona, and with the concepts we are seeing come from the European divisions of motorcycle OEMs.

Add the Honda CB1100 TR concept to that pile of evidence, as it is one of two motorcycle concepts that Honda Motor Europe is debuting at the 2016 EICMA show (the other being the very tasty Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept).

Built off the Honda CB1100 street bike, the Honda CB1100 TR concept takes a motorcycle we otherwise would not be terribly interested in riding, and gives it a healthy dosage of sex appeal.

Go-fast parts come from Öhlins and Termignoni, with the #58 numberplate honoring the memory of Marco Simoncelli, who passed away five years ago, and whose passing is still deeply felt in Italy.

Oh My! The Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports Concept

11/08/2016 @ 2:13 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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File the Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept under things we like, as the adventure-bike concept takes perhaps the most off-road competent ADV bike on the market, and raises its dirt credit by another factor of ten.

Built off the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, the Enduro Sports concept is intended to expand the Africa Twin family, and to help the new adventure bike attract more riders into its Cult of Brap.

To do this, Honda’s R&D department came up with several lighter weight chassis components (Honda does say what specifically, of course), which were initially developed for the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike, which competes in the Dakar Rally.

The styling is aggressive, especially with the revised headlight assembly. The windscreen and fairings have been re-styled for a sportier look as well, and of course the Termignoni exhaust system is eye-catching, in utilitarian sort of way. Overall, the effect is quite stark.

Honda concept bikes have a funny way of becoming production models in a year or two’s time. As such, we wouldn’t mind have one in our garage. Would you?

Honda X-ADV, A Scooter You Didn’t Know You Wanted

11/08/2016 @ 12:11 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

17YM X-ADV

You have to admit, the idea of an ADV scooter is less than obvious. That hasn’t stopped Big Red from dreaming it, though.

Finally debuting at EICMA, we get the full monty on the Honda X-ADV, a step-through scooter design that’s designed to tackle more than just city traffic and potholed tarmac.

Based off the 745cc parallel-twin platform that powers the Honda Integra scooter and Honda NC750 progeny, the Honda X-ADV makes 54hp, features a dual-clutch transmission (DCT), and gets 65 miles per gallon in fuel consumption.

Here Is the Base Model 2017 Honda CBR1000RR

11/07/2016 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

17YM CBR1000RR Fireblade

When it came time to unveil its new revised superbike, Honda wisely debuted its premium and homologation models first, at October’s INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany.

With EICMA now here, we can finally see the bike that most enthusiasts will find in their garage, the base model 2017 Honda CBR1000RR.

So as expected, the base model 2017 Honda CBR1000RR uses lower-spec suspension and braking components than its SP sibling, but thankfully it retains all of the other engine, chassis, and electronic upgrades that we have already seen.

This includes the CBR1000RR’s new magnesium casings, titanium fuel tank, five-spoke wheels, and internal engine modifications. In total, this means that the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR makes 190hp and weighs 432 lbs at the curb.

As for the changes, suspension is handled by Showa 43mm large-volume BPF forks at the front, and with the Show Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) shock in the rear, while braking is done by four-piston Tokico calipers up front, as well.