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.”

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 5 – Terminated

10/22/2015 @ 10:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The long-awaited Episode 5 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is now up for your listening pleasure. Apologies for it taking so long, but I had to celebrate another rotation around the sun, which sort of got in the way of editing the show this past weekend.

We think you’ll find this episode worth the wait though, and I personally think it’s our best show yet (there’s only five of them though, so I guess that statement has a fairly low bar to beat).

In the show we talk about the Yamaha R1S, the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, Nicky Hayden going to World Superbike, riding the Aprilia RSV4 RR, and trying out the new Icon Airframe Pro Carbon helmet.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Cheers!

ICON Launches Raiden Clothing Line for ADV Riders

02/18/2015 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Your favorite squid-biking / StuntLife apparel brand is expanding from its hooligan roots into the adventure-touring market, as ICON announced its Raiden line of clothing this past weekend at Portland’ One Motorcycle Show.

The Raiden brand extension is just the latest expansion from ICON, which has already pushed into the café hipster crowd with its ICON 1000 line of clothing, with much success.

While the Raiden line’s bright colors and designs will likely attract a younger demographic, it is just one of many steps that ICON is going through in order to breakaway from its “squid gear” reputation and cast a wider net on the two-wheeled demographic.

Ducati Scrambler Mega Gallery

12/13/2014 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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As with every international press launch from Ducati, there comes a bevy of photos from the Italian company’s latest machines — the Ducati Scrambler is no different.

If you didn’t read our review of the Ducati Scrambler, the tl;dr version boils down to the budget-minded machine being a good, though perhaps uninspiring, motorcycle for the money. However, just as important as the motorcycle is Ducati’s focus with the Scrambler Ducati brand, which is clearly aimed at catering to the “younger” hipster crowd…perhaps to a fault.

The key of course is the price, which starts at $8,500 for the red Scrambler Icon ($8,600 for the yellow model we tested), and goes on up to just below $10,000 for the Full Throttle, Classic, and Urban Enduro models.

The clear winner in the “scrambler” segment, if there is such a thing from the OEMs, the real trick with the Ducati Scrambler however will be with the Italian company’s marketing efforts, which we have already discussed ad nauseum.

Today, we are just here to show you some of the gorgeous photos that came about from Ducati’s recent trip to Palm Springs, and the press launch which is still actually underway at the time of this writing.

You will note that we have included the aftermarket and apparel photos, something we usually omit for these mega gallery postings. We figured they were just as integral to the bike’s look/image/aesthetic as the machine itself. You’ll also note there are photos from the press launch as well, to give you an idea of the event and a look behind the scenes.

Over 220 high-resolution photos await you after the jump. Enjoy!

A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler79 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is the bike from Bologna for 2015. Loyal Ducatisti might be more excited by the upgraded Ducati 1299 Panigale, or the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200, but in terms of company growth and the future of the Italian brand, the Ducati Scrambler takes center stage.

With four waves of 30+ journalists coming to Palm Springs for the international press launch, it’s clear that Ducati is casting a wide net with the Scrambler, especially with the number of non-industry publications present.

The term “lifestyle brand” is often a four-letter word in the motorcycle industry, of course ignoring the obvious that all of motorcycling is a lifestyle choice in the first world, but nonetheless the term has been used liberally with Ducati and the company’s racing heritage.

That being said, the Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even.

This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand.

Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

Ducati Scrambler – For New Riders, Off-Roaders, & Hipsters

09/30/2014 @ 9:36 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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The INTERMOT is in full-swing in Cologne, which means that Ducati is ready to drop its new Scrambler model on the world. A highly marketed machine, which has drawn attention from Ducati’s 1299 superbike and new Multistrada, the Ducati Scrambler is another brand extension for the Italian company.

A further foray into the off-road world, as well as a strong offering for new riders, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon in red is priced at $8,495 — making it the cheapest model in the Ducati lineup. The rest of the range is priced as follows: Icon Yellow $8,595, Full Throttle $9,995, Urban Enduro $9,995, & Classic $9,995.

The 2015 Ducati Scrambler comes in four models, which use the company’s 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine design, that is borrowed from the Monster 796. Power thus comes out at 75hp, with peak torque being 50 lbs•ft, but the focus on the Scrambler is really more about the aesthetic of the bike and experience on the machine.

Kawasaki ZX3-RR Concept by ICON

08/22/2014 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Icon might not be the first brand you think of when you talk about road racing apparel, but the Oregonian company is certainly trying to evolve from its Stunt Life roots, into other aspects of two-wheeled culture.

Pushing into the more lifestyle, adventure, and sport segments of the industry, we have already seen Icon’s penchant for concept bikes, which I can atest haven’t really resonated with our sport-bike focused readers. I think today will be a little different though.

Teaming up with Kawasaki, Icon has built what it calls the Kawasaki ZX3-RR concept. Based off the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the Kawasaki ZX3-RR sees new bodywork and a slew of performance parts added to make a spec-series cup bike for young riders. It looks the business.

Iron Lung by Icon 1000

12/10/2013 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Oregon’s favorite motorcycle apparel brand has a custom motorcycle build for the holidays, the Icon 1000 “Iron Lung” Sportster. An homage to the bikes that Harley-Davidson used to build in the 1970’s, you know when the Bar & Shield brand did real racing, and was fairly good at it too.

Based around a 1991 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 engine, the Iron Lung sees its lump bored out to 1,200cc, with a Supertrapp exhaust helping things breathe a bit better as well. The front-end has been lowered and widened with wide-glide forks and custom triple clamp. Similarly, the rear features a custom subframe with Progressive 970 shocks.

To make Iron Lung work visually, Icon widened the fairings, which gives the machine a bulldog like stance: low and wide. Fitted with the company’s own variety of Portlandian hipster chic, the Iron Lung sports paint by Garage 31 and a custom seat by New Church Moto — two local outfits in Portland, Oregon.

The design isn’t really our usual fare here at Asphalt & Rubber, but you have to appreciate the honesty in Icon’s retelling of the Iron Lung’s performance assessment:

“Once completed, we headed down to an oval in Southern Oregon and kicked ‘er in the guts to be featured along side of our Spring 2014 ICON 1000 apparel collection – coming soon. Her handling was as questionable as the grandstand snacks, but she bore the brunt of torture with aplomb. It wouldn’t be an ICON 1000 bike without a true trial by fire. In Iron Lung’s case this was literal as she burst into flame after her initial shakedown run just a few weeks prior.”

We find that worryingly appealing. Party on boys and girls.

Icon Ties Arai in 2011 J.D. Power & Associates Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study

05/26/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

J.D. Power and Associates have released their 2011 Helmet Satisfaction Study, and the results are pretty interesting. The study takes an 11-point approach on helmet satisfaction, having helmet purchasers rank their lid on the following attributes: quietness; ventilation/air flow; de-fogging performance; face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out; face shield resistance to scratching; ease of replacing face shield; scratch resistance of shell; color/graphic design; weight; ease of fastening the strap; and fit and comfort.

Perhaps unsurprising to many, Arai topped the list as having the highest rating (this makes the 13th year in a row for the Japanese helmet manufacturer), but this year will carry an asterisk, as Icon tied Arai in customer satisfaction with a score of 852 out of 1,000. According to JDPA, Arai’s scores across all 11 attributes were strong, with a particular strength in “fit & comfort” and “face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out”. Similarly, Icon scored especially well in “color/graphic design”, while Shoei got strong marks for “ease of replacing the face shield”.

Video: Introducing Ernie, Jason, Eric, & Nick

08/05/2010 @ 5:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

As our tipster noted in his email, we’re not really into stunting that much here at the A&R office. However, we are big fans of awesome, and this video of Icon sponsored stunt riders Ernie Vigil, Jason Britton, Eric Hoenshell, and Nick Brocha during their thing has plenty of awesome in it. Great stunts, great music, great videography, Icon continues to find “win” in its ongoing video series. Keep them coming guys.

The Hoenshell Shutter – “It’s Time to Go Home”

06/02/2010 @ 4:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

There aren’t a lot of stunters in the A&R office, but when Icon sent us this video a few minutes ago you could here our collective jaws dropping in the San Francisco/Bay Area. In this stunt video out take, Eric Hoenshell helps out fellow stunter Jason Britton close the tailgate on his truck after a long day of stunting, and the rest pretty much writes itself. Thanks for the tip guys!