California Formalizes Lane-Splitting Law

It finally happened, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 51 into law, making California the first state to put lane-splitting on its books. Lane-splitting has always been legal of course (despite what other headlines might suggest), though was legal only by a technical loophole in the California Vehicle Code (CVC). The passage of AB 51 now formally adds lane-splitting as a condoned practice by the CVC; and more importantly, it expressly allows government agencies, like the California Highway Patrol, to create and teach best-practice guidelines. AB 51 still creates some basic jurisprudence issues, like granting legislative powers to the executive branch, but many in the pro-lane-splitting movement seem to look past that issue, instead focusing on what it brings to motorcyclists.

EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

The EPA DOJ have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices. Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Moto3: Sky VR46 Fires Romano Fenati

As expected, Romano Fenati has been formally released from his contract with the Sky VR46 team. The Italian was suspended from the team after an incident at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That was a temporary measure, but it has now been made permanent. Fenati was released for behavioral issues. The Italian had been abusive towards members of the team, and had not behaved in a professional manner. The incident in Austria was just the latest in a long line of breaches of behavioral conduct, which included confirmed reports of verbal abuse and unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of physical conflict. The Sky VR46 team have announced that they will be bringing Lorenzo Dalla Porta in to join Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega in the Moto3 team.

Two New BMW R nineT Models Coming

Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that BMW Motorrad has two more variations of its retro-styled motorcycle line coming to the USA: the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer. These two bikes would join the other two air-cooled models we have already seen from the Germans, the base model BMW R nineT and the recently released BMW R nineT Scrambler, which debuted at EICMA last year. Our friends at Motorcycle.com spotted the CARB filings, and believe one of the machines will be based off the BMW Lac Rose concept – an ADV throw-back to when the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar. The other model though, could be anyone’s guess, as BMW hasn’t dropped any other concepts or hints in the past months.

Q&A: KTM On-Road Technical Director Sebastian Risse – The Development of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike

Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008. He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class. Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike. After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel. Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches. This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog. There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel.

2017 KTM RC16 Officially Debuts

The Austrian GP might be tomorrow, but today the news is all about MotoGP’s newest entrant, KTM Racing. The Austrian team used its home to debut officially its MotoGP program, showing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike in its officially Red Bull livery for next year. The livery itself is what you would expect between at KTM/Red Bull collaboration, with the same blue and orange paint scheme as can be found on the Red Bull KTM Moto3 squad. The big difference of course is the rumored fire-breathing, 270hp, V4, engine, which Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will attempt to tame. The bike’s next outing will be at Valencia, where Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio will ride with the MotoGP-regulars once again, competing as wild card entries.

MotoGP Considering Team Communication via Dashboards

Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes. The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track. Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.

Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay. On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle. The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

Someone is trying to pass off the above photo as the eagerly awaited 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – unfortunately, it’s a fake. I’m actually surprised this piece of photoshop has some legs, and is making its way around the internet, considering how obvious the forgery. To verify its authenticity, all one would have to do is to compare the above photo with photos of the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1. Contrasting the two, it’s clear that the chassis and exposed parts of the engine are right off the Yamaha YZF-R1 (it’s easiest to see on the swingarm). The real smoking gun though is that the forger used a Yamaha press photo as their base. I was able to find the base photo, which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo.

Unfold Honda’s “Power of Dreams” in Paper

09/22/2015 @ 4:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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It’s easy to focus on what is right in front of us, but every now and then you have to stop and think about the past – and a company like Honda certainly has a storied past.

Honda helped contribute to the rise of a post-WWII Japanese economy. It has built some of the most iconic vehicles in modern time, some of them two-wheeled, some of them not.

And for as much grief we give Big Red sometimes, it is one of the few brands in the motorcycle industry that truly sets the tone for everyone else. When Honda talks, everyone listens.

Maybe that’s what makes this short video from Honda, which debuted on Sunday during primetime football, so appealing to us – both as lovers of motorcycles, but also good branding.

The commercial is clever and well executed, and in less than two minutes it not only reminds us of the pedigree that is the Honda brand, but also of all the milestones the company has achieved in what will be 67 years at the end of this week. Pretty impressive stuff.

Is The Honda RC213V-S Really Your Dream Bike?

08/13/2015 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler92 COMMENTS

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Roughly four years ago, I wrote a story called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” that implored the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to build elements into their brand that went beyond the tangible and into the intangible — I was basically asking these brands to create what motorcyclists call soul.

From that story, I got a number of insightful emails from employees at these Japanese brands, who shared my frustration with the soulless machines their employers were creating. Despite those emails, when the Honda RC213V-S debuted, I was struck by how extensively that message had fallen on deaf ears.

The day of the RC213V-S’s launch, I asked my Facebook followers if the Japanese brand had “just pulled a Honda” on its release Honda RC213V-S – debuting a machine that ticked all the right objective boxes, but failed the most subjective of all tests: my lustful desire to own it.

How Heroes and Villains Can Help Save World Superbikes

05/26/2015 @ 11:16 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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Sunday was a pretty good day for British motorcycle racing fans. The first four finishers in both World Superbike races were British riders, and wildcard Kyle Ryde rode a thrilling and aggressive race to finish on the podium in his first ever World Supersport race.

And yet less than 16,000 spectators turned up to Donington Park to watch the action.

When you factor in the creative mathematics which goes into generating spectator numbers at sporting events (motorcycle racing is not alone in this), and then take a wild stab at the number of attendees on some form of freebie or other, then the actual quantity of punters who handed over cold, hard cash for a ticket is likely to be disappointingly low.

Once upon a time, British fans flocked to Brands Hatch to watch WSBK. Though the claims of 100,000 at the Kent track are almost certainly a wild exaggeration, there is no doubt that the circuit was packed.

Fans thronged at every fence, filling every open patch of ground to watch their heroes in combat. So what went wrong?

Consumer Reports: Victory Owners the Most Happy, But Yamaha the Most Reliable

04/08/2015 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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Consumer Reports has taken another polling from motorcycle owners, a part of the publication’s continuous assessment on the value of various motorcycle brands and categories.

As usual, the Japanese brands dominated the reliability segment, though that did not automatically translate into the happiest of owners.

Victory Motorcycles takes the cake for keeping its customers happy, which stems from having fairly reliable motorcycles, coupled with good customer service and dealer interactions.

As such, 80% of Victory owners said they would buy a Victory again. Compare that figure to 72% for Harley-Davidson, and 70% for Honda (all other OEMs were below 70%).

The FIA’s Endurance Championship Bans Umbrella Girls

04/06/2015 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler85 COMMENTS

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No, it’s not April Fools, but it does seem that motorsports in general is evolving into the 21st century. No sooner did A&R run an article about umbrella girls in the MotoGP Championship, then did the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) announce that it would do away with scantily clad girls at all its events, including at the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It’s an interesting move by a major series in the four-wheeled world — the effects of which will undoubtedly be tracked by every major racing series around the world.

Will WEC see a drop in male attendance? An increase in female attendance? An influx of new advertisers? Younger viewers? These are all valid and interesting questions.

Is This Why There Are No Female MotoGP Fans?

03/31/2015 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler179 COMMENTS

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First debuting a new website before the Qatar GP, it’s clear that Dorna has its social media team out in full-force for the 2015 MotoGP Championship season — the Spanish company finally taking a shine to the online world.

So with all the news coming out of the season-opener at Losail, it is unsurprising that my social feeds are full of posts regarding Rossi’s win, Ducati’s revival, and Dani Pedrosa’s shocking revelation — on top of all the usual fanfare that comes with MotoGP finally restarting.

One story caught my eye in particular though, less for its content, and more for its source. The caption to the story was your typical craftily picked social media headline, designed to illicit clicks and responses from readers. It read: “What would we do without our lovely ‪#‎MotoGP‬ girls?!”

It was by the Official MotoGP Facebook page, and it was not referring to the organization’s female racers. Le sigh.

IOMTT Looking for Race Promoter for International Series

01/22/2015 @ 12:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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The Isle of Man government is looking for an independent promoter that wishes to organize and commercialize the Isle of Man TT and Classic TT races, as well as develop a new global Isle of Man TT styled series.

This international “TT Series” would have road racing rounds that take place around the world, with the season culminating at the Isle of Man TT.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

01/13/2015 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock.

Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati.

Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “we had a past experience of cross-marketing with Ducati that was promising, but the company was acquired by Audi and the experiment ended.”

“We now have a new partnership with MV Agusta, a very prestigious brand,” the Mercedes CEO continued. “Again, we have established a cross-branding strategy between AMG and MV Agusta and we believe that the two brands are complementary. However, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Editor’s Blog: A Last Lingering Thought for 2014

12/31/2014 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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It will be a new year soon, and for some of Asphalt & Rubber‘s more international readers, New Year’s Eve may have already given way to New Year’s Day (Happy New Year, if that’s already the case).

Going through my various feeds, it seems obligatory that we make some sort of Happy New Year proclamation, summarize the stories the site has covered, and share some insight on the inner-workings of our operation here at A&R. The Dude abides, but bear with me first.

Honda Begins to Hype Its “True Adventure”

12/17/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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We were a bit dismayed when Honda didn’t debut its new “Africa Twin” at the 2014 EICMA show, as a proper ADV machine from the Japanese had been well-rumored prior to the show.

To its credit, Honda did show us the “True Adventure” concept, which fit the bill quite nicely, though no technical aspects were made public, and no production date was mentioned.

Looking like a near-production machine though, we had hopes of seeing the Africa Twin / True Adventure / Whatever debuting officially soon, especially since the concept had some intriguing aspects to it (namely, no clutch lever).

Honda seems to be warming up to that release date though, after posting two videos to its European YouTube channel. The first video plays on Honda’s history in the Dakar Rally, an event that is rapidly approaching us; and the second video depicts various long-distance Honda explorers — both key elements to the ADV culture.

Could Big Red be readying its proper ADV for a last-model year release? It’s certainly acting like it.