Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

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 “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.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine. The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride. The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine. We will let you measure out how much faith to give that report, but make no mistake that a new era in motorcycle motor design is upon us.

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

08/02/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven.

I suppose we could frame our discussion about the Mission R in the same tone that we would talk about other ultra-exclusive motorcycles, like for instance the Moto2-only Bimota HB4 or the connoisseur’s NCR M4 ONE SHOT. That kind of analysis would in essence read more like an art critique, since the closest any real motorcyclist would get to one these bikes is via a computer screen (perhaps the pages of a magazine, if that is your thing) or on display at some sort of public event, no doubt inside a corral of faux-velvet ropes. In that case, I could wax-on some of the best hyperbole possible, building the dream of riding such fantasy machine as far as possible. After all, the Mission R at the moment is complete unobtainium, and that only serves to fuel our product-lust further.

Just as equally, we could have a nitty-gritty discussion about the weights and measures of the Mission R. We could explore every technical detail that Mission Motors has available, and extrapolate everything else that the San Franciscan company would rather not disclose to the general public. We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps.

Simply the best electric motorcycle with a license plate, I suppose when pressed we could talk about the future of motorcycling, how electrics are coming of age, and how the Mission R is the embodiment of what performance parity looks like in a two-wheeled electric vehicle. Make like the Pope, get out the holy water, and let us convert some petrol-loving heathens, right? I think there is about as much of a Mormons-on-your-doorstop chance in hell of convincing any internal-combustion riding motorcyclist to see the light when it comes to electrons being the fuel of the future, so why don’t we just spare ourselves that sermon as well. So where does that leave us?

Instead, let us play an exercise in mental cognition. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal motorcycle. The design is fresh and edgy, but also refined and timeless. The motorcycle has all the right go-fast parts and brands: Öhlins WSBK-spec suspension, Brembo beryllium brake calipers, 10-spoke Marchesini forged-magnesium wheels, custom carbon fiber bodywork, and a bevy of other top-shelf components and accents. On the dynamometer, the torque curve on this mythical machine is shaped like a plateau, and the power comes on immediately, but is still smooth and linear. The motor has no flat spots, and there are no pits or falls on its dyno graph; and best of all, at the end of the day, this exercise in fantasy packs twice as much torque as your typical liter-bike. The cost for a day’s worth of fuel? About one dollar.

Hold all these elements in your mind for a moment, and then open your eyes. The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. Click past the jump for our account about riding San Francisco’s motorcycle playground on the Mission R electric superbike.

Mission R Spotted in Street-Legal Trim

03/01/2012 @ 10:31 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

To be filed under the heading: “right place, right time,” I had the good fortune of catching Mission Motors’ Mission R out on the streets yesterday, as one of the San Franciscan company’s engineers took the bike out while doing errands at the SF Dainese Store. Stopping by the store myself to show off the Zero S that’s been camping in my living room for the last two weeks, I quickly found my thunder stolen by Mission’s two-wheeled masterpiece.

Of course, any opportunity to see the Mission R is a treat, as the electric superbike is not only a delicious dish in person, but it also happens to have no problem doing supersport lap times at Laguna Seca when Steve Rapp is on-board. However, what made this sighting of the Mission R extra special was the fact that Mission Motors has outfitted the Mission R with a headlight, mirror, and most importantly, a California license plate.

Other choice pieces include an Android-powered Samsung tablet that fills in as the Mission R’s digital dash, which is sure to tickle the fancy of our geekier readers. If you are an SF native, keep an eye out for the Mission R on the city streets, the rider you see might be a Mission Motors engineer, a Hollywood celebrity (we hear Ryan Reynolds has been jonesing for a Mission R like something fierce), or a Fortune 500 executive.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

Sprint Features Mission Motors in TV Commercials

08/30/2011 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

On my way to the Indianapolis GP this weekend, I was sitting in coach (because that’s how we roll here at A&R) on Delta flight 147 to Atlanta (direct flights are for wusses), passing the time on the 5 hour flight by watching the airline’s 15 or so TV channels ($6 for an in-flight movie??! Who are you kidding Delta?). Suffering through mostly daytime soap operas, I opted to to watch the news stations instead. While the day’s headlines were mostly about the impending apocalypses that were hurricane Irene and the retirement of Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO, the segment I found the most interesting were the commercials (this should say something about CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News).

Somehow managing to stay conscious long enough through the advertisements, I hear a Sprint spokesman quickly say “what if we design an electric motorcycle?” Surprised to hear such a non sequitur on TV, I looked up in-time to briefly see a CAD drawing of a motorcycle, whose frame quickly reminded me of the Mission R (with and without its clothes). With the rest of the commercial talking about some Samsung tablets, I remembered that Mission Motors uses a Samsung Tab for the prototype Mission R dash (photo after the jump). Could it be the Sprint was hocking Mission Motors in a TV ad?

Co-Founder Edward West Leaves Mission Motors

08/23/2011 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has learned that Mission Motors’s co-founder Edward West has left the company. West’s departure is contemporaneous with the San Francisco startup’s recent $9 million Series B funding round, which sees another $41 million in funding on-tap should the company need it. Helping start Mission Motors roughly five years ago, West’s next endeavor isn’t immediately clear, though, he was quick to praise the Mission Motors team, and the collection of highly talented individuals that he had the pleasure of working with throughout the years.

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus

08/17/2011 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

News comes to us from across the Bay this morning, as Mission Motors has announced that it has closed a $9 million Series B financing round led by Warbug Pincus. A global private equity firm with $30 billion in assets under management, Warbug Pincus invested $7.5 million in Mission Motors (with room up to an additional $41 million), while Infield Capital, one of Mission’s original investors, doubled-dipped back into the company, presumably with the remaining $1.5 million for the series.

The use of funds will go towards Mission Motors’s continued venture of supplying OEM customers with electric and hybrid drive train solutions — an exclusive endeavor the company has been undertaking for over a year now, but apparently something the less-informed motorcycle press is only now taking notice of today.

The Rappture Comes to Laguna Seca – Mission Motors Wins Electric Bike Showdown

07/24/2011 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

With the micro-weather climate that is Laguna Seca, the skies cleared in time for the FIM e-Power/TTXGP Championship race. Fast throughout the week, Steve Rapp stood on the pole position riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike supersport. Qualifying second was Michael Barnes on the Lightning entry, and rounding out the front row was Michael Czysz on the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc. With eleven motorcycles on the starting grid, Laguna Seca proved to be one of the most well-attended grids for electric motorcycle racing; but perhaps more importantly, it was host to some of the most professional entries we’ve seen to-date from electric racing.

With 11 seconds covering the top six riders, the gaps between teams has narrowed in the two short years of electric motorcycle racing. Most of that gap caused by Mission’s scorching pace, a margin of just three tenths of a second covered the second row of the grid, making a battle for fourth almost assured from the get-go. Though the qualifying times were far apart overall, there was still some close racing to be had at Laguna Seca.

How is Steve Rapp Like Moses? They Were Both on a Mission to the Promised Land

07/23/2011 @ 11:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The joint e-Power/TTXGP round at Laguna Seca saw its second round today, with virtually all the riders improving upon their times from yesterday’s free practice. Once again at the top was Supersport-paced Mission R, which was piloted by Steve Rapp to a 1’31.376 pole-position time. One of the only shake-ups on the grid position, Lightning Motorcycles bested last year’s winner MotoCzysz for the second starting position, as the company from San Carlos found some more cornering speed from its previous Isle of Man suspension setup.

MotoCzysz also improved upon its unique suspension design, looking very strong down the straight-away. Hopefully Czysz can find some more speed and make the battle for second a close one, while the battle for fourth should be a hot contest with Germany’s Münch Racing just five hundredths of a second ahead of Oregon’s Brammo. Qualifying results are after the jump, and check back tomorrow for our full coverage of the Laguna Seca electric round.

Mission Motors Laps at AMA Supersport Pace at Laguna Seca

07/23/2011 @ 1:06 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

While the REFUEL event a few weeks ago was Mission Motors’ true first public race with the Mission R, the San Francisco company is on a mission (oh sweet jesus) to prove a point at Laguna Seca this weekend, after previously being out of the electric racing gig for the past year. Undoubtedly by now you’ve seen photos of the Mission R electric superbike, and while it certainly looks fast standing still, the question had also been raised if it’s only good for standing around and looking pretty.

Taking those talking points to heart, Steve Rapp silenced those critics today, as the Mission Motors rider smashed the standing “best lap” time from last year’s e-Power Championship race at Laguna Seca, which was set by competitor MotoCzysz. Posting a 1’33.714 lap time, Rapp was nearly 11 seconds quicker than last year’s pace, and did so at will on the Mission R, posting half of his laps below the 1’34 mark (his slowest hot lap was a 1’36).

To put that pace into perspective, Rapp would have been fifth on the grid had he been lapping in AMA Supersport’s Free Practice (which occurred early in the day, and thus on a cold track), and thirteenth in AMA Supersport’s Qualifying Practice 1 (which was later in the day, and in similar conditions as the e-Power/TTXGP session). Boom goes the dynamite.

One Lap on the Mission Motors Mission R at Laguna Seca

06/27/2011 @ 6:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Mission Motors crew was out at Laguna Seca this past weekend with the Mission R electric superbike. Taking part in the Refuel Time Trial, Steve Rapp piloted the Mission R around the historic coastal Californian track, clocking in a top lap time of 1:43.700 according to the Mission stopwatches. With that pace, it would put the Mission R as backmarker in the AMA Supersport race at Laguna Seca last year, and about 15 seconds off Steve Rapp’s own Daytona SportBike time at the same event.

While true sportbike parity isn’t here yet, this is to only the second time that Mission Motors has had the Mission R on the track (Mission somehow sneaked the Mission R onto Thunderhill Raceway without our Bothans informing us), which makes the lap a pretty impressive starting point for the design. Check the video after the jump.