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.

California Rebating $1,500 on Electric Motorcycle Purchases with Clean Vehicle Rebate Project

03/26/2010 @ 6:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

After Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), the Governator took a tour of electric vehicle companies in the Golden State. The new law lops $1,500 off the sticker price off an electric motorcycle for California residence, which in many cases means over 15% off the sticker price.

Taking a look at both Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors, Gov. Schwarzenegger made endorsing comments about the two companies and how they are allowing California to take the lead in the emerging electric vehicle markets.

Mission Motors Changes Management Line-up – Appoints Jit Bhattacharya as Interim CEO

02/11/2010 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Mission Motors has announced today that they have replaced co-founder Forrest North in his role as company CEO. The move signals a change within Mission Motors that shows the company focusing on bringing products into production and putting them into consumers’ hands. In their announcement, Mission Motors’ Board of Directors have begun their search for a long-term CEO with experience in product development and automotive manufacturing, but in the interim the company will be headed by its current COO Jit Bhattacharya.

The transition, while seemingly drastic, is one that every startup must face as it moves from a visionary and industry challenging mindset to a functional and operational capacity. This movement in management is one that virtually all startups face at some point or another, and something we’ve talked about here in some detail in our “Tradition is not a Business Model” series, so it’s announcement at this point in time isn’t terribly surprising to this author, and storied lesson in entrepreneurship that transcends even into the motorcycle industry.

Mission One Deliveries Delayed Until Q2 2011 – “Mission Two” in the Works

02/11/2010 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In conjunction with its announcement that Forrest North has stepped down as CEO of Mission Motors, the San Francisco based company is also announcing that the delivery dates for the Mission One electric superbike have been pushed back from Q4 of 2010 to Q2 of 2011. Mission Motors attributes the deadline push-back to the unforeseen economic collapse in both the motorcycle industry as well as in the capital markets. Despite these setbacks, the company is still on track to deliver the Mission One in a timeframe quicker than or equal to the industry norm, and has also revealed that an addition to the Mission One (which we’ll dub the Mission Two until we hear otherwise) will be announced later this year.

Chinese Motorcycle Powerhouse Zongshen Eyes Mission Motors for Strategic Partnership

02/02/2010 @ 11:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Chongqing Zongshen Power Machinery Co. announced today that it has signed a memo of cooperation with Mission Motors, which could see the Chinese company link up with the San Francisco firm to develop electric drive systems for the emerging market and in other markets throughout the world.

In the memo, Zongshen outlines its intent to become a major shareholder in Mission Motors, and to also inject capital into the small startup after it presents a three year plan to the Chinese company. For Mission Motors the move would be valuable strategic partnership to gain a foothold in China, which already has a booming two-wheeled market and need for reduced CO2 emissions.

Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler Talks (a lot) on The Motorcycle Nation Podcast

01/25/2010 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It was a busy weekend in the A&R office, not only was John Adamo out talking on the EVcast, but our own editor Jensen Beeler took some time this Sunday talk (at length!) to Steve McQueen and the Motorcycle Nation podcast. Jensen and Steve cover everything from how Asphalt & Rubber got its start (spoiler alert: he lost a bet with Warren Buffett), A&R StreetLevel, electric motorcycle startups, American motorcycle companies, and just about anything else that came up in-between.

Listen to the podcast after the jump, subscribe to Motorcycle Nation on iTunes, and listen to Jensen learn what life is like on the other side of the interview table after the jump.

Mission Motors Gets Jazzy Cool as They Slide Around Infineon Raceway

12/29/2009 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Want to see what the fastest production electric motorcycle looks like as it power-wheelies and slides the back-end around Infineon Raceway? The folks at Mission Motors thought you might, and put together a promotional video that showcases the (Editor’s Note: Mission Motors President Edward West has commented below that this is a fan video) Mission One doing its thing to an urban beatnik vibe. Grab a cup of your favorite fair trade coffee, put on your hipster skinny jeans, and get ready to see motorcycling through the eyes of the Mission District à la San Francisco in the video after the jump.

Mission Motors Commits to 2010 TTXGP [Confirmed]

12/03/2009 @ 8:08 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Mission-Motors-Mission-One-Infineon-Raceway

Following yesterday’s announcement that Zero Motorcycles will be entering into electric streetbike racing and the TTXGP, comes news that Mission Motors will also be entering the TTXGP series with their LSR setting Mission One sportbike. The first stop of the TTXGP North American Championship is set to be held at Infineon Raceway, which has been the test track of choice for Mission Motors and the Mission One. Press release after the jump.

Tradition Is Not A Business Model: Mission Motors

10/27/2009 @ 7:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

When is a motorcycle more than a bike? When does the electric motorcycle become more than a powertrain? One of the largest hurdles that electric motorcycles face (along with electric vehicles as a whole) is the public notion that these vehicles are like their internal combustion counterparts, and therefore fit into the same preconceived anatomy of what a motorcycle should look and behave like.

However, with electric motorcycles comes the opportunity to start with a fresh slate on how we move about on two-wheels. If form follows function, then with this new function should come a new form. Yet, I still find it amusing when I see electric motorcycles with fabricated fairing fuel tanks. Granted there is a lot to be said about industrial design and its relation to psychology, but I think this fact illustrates the unfluctuating desire of motorcyclists to make every square bike fit through a round-hole.

Despite this allegory, the motorcycle industry sees electric motorcycle startups challenging a lot of norms that we still cling to desperately in the motorcycle industry. Our final stop in the “Tradition Is Not A Business Model” tour of motorcycle startups, takes us to San Francisco, California and the offices of Mission Motors. Fresh on the heels of Mission’s announcement of the Neimen Marcus Limited Edition Mission One, I got a chance to sit down with company CEO/Founder Forrest North and Product Manager Jeremy Cleland, to talk about how technology changes the way we understand and use motorcycles; and perhaps more important, how manufacturers can design and build better motorcycles better in the future.

Lightning Motorcycles Does 166 MPH Bonneville Run

10/16/2009 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Lightning-Motors-Bonneville-land-speed-record-8

Watch out Mission Motors, electric motorcycle manufacturer Lightning Motorcycles is gunning for you. This week at the SCTA World Finals at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Lightning’s pre-production prototype set a speed of 166.388 mph. While only completing a single pass down the salt flats, and not a return journey to make an official speed entry, 166 mph is still an impressive mark, and has provided the company with crucial information as they get ready to go commercial in 2010. Photos and more after the jump.

Mission Motors Unveils the Neiman Marcus Limited Edition Mission One

10/10/2009 @ 3:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Mission-Motors-Niemen-Marcus-Edition-1

Just in time for the holiday season, Mission Motors has made it into the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book with their Mission One electric motorcycle. The Neiman Marcus Limited Edition Mission One will only consist of 10 bikes, and accordingly comes with a $73,000 price tag. More after the jump.