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.

Former Skully Employee Alleges in Lawsuit that Executives Used Corporate Funds as “Personal Piggy Banks”

A former Skully employee, Isabelle Faithhauer, is bringing suit against Skully and its founders Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller. Faithhauer is the former-assistant to Skully CEO Marcus Weller, and for a time, served as the company’s bookkeeper. In her complaint she alleges that Skully wrongfully terminated her, and brings several other causes of action that are related to that wrongful termination. However in her filing with the court, Faithhauer also lists a number of incidents where Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller allegedly used company funds to buy exotic cars, rent expensive apartments in San Francisco, and travel around the world.

2016 Motorcycle Deliveries Delayed? Thanks Volkswagen

03/25/2016 @ 1:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Are you waiting for a 2016 model year motorcycle that hasn’t arrived yet? You might have Volkswagen to blame.

Asphalt & Rubber has been contacted by several motorcycle manufacturers who have said that their new-for-2016 models are being held up by mountainous paperwork requests, both from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The paperwork requests seem to be an across the board effort by the EPA and CARB to check for emission irregularities in the filings from automobile OEMs on their new models, an effort which has included motorcycle manufacturers as well.

But why the fine-toothed comb? The answer is because of the Volkswagen diesel emissions fiasco from last year, the desire not to have another “Dieselgate” scandal.

Ducati 959 Panigale Gets Normal Exhaust for the USA

11/16/2015 @ 11:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Judging by the amount of traffic the story is getting, we imagine the sight of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale at the EICMA show has ruffled a few feathers.

That’s understandable, since the Euro4 emission standards have forced the Italians to give the Ducati 959 Panigale an exhaust system that we’ve previously only seen on the Japanese-spec model of the Ducati 1199 Superbike.

While the shotgun exhaust isn’t as gawdy as one would think, it’s certainly a stark departure from the underslung units we are used to. We imagine it’s a moot point though, considering how many 959 Panigales will get some sort of slip-on or full-system exhaust from their new owners.

Just the same, the issue seems to be isolated to European soil, as the US-spec version of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale exhaust is just how we remember it. Check out the photos, after the jump, and compare it to the European-spec model (the first photo in the gallery).

Sena Noise Control – Finally a Noise-Cancelling Helmet

10/15/2015 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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People who ride with me know that I’m obsessive about wearing earplugs, as nothing ruins your hearing better than a motorcycle helmet. If we cut the marketing BS, there is really no such thing as a quiet helmet, just helmets that are quieter than others…until now.

Behold, a noise-cancelling helmet is finally available to the masses, with the Sena Noise Control Helmet.

It is almost surprising that noise-cancellation technology has taken this long to come to the two-wheeled space, of course any industry veteran can tell you how slow to change the motorcycle industry is, even with established technologies.

Noise cancellation technology is so well-known right now, we doubt we even need to breakdown this announcement for you, but we will anyways. Because, Luddites.

Oh No, Not Again – Ducati 899 Panigale: Japan Edition

01/22/2014 @ 12:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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If you’re in the market for a Ducati 899 Panigale, and have the misfortune of living in Japan, the above is what you will be forced to buy. You see the Ducati 899 Panigale, like the Ducati 1199 Panigale and MV Agusta F3, is too loud in its stock form for the Japanese market.

Compounding the issue, the Island Nation is too small of a market for Ducati to revamp its design to meet homologation in its stock form, so an obvious quick-fix has been implemented instead.

It’s a bit of an eyesore on any model; but on the Panigale, the long carbon fiber pipe detracts from the hard work Ducati designers and engineers put into the attractive under-slung unit on the middleweight sport bike. Also of note is the revised big black plastic clutch cover, for added sound dampening.

We’re told the eyesore can be easily removed, with most dealers taking that liberty for an owner at the time of purchase, but still…somethings just aren’t right. A big hat tip to loyal A&R reader Trane for snapping these photos. The sake is on us.

Crimes Against Motorcycling: MV Agusta F3 – Japan Edition

03/26/2013 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Remember when the Ducati 1199 Panigale hit the shores of Japan, and the Bologna Bullet got an ugly mid-pipe and exhaust can welded into place, whiled the underslung exhaust cans welded shut? It was such an affront to the senses of some of our loyal Ducatisti readers, our comments section was flooded with the word “hoax” and the cry to burn it with fire.

Unlike Santa Claus, the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale is very real Virginia, and it features other changes beyond its monstrous exhaust to help quiet the beast that resides within its fairings.

Ducati is not alone in the list of brands that have seen the gorgeous lines of their machines ruined by the strict noise and emission standards of Nippon. Committing yet another crime against motorcycling, we have for your viewing terror official photos of the Japanese edition of the MV Agusta F3 675 — yes, the exhaust can of doom makes a return appearance.

Sorry, The Japanese-Spec Panigale is Not a Hoax

08/30/2012 @ 5:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

Never underestimate the power of denial. When we first published photos of the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale, the immediate reaction from readers was that the machine had to be a hoax. Oh no dear Ducatisti, Japan’s v-twin abomination of Italy’s latest superbike is very real.

With Japanese journalists now getting a chance to swing a leg over the machine, we get our first glimpse of the bike in motion. Noticeably quieter than our American-spec version, we still don’t understand the need for such a butchering of Ducati’s design. But then again, we’re bloggers, not engineers.

Featuring a single right-hand-side-mounted exhaust that taps into the under-slung units we are more familiar with, the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale also features an enlarged plastic clutch cover, and a re-worked engine map (the S model also features the base model’s wheels). Check the video out after the jump. If any of our Japanese speakers hear something interesting in the video, post it up in the comments.

Too Loud for Japan – The Ducati 1199 Panigale Gets Ruined for the Japanese Market

08/14/2012 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

We have to feel sorry for our Japanese readers today, as a crime against motorcycling has occurred in the Japanese motorcycle market. The bike of 2012, and arguably one of the more beautiful designs to come out of Bologna (don’t worry 916 fans, we still like the Tamburini classic more), it turns out that the Ducati 1199 Panigale was a touch too loud for the Japanese market, and modifications had to be made before it is released to the island nation next month. Some extra baffle, maybe some tuning to the ECU, and no big deal right? Well…no, not quite.

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.

Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf?

08/05/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

I ride bikes for a living, in case you didn’t know this already. I ride more miles on two wheels in a year, than the average American does in their automobile (I put more four-wheel miles down a year than the average American does as well, if that gives you any idea how much of Asphalt & Rubber is written while on the road). With all this riding, I’ve become increasingly concerned over my hearing, as I’d like still to have it when I’m older. Thus for my own personal benefit, I’ve been trying out the different kinds of ear protection that are available to motorcyclists, as well as a variety of helmets from manufacturers (articles surely to ensue).

So when the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Bear in mind I’m a staunch believer in helmet laws and riding with a full-face helmet (my apologies to the Libertarians in the group), so when the study suggested that my two main concerns regarding my head may be at odds with each other, it piqued my interest.

The Noise Snare Photo System – Loud Pipes Beware

05/23/2011 @ 7:20 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The next hot-button issue concerning the EPA and motorcycles is not gas and particle pollution like you might expect, but instead simply noise. There’s always been a battle between the straight-pipe running motorcycle contingency (you know who you are), whose loud pipes have been an earsore for both regular citizens and motorcyclists alike. With the EPA cracking down at a federal level, and states like California adopting similar provisions, it would seem the day of the straight-pipe are going the way of the dodo, but the issue doesn’t stop there.

Take the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R, the would-be superbike of 2011 (if Kawasaki ever sends us one from the press fleet), which boasted an astonishing 207hp at the crank with ram-air. Motorcycle enthusiasts of the United States were disappointed when the machine arrived on American soil, and learned that the new ZX-10R had been de-tuned to meet EPA standards. Losing roughly 10hp, the presumption was that the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R had failed to meet emission standards, but the reality is that Kawasaki had to de-tune the bike in order to make it quieter.

Shortening the rev range by 750 RPM, Kawasaki basically gamed the system on how the EPA measures sound, which is based off a percentage of the total rev range. Perhaps the first to comply with this new standard, American motorcyclists can look forward to different performance spec-sheets on sport bikes from those found abroad in the soon-to-come future. Of course as is the case with the Kawasaki ZX-10R, bypassing the changes made to meet EPA compliance is a simple matter of modifying the electronics package, and then Bob’s your uncle. However would-be tinkerers may want to think twice, as a new device known as the Noise Snare is set to make its debut on catching overly-loud motor vehicles.