Honda Neowing Concept – A Hybrid Leaning Trike

It seems that the Japanese are really exploring the idea of leaning multi-wheel concepts. First was the Yamaha Teseract, with its four wheels of leaning fury, which gave rise to the production of the Yamaha Tricity scooter, and the Yamaha 03GEN-f & Yamaha 03GEN-x concepts. Team Green has explored this space with the Kawasaki J Concept, Piaggio has its MP3 500 maxi-scooter (and supposedly has the lockdown on patents for this innovative design), and now Honda has its Neowing – a gas/electric hybrid leaning three-wheeler. Like its counterparts, this trike has two wheels in the front, with the rider in a motorcycle-styled sitting position. Adding to the motorcycle experience, the trike leans through turns. Huzah!

Suzuki GSX Concept Hints At…Something

Unlike the Honda “Light Weight Super Sports” concept, which gives a clear indication as to the cut of the Japanese manufacturer’s jib, the Suzuki GSX concept leaves a bit more to the imagination. We know that the Suzuki GSX-R line is woeful need of an update, and our best information pegs the Suzuki GSX-R1000 finally getting a refresh in mid-2016, as an early 2017 model. Other rumors suggest we’ll see something interesting from the Suzuki brand at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and hopefully that doesn’t mean just this GSX concept. Maybe this is a nod that Suzuki had finally awoken from its slumber, and plans on refreshing some of its most iconic sport bikes.

Honda’s “Light Weight Super Sports” Concept Gives Hope for a Honda CBR250RR in the Near Future

When it comes to the small-displacement trend that we’ve seen from manufacturers, Honda’s offering is competent, but lacking when compared to what has come out from Kawasaki, KTM, and Yamaha. If the Honda’s “Light Weight Super Sports” concept (super high-resolution photo above), which will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, is any indication though, the Japanese manufacturer is about to blow the competition out of the water with what will likely be the Honda CBR250RR. The concept shown has a different chassis from the Honda CBR250R and Honda CBR300R, which bode well for the machine being substantially different from what is on the market now from Honda.

The Suter MMX 500 is the Ultimate Two-Stroke Track Bike

The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically. Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course. That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).

New 937cc Ducati Hypermotard 939 Outed for 2016

In addition to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale, Ducati is set to update the Hypermotard line, according to documents filed with the California Air Resources Board. The filing shows three new Hypers: the base model Hypermotard, the up-spec Hypermotard SP, and the touring-oriented Hyperstrada. Unfortunately the CARB filings don’t tell us too much about the machines, other than their emissions are lower (thanks to Euro 4 compliance), and that all three street bikes will use a 937cc engine and a six-speed gearbox. These Hypers surely represent three of Ducati’s upcoming nine models set to be released at the 2016 EICMA show, and we have to say that we are looking forward to seeing what the Italian marque has done with what is surely our favorite motorcycle on the market.

2016 Ducati 959 Panigale Revealed in CARB Documents

It appears one of our predictions for the 2016 model year has been confirmed, as Ducati is set to update its “supersport” model, the Ducati 899 Panigale, with a replacement. Outed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), we know that the new model will come with a two-cylinder engine, with a 955cc displacement, and officially be called the Ducati 959 Panigale. This move continues Ducati’s push away from race legal sport bikes, instead choosing to showcase the fact that the company can make larger displacement machines that still rival supersport’s in weight. The 899 Panigale was exactly this, and we expect the 959 Panigale to be the same. We also expect the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale to officially debut at the upcoming EICMA show, as one of Ducati’s nine new models to be released.

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, Coming to the USA

It seems our hopes have been answered, as the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto has been confirmed for the US market, for the 2016 model year. We already knew that the 701 would be available in Europe, starting in November 2015, but word for other markets was non-existent. Now clarifying things, Husqvarna has confirmed that the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto will be at dealerships in the USA, as well as other markets, start in February 2016. Yes, that means you too can now own a KTM 690 SMC R, dressed in blue and white. A machine we’ve known about since last year’s EICMA show, the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto features 690cc engine that makes 67hp along with a 320 lbs ready-to-go sans fuel.

How Would You Redesign the Bimota Mantra?

When you hear the name Bimota, you likely picture in your head bespoke and beautiful Italian motorcycles that borrow some of the most potent engines from motorcycle manufacturers and then build motorcycling exotica around them. Just about every Bimota is a highly coveted collectible…just about. For some reason the Bimota Mantra is more infamous than famous, it’s design was ahead of its time, to say it politely. I know a few collectors who love the Mantra, and have a few in their collections, but the bulk of the two-wheeled public would rather forget the Mantra was ever penned, and that the V Due was ever built. Asked what he would build if he had to recreate the Bimota Mantra, designer Sacha Lakic (the artist who was behind the original Mantra, and more currently, the Voxan Wattman) inked the above sketch.

The Honda RC213V-S Isn’t Sold Out…Yet

Do you want a MotoGP bike in your garage (or living room, as the case will likely be)? Do you have $184,000 and then some, burning a hole in your pocket? Do you like not living in a house, but think carbon fiber fairings will keep you warm at night? If you said yes to any of those questions, you should buy a Honda RC213V-S. In seriousness, if owning a Honda RC213V-S is a notion that does strike you, then you better hurry up with your order. This is because we asked Honda how orders were coming with the RC213V-S, and the Japanese brand responded that reservations for the MotoGP-bike-for-the-street are quite abundant, indeed. Building one bike a day, Honda’s Hamamatsu factory could deliver roughly 250 units of the Honda RC213V-S in the coming year, at the maximum.

Ducati CEO Quashes Four-Cylinder Superbike Rumor

Well, the fun is over. Talking to MCN, Claudio Domenicali has laid to rest any rumors about the Ducati building a four-cylinder superbike to replace the Panigale. The news confirms what everyone already expected to be the case, as it is hard to imagine a Ducati superbike model being anything other than a v-twin, World Superbike rules be damned. “I can confirm there is no officially confirmed project at Ducati for a four-cylinder engine to replace the Panigale V-twin,” Domenicali confirmed to MCN. “There is no Ducati four-cylinder superbike planned.” Domenicali would go on to speak about knowing every approved project that is currently underway at Ducati, and that no such four-cylinder project is in the works, though the company certain explores every idea before going forward.

Op-Ed: Truth, Lies, & Useful Idiots

06/23/2013 @ 9:27 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS


In 1952, Doris Lessing, a Nobel prize-winning author, was one of a group of writers and prominent intellectuals who visited the Soviet Union, then in the iron grip of Joseph Stalin, one of history’s greatest criminals and murderers. She was introduced to the political leaders of the country, and escorted around the nation by the Russian secret police. Lessing, along with the others on the trip, returned home to write gushing praise of the Soviet Union, describing it as ‘a land of hope.’

In her later years, Lessing wrote a damning condemnation of her own naiveté during the visit. “I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’… that’s what my role was. I can’t understand why I was so gullible.” She had seen only what had been shown to her, believed what her guides – all of whom worked for the secret police – told her, and accepted the testimony of the workers she spoke to, workers who had been carefully selected, and briefed to project the right message, or sufficiently intimidated to not let any of the real truth slip.

A ‘useful idiot’ is exactly how I feel all too often working in the MotoGP paddock. With no formal training in journalism, and only my gut instinct to follow, it is hard to sift out the underlying facts from the fiction being projected all around me. Most of motorcycle racing journalism – in fact, most of sports journalism – relies almost entirely on the word of others.

A journalist will speak to a rider, or a team manager, or an engineer, or a press officer, and write a news story based on what they have just been told. If they are a good journalist, they will try and verify what they have been told by checking with other sources. If they want to sell newspapers, they will write what suits them, and let the checking be damned.

Barbera Speaks Out about Assault Charges – Eh, Not Really

05/13/2013 @ 6:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS


On Friday, reports came out of Jerez that MotoGP rider Hector Barbera had been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. With the case handled by Spain’s special domestic violence courts, Barbera received a sentence of six months in jail, while his girlfriend also received five months in jail, as she was also found guilty of assaulting Barbera in the exchange. With details of the event seemingly under lock and key by the court’s proceedings, speculation has been rife about the incident.

Hoping to set the record straight, Barbera has released a clarifying statement via his Facebook page, though it does little to shed more light on the situation, and reinforces some very disturbing notions already held about misogyny in Spain, and by proxy MotoGP as well. Stressing that he himself was a victim, as was found by the court, Barbera adds that he would “never think on hurting or damaging any person, no matter woman or men, ” and is adamant that he is “firmly against any type of mistreatment or abuse to anyone.”

That is an interesting statement considering that Barbera’s presumably now ex-girlfriend, identified only by her initials D.P., was sent to the hospital with visible bruising because of Barbera’s own actions. To be fair, Barbera’s own injuries have not been a topic of much discussion, and he is presumed to have suffered some form of battery as well, which presumably makes what he did more justifiable — at least, that seems to be the point Barbera is trying to make in his statement.

Looking at the story from American eyes and predispositions, a man assaulting a woman, whether provoked or not, is automatically cast as the guilty party — it is perhaps the one ironic role-reversal in America’s own battle with sexism and misogyny in its socio-legal systems. As one of my legal colleagues said to me, “a speedy trial, and both parties getting punished? That would never happen here in the United States.” Quite right.

Goodbye Husqvarna Nuda, We Hardly Knew Thee

05/07/2013 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS


Stefan Pierer’s acquisition of Husqvarna continues to baffle me. You will note I say Pierer, and not KTM, bought Husqvarna, since the Austrian CEO used Pierer Industrie AG in the transaction as a means to help side-step European antitrust issues. After all, we can’t have Europe’s largest dirt bike manufacturer, nay largest total motorcycle manufacturer, gobbling up even more brands in the two-wheeled world. But, I digress.

For as big of an issue as it might be that KTM, by proxy, has swallowed another dirt bike brand, I still do not understand the thinking behind this madness. Dropping to four-digit yearly sales, it wasn’t until BMW started taking the off-road brand into the on-road market did signs of growth appear again at Husky.

Developing three road bikes (Husqvarna Nuda 900, Husqvarna Strada 650, & Husqvarna Terra 650), with three more concepts waiting in the wings (Husqvarna Moab, Husqvarna Baja, & Husqvarna E-G0), it is with even more confusion that we learn that Pierer & Co. intend to kill the Husqvarna Nuda project and its other street siblings.

How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici

02/19/2013 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS


Just over 18 months ago, I wrote a long analysis of what I believed at the time was the main problem with Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP machine. In that analysis, I attributed most of the problems with the Desmosedici to the chosen angle of the V, the angle between the front and rear cylinder banks.

By sticking with the 90° V, I argued, Ducati were creating problems with packaging and mass centralization, which made it almost impossible to get the balance of the Desmosedici right. The engine was taking up too much space, and limiting their ability to adjust the weight balance by moving the engine around.

Though there was a certain logic to my analysis, it appears that the engine angle was not the problem. Yesterday, in their biweekly print edition, the Spanish magazine Solo Moto published an article by Neil Spalding, who had finally obtained photographic evidence that the Honda RC213V uses a 90° V, the same engine angle employed by the Ducati Desmosedici. Given the clear success of the Honda RC213V, there can no longer be any doubt that using a 90° V is no impediment to building a competitive MotoGP machine.

The photographic proof comes as confirmation of rumors which had been doing the rounds in the MotoGP paddock throughout the second half of the 2012 season. Several people suggested that the Honda may use a 90° angle, including Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi, speaking to back in November.

I had personally been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a naked RC213V engine at one rain-soaked race track in September, but while the glimpse through the window may have been good enough to form the impression of an engine that looked like it may have been a 90°V, it was a very long way from being anything resembling conclusive, and nowhere near enough to base a news story on.

Spalding’s persistence has paid off, however. The British photographer and journalist is a common sight wandering among the garages, either first thing in the morning, as the bikes are being warmed up, or late at night, while the mechanics prepare the machines for the following day.

At some point, the Honda mechanics and engineers – protective to the point of prudishness of displaying any part of their machine to the outside world – would let their guard slip. When they did, Spalding pounced.

So why did Honda elect to use an engine layout which is blamed for causing Ducati so much trouble? And how does Honda make the layout work where Ducati have continued to fail? The first question is relatively simple to answer; the second is a good deal more tricky.

In the Future, Will You Even Wear a Helmet?

01/07/2013 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS


Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we spend some pixels talking about the finer points of helmet usage, especially when it comes to the debate regarding mandatory helmet laws. Looking at helmets from 50 years ago, and the basic concept hasn’t changed all that much in the time since.

A hard shell, some impact material, and a soft lining mated to a visor and chin-strap system, over the last half-century most of the improvements to the basic helmet design have been for added fit and comfort, or cheaper and lighter materials — even the more creative and innovative designs that are being hocked around the internet right now don’t stray far from the current concept.

Think 50 years ahead though, and it is hard to imagine the same shapes and designs staying constant. In fact, it becomes possible to imagine motorcyclists wearing no helmets at all. No, I am not talking about some sort of libertarian movement that will rush through our political system, freeing us from the shackles of big government.

Instead, I am talking about the true next-generation of safety devices for the gray matter that resides between your ears, which might put the mandatory helmet law debate to rest (well…probably not).

Why Implementing Price Caps Is the Best Way of Cutting Costs for Teams in MotoGP and WSBK

01/04/2013 @ 2:04 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

With the announcement of the introduction of price caps for brakes and suspension in MotoGP from 2015, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, appears to have finally found an effective way of controlling costs in the series. Instead of trying to control costs indirectly and seeing their efforts kicked into touch by the law of unintended consequences, the rule-makers have decided to attempt to go straight to the heart of the problem.

Will capping prices unleash a whole set of unintended consequences of its own? Will, as some fear, the move to cap prices lead to a drop in quality and therefore a reduction in R&D in the areas which are price-capped? And will the price cap act as a barrier to new entrants, or stimulate them? These are hard questions with no easy answers, yet there are reasons to believe that price caps are the most effective way of controlling costs, while the risks normally associated with a price cap, such as a reduction in quality, are lower in a racing paddock than they are in other environments.

What MotoGP Can Learn From F1: The Business Symposium

11/25/2012 @ 3:52 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Since the global financial crisis struck back in 2008, MotoGP’s primary focus has been on cutting costs. These efforts have met with varying success – sometimes reducing costs over the long-term, after a short-term increase, sometimes having no discernible impact whatsoever – and as a result, the grids in all three classes are filling up again.

Further changes are afoot – chiefly, the promise by Honda and Yamaha to supply cheaper machinery to private teams, either in the form of production racers, such as Honda’s RC213V clone, or Yamaha’s offer to lease engines to chassis builders – but there is a limit to how much can be achieved by cutting costs. What is really needed is for the series to raise its revenues, something which the series has signally failed to do.

In truth, the series has never really recovered from the loss of tobacco sponsorship, something for which it should have been prepared, given that it had had many years’ warning of the ruling finally being applied.

The underlying problem was that the raising of sponsorship had been outsourced and the marketing of the series had been outsourced to a large degree to the tobacco companies, and once they left – with the honorable, if confusing, exception of Philip Morris – those skills disappeared with them. There was nobody left to try to increase the amount of money coming into the sport.

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa

11/21/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with the Suzuki Hayabusa. A courtship that started well-ahead of my formal indoctrination to two-wheels, the Hayabusa was the capstone of motorcycle performance in my youthful eyes. I lusted after its sleek wind-tunnel tuned lines, and marveled at its outright speed, which at its debut, trumped everything else on the market. Approaching the 200 mph mark with their designs, Japan sold us on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the factories to govern their machines to 186 mph — I call it the pinnacle of technical collusion of the first degree.

It is so much easier to compete against another manufacturer when you don’t actually have to compete against them. The Suzuki Hayabusa could co-exist with the Honda CBR1100XX and Kawasaki ZX-12R in bubble that assured no one bike, on paper, could trump the other, after all…they all went 186 mph in the newly declared speed war. It is debatable whether this self-governing measure by the Japanese OEMs avoided a nanny state imposition of laws and regulations onto the motorcycle industry, but there can be no debate about the stagnation the gentleman’s agreement caused in the marketplace.

Once designated as being hyperbikes, a term that gave a nod to the performance specifications being beyond the superbikes found on the race track, we have watched the cessation of the Honda Super Blackbird (2003 in the USA, 2007 worldwide), and witnessed the Hayabusa and ZX-12R, later the Kawasaki ZX-14R, morph into capital “s” sport-tourers that are a far cry from their original intents.

Whether you caste the current Suzuki Hayabusa as the second-generation of the machine, or simply a massaged version of the first-generation GSX-1300R, it has stood motionless for far too long since its beginnings 15 years ago, and revision in 2008. It is time for the Hayabusa to return to its hyperbike roots, and once again captivate the imagination of little boys, and grown men, with what its possible on two wheels.

The Larger Issue Behind the Maverick Viñales Affair

10/20/2012 @ 8:59 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

It was a strange day in Malaysia. Part of the strangeness was down to the weather. The familiar pattern of disrupted sessions as the rain fell, but not hard enough to allow the MotoGP riders, in particular, to spend much time on the track in the afternoon.

There was a twist, however, a particularly Malaysian one at Sepang: the heavy shower which passed over the track at the start of the afternoon session for MotoGP left part of the circuit soaking, with water a couple of centimeters deep at turns 1 and 2, while the rest of the circuit quickly dried out almost completely. It at least added a little novelty to the disruption, along with the frustration of another wasted practice.

The real strangeness came at the start of the day, however. It took about 10 minutes for observers to notice that Maverick Viñales had not gone out on track and there was suspiciously little activity in the Avintia Blusens garage. Once they noticed, low-level pandemonium broke out: within seconds, a throng of Spanish journalists crowded out of the media center and hastened on their way into the paddock, to find anyone and everyone and learn what they could.

As they drifted back in, and as TV pictures started to appear showing an empty Blusens garage, Viñales walking through the paddock accompanied by his father and the Dorna media officer, and team managers Raul Romero and Ricard Jové gathered in discussions, it was clear that there was something very wrong.

When it was revealed what that was – that Viñales had decided to quit the team with immediate effect – it sent a shockwave through the paddock. Riders quitting teams with races left in the championship is unusual; to do it while that rider is second in the title chase and still in with a shot at the championship is unheard of in motorsport.

The ECU Endgame: Will MotoGP Survive Motegi?

10/09/2012 @ 9:48 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

This may very well turn out to be the biggest week in MotoGP since the decision to replace the two stroke 500s with large capacity four stroke machines. This week, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta is set to have meetings with each of the MSMA members at Motegi, to hammer out once and for all the technical basis for the 2014 season.

If they succeed, the ground will be laid for a set of technical regulations which can remain stable for the long term, the goal being at least five years. If they fail, then one or more manufacturers could leave the series, reducing the number of factory bikes on the grid and potentially removing two of MotoGP’s top riders from the grid. There is much at stake.

So much, in fact, that neither side looks prepared to back down. On the one side is Dorna, who see the costs of the championship spiraling out of control thanks to the increasing sophistication of the electronics, and the racing growing ever more clinical as fewer and fewer riders are capable of mastering the machines these electronics control.

On the other side are the factories, for whom MotoGP, with its fuel-limited format, provides an ideal laboratory for developing electronic control systems which filter through into their consumer products and serves as a training ground for their best engineers.

Dorna demands a spec ECU to control costs; the factories, amalgamated in the MSMA, demand the ability to develop software strategies through the use of unrestricted electronics. The two perspectives are irreconcilable, at the most fundamental level.