Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff. The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.

2017 Montesa Cota 4RT260 Gets “BNG” – Still Awesome

Normally, we would roast a brand for bringing a “bold new graphics” model to market, but in the case of the 2017 Montesa Cota 4RT260, we will give the Spanish firm a pass…purely because we think trials riding is AWESOME. So, yup…for the 2017 model year, Montessa is brining basically the same machine to market, with the big changes being the red, white, and blue HRC-inspired color scheme, along with the chromed fork tubes that have black-painted lowers. If it counts as a technical change, the kickstarter lever has been made longer than on what is found on the 2016 model, and of course there is a “race replica” version, which drips in carbon fiber, Showa suspension pieces, and has the traditional Repsol livery.

Bottpower BOTT XR1R – The Street Tracker You Deserve

The Bottpower BOTT XR1R is the bike that Harley-Davidson should be building right now, and it’s the kind of machine that actually would have benefitted from Buell’s “innovations” for street bikes. With 150hp and a target weight of 150kg, the BOTT XR1R should be plenty of fun on tight circuits, but still powerful enough for longer courses. And then of course, once you’re done flogging the XR1R for the day, you will still want to spend a couple hours drooling over its titanium frame, carbon fiber bodyworks, and modern-day electronics. We have always been a fan of Bottpower’s work, but it still feels strange to say that the Spanish builder has created the bike that America has been dreaming of for the past decade or more.

Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario – Celebrating 90 Years

Ducati is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, with the culmination of that celebration happening at World Ducati Week. As we previewed already, Ducati would give a sneak peak of a new model at the event, and debut a limited edition machine as well. Well, we have had more than a sneak peak of the upcoming Ducati Supersport model, and now we get the full monty of the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario – a special superbike that commemorates 90 years of Ducati motorcycles. Only 500 machines will get the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario’s limited edition paint job, gold-colored metal pieces, and bevy of technical upgrades. One interesting new feature though is the debut of the EVO version of the Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) systems.

Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

You may have already seen the leaked photo from World Ducati Week, which shows that the Ducati Supersport is making a return to Bologna’s lineup. We haven’t seen the “Supersport” sport-touring line in almost a decade, but it will be making a return for the 2017 model year, with two bikes. Since yours truly is at World Ducati Week this year, I was able to get a peak at the Supersport, and can share with you some details on the machine. The Ducati Supersport has a rich history as a sport-tourer; back when that segment actually existed, and was distinct from being just a superbike for the road. This model seems very much a return to that past.

Ducati SuperSport S Spotted at World Ducati Week

Of the many attractions at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Ducati is giving enthusiasts a chance to preview a new bike that will officially debut at the EICMA show in Milan (in addition to the two machines that will unveil tomorrow). The affair is a strictly managed, no cellphones allowed, sort of sneak peak at the new machine – thus, it comes as no surprise that some fan has snapped a photo of the secret bike on a hidden phone. In case you were wondering, this is why we can’t have nice things. You can’t put the cat back in the bag though, so get ready folks because we have good news: the Ducati SuperSport is coming back! As you can see in the photo, the machine in question is called the Ducati Supersport S, an homage to the bikes of the same name that came almost 40 years before it.

The Bullshit Argument That It’s Time to Say Goodbye to the Honda CBR600RR and Other Supersport Machines

British magazines MCN dropped a bombshell on the motorcycle world today, reporting that Honda was set to discontinue the Honda CBR600RR, with no supersport replacement in sight. According to their reports, the main impetus for the Honda CBR600RR being discontinued is the Euro 4 emission standards, which the Honda CBR600RR does not meet. Honda feels too that the demand for a 600cc sport bike is too low to warrant updating the CBR600RR to meet Euro 4 regulations, let alone building an all-new machine for the market that would be Euro 4 compliant.

KTM Is Working on an 800cc Parallel-Twin ADV Bike

“If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to” seems to be KTM’s marching orders right now, as the Austrian brand is pushing into seemingly every segment and market with its motorcycle lineup. KTM already has a robust off-road lineup, which they have used to launch themselves into the ADV category with great success. As such, the KTM 1190 Adventure series already sees strong sales success with adventure-touring riders, but KTM isn’t resting on those laurels. Set to debut a 800cc parallel-twin platform later this year, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has revealed, while talking to MCN, that his company will soon have a rival for the Honda Africa Twin.

XTR Pepo’s “Siluro” Custom Ducati Monster 1200

It has been a while since we showed you one of XTR Pepo’s custom works, so please forgive our sins. To make it up to you though, we have the Siluro, a custom Ducati Monster 1200 that Ducati Spain commissioned from the Spanish bike builder. If I’m honest, Ducati’s Monster line has really never struck a chord with me, but there is something about the Siluro that’s got me more than a little twitterpated. Perhaps it is the high-mount, scrambler-styled Termignoni exhaust, or maybe it is Pepo’s signature “RAD” seat, that has adorned so many custom Ducati’s before this one, but is now wrapped in suede. Whatever it is, it’s working.

MotoGP Bans Winglets from 2017 Season Onward

Winglets are to be banned in all three MotoGP classes from 2017 onwards. At Assen, the Grand Prix Commission met and decided on an outright ban on aerodynamic wings, after the MSMA had failed to reach an agreement among all manufacturers on a joint proposal. There has been much discussion of winglets over the past few months, as they have taken on an ever greater importance. With the introduction of the common ECU software, winglets were one way of reducing the amount of wheelie MotoGP bikes had. But as the factories – and especially Ducati – gained more experience with winglets, the winglets grew larger, raising safety concerns over the effect of an impact during a crash.

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.

How 3D Printing Is Going To Change Motorcycling

10/05/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.

Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.

For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).

The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.

This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.

As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.

As California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars, Are Motorcycling’s Days Numbered?

09/26/2012 @ 7:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

The movement of transportation as a commodity continues, as California has become the second state to legalize the use of automated cars on its roadways (Nevada was first).

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today SB 1298, which specifically legalizes the use of autonomous vehicles, as long as a licensed and bonded operator is in the vehicle’s driver seat.

Essentially legitimizing what was a legal grey-area, what the bill does does explicitly is green-light more autonomous vehicle projects in the Golden State.

With applications from the trucking industry to the car-sharing, and everything in-between, the advent of autonomous four-wheelers signals an interesting, yet scary, future for motorcyclists.

According to former Ford/Chrysler/GM-man Bob Lutz, self-driving cars could be the norm in as few as 20 years — an idea the could materially change the driving landscape as we know it.

As autonomous vehicles become increasing the status quo on the road, user-guided vehicles like motorcycles will become greater outliers, and could face a tyranny of the majority.

Rossi, Ducati, & Yamaha: And The Winner is…

08/17/2012 @ 7:20 am, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

So what are we to make of Valentino Rossi’s not-so-shocking decision to leave Ducati and go back to Yamaha? The initial reaction from fans and media was that the biggest losers from the move are Ducati as a manufacturer, and Rossi’s reputation as miracle worker when it comes to bike development. There is some merit in both those arguments, but perhaps it is not quite so clear cut as that. Rossi’s two years at Ducati have done a lot of damage to both parties – as well as to MotoGP’s popularity and TV income – but in the end, this move could have some very positive long-term repercussions.

Lies, Damned Lies, & The MIC’s Electric Range Estimates

06/13/2012 @ 5:58 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Rewind a few years ago in the electric segment of the motorcycle industry, and you found a landscape where manufacturers published wildly inaccurate numbers relating to speed, range, and power. The situation of over-promising and under-delivering was so bad, virtually any figure quoted, whether it was made with the best or worst intentions, was immediately called into question. The issue of course stemmed from the fact that OEMs were unable to deliver motorcycles with specifications that were remotely acceptable to a savvy motorcycle market. 20 mile ranges? 15hp available continuously? 60 mph top speeds if you’re downhill, tucked in, have a tailwind, and add five to the speedo’s reading? Yup, those were the good old days.

As the industry matured, so did our expectations, and it looked like some sanity was going to come to fruition as the MIC began pooling interest on developing a standard to rate the various performance specifications of electric motorcycles. An industry group setup to look after the best interests of the OEMs and other business in the motorcycle industry, you only need to follow the cash to see whose best interests are really being served by this group.

So, it should not surprise us then that the latest “standard” from the MIC, which establishes criterion on how the highway mileage of an electric motorcycle should be rated, is doing a downright scandelous disservice to consumers and the industry itself, as the proposed standard massively overrates the highway range of electric motorcycles.

At the Intersection of the Future…

03/02/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Despite the fact that the business side of motorcycling is run by a small close-nit group of curmudgeons, Neanderthals, and Luddites, the world outside of motorcycling continues to press on without us.

And while various parts of the motorcycle industry are busy trying to figure out how to adapt to this whole new “internet” technology fad thing (it has only been commercialized for over two decades now guys), the same group of people are busy trying to maintain the same business models and practices that came from the post-World War II economy.

In other words, when it comes to technology and the motorcycle industry, we are all pretty much fucked.

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever

01/24/2012 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

The first Ducati 1199 Panigale rolled off the assembly line at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory today, officially starting production of the Italian company’s flagship model. While maybe the the production of the first Panigale is not the most newsworthy of subjects, make no mistake at how important this motorcycle is for both Ducati and sport bikes in general going into the future. Featuring a new step in production motorcycle chassis design, we’ve also already talked at length about the number of firsts that the 1199 Panigale is bringing to the production motorcycle market.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment.

However features aside, what will truly be the most important aspect of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is whether or not the flagship model can live up to the hype that has been generated around the machine. While most of the attention to-date regarding the Panigale has centered on whether Ducati’s monocoque chassis design can work on the production motorcycle, after it has failed so miserably in MotoGP, the real issue for the Italian brand has nothing at all to do with the 1199’s race track prowess.

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

04/06/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law.

I should preface that there are two separate proposals being lobbied in Michigan. First there is House Bill 2008, submitted by Rep. Richard LeBlanc, and the Michigan State Senate has its own bill to contend with, Senate Bill 291, which is co-sponsored by five Democrat and twelve Republican State Senators. The bill in the Senate is your typical approach to helmet laws, and holds that anyone who is over 21, and has either passed a motorcycle safety course, or had a motorcycle endorsement for two years, can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

Ducati’s Deal with the Devil: A Business Case for the Diavel

03/07/2011 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

If you had told me a few years ago that Ducati would build a cruiser-segment motorcycle, I probably would have called you a couple cylinders short of a v-twin. Up until recently, mentioning the thought of the Bologna brand chasing after Harley-Davidson riders would have invited fisticuffs in most Italian motorcycle cafés. And even despite the launch of the Ducati Diavel, you can start a heated debate among loyal Ducatisti by bringing up Italy’s latest power cruiser.

Make no mistake, the 2011 Ducati Diavel is a controversial motorcycle…and that’s putting things lightly (at worst it’s a complete dilution of the Ducati brand). If the Diavel is Ducati’s deal with the Devil, then let me play the Devil’s advocate for a moment, and put forth the business case about why this motorcycle had to be built, and what it means to the Ducati brand — minus the pandering to the Ducati faithful.