Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains. This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

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.

The One Overlooked Detail on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/20/2014 @ 10:44 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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At the time this article will be posted, it will make the sixth article relating to Harley-Davdison’s Project Livewire that is on the Asphalt & Rubber homepage. The Motor Company’s first foray into electric motorcycles made its way into not only every motorcycle publication around the world, but it also hit mainstream media like wildfire.

A topic more heavily saturated at this point than Kentucky Fried Chicken, and yet everyone of the publications carrying the story, including A&R, overlooked one critical thing about Project Livewire’s launch. The attached graphic is the five-day stock price of Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), and that large spike is the Livewire’s unveiling time.

Tesla Drops a Bombshell – Opens Up EV Patents to All

06/12/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Today was a pretty big day in the electric vehicle world, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a company blog post that the California based company would not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wanted to use their technology.

While the term “good faith” is a subjective one, Musk’s announcement opens up Telsa’s arsenal of patents to any other OEM, with the hope that the adoption rate of electric vehicles at these manufacturers will be improved.

Making Telsa’s patents “open source” effectively creates a minimum standard of technology in electric vehicles, and the move now means that OEMs should only use their own EV technology if it performs better than Tesla’s.

That’s a pretty big win for consumers, since Tesla’s technology is generally highly regarded. It also means that the jumping-in point for OEMs into electric vehicles is substantially lower.

If a small manufacturer, or small product team in a large OEM, wants to start an EV project now, they can use Telsa’s patented technology to jump-start their development, and bring something to market quicker.

How Dani Pedrosa’s €8 Million Contract Demand from Suzuki Is Like Brown M&Ms

05/26/2014 @ 9:39 am, by David Emmett34 COMMENTS

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With Marc Marquez already signed up for 2015 and 2016, and Valentino Rossi on the verge of penning a new deal with Yamaha for two more years, attention is turning to Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.

Will Lorenzo want to stay with Yamaha or switch to Honda? Will Pedrosa be prepared to take a pay cut or head off to a different factory? All these are thing we will learn over the coming weeks.

Pedrosa’s case is particularly interesting. Some well-informed sources are starting to report on his options for the future. According to the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, Dani Pedrosa has been offered a substantial pay cut by Honda, with a base salary cut from something in the region of 6 million euros a season to 1.5 million euros, with a very generous bonus scheme for winning races and the championship.

But Suzuki have also shown an interest in Pedrosa. The Japanese factory needs a winning rider to help make their new bike fully competitive, times set by Randy de Puniet are so far lagging a second or more behind the factory Hondas and Yamahas.

Motorcycling 2.0: Rethinking the Definition of a Motorcyclist

03/03/2014 @ 4:44 pm, by Aakash Desai63 COMMENTS

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As it currently goes, I merely need to adopt the correct lifestyle aesthetics in the form of bikes and apparel and I can be part of the “club”; the actual identity of what it means to be a “rider” is devoid of the qualities that make us human and participants in society.

There are Harley riders, BMW riders, customs riders, leather-clad sport bike riders, and hipster cafe racers. In each of these demographic fragments, the specifics of what the person is riding matters more than the political, social, and/or economic standpoints of the riders themselves.

This consumerist mentality relegates the means for participation to the choice of how to exercise my purchasing power. Dominant motorcycle culture emphasizes the bike as the expression of the identity of the rider.

An apathetic culture that is centered around fetishization of commodities will reach limits to growth. Sure, motorcycles will get faster, lean better, safer, and smarter than the ones available to us. However, the market is already saturated with choices without enough reasons to pick one choice over the other.

Imagine, however, that being a motorcyclist meant more than just having two wheels spinning between your legs.

Some Thoughts on Crowdfunding Vehicle Concepts

01/09/2014 @ 10:48 am, by Aakash Desai3 COMMENTS

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Bay Area start-up Lit Motors specializes in creative vehicle concepts. Their most recent project, the Kubo, takes the urban-utility concept in a direction that emphasizes low center of gravity luggage carry, ease of portage, and accommodative ergonomics.

The folks at Lit call it a “pickup truck on two wheels” and by setting the rider further back on the chassis, nearly over the rear wheel, the Kubo creates a centrally located void in the chassis that serves as the cargo holding bay.

The idea is that with additional accessories such as straps, tie-downs, netting and bungee cords, people will be able to easily and effectively transport more of their stuff around town, without upsetting the balance or rideability of the machine.

On November 21st, they launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Kubo, aimed at raising an ambitious $300,000 in just 30 days. As many of you problem know, Kickstarter is an online fundraising platform designed allow individual consumers  the chance to invest money in people and ideas that they believe in. If the goal is not met, then the team behind the idea or project gets nothing.

With the Kubo, as the weeks progressed, it became clear that the campaign was not going to meet its goals.  By December 21st, Lit had only managed to raise $57k with 166 backers.

The recent failure of Lit Motors to meet their Kickstarter goal, raises big questions about how effective Kickstarter can be for small businesses creating big products.

Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP over a Spec-ECU?

12/30/2013 @ 12:33 am, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

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The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing’s premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams; however, only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves.

If a team decides to run Dorna’s standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two – entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software – is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna.

Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal-breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era. The change in capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007 vastly increased the importance of electronics in the overall package, with more and more money going into both the development and the management of electronics strategies.

The combination of a vast array of sensor inputs, fuel injection, and electronic ignition has meant that vehicle control has moved from merely managing fueling to dynamic and even predictive engine management. Engine torque is now monitored and managed based on lean angle, bike pitch, tire wear, fuel load, and a host of other variables.

So it comes as no surprise that Honda is already making threatening noises over the regulations due to come into force from 2017 onwards. Dorna intends to remove the freedom for factories to use their own software from 2017 onwards, with all bikes using the same, spec, Dorna-supplied software, as currently being developed for the Open category.

It’s Not a Matter of If, But When Ducati Builds a Scooter

12/13/2013 @ 4:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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The rumors about a Ducati Scooter for the next model year are hitting the internet hard lately, and that is perhaps unsurprising. Ducati’s sales stalled in the third quarter of this year, and the Italian motorcycle company at this point in time is simply trying to finish 2013 on par with its 2012 success.

There is also the fact that Audi AG now owns Ducati Motor Holding, and would like to see the ~44,000 unit company bump its figures into the six-figure territory, and help its German owner take a certain Bavarian brand head-on in the two and four-wheeled industries.

Regarding the Jorge Lorenzo’s Barcelona ‘Crib’ Video

12/12/2013 @ 3:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

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For those MotoGP who live a rich life on the internet, you probably already know what I am referring to in this story’s headline, but for those of you who prefer to live your lives in the real world, I will give a quick primer to this off-season MotoGP story. Late last week, Monster Energy’s “Dirt Shark” video series featured Jorge Lorenzo’s home in Barcelona, Spain on its website and Monster’s YouTube channel.

The “Dirt Shark” show is a bit more “MTV Cribs” than it is “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” in its approach. It only focuses on Monster’s sponsored athletes, and aims to glamorize their homes and lifestyles — along with an obligatory shot of their Monster-chocked refrigerator. However, the video on Lorenzo’s house appeared briefly on Monster Energy’s YouTube channel, as well as on DirtShark.com, before it was taken down.

It was removed because of harsh criticism in Spain for its showing, though it’s not clear if Lorenzo asked for it to be removed, or it Monster buckled to the public pressure — it’s probably a little bit of both, and frankly doesn’t really matter.

It didn’t take long though for low-quality web-rips of the video to circulate through social media sites though, and beyond Lorenzo’s stunning vistas, immensely large gym (where he says he works out three to four hours a day), the video is littered with young women tanning by Lorenzo’s pool, lounging in his hot tubs, and dancing in his miniature discotheque (so awkward).

Wherefore Art Thou KTM RC390?

12/04/2013 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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KTM USA is going to have a mutiny on its hands if it doesn’t bring at least the KTM RC390 street bike to American soil, and we won’t even mention the KTM RC125 & KTM RC200.

Not only have bikes like the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 300 shown a lucrative market for small-displacement machines in the United States, but AMA Pro Racing’s recent announcement that it is considering a national racing class for ~250cc bikes should sweeten the pot for the “Ready to Race” brand.

Modular Design & Why the BMW R nineT is Such a Big Deal

12/03/2013 @ 2:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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The first of the new BMW R nineT motorcycles rolled off its assembly line today, a fact that is only newsworthy because so many motorcycle publications are struggling for content in these coming winter doldrums.

It was only a month ago that we were overwhelmed with stories of new bikes debuting in Milan, and now we motorcycle journalists must scrounge around for anything lurid that is at least tangentially related to motorcycles. I hear there is a law student in Italy selling nude photos of herself so she can buy a new scooter. Juicy.

Who doesn’t like a good tit story, right? But instead I offer to you perhaps the biggest development in motorcycling this year — a story that no one else has thought to discuss, until now — and it is about the BMW R nineT itself, and what it represents not only for BMW Motorrad, but also for motorcycling as a whole.