Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

02/07/2017 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class.

For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto).

Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering.

So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

Get Ready for the Return of the 1980s to Motorcycles

12/12/2016 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler56 COMMENTS

Mark my words, the next big trend in the custom motorcycle scene is going to be a revival of the 1980s. I am not sure why anyone would want to remember this awkward time in our species’ history, but when it comes to motorcycles, there is quaint intersection of modern and retro that resides in this forgotten decade.

We have already seen a prelude to this from a number of custom builds, bikes like Walt Siegl’s Bol d’Or line or Praëm BMW S1000RR showing us the happy marriage of a modern sport bike platform wrapped up in the 1970s. Here, we see the thought taken to its next logical progression.

If I am being real honest, there is just something pleasing about the 1980s aesthetic, especially when its mashed together with modern chassis and engine design. Don’t take my word for it though, dust off your Air Force 1’s and check out these renders from the folks over at Speedjunkies.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

11/19/2016 @ 5:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times.

So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e.

Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right (a proper Ducati collection should be considerd incomplete if it is without an example of both machines), though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together.

We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Honda Africa Twin Supermoto Concept by Nicolas Petit

10/17/2016 @ 4:46 am, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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The Honda Africa Twin doesn’t lend itself naturally to a supermoto format, though it is one of the most capable off-road adventure bikes on the market, but you have to admit that this photoshop render by French designer Nicolas Petit is very intriguing.

Maybe it’s our obvious bias towards anything supermoto that is talking, or maybe it’s that there is something to the idea of taking the Africa Twin, adding 17” wheels, and lowering it just enough that riders can actually flat-foot the machine while sitting on it.

Add in some styling cues that scream “supermotard” and you have a very handsome machine that is ready to conquer anything the urban environment can throw at it. Hell, it’s probably just a scary clown costume away from a good time on a gravel road. Right??!

We doubt Honda has any eyes on offering a more on-road version of the CRF1000L, though if they did, and it looked like this, we might be intrigued. Just leave the DCT off of it.

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

08/10/2016 @ 1:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-YZF-R6-fake

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 (after the jump), which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo – even the holes on the front brake discs and rear sprocket line-up.

Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

05/12/2016 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing.

That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense.

Moto Guzzi V9 Gets the Teaser Treatment

11/12/2015 @ 9:45 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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The joke might be that Moto Guzzi riders are a little “touched” in the head, but we think anyone who isn’t that concerned about getting from Point A to Point B in the fastest manner possible can appreciate the Italian brand’s latest model.

Getting teased ahead of the EICMA show, this looks to be the first photo of the Moto Guzzi V9 – a stylish retro-cruiser type of machine. The photo comes not from some leaked source, but instead from Moto Guzzi’s own website, where the teaser is displaying prominently (shown above, and enhanced after the jump).

Benelli Teases the Return of a “Legend” – A Scrambler?

11/05/2015 @ 11:20 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Benelli is very much the forgotten Italian marque in the motorcycle industry, with Ducati, MV Agusta, and Aprilia (in that order, perhaps) taking most of the attention when it comes to motorcycle that hail from a country shaped like a boot.

The brand has made some fantastic modern models, like the Tornado, TnT, and Tre, and of course Benelli is steeped in a rich history that has some classic motorcycles. Those are the elements that have always attracted us to the brand, and what keeps us longing for more from Benelli.

However, ownership under the Qianjiang Group has proved difficult for motorcycle enthusiasts, with the company’s sexy Italian-designed motorcycles giving way to practical simple people movers. The Benelli TnT25 proves that point.

It seems though that things are slowly coming around for Benelli and its Chinese owners though, with the Italian-born brand sending the above teaser with the message “The Legend is back…” So we dug a little deeper.

This Ducati 1199 Panigale ST Concept Whets Our Appetite for a 200hp Sport-Tourer from Bologna

10/26/2015 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Ducati has nine new models to showoff at the EICMA show later next month in Milan. We know one of them is the Monster 1200 R, and it seems very likely that we will see two more Ducati Scrambler models as well.

CARB filing documents point to a Ducati 959 Panigale, as well as a Ducati Hypermotard 939, which we expect to be mild updates to the current models, with obviously larger engine displacements.

All of this leaves another four models for us, though rumor suggests we could see some more variants of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 line come to market.

One of those variants is expected to be an off-road focused model, which will align better against the BMW R1200GS; while the other variant is thought to be a long-distance touring model, which will align better against the KTM 1290 Super Adventure.

One model were are unlikely to see is a revised sport-tourer, since the current Multistrada 1200 fills this niche quite well, but that doesn’t mean Ducatisti cannot dream of another ST model.

Updated Honda CBR500R to Debut at the 2016 AIMExpo

10/08/2015 @ 2:41 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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The AIMExpo is rapidly approaching, and manufacturers are finally teasing out what new models they will unveil at the American trade and consumer show. Our latest entry comes from American Honda, which is set to make the world debut of the 2016 Honda CBR500R at the show.

Honda says that the CBR500R has been updated for the 2016 model year, with the teaser image showing a slightly different set of bodywork, and a stylized exhaust canister. One can assume that the engine and chassis see minor modifications, if any changes at all.