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.”

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.

2017 Honda CB1100 EX Coming to the USA

12/12/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The a “new” retro-styled Honda CB1100 debuted earlier this year in Europe with two flavors for the 2017 model year (along with one interesting concept bike), and now American Honda has confirmed that one of them will be coming to the United States for next year’s riding season.

The 2017 Honda CB1100 EX continues the push for “heritage” models by the Japanese brands, though the CB1100 is certainly no stranger to American Honda’s lineup.

Hoping to compete against the post-authentic models that we have seen from the European brand already, Honda’s horse in this race has a long pedigree that is steeped in classic/vintage motorcycle cues.

The air-cooled four-cylinder engine from the superbikes of yore gives a potent power supply to this reborn UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle), though subtle modern touches abound to the overall package.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 “Black Arrow” Gets Green-Lit

11/08/2016 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the yin, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s yang, with the Swedish “black arrow” providing a unique twist on the typical scrambler motorcycle.

Another model that is based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a bike we have seen for quite some time, and now it has finally been given the nod to become a production bike for the 2017 model year.

Like its “white arrow” compatriot, the Svartpilen 401 takes a modern approach to an old aesthetic, and creates something entirely new in the process.

Though Husqvarna is a name with deep off-road roots, we imagine the Svartpilen 401 is about as dual-sport capable as the next “scrambler” you’d find, though we should mention that the small-displacement machine does have some qualities that would lend to its success on down a fire road or two.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero Concept Is F’ing Gorgeous

11/08/2016 @ 8:08 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Anyone that reads enough Asphalt & Rubber should know that I don’t particularly shine to the café racer aesthetic. So knowing that upfront should add some gravitas to the statement that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero is blowing my mind right now.

Based on the same unassuming 373cc single-cylinder platform as the Husavarna Vitpilen 401 and Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 motorcycles, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero concept completes the post-authentic holy trinity of retro standards, scramblers, and café racers.

Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

09/22/2016 @ 1:29 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets.

Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings.

This is because motorcycle manufacturers not only patent and trademark the design they intend to put into production, but also the design they don’t intend to produce, but have still shown the public. This is just smart policy when it comes to intellectually property protection.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

Say Goodbye to the Kawasaki W800

06/01/2016 @ 1:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Kawasaki announced today that 2017 will be the last model year for the Kawasaki W800, as the retro-classic machine is going the way of the dodo, thanks largely to the advent of Euro4 emission standards.

Any hope of a model refresh down the line seems to have been squashed, as Kawasaki says that this is “the end of the iconic W series of four-stroke vertical twin motorcycles” and that the “W800 ‘Final Edition’ marks the end of an era” in its press release.

That’s an interesting move from Team Green, considering the popularity of post-authentic machines right now – bikes like the Triumph Bonneville and Ducati Scrambler.

This is as much of the death of a motorcycle line, as it is a shift of focus by one of the largest motorcycle OEMs.

Praëm BMW S1000RR – Getting Modern with Retros

04/29/2016 @ 2:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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We really like what we’ve seen so far from the guys at Praëm. Their first proper build, based off a Honda RC-51, was waaaay outside the box, and featured some really interesting design elements for us to chew on. Their follow-up to that work is no different.

The Praëm BMW S1000RR is a modern riff on the classic superbike design – think of it as a 21st century take on late-20th century racing.

As the name suggests, the donor bike is a BMW S1000RR, but the styling comes from something you would see in the 1980s – perhaps at the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race, as Praëm suggests in their text.

The “Optimus Praëm” build is a logical, yet a highly more functional, response to what we have seen in the café racer scene as of late, and it bodes well for the future of the custom motorcycle community if more of the same is to come from other builders. Fingers crossed.

Things We Like, Part 1: Honda CB4 Concept

11/17/2015 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

CB4 Concept

Honda isn’t saying too much about its CB4 concept, and we are not sure they need to – the motorcycle speaks for itself. Just in case you can’t hear it, the retro-style standard is an appealing machine, which draws a distinct line to the Hondas of a couple generations ago.

The Honda CB4 concept seems to be built off the Honda CBR650F platform, though the concept is certainly as far as you can get from the CBR650F in terms of feeling and inspiration.

To that end, a single-sided swingarm has been added, the exhaust routed stylishly and polished, and we are a big fan of the solid iron front brake discs with radially mounted Tokico calipers, in red…naturally.

Triumph Thruxton Gets Updated for 2016

10/27/2015 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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It is only logical that if there’s a new water-cooled Triumph Bonneville T120 for the 2016 model year, then the 2016 Triumph Thruxton should get an update as well, right?

Accordingly for 2016, the Triumph Thruxton gets the same more powerful 1,200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that is debuting on the Bonneville T120.

Triumph is also adding the Thurxton R to the lineup, a more cafe racer inspired design that comes with a larger front fairing, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes. An optional “Thruxton Inspirational Pack” is available as well, which adds a bevy of cosmetic changes, as well as a Vance & Hines exhaust system.

Like on the Bonneville, the chassis and other components have been improved upon as well, though you would have a hard time seeing those changes, as Triumph has been careful to retain that heritage look on the Thruxton.

We expect that retro-riders who are looking for a reliable café racer out of the box will need to look no further than the 2016 Triumph Thruxton. Expect to see the machine officially debut tomorrow, October 28th.

LEAKED: Liquid-Cooled Triumph Bonneville T120

10/27/2015 @ 1:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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It’s been no big secret that Triumph is about to add liquid-cooling to the venerable Bonneville and its ilk. The cult classic hasn’t changed much in its long and storied past; and don’t worry, beyond the liquid-cooling, it hasn’t changed much for the 2016 model year either.

Thankfully, Triumph has kept the Bonneville aesthetic well inline with what discerning retro-riders and hipsters are looking for in their motorcycles, discretely hiding the machine’s blacked-out radiator.

While the 865cc Triumph Bonneville T100 will still come to the USA for the 2016 model year (free of the EU’s new stricter emission standards), the 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 will travel worldwide, with its 1,200cc parallel-twin engine.