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.”

CCM Teases 600cc Single-Cylinder “Spitfire”

02/10/2017 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Clews Competition Machines is probably not one of the most well-known brands in the USA, though the British marque has a solid niche following around the world.

So, we should explain that CCM is best known for its single-cylinder four-stroke motorcycles, namely dirt bikes, though a number of interesting supermoto models wear the company’s monogram as well.

Right now, CCM is focused on selling its GP450 Adventure model, which takes a repurposed Husqvarna 449 engine, and wraps it in an aluminum chassis that’s built with long-distance ADV riding in mind.

CCM is looking to get back into road bikes though, and has begun teasing a new model. Named the Spitfire, this street bike has a 600cc thumper at its core and a chassis that is a lot more “roadster” than what we have previously seen from this rebellious band of Brits.

MotoGP Tech Director: No Breach of Moto3 Rev Limit Found

03/11/2016 @ 1:53 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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MotoGP’s Technical Director has rejected KTM’s claim that Honda exceeded the official Moto3 rev limit during the 2015 season.

In an official statement issued today, Danny Aldridge said that he and his technical team had examined the official rev limiter used in Moto3 and verified that it was operating correctly, and that although there had been overshoots of the rev limit, these were very small and very brief.

Aldridge went on to confirm much of what we had found when we investigated the issue at the end of February. Speaking to Peter Bom, crew chief of 2015 Moto3 world champion on a Honda Danny Kent, Bom explained that the issue had been about the way in which Honda had optimized the point at which the rev limiter cut in, and this is what had caused the confusion.

Step Aside Honda Grom, Here’s the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

03/04/2016 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Behold the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro, Team Green’s answer to the Honda Grom. This four-stroke, 125cc, 225 lbs “monkey bike” from Kawasaki hopes to tap into the same unassuming, approachable, and fun vein that the Honda Grom exposed three years ago.

Like the Grom, the Kawasaki Z125 Pro appeals to two very different demographics. One the one hand, it is the perfect learner bike for young and green (no pun intended) riders – you can see as much in the photos at the end of this post that clearly target the millennial skateboarding young male.

On the other hand though, the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro is just as much of a machine for older and more experienced riders, who are looking for a cheap and fun machine to add to their already comprehensive stable –  perhaps as a grocery-getter or pit bike at the track.

If we can continue to the comparison to the Honda Grom, this dual approach appears to play out well in the market, with the unassuming motorcycle gaining attention from a surprising wide and large demographic. As such, Kawasaki is smart to jump on the trend.

Benelli Tornado 302 – Bringing Sexy Back

11/18/2015 @ 6:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Just like the Benelli Tornado Naked T, the Benelli Tornado 302 treads on one of motorcycling’s iconic names, replacing it with a budget-oriented model that has none of the pizazz of its namesake.

This is what Benelli has been reduced to as a motorcycle brand, and the reason why the West no longer takes Benelli seriously.

That all being said, if we beat our head against the wall long enough to forget the Benelli Tornado, in either its 900c or 1130cc variants, the Benelli Tornado 302 is a fetching small-displacement machine.

2016 KTM 690 Duke Learns Some Table Manners

11/17/2015 @ 6:09 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The KTM 690 Duke has always been a fun street bike, with a fair amount of power wedged into a relatively light package. For 2016, the KTM 690 Duke learns some refinement though, most notably with an engine overhaul that drops the buzz from the motor, and adds power to the dyno chart.

This comes about as the 690cc LC4 engine gains a secondary balancing shaft, a new crankshaft, and lighter pistons and connecting rods. All these changes come with a new cylinder head that has the exhaust valves on roller rockers, and the intake valves on the camshaft.

The result is that the 2016 KTM 690 Duke gets a modest power gain – a 73hp peak horsepower figure – and a powerband that is 1,000 rpm wider than before.

Watch the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Do Its Thang

10/13/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Maybe it’s because my supermoto season officially ended this weekend (without me, I should add), with our last scheduled sumo session at the go-kart track here in Portland passing by this weekend, or maybe it’s because we just want the Swedish brand to deliver the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto already…either way, consider our appetite whetted by this last video from Husky.

Finally giving us a showing of the 701 Supermoto on a proper race track — not that the ice course with spiked tires wasn’t cool (no pun intended) — we get to see the 701 at home in its natural element: hitting apexes, sliding tires, and crushing lean angles.

We imagine that the nearly as powerful, and considerably lighter Husqvarna FS 450 supermoto would be the better weapon on the track, but the 690cc power plant on the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is certainly the better choice for a machine that will roll a tire on public roads…and that’s sorta the point of the machine.

We’ll be eager to see this Husqvarna hit showrooms in Europe this November, and thus being the long wait for it to come to the USA in February 2016. Could the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto be the ultimate city hooligan bike? Time will tell…we’re certainly eager to find out, though.

KTM 690 Duke To Get Upgrades for 2016

09/09/2015 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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KTM is pulling the interesting move of only alerting certain outlets to the fact that the Austrian company will be bringing updates to the KTM 690 Duke for the 2016 model year. Regardless of that alienating choice, the facts remain, and we’re here to give you the details of their new models.

As such, expect to see the 2016 KTM 690 Duke to get a power boost, roughly to the tune of 73hp @ 8,500 rpm (up 1,000 rpm over the previous model), with peak torque also getting a boost of roughly 6%.

This increase in power comes about partly to internal changes, which include a larger bore and shorter stroke. These give that 690 Duke a very slight displacement increase of 3cc, for 693cc in total.

Husqvarna 701 Enduro Coming for 2016

09/08/2015 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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I had the supreme pleasure of being a guest at the KTM factory last week, touring the Austrian company’s headquarters at Mattighofen.

Seeing some things that I should have perhaps not have seen, Asphalt & Rubber can now confirm two things: the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto looks awesome in person, and that there will be a Husqvarna 701 Enduro for the 2016 model year.

Husqvarna 701 Café Racer Spied

08/27/2015 @ 12:30 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The spy photographer who sent us these photos calls this mystery motorcycle a “Husqvarna 701 café racer” which honestly is as good of a guess as any when it comes to figuring out what the Swedish brand is doing with this machine, and its 2016 motorcycle lineup.

Based off the KTM 690 Duke, as is the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, this machine promises to have a 70hp thumper at its heart, mixed with a short seat-height, clip-on handlebars, underslung exhaust, and an attractive trellis swingarm.

To our eye, the motorcycle in question looks like Husky’s take on the KTM 690 Duke – a naked street bike that’s equally at home in the city as it is in the twisties – more than it does a café racer.

BMW Getting Closer to a Single-Cylinder 300cc Bike

05/20/2015 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Continued reports suggest that BMW is getting closer and closer to releasing a small-displacement motorcycle single-cylinder motorcycle (codenamed the K03), which is being co-developed with Indian brand TVS.

The machine is expected to be in the 250cc to 300cc range, be engineered by BMW Motorrad in Germany, but built by TVS in India.

Pictures of the test mule have been on the internet (see above), but the final design is said to be similar to the TVS Draken concept that we saw this time last year.