Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

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.

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.

Gone Riding: 2016 Yamaha FJR1300

03/17/2016 @ 12:52 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Back on the road again, and this time I’m out in Arizona with Yamaha North America, riding the recently updated 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 sport-tourer.

Tomorrow sees our group leaving Phoenix and heading up into Sedona, where the red earth and picturesque mesas should make for an epic backdrop to our full day of riding.

For those who don’t know, the FJR1300 is a model that Yamaha has been slowly evolving each model year, instead of making punctuated improvements every few years. This makes it a surprising machine for press launch, but it also happens to be an important one for us to evaluate.

The sport-touring segment is surprisingly hot right now, with 17% growth in the past year, thanks mostly to the Yamaha FJ-09. There are some who think that the sport-touring market is dead, supplanted by the adventure-sport category, yet for some veteran riders, the ethos of the Yamaha FJR1300 is ideal.

The big news for the 2016 model year is the addition of a new six-speed gearbox, which should make highway speeds a bit more friendly. We will also be keen to tryout the suite of electronics on the base model FJR1300A, and experience the electronic suspension on the FJR1300ES, both of which were on the 2015 models, but are new to us.

As usual, I will attempt to answer questions regarding the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 from the road. We will have two days of riding on the machine, so that should be ample opportunity for A&R to get acquainted with this venerable sport-tourer, and give you the skinny on its qualities.

As before, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in Arizona. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #FJR1300 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

2016 Triumph Tiger Sport Gets Updated

02/10/2016 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Triumph Tiger Sport isn’t a model that we get here in the United States of America, but the adventure-sport model does round out Triumph’s European lineup quite well, slotting in between the Tiger 800 and Tiger Explorer (1,200cc).

For 2016, the Triumph Tiger Sport gets some updates, namely the same revamped 1,050cc three-cylinder engine that came to the Triumph Speed Triple earlier this year.

As such, the 2016 Triumph Tiger Sport will have increased torque and fuel economy, according to Triumph. The updated Triumph Tiger Sport also has a new ride-by-wire throttle, complete with riding modes, traction control, cruise control, ABS, and a slip-assist clutch.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Mega Gallery

11/30/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT was the big unveil at EICMA, for the Austrian company. The model builds off the well-recieved KTM 1290 Super Duke R streetfighter, and adds some more fairing, a windshield, as well as a set of panniers.

Despite its beastly title and aggressive looks, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is a surprisingly comfortable motorcycle to ride, thanks mostly to an upright riding triangle. The Super Duke R also has a large 4.7 gallon tank, which gives good range, but KTM boosted the Super Duke GT’s fuel tank to 6 gallons regardless of that fact.

If experience tell us anything, this should make for nice long excursions on the “Grand Tourer” model, which thankful doesn’t get a neutering to its 170hp 75° v-twin engine, which is the true highlight of the model.

The Super Duke R can get some vibrations from that beast of a motor though, so it will be interesting to see how the GT model handles that, otherwise we consider the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT to be a very sporty sport-tourer – one we’re eager to ride.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT will come to the USA for 2016 though, which is a shame. Hopefully KTM North America can figure that nonsense out tout suite. In the meantime, we have 50+ high-resolution photos of “The Touring Beast” for your viewing pleasure.

2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

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The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT – The Be(a)st Sport-Tourer?

11/17/2015 @ 5:31 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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I recently was pleased to get the chance to ride the KTM 1290 Super Duke R – machine that truly lives up to the name “The Beast”, yet shows enough comfort to be a potent touring machine, if you could mount bags and a windscreen to it.

That thought is exactly what drove KTM with its latest model, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, which takes the 173hp streetfighter, and gives its bags, more fairing, and a windshield — all for 502 lbs, ready to ride.

Unless the Austrian massively botched this relatively easy task, this could mean that the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is the best sport-tourer on the market.

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.

2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Finally Revealed

10/06/2015 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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We have been seeing for some time now evidence that KTM was set to bring a more touring-focused variant of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R to market, and now today we have confirmation of that fact.

Releasing photos of the still camouflaged 2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, KTM is leaving a little something to the imagination and EICMA, but the company is also confirming that another touring model will enter its lineup.

New 937cc Ducati Hypermotard 939 Outed for 2016

09/28/2015 @ 10:59 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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In addition to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale, Ducati is set to update the Hypermotard line, according to documents filed with the California Air Resources Board.

The filing shows three new Hypers: the base model Hypermotard 939, the up-spec Hypermotard 939 SP, and the touring-oriented Hyperstrada 939.

Unfortunately the CARB filings don’t tell us too much about the machines, other than their emissions are lower (thanks to Euro 4 compliance), and that all three street bikes will use a 937cc engine and a six-speed gearbox.

Reitvergnügen – Day One – Autobahning

09/02/2015 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Our first day in earnest sees our group leaving our Radisson hotel in Munich, walking across the street to the massive München BMW dealership, grabbing our respective bikes – a fleet of F800R, F800GT, R1200R, R1200RS, R1200GS, and S1000XR motorcycles – and heading out on the autobahn, towards Austria.

Since our group is full of early risers, we got things moving ahead of schedule. For some, this meant extra time to meet our fellow riders; though for one member of the group, it meant a little extra time to shake off the cobwebs with a pre-ride beer – an occurrence that unfortunately became more of a ritual.

Joining me on our trek through the better parts of Europe is a dynamic group of individuals: there are a bunch of NY/NJ guys from N2 Track Days, an Apple engineer with an affinity for Triumphs, a designer with the gift of gab, and a former World Champion motorcycle racer.

The show is orchestrated by Cat MacLeod, a tall Scotsman with bleached white hair that ends in a ponytail, and his team of European tour guides and logistic personnel who are eager to help us navigate some of the best roads in the world, as well as the nightlife that surrounds them.

With nearly 500km of riding to report for Day 1, we better stop stalling and get to it, eh?

Reitvergnügen – Day Zero – München

08/28/2015 @ 10:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber will have a decidedly European kick the next few days, as David and Tony are in the UK for the British GP, and I will be in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy for a bit of motorcycle touring.

I got this amazing opportunity to join Leod Motorcycle Escapes for their “Alps & Sachsenring Dream” tour, which means for the next five days I’ll be riding in the German/Swiss/Italian Alps, as well as the Italian Dolomites. Once that’s done, we head back into Germany for a two-day track day at Sachsenring. Schwing!

Over the course of the trip, I will be riding the new BMW R1200RS (maybe a little seat time on the S1000XR too) during the touring sections, and throwing a leg over the updated 2015 BMW S1000RR while at Sachsenring. It’s a hard life, right?