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.”

A Panigale-Powerd Ducati Monster Looks Really Good

12/07/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Monster-X

I’m not a fan of the Monster line from Ducati. There, I said it. There is just something about the Monster models over the years that has failed to strike me as appealing, though I must say the latest crop of liquid-cooled Monsters has certainly been a step forward for me, visually.

I’m more of a fan of the Ducati Streetfigther lineup, and I still hope that Ducati has a new Streetfighter design somewhere on its design boards. Ideally, such a machine would have a Superquadro engine at its heart, and accordingly make big horsepower numbers that rip our eyeballs from our sockets.

The fate of the Streetfighter line remains to be seen though, and with each passing model year I expect to see the Streetfighter 848 finally leave the Italian company’s lineup. It would seem the Streetfighter is kaput as of the 2016 model year. -JB

As such, the Monster line could be Ducati’s only naked bike model, any year now. So, if time is really against us, and if the Monster really is to be the only naked bike from Ducati, I hope the future iterations take a lesson from this concept.

Rumors: Ducati 1299 Streetfighter & New Engine Coming?

07/18/2015 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Panigale-no-fairings-01

If you believe everything you read on the internet, then surely you know that Ducati is allegedly getting ready to release a Panigale-based Streetfighter in the next few months. Another potent rumor making the rounds is that Ducati is working on a totally new v-twin engine, which will meet Euro 4 emission standards.

The first rumor got its start from Visordown, which says that it has received an invitation for press launch in September that will consist of “a track test for a road bike.”

The British publication deduces that the new model must be a sport-oriented machine to warrant the track time for journalists, and the only model in Ducati’s lineup that’s long-in-the-tooth that fits the bill is the Streetfighter 848, and the recently discontinued Streetfighter 1098.

The second rumor comes from Moto-Station, with the French site getting word from a source that Ducati has an all-new Euro 4 compliant engine that it will debut at EICMA this November. They go on to speculate that the engine could have Ducati Variable Timing (DVT), and would fit a sport-touring bike.

Let’s examine these two rumors a bit further, in turn.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

11/05/2014 @ 1:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

2015-Ducati-Streetfighter-848-01

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan.

There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Monthly Sales Record

06/04/2012 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

What happens when you release the most anticipated, and we’d argue the most important, superbike in the company’s history? Well you have a record month of sales, of course. It should be unsurprising then that Ducati North America posted a 49% sales growth last month, making May 2012 the company’s best month ever sales-wise. Ducati North America pushed 1,782 units in May, for a total of 4,844 units sold in January thru May (up 19% over 2011, and 98% over 2010).

CAD Drawings of the Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/11/2012 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Overall, our impressions of the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 was that the new baby Fighter from Ducati, is a well-improved upon successor to the original Ducati Streetfighter 1098. Helping differentiate the SF848 from the higher-spec, though otherwise identical, Streetfighter 1098 S, the Streetfighter 848 takes the geometry from the Ducati Superbike 848, which means it gets a much-better handling 24.5° rakes. Ducati has also brought over the Testastretta 11° engine, which made its first debut on the Ducati Multistrada 1200, and then found its way onto the Ducati Diavel.

Smoother and easier to operate, the new Streetfighter’s 849cc motor may be down on power compared to its Superbike counterpart (132 hp at its peak, compared to the Superbike 848 EVO’s 140hp), but the SF848 has a much flatter torque curve and a power band that extends into a more useable range for urban and aggressive street riding. When compared to its predecessor, just about the only thing we don’t like about the Ducati Streetfighter 848 is the foot clearance issue with the shotgun exhaust, which limits the movement of a rider’s right foot on the Streetfighter’s peg.

Releasing these CAD drawings at the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 US press launch, maybe some eagle-eyed industrial designers can come up with a solution for this reporter’s kneecap. CAD renders after the jump.

Ride Review: Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/06/2012 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

An amalgamation of three already existing Ducati models, there is nothing surprising about the Ducati Streetfighter 848. A pick-and-pull creation from the Ducati engineering bay, the Streetfighter 848 draws upon the precedence defined by the Ducati Streetfighter 1098, the Ducati Superbike 848, and the Ducati Multistrada 1200.

A mirror image of the more well-endowed Streetfighter 1098, the Streetfighter aesthetic has been in the public eye since its Milan unveiling in 2008. Like its predecessor, the Streetfighter 848 is based off its Superbike counterpart, and shares the six-year old Ducati Superbike 848’s chassis geometry and namesake. At the heart of the baby Fighter is an 849cc Testastretta 11° engine, and as the name implies, the motor features the same power-smoothing 11° valve overlap architecture that first debuted on the Ducati Multistrada 1200, and has since carried forth with the Ducati Diavel.

We have seen before all the elements that comprise the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848, and indeed there is nothing revolutionary about Ducati’s latest street-naked, so it begs the question: is the Ducati Streetfighter 848 merely the sum of its parts? Or is it something more? Continue onward as we explore that question further.

Ducati Streetfighter 848 Mega Gallery

04/04/2012 @ 12:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Since we are out in the Palm Desert testing the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 today, we figured we might as well post a bevy of photos of the tiny Fighter. Coming with Ducati’s traction control system (DTC), and an 848cc/132hp version of the Testastretta 11° engine, the Streetfighter 848 promises to be more than just a smaller version of the original specimen. Other changes include a refined chassis as well as the infamous Ducati wet clutch, which some say is better than the company’s iconic dry-clutch design (gasp!). While we put the Ducati Streetfighter 848 through its paces today, and see if all these rumors are true, enjoy the 40+ photos we have for you after the jump.

Gone Riding: Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/04/2012 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we are in the Palm Desert testing the new Ducati Streetfighter 848. We’ll be spending most of the day playing with its revised chassis & traction control, and getting used to the baby Fighter’s wet clutch & Testastretta 11° engine. You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Twitter, and our last five tweets will automatically display here on this post.

Photos and Video of the Ducati Streetfighter 848

09/29/2011 @ 7:19 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Now that the European press launch of the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 is over (we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the US press launch…le sigh), some more professional photos and a video of the new middleweight Streetfighter have hit the interwebs. Of course Ducati is really pushing the revitalization of the Italian yellow paint scheme, but we think the matte black “Dark Stealth” version will turn a few heads, and admittedly, this author wishes his Streetfigher 1098 had the red frame on the Rosso Corsa version of the Streetfighter 848.

At $12,995 MSRP, the Ducati Streetfighter 848 is $1,000 cheaper than the Superbike 848 from which it gains its roots (and shares the $13k price point with the Superbike 848 “Dark”). With the added benefit of Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and a 132hp Testastretta 11° motor with longer service intervals, Ducati has refined the Streetfighter 848 to be more civil for its for its urban hooligan duties, while maintaining an appropriate amount of uncouthed sensibility. 19 photos and a video after the jump.

2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 – 132hp – $12,995

09/27/2011 @ 3:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Ducati has released pricing and power specs for the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 here in the US, and the fighter’d version of the Superbike 848 is interestingly priced at $12,995 MSRP, the same price as the Superbike 848 EVO “Dark” or $1,000 less than the colored Superbike 848 EVOs, which retail for $13,995. Making 8hp less than the current Superbike 848 EVO, the Ducati Streetfighter 848’s motor makes 132hp and 69 lbs•ft of torque on Ducati’s dynos, just 23hp shy of the current Streetfighter 1098. Additionally, the Ducati Streetfighter 848 will tip the scales at 373 lbs dry (439 lbs wet), the same weight figure quoted for the current Ducati Streetfighter 1098.

As we stated when the Ducati Streetfighter 848 first broke cover, the positioning on the smaller Streetfighter was going to be critical and difficult for Ducati. The Bologna brand not only has to balance the the Streetfighter 848 against the Superbike 848 EVO, but also against the Monster 1100 EVO as well, which retails for $11,995. With the Streetfighter 848 getting lower-spec suspension and brakes compared to the Superbike 848 EVO (along with a presumably smaller airbox resulting in less power), Ducati seems to be hoping that the standard traction control on the SF848 will help distinguish the Streetfighter from its Superbike compatriot, which has no Ducati Traction Control (DTC) option.