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.”

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #37 – Dustin Pipes

11/15/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast #37 – Dustin Pipes

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Episode 37 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast covers a bit of motorcycle happenings in the past few weeks, and starts off with a discussion about the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event in Southern California.

An interesting racing format for supercross fans, those in attendance were also treated to the Alta Motors Redshift MX electric dirt bike racing against its 250cc gas counterparts. It did quite well, with Josh Hill finishing fourth overall on the Alta.

Our conversation then turns to cruisers, as Quentin and I got some seat time on the Victory Octane. Neither of us are big fans of the cruiser motorcycle format, but had some interesting thoughts on the Octane, which is a pretty good bike for its $9,999 price tag.

We then turn our attention to the new bike season, with the debut of the Yamaha YZF-R6 at the AIMExpo, the leaked images of the now released Ducati 1299 Superleggera, and other machines.

It’s a classic Two Enthusiasts show, we think you will enjoy it. Also, if you’re in the Portland area on Friday, November 18th, you should attend our live show at the MotoCorsa dealership. We hope to see you there.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Alta Motors Beats Gas Bikes at Red Bull Straight Rhythm

10/25/2016 @ 3:15 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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A bit of history was made this past weekend, at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event in Pomona, California.

Amongst the star-studded lineup of riders who competed head-to-head in the straight-line supercross races, we were also treated to the return of Josh Hill, who pulled himself out of retirement to ride the electric-powered Alta Motors Redshift MX.

Winning his quarter-final heat, Hill gave Alta Motors its first national-level supercross win, the first for an electric motorcycle. However, succumbing to Mitchell Oldenburg in the semi-finals, Hill finished the day fourth overall, meaning Alta Motors narrowly missed out on a podium debut.

Alta Motors Will Compete in the Red Bull Straight Rhythm

10/06/2016 @ 2:03 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The concept behind the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event is pretty easy to explain: take your typical supercross track, remove all the turns, thus making the course one big straight line, and unleash the riders in a head-to-head battle.

The Red Bull Straight Rhythm is a pretty intriguing and approachable event, and with the backing of Red Bull, it’s gaining steam and popularity.

The 2016 Red Bull Straight Rhythm will be even more interesting though, as we get word that electric motorcycle startup Alta Motors will compete in the 250cc lites class, with Josh Hill riding the Redshift MX electric dirt bike.

At the Yamaha Wall of Champions Induction

12/23/2015 @ 2:23 pm, by Andrew KohnComments Off on At the Yamaha Wall of Champions Induction

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What makes a champion? Is it talent? Desire? Drive? Today we had an opportunity to learn about those things from the champions themselves, as Yamaha closed out their year-long 60th Anniversary celebration by inducting twelve members into the Yamaha Wall of Champions.

The celebration occurred at Yamaha’s headquarters in Cypress, CA with much of Yamaha’s senior leadership team present. Four of the inductees came from the motocross and supercross side of the house, two were ATV champions, and six prefer the slick tires of motorcycle roadracing.

Yamaha used this ceremony as an opportunity for its employees to celebrate the holiday, to give back to the community, and to enjoy some time with factory racers, both past and present.

The mood was festive and spirits were high. A band comprised of Yamaha employees added to the festive atmosphere and a couple of food trucks ensured that everyone was well fed.

Electric: The KTM Freeride E is Finally Ready for Primetime

09/17/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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KTM is finally ready to bring its electric dirt bike, the KTM Freeride E, to the general public, after pump-faking the machine at EICMA three years ago. During that rather large time gap, KTM has realized the errors of its initial design, and has since opted for a liquid-cooled PMAC electric motor, which puts out 21.5hp and 31 lbs•ft of torque.

The Lithium-ion battery pack has also been refined, and is now easily swapable (lift-up the seat, and unscrew four screws). With about an hour’s worth of riding time, according to the KTM wristwatches, the integrated battery and BMS unit has 2.6 kWh on-board, and fully charges in 80 minutes (80% in 50 minutes) when hooked up to the KTM quick charging system.

The Austrians are making two electric models available: the enduro KTM Freeride E-XC and the supercross KTM Freeride E-SX. So far, it looks like the machines are only available in Europe, where KTM has its electric E-Park riding parks. A supermoto is expected as well for the 2015 model year. Pricing for the Freeride E-SX is set at €10,995 in Germany (VAT included), while the Freeride E-XC will cost €11,295.

Red Bull Straight Rhythm SX Event Is a Go

06/19/2014 @ 5:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Late last year we told you about a new supercross concept that Red Bull playing around with, called Red Bull Straight Rhythm. Basically the real world realization of the video game Excite Bike, Red Bull’s Straight Rhythm features what can only be described as an SX course, minus the turns.

A half-mile of jumps and whoops, Straight Rhythm tests a rider’s ability to manage the rhythm sections of an off-road course. The initial videos of the concept seemed intriguing, and now Red Bull has pulled the trigger on hosting a live event.

As such, the first Red Bull Straight Rhythm competition is scheduled for October 4th, 2014 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. Racing a best of three head-to-head races against their competitors, racers will advance via a bracket format.

Red Bull Straight Rhythm = Real Life Excitbike Course

11/12/2013 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As a member of the Nintendo-generation, nothing tickles my fancy more than to see an homage to some of the classics, and for motorcyclists is there any title more prolific than Excitebike? I think not. So it warms my gamer hearts to see that Red Bull has explored the idea of a real-life Excitebike course with its “straight rhythm” project.

Red Bull says that the course is “an innovative evolution of supercross where a track is ‘unwound’ — there are no turns, just a half-mile-long straight rhythm section. By isolating the whoops, triples, doubles, table tops and step on/offs, riders must focus exclusively on reading the terrain directly in front of them, correctly judging their speed for precise distance and control.”

To us, it looks like the energy drink company is hoping to make the Red Bull Straight Rhythm a new type of racing spectacle, and is using names like James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Marvin Musquin, Jessy Nelson, Cole Seely, and Justin Bogle to hock the new course format. Check it out after the jump, and be sure to pick who you are rooting for before they get started.

Photos: The Mud of SX at Daytona

03/12/2012 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

AMA Supercross was in Daytona this past weekend, and apparently so was the rain. While the day’s earlier sessions were relatively unaffected, the evening’s main event looked like it was held in the bogs of the Florida Everglades, rather than the Daytona International Speedway.

With the AMA shortening the 450 race by four laps, many competitors still dropped out mid-race, leaving James Stewart to win with a comfortable seven and a half second lead. Similarly, the lites-class ran the course with three fewer laps than previously planned, with Justin Barcia continuing his dominance of the 2012 season.

While virtually every sport is more fun when played in the mud, after looking at the photos from Daytona, we are sure many racers will be glad to be leaving Florida behind them.

SX Riding Tips, Slow-Mo Footage, & James “Bubba” Stewart

01/06/2012 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

We should probably just go ahead change our name to Dirt & Rubber already, as A&R is on an off-road kick today. We’ve shown our fair share of slow-motion MotoGP videos from our friends at Red Bull, and today the brand that gives you wings has a treat for you dirt bike enthusiasts. Incorporating some great dirt track shots with James “Bubba” Stewart talking about the basic theories of motorcross racing, Red Bull has a nice little promo video here for Bubba and the Yamaha squad. Learning patented tips like “turn the bike like no other and get it done,” and “the Bubba scrub” we expect our street-leaning selves to be riding at JS7‘s level in no time at all. Video goodness after the jump, and be sure to note the slow-mo exhaust puffs at the 1:50 time marker.

You Can Always Count on KTM for Some Good Photos

12/07/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

We don’t cover the off-road sector of motorcycling too often (we’re really trying to put the “asphalt” in the Asphalt & Rubber around here), but KTM makes us wish we broke that vow to the tarmac more often. Sending us these photos of the official Red Bull/KTM Factory Supercross Team practicing at The Ranch in Anza, CA, the Austrian brand certainly seems “ready to race” (oh, brother), but with the lens of Frank Hoppen at the ready, Red Bull/KTM factory riders Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, and Marvin Musquin looked the business as well.

I’ve waxed on before about how KTM really is the standard by which other motorcycle companies should rate their marketing materials, and these photos are no different. Keep in mind that KTM employs a variety of photographers, over varying locations worldwide, yet consistently comes out with stunning well-shot photos, which all have a touch of the KTM style. That’s almost as impressive of a feat as the body of work itself. But enough about that, onto the goodness after the jump.