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.”

New Triumph Street Triple Debuts with 765cc Engine

01/10/2017 @ 12:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler95 COMMENTS

As expected, today we get to see the 2017 Triumph Street Triple, with its new engine capacity: 765cc. The new engine displacement comes from both an increase in bore and stroke on the iconic three-cylinder motor, with Triumph using a new crank, pistons, and barrels in its construction.

Three flavors of Triumph Street Triple will be available for 2017, with S, R, and RS-spec (above) machines being available, with obvious performance differences existing between the trim levels.

As such, peak horsepower will be 113hp (S), 118hp (R), and 123hp (RS) – a notable boost over the 675cc machine’s 105hp. Meanwhile, peak torque has been improved from 50 lbs•ft, now to 53 lbs•ft (S) and 56 lbs•ft (R & RS).

All the models tip the scales at 166kg (dry) according to Triumph, which is a 2kg reduction over the outgoing model.

Rumors Peg 2017 Triumph Street Triple to Be 800cc

12/24/2016 @ 4:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

The rumor mill says that this video from Triumph is teasing us an “all new” Triumph Street Triple for the 2017 model year, which will see a displacement increase to 800cc.

The new bike is set to drop on January 10th, and promises to set “a new benchmark” in the streetfighter category. That is tough talk from a British brand that has let its modern sport bike offering languish over the past decade. But, we’re intrigued.

We have seen a revival in the streetfighter category as of late though, so hopefully the folks at Hinckley are wise to that trend and not keen on seeing the iconic Street Triple and Speed Triple models slip further from the riding consciousness.

Like you, we look forward to seeing what debuts in a couple weeks’ time. Hopefully it lives up to the hype — we’re suckers for nakeds.

Spirit Motorcycles Debuts Potent Three-Cylinder Sport Bikes

11/30/2016 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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If you are having a hard time figuring out what to get that special motorcyclist in your life, let us suggest something from the recently formed Spirit Motorcycles brand.

The British marque’s first offering is a trio of motorcycles: the GP Street is a naked street bike, the GP Sport is its fully faired sibling, and the GP Corse R is the full-fledge track supersport machine.

The base model machines make 160hp from their three-cylinder engine, and tip the scales around the 320 lbs mark. But, if you want to spring for the R-spec models, you are looking at a 180hp and 309 lbs machine, sans fuel. Do we have your attention now?

To power their machines, Spirit is using a repurposed Triumph Daytona 675 engine, which has been boosted to 750cc by stroking out the triple. Engine compression has been modified to help boost power, as well.

Like many things on the Spirit lineup, the chassis is of note, as the chrom-moly steel tubes have been brazed-welded together, for added flex. Spirit says that the chassis steering angle, rake, and trail is fully adjustable. The swingarm is made from cast aluminum, and the fairings are carbon fiber.

Yamaha XSR900 Abarth Adds Some Italian Sports Heritage

11/08/2016 @ 1:28 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Yamaha has a long-standing relationship with Fiat’s tuning arm, Abarth, with the two brands having collaborated several times in the past.

For 2017, Yamaha and Abarth are teaming up again, creating the limited edition Yamaha XSR900 Abarth – a tricked out three-cylinder café racer – that is debuting at the 2016 EIMCA show.

As the name suggest, the Yamaha XSR900 serves as the basis for this custom model, with Abarth adding a sportier tone to the retro-styled “Sport Heritage” motorcycle.

Abarth’s changes include carbon fiber bodywork pieces, such as the headlight shroud, rear seat cowl, and front fender. There is also a special full titanium Akrapovič exhaust, which looks absolutely exquisite, as to be expected.

The Yamaha FZ-09 Gets More Aggressive for 2017

10/13/2016 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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The Yamaha FZ-09 will follow it European counterpart, the Yamaha MT-09, for the 2017 model year – getting an “upgrade” to its styling, along with a few performance enhancements.

Yes, this means the face that only a mother can love is coming to US soil; but on the bright side, it’s bringing with it traction control, fully adjustable forks, and anti-locking brakes.

The new headlight assembly features four LED headlamps, with other styling changes being made to the tail section, radiator shrouds, air scoops, and license plate mount (now on the swingarm).

Yamaha hopes that this styling effort will appeal to younger buyers, while the added features will appeal to more pragmatic buyers. Like on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, a quickshifter can be added as an optional accessory item, at the dealership.

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.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

01/27/2016 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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There is a tongue-in-cheek joke amongst moto-journalists when it comes to new MV Agusta models: that each new machine is “the best motorcycle yet” from the Italian brand. The unspoken punchline of course is that each new model has such an incredibly low bar to surpass, that it is a relatively easy to be the next “best” motorcycle in the lineup, and thus it’s easy to lead a bike review with such a hyperbolic statement.

That joke has been slowly fading away though, and it is becoming more of an honest reality, as MV Agusta’s motorcycle lineup has evolved from a family of luridly appealing motorcycles that unfortunately are also deeply flawed, to a brand of machine that can boast the competence to match its striking beauty.

Nothing better proves this point than MV Agusta’s three-cylinder platform, which was mired by half-baked electronics and fueling at its debut in 2013, and now survives as a supersport/middleweight platform that should be on every rider’s short-list of must-ride motorcycles.

It is this trend that sees MV Agusta now updating its 800cc platform for 2016 (the 675cc machines will see an update soon enough), notably with Euro4 emission controls in full-effect.

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case.

The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines.

Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

Yamaha MWT-9 Leaning Trike Concept Debuts in Tokyo

10/28/2015 @ 1:18 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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As expected, Yamaha has a leaning multi-wheel concept at the Tokyo Motor Show for us to chew on. Without further ado, let us introduce to you the Yamaha MWT-9 leaning trike concept.

The key to understanding the MWT-9 is the number three. Three wheels to grip the road, three cylinders to power the engine, and three Predator movies to get the aesthetic jussssst right. Three groups of three makes nine, and blammo, you have the MWT-9.

In seriousness though, there is a lot to take in with the Yamaha MWT-9, once you get past its alien/insect/whatever-that-is look.

Yamaha Debuting an FZ-09 Powered Side-by-Side?

08/05/2015 @ 5:51 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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A teaser video from Yamaha Europe is very clear on the fact that Yamaha is getting ready to debut a sporty off-road side-by-side, for the European market and likely the American market as well.

The interesting thing, and the reason we’re talking about it here at Asphalt & Rubber, is the four-wheeled desert-shredding monster is powered by a three-cylinder engine – a peculiar choice of lumps, from the Tuning Fork brand.

Of course the only model in Yamaha’s lineup that has such an engine is the FZ-09 (that’s an MT-09 to you non-Americans), which has been the basis for the FJ-09 sport-tourer as well.

Perhaps hoping to get some more mileage, no pun intended, out of its three-cylinder engine design, Yamaha has repurposed its triple for this unique use.

We will likely have to wait a little while longer to see what Yamaha has brewing, though it does seem intriguing…if you like to sit-down and steer your adult-sized toys.

MV Agusta Working on New Four-Cylinder Platform

04/14/2015 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Even though we just finished covering the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Yours Truly is still on the road…and I’m actually all the way out in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (near Nice, France) for the international press launch for the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800.

We have just had the media debrief on the new Adventure-Sport machine, where MV Agusta President and CEO Giovanni Castiglioni had some interesting news.

First, the Turismo Veloce is the last of the new three-cylinder models from MV Agusta, as the Italian manufacturer feels it has completely exhausted the market segments for the three-cylinder platform.

Second, the MV Agusta is in the process of bringing out an all-new four-cylinder platform, which we presumably will start seeing as early as the 2015 EICMA show, as MV Agusta expects to debut four new models for 2016.