2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto, for France Only

America might have invented supermoto racing, but the sport’s largest support base easily comes now from that other side of the Atlantic – more specifically, from France. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that Honda’s French importer Superboost makes a special supermoto version of the Honda CRF450 for the French market. For the 2017 model year, the Honda CRF450 Supermoto follows that changes made to Big Red’s 450cc dirt bike, which notably includes the return of fork springs (goodbye air forks), an electric starter, and down-draft fuel injection. Basically a kit that is added at the importer level, the 2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto lineup has three models, building off the CRF450R (€11,299), CRF450RX (€10,999), and CRF450X dirt bike (€10,999), with each getting their own taste of the supermoto treatment.

Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

IOMTT: Q&A with Michael Czysz on the 2012 Mo’Czyzzle

06/06/2012 @ 5:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Getting a chance to sit down with Michael Czysz, ahead of the 2012 SES TT Zero race, we asked the designer of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc and CEO of MotoCzysz a few questions about the Segway MotoCzysz Racing team’s latest machine, as well as his thoughts on the 2012 season and the state of electric motorcycle racing. With aerodynamics being the centerpiece for the team’s 2012 entry, there’s a lot of reading between the lines between Michael’s comments on the bike’s technical aspects, which become fairly apparent when closely examining the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc u-close. And yes, we of course even asked the form-driven motorcyclist his thoughts on the bike’s aesthetics.

Kidding aside, Michael provides a ton of insight not only into the Segway MotoCzysz team, but also the state and trajectory of electric motorcycle racing as a whole. Developing new systems for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the bar for electrics is constantly being pushed farther, and with several potent entries this year, the TT Zero competition has never been fiercer. Like John McGuinness said to me earlier in the week, in five year’s time or so, everyone will be racing these.

Up-Close with the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/01/2012 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

More evolution than revolution, it is easy to see the lines of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc peaking out from underneath the complex shapes of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc. Building upon the design that won his company the 2011 SES TT Zero, Michael Czysz says he has finally had time to truly address the aerodynamic aspect of his designs, though he admittedly had to make some aesthetic concessions to find the right aerodynamic package for the job.

These concessions cause the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to have a bit of Buck Rogers feel to it at first glance, as the winglets, ducts, and neon colors hit you all at once. While it all seems a bit over the top, there is some method to the madness. Relying on computational fluid dynamics to develop his designs, Czysz’s designs aim to make the 2012 E1pc as slippery as possible in the wind, but also serve to allow the team to continue a design philosophy that first started way-back with the MotoCzysz C1 project.

2012 MotoCzysz E1pc Breaks Cover at the Isle of Man TT

06/01/2012 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Making its debut at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc was unveiled  today, ahead of the first TT Zero practice session on Saturday. Campaigned again by the Segway MotoCzysz Racing Team, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc is based heavily off its 2011 counterpart, but with obvious aerodynamic changes, as well as subtle system improvements. Boasting 200+ peak horsepower and 14kWh of battery pack, the new MotoCzysz E1pc tips the scales at 525 lbs — a full 45 lbs lighter than its main competitor, the Mugen Shinden.

Defending his #1 plate, Michael Rutter returns to Team Segway MotoCzysz, as well as American Mark Miller, who has been with the squad since its first TT race four years ago. Unlike last year, both riders will be on the same spec race bike, as MotoCzysz is racing to be the first team to crack the 100 mph average lap speed barrier. The Isle of Man government has put up £10,000 to the first rider to crack the 100 mph mark, which nearly went to Rutter in the 2011 SES TT Zero race.

Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

Did Kawasaki Just Enter TT Zero Without Anyone Noticing?

04/24/2012 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The Isle of Man TT sent out an interesting press release yesterday, where it cited the largest competitor entry list in the TT Zero’s race history (lawyer’s crafty word choice note: this does not include when in 2009 the race was run under the TTXGP banner and 23 competitors allegedly entered). With 18 competitors signed up for the single-lap electric motorcycle race around the Mountain Course, we can surely expect the field to dwindle, as virtually none of the electric series have been able translate large entry lists into large starting grids, sans maybe the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, which TTXGP is now piggy-backing off of as well.

Announcing the return of MotoCzysz and its two-rider team of Mark Miller and Michael Rutter, the Isle of Man TT also gave a nod to the Mugen entry, which is widely believed to be a front for Honda’s own electric motorcycle racing program. Having 17-time TT race winner, and long-time factory Honda rider John McGuinness at the helm of the Mugen Shinden has only added further credence to the rumor. However getting only one sentence in the press release was perhaps the most intriguing entry to the list of competitors: Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive, which will race the team’s Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike.

Segway Returns to Sponsor MotoCzysz for 2012

03/26/2012 @ 1:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

For 2012, Segway returns as the title sponsor for MotoCzysz’s electric motorcycle racing program, with the team’s first race set to be the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Continuing the special sauce that lead MotoCzysz to a 1-2 victory at the Isle, Segway Racing hopes to be the first and fastest team to crack the 100 mph average lap speed barrier for electrics on the Mountain Course.

Rumored to be bringing another all-new 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to the iconic road race, MotoCzysz’s biggest competition will come from a now more-developed Lightning “Flying Banana” and wild card Honda Mugen Shinden. Further entrant announcements are still expected as well.

John McGuinness Tests the Mugen Shinden Electric Bike

03/22/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Right after it was made official that John McGuinness would race in the 2012 TT Zero on the Mugen Shinden, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner was whisked off to Motegi to test the electric superbike. McGuinness’s involvement with Mugen’s racing effort has only added further credence to the notion that the team is a front for Honda’s foray into full-size electric motorcycles (Mugen was also started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda).

Debuting the Honda RC-E concept last year, A&R has also heard reports that the Japanese OEM has been playing with electric motorcycles in various forms for almost a decade now. Despite continued reports that the Mugen Shinden is a rebadged Honda RC-E, the two bikes share almost no similarities, except of course for this whole running on electricity thing.

More Photos & Video of the Mugen Shinden

03/05/2012 @ 11:21 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Thought to be a Honda in disguise, the Mugen Shinden (神電) broke cover this weekend at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Suzuka Circuit. While the Shinden leaves a bit to be desired visually when compared to the Honda RC-E concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, underneath the bland white fairings is a carbon fiber chassis with 122 hp on tap, and a curb weight of 573 lbs. With that much weight on board, Mugen’s electric superbike is sure to have a massive battery pack, which should give MotoCzysz, Lightning, and other 2012 TT Zero contenders a run for their money…the £10,000 that is still up for grabs to the first team to crack a 100 mph lap.

Piloting the Mugen Shinden around the 37.733 mile TT course will be none other than “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness. The seventeen-time TT race winner has been keen on racing the electrics for some time now, and his involvement with the Mugen squad only adds more credibility to the belief that Honda is using the tuning outfit as a front to race its electric in a low-pressure situation (McGuinness is a contract Honda rider with the Honda TT Legends squad). Interviewed at the Morecambe Football Club, McGuinness added even more linkage between the two Japanese companies when he refered to the project as the “Mugen/Honda” electric bike.