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.”

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

10/16/2014 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

kawasaki-ninja-h2r-up-close-22

Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida today and tomorrow, covering the new bikes that are debuting on North American soil. We’ve already seen the new Yamaha YZF-R3 released here, as well as the Alta RedShift electric motorcycles (formerly BRD Motorcycles).

While both bikes are impressive, and are massively important to the American motorcycle scene, the buzz remains about the Kawasaki Ninja H2R. The AIMExpo is the first venue for Americans to get a glimpse of Kawasaki’s hyperbike, and the H2R sits like a praying mantis, waiting to strike you with its supercharged charms.

Naturally, we had to get a closer look…and bring you a bevy of high-resolution detail shots from the trades how floor. Enjoy!

Up-Close with the Ducati Scrambler Icon

09/30/2014 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-up-close-38

The 2015 Ducati Scrambler has officially debuted at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany today, in case you missed the news. Before today though, Ducati North America invited us out to get a sneak peak of the new Scrambler Icon, along with a little time in a photo studio.

As a result, we have a bevy of our “up-close” photos for you, as well as some first impressions of the machine.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Ducati Scrambler is how bare bones the motorcycle is. Ducati did a good job of not over-thinking the Scrambler, leaving the model true to its name.

The dash is a tastefully small round unit, which sits nestled between the high and wide handlebars. This gives the rider a good open feeling from the seat, though the exposed wires and cables are a bit distracting, with nothing else to hide them.

Artfully exposed is the air-cooled v-twin DesmoDue engine, which is borrowed from the Monster 796, and thus is a confusing 803cc. The header shape should look familiar as well, as it mimics those found on the Ducati Diavel.

The seat seems practical for two-up riding, and the Scrambler Icon is fitted with passenger pegs. The cheapest ($8,595 for the yellow one) of Ducati’s four Scrambler variants, the Icon is perhaps the most vanilla model. That’s not a bad thing, but the other three models are clearly present to appeal to certain niche riders.

Up-Close with the Energica Ego Electric Superbike

07/17/2014 @ 12:05 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Energica-Ego-electric-superbike-up-close-26

Asphalt & Rubber had the fortunate chance to ride the Energica Ego today, and before I get to a proper review of riding the electric superbike, I wanted to reintroduce this Italian machine to our readers, because while A&R might have been one of the few outlets to cover Energica, this new player in the “E2V” space might still strike you as unfamiliar.

A project from Italy’s respected engineering firm CRP Racing, I first had the opportunity to see the Energica Ego at the 2011 EICMA show. The machine wasn’t a runner at the time, as CRP was still looking for a drivetrain partner that could supplement CRP’s already extensive knowledge in chassis design.

Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, and the Energica sub-brand debuted its first production electric superbike, the Ego. The naming might be a bit tough, especially for us Anglophones, but this 134hp, 143 lbs•ft superbike packs a punch, and is remarkably well-refined.

I will leave the full review for a more-detailed article, but the short version of it is pretty positive. I came to the launch skeptical of Energica and the Ego, but left very impressed with the company its machine — the conversation about production electric motorcycles now has to include this potent Italian brand and its first product offering. Enthusiasts should take note.

Up-Close with the 2014 Mugen Shinden San (神電 参)

06/04/2014 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Mugen-Shinden-San-TT-Zero-Isle-of-Man-TT-Richard-Mushet-17

The TT Zero event for the 2014 Isle of Man TT is about to kick-off in about an hour, so we thought we’d show the electric superbike that everyone in the paddock is talking about, the Mugen Shinden San. The third iteration of the machine from Mugen, this year the Japanese tuning brand has two riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

With Bruce Anstey on fire this TT fortnight, and McGuinness off his pace in the previous sessions with a wrist injury (and sitting out today’s Supersport TT race), it seems like anything can happen before the starter’s flag drops.

Assuming the two-rider format remains, Mugen has said to Asphalt & Rubber that both riders will likely run the same electronic maps during the race, which should rest the race’s results squarely on the riders. In order to do this, Mugen must feel confident with its energy management and overall racing package.

Video: An Intimate Look at the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

05/23/2014 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Superleggera-EICMA-detail-13

The Ducati 1199 Superleggera is finally here, Ducati’s exclusive 500 customers are starting to receive their bikes, and Ducatista around the world are acting like its Christmas in May. We can’t blame them; after all, the Superleggera is a rolling showcase of what the engineers at Borgo Panigale can do with a street-legal machine.

Our friends at Moto Corsa were lucky enough to get three fine specimens in the first wave of deliveries — the Portland, Oregon shop will receive nine Superleggeras in total — a pretty sizable sum when you consider that less than 200 will make their way across the pond to US soil.

Naturally Arun and his cohorts took the opportunity to examine up-close what $200,000 worth of carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum looks like. Even better, they documented the experience, for our viewing pleasure of course.

Up-Close with the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Race Bike

11/13/2013 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

Suzuki-MotoGP-race-bike-EICMA-09

One of the advantages of actually going to the yearly EICMA show, as opposed to phoning it in like some other outlets do, is that you get see things that don’t find their way into a press release.

Take for example the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP race bike prototype that Randy de Puniet has been developing and Davide Brivio has been heading. On display at the Suzuki stand, it was perhaps the most technologically advanced motorcycle at EICMA, yet you would only know that if you went to Milan last week.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago

11/07/2013 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

MV-Agusta-F3-800-Ago-EICMA-06

What would an EICMA show be without a special commemorative machine from that little company in Varese? Behold the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago, a special edition motorcycle to celebrate one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time, Giacomo Agostini.

On hand for the unveiling of his special edition machine, Mr. Agostini signed the very first model, which sports his signature Tricolore and gold racing livery, and is fitted with copious carbon fiber bits.

No mechanical work has been done to the MV Agusta F3 800, though we think the effect from the paint and carbon is very fetching. A small collection of photos are after the jump.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800

11/06/2013 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

2014-MV-Agusta-Turismo-Veloce-800-12

MV Agusta’s big announcement at the 2013 EICMA show was of course its new sport-tourer, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800. Based around the Italian brand’s 800cc three-cylinder engine, the Turismo Veloce is a big step for MV Agusta, though one taken cautiously both in terms of progress and design.

Borrowing heavily from the firm’s F3 and F4 sport bikes, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce feels like its stuck in the Varese company’s past, though in many ways it is MV Agusta’s future.

We are sure that the sport-tourer is just the first of many line-extensions for MV Agusta that will borrow from the same common elements found in all the current MV Agusta motorcycles, but the real highlight of the Turismo Veloce 800 is that it debuts a number of new technologies for MV Agusta, which have all been packaged into the MVICS 2.0 system.

Despite the impressive advancements made with the MVICS 2.0 system, as with all MV Agusta motorcycles, the real connection with the machine is a visual one, and the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 certainly makes an impression.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

11/05/2013 @ 10:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

ducati-1199-superleggera-eicma-detail-36

The highlight of the 2013 EICMA show has to be the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, which Ducati formally introduced to the press last Monday night. The “super light” street bike may not have the dynamism of being a completely new machine, as was the case with the Desmosedici RR, but the 155kg (dry) Superleggera is just as impressive when you pause to take a moment and examine all of its details.

With only 500 units being made, Ducati says roughly only 50 are unspoken for as of Sunday morning — a pretty impressive figure considering that up until that moment, only a handful of people had actually seen the Ducati 1199 Superleggera in the flesh. Once the 500th bike is sold, that will be it for the Superleggera, Ducati having learned its lesson from the Desmosedici launch.

The most obvious part about the Superleggera is its orange-red paint scheme, which matches the Rosso Corsa paint found on the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. If you only examined the Ducati 1199 Superleggera skin-deep, this would be your big takeaway from the experience, but the beauty really resides in the details.

Up-Close with the 2013 Honda RC213V

07/29/2013 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

Honda-RC213V-MotoGP-Laguna-Seca-Jensen-Beeler-3

The Honda RC213V and its predecessors have always been formidable machines in MotoGP, but for 2013 HRC has truly managed to make a peerless motorcycles for its four riders: Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl, and Alvaro Bautista.

In the past, the Honda was all about its motor and its ability to rocket out of the corners, whereas the Yamaha YZR-M1 was more about its chassis and the ability to have supreme edge-grip through the turns.

This dichotmy created two bikes that required two very different riding styles to be fully utilized; and also it meant sometimes the Honda was the weapon of choice, and sometimes the Yamaha was the better tool for the job — depending on the track, of course.

But all that changed this past season and a half. Finding a solution to the RC213V’s chatter problem (a problem that was courtesy of the raised minimum weight requirement for 2012), in the latter part of last season, HRC watch Dani Pedrosa storm after Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship points.

Helping the Repsol Honda rider was of course HRC’s seamless shifting gearbox, which at some tracks on the calendar is good for a tenth or two per lap, but what really spurred on Pedrosa was engineers at Honda overcoming the one weakness in the RC213V’s design.

No longer was the race between a bike with power and the other with handling — now the Honda had both; and better yet, Yamaha had no reply for this development.

While Yamaha Racing is still hoping to debut its own seamless gearbox during the 2013 season, it will likely do little to change the course of events in the Championship standings. The 2013 Honda RC213V is a matchless machine right now, and it is the hands of two very formidable riders.

Don’t count Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha YZR-M1 out of course, but the reigning World Champion has more than hisfill when it comes to fending off the two Repsol Honda riders.

Making it a point to capture this fine machine in detail at the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, I dodged bikes in the very busy MotoGP pit lane to bring you a bevy of high-resolution photos of the 2013 Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, which are waiting for you after the jump (be sure to check-out my similar photo sets of the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 and Yamaha YZR-M1 from Austin, TX as well).