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.”

Watch the KTM 790 Duke Do the Rippin’ & the Tearin’

12/09/2016 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

One would only have to look at the bikes in my garage to know that the KTM 790 Duke is my kind of motorcycle. The “prototype” machine debuted at EICMA last month, teasing a new parallel-twin engine platform that will power a new Duke, and likely a new Adventure model as well.

Rumored to be around 800cc in displacement, the KTM 790 Duke is pretty out there, in terms of design, but it promises to help bring the Duke lineup back to its roots of being full-on hooligan machines.

To help us get in that frame of mind, KTM has made a short teaser video, which shows us the 790 Duke doing its thing. We expect the KTM 790 Duke to be a new model for 2018…which means that the new model year can’t get here soon enough.

Video: Stefan Bradl Speaks About Moving to WorldSBK

12/08/2016 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s not a change that made too many waves here in the United States, but Stefan Bradl moving from MotoGP to the World Superbike Championship is a big shakeup in two-wheeled motorsport.

The 27-year-old German rider once showed great promise in the GP Paddock, winning the 2011 Moto2 Championship and showing signs of competitiveness while at the LCR Honda team in MotoGP. 

Things didn’t work out for Bradl though, and after a tough year developing the Aprilia RS-GP, he finds himself back with HRC, but in a new paddock. Now a teammate to Nicky Hayden, we think Stefan Bradl is a smart addition to the Honda WorldSBK outfit.

If the new Honda CBR1000RR can give chase to the speed we’ve seen from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and Ducati Panigale R, then we can count on some strong results from the Honda duo. It would be good to see Bradl back on his usual game, as well.

Video: Maintaining Oregon’s OHV Forest Trails

12/05/2016 @ 2:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Oregon might be one fo the best-kept secrets in the American motorcycling landscape, with great riding abounding in the Beaver State, both on and off-road.

Maintaining all those trails, especially the ones that are built around logging territories, is no easy feat though, but the Oregon Forestry Service does a great job of doing it.

So, we were pretty stoked to see this candid video from GoPro, which features Reid Brown, a Off-Highway Vehicle Specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, who is also a diehard motorcyclist.

It is beautifully shot video, and it shows a get perspective into the enthusiasts and professionals that keep our trails maintained and growing. We think that you will enjoy it.

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.

Watch a Tesla Drive Around Town, By Itself

11/21/2016 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

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So, this is what the future is going to look like. “Drivers” will hop into their cars, and zip around town, without paying any attention to the road in front of them. Cynics might say that already happens, but this scenario is about to move from hyperbole to reality very, very quickly, in a very, very interesting way.

When I say it will be interesting, I mean it in the old Chinese curse of “may you live in interesting times” sort of way.

Autonomous vehicles are going to usher in a revolution for transportation. They will change the way we commute, and change the way goods are transported. They will reduce on-road fatalities in motor vehicles, while also increasing the ethical concerns of transportation. It will be interesting.

For motorcyclists, it’s not clear what this all means. Motorcycles might become the two-wheeled escape from the autonomous grind, pushing our industry further into the “consumer discretionary income” realm and novelty. We should ask ourselves: is this a good thing?

It’s also just as easy to imagine a world where “unsafe” non-autonomous vehicles get outlawed, if for no other reason than the divergence they pose to the system.

Our one saving grace is that autonomous vehicle technology has to grow up in a world where it is several standard deviations outside of the norm. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, etc do not feed into the system that pilots a car like the Tesla Models S, shown in the video after the jump.

Instead, these vehicles have to evolve and grow-up in a world that doesn’t cater to them. That’s interesting too, but more so when you look at how a Tesla Model S perceives the environment around it – reading road signs, assessing objects in its path, understanding the markings of its environment.

It’s something to think about on your commute today.

Watch the Ducati 1299 Superleggera Shred a Race Track

11/09/2016 @ 12:41 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1299 Superleggera is a truly amazing motorcycle. With its carbon fiber chassis, 215hp engine, and state-of-the-art electronics, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera represents everything that the Italian brand is capable of achieving within the superbike format.

More importantly though, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera represents all that the Italian brand can achieve, when it decides to do so. That’s an interesting point to remember with this limited edition machine, as you watch it rip around a race track.

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera’s creation doesn’t come about from some loophole in the rules to some racing organization. It doesn’t exist because it will an incredibly profitable endeavor for Borgo Panigale.

Instead, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera simply is because it can be. It is a line in the sand for Ducati, showing what the Italian brand is capable of creating. If this sounds like hyperbole, it should. We are off the charts now, and in new waters.

Yamaha T7 Concept Hints at a 700cc Ténéré for 2018

11/07/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

Yamaha Teases a New TMAX Scooter

11/04/2016 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The Yamaha TMAX doesn’t make too many waves in the US market, but abroad it is one of the most popular scooters on the market, and the TMAX custom scene is as strong as any other “proper” motorcycle.

So it is pretty big news to hear that Yamaha will be updating the TMAX for the 2017 model year, with the new design set to debut at EICMA next week.

It’s not clear if Yamaha will make any technical changes to the TMAX for 2017, or if we simply will see new bodywork and graphics in the coming model year.

Judging from the waves that Yamaha is making abroad though, we expect some good things.

The Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen Readies Its EICMA Debut

11/03/2016 @ 11:25 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Husqvarna says that it will be debuting two new street bikes at the upcoming EICMA show, along with one new concept bike. We have known for some time that one of those machines would include the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen, the Swedish brand’s neo-retro take on the KTM 390 Duke platform.

Teasing us now with a short video of this “white arrow”, we get our first obfuscated glimpses of the 2017 Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen, though we doubt the bike has changed much from its concept form.

Video: How to Ride a Sidecar

10/31/2016 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Every motorcyclist should ride a sidecar at some point in their life, if for no other reason than to live on the wild side. If you really want to get silly with it, you should take vintage-fueled romp on a Ural – a Russian sidecar that is “based” off a pre-WII BMW sidecar design.

You really have to be a special breed to own a Ural, and while a good mechanical background isn’t a pre-requisite, it certainly helps with those “unplanned stops” that may occur.

While most motorcyclists are turned off by the quirks of the sidecar brand, Ural owners love their machines, and have an almost cult-like relationship Russian company.

Take this video from the good folk at Good Spark Garage, which instructs us on how to properly ride a sidecar. Like everything else in the Uralverse, it takes a light-hearted approach to life, the universe, and everything. We think you will enjoy it.