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 #33 – Wankeled

09/20/2016 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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I’m not going to lie to you, Episode 33 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts off a little rowdy, and never really stops partying. In it, we look at the recently spied 2017 Honda CBR1000RR and recently teased 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, two incredibly important machines in the sport biking side of the industry.

We also talk about the Wazer water jet cutting project, and how that’s going to affect builders and makers. From there, we pivot to a discussion on the consumerization (that’s a word now) of high-tech manufacturing techniques, which has made things like water jet cutting and rapid prototyping accessible to the masses.

The show ends with a listener question about ABS brakes, which is good timing, considering our interesting discussion about electronics as a whole, and the progression of rider aids in the motorcycle industry. Wankel jokes aside, it is a pretty interesting, and dare we say entertaining show.

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!

This Yamaha FZ-09 Based ADV Bike Is Awesome

09/15/2016 @ 2:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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In the spirit of a little more Yamaha news today (the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 will debut in less than a month, if you didn’t hear), here’s something we are sure that will stoke your moto-lust.

It’s no secret that the adventure-touring market is hot right now, with virtually every OEM scrambling (no pun intended) to bring dual-sport machines that can go long distances, no matter what the road conditions are, even if they are completely lacking.

This has lead to a wide range of designs, with different levels of on-road and off-road prowess. This has also lead to consumers creating their own ADV/dual-sport machines, based off a variety of machines.

The most intriguing build we have seen thus far though has to be this one, which is based off the Yamaha FZ-09. It’s awesome.

2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 Hinted for INTERMOT Debut

09/15/2016 @ 9:46 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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For a couple months now, we’ve had some indications that Yamaha was getting ready to release a new sport bike. With the Yamaha YZF-R1 coming up on two-years-old, the timing suggested that Yamaha was ready for a follow-up to that hit. That is to say, it is time for a new Yamaha YZF-R6.

Yamaha seems to agree, today posting a teaser video to its website and social media accounts. The video is sanitized from giving away too much information, with us only seeing a rider going around a race track. The sound though, is a strong giveaway.

The video’s soundtrack is filled with the screaming of a multi-cylinder machine. Our ear hears a four-cylinder engine, with a flat-plane crankshaft, that is revving to the stratosphere.

This give us a strong indication that a supersport bike is just around the corner, and the video ends with the promise of showing more on October 4th, the first press day of the INTERMOT trade show in Cologne, Germany.

Yamaha’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga Will Wild Card at Motegi

09/06/2016 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Yamaha continues to hand out rewards for its recent win at the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, having just granted Alex Lowes a ride on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP bike this past weekend at the British GP, and this coming weekend at the San Marino GP.

Yamaha’s next recipient will be its test rider, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who will get the honor of racing as a wild card in front of his home crowd at the Japanese GP in Motegi, Japan.

Nakasuga-san is no stranger to the MotoGP paddock, and this year’s race in Japan will be the fifth time that Nakasuga has raced in the Japanese GP.

Michael van der Mark Switches to Pata Yamaha for 2017

08/30/2016 @ 10:09 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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In the latest round of poorly-kept secrets emerging at last, Yamaha have announced that they have signed Michael van der Mark for the 2017 season. He will join Alex Lowes in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad for next year, replacing Sylvain Guintoli.

The move had been long expected, as it became clear over the summer that Van der Mark would be leaving the Ten Kate Honda team, with whom he has had a long relationship.

Gone Riding: Yamaha SCR950

08/18/2016 @ 8:01 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

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Hello from Julian, California which is just a stone’s throw away from Southern California’s Palomar Mountain State Park – a local riding Mecca. I’m out here today with Yamaha USA, riding the Yamaha SCR950 – the Japanese company’s “Made for the USA” scrambler model.

The SCR950 is part of Yamaha’s “Sport Heritage” line, and joins bikes like the XSR900 café racer and Yamaha Bolt C-Spec. That latter model is important, as the Yamaha SCR950 is built off the Bolt platform, adding a number of scrambler-styled design cues to the affordable cruiser model.

It’s worth noting that the SCR950 is the first model by Yamaha that has been developed here in the USA, rather than in Japan. As such, its focus is obviously on the American market. Strangely though, its most comparable competitors are all European.

This is becoming a trend for Yamaha, as we saw with the Yamaha FZ-09 and Yamaha FZ-10. The brand from Iwata is making great strides to set itself apart from the other Japanese companies.

We’ve got a full day’s worth of riding to find out. While I’m out on the road, I will try and give you a live assessment of the machine, and answer any questions you might have. So, here’s your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, before even my own proper review is posted.

Cellphone reception is pretty spotty here in the mountains, but we’ve got pretty good wifi at the hotel, so I will attempt to answer any questions you post here in the comments and on social media.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in North Carolina. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #SCR950 #SCR950FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #28 – Getting Cranky

08/15/2016 @ 7:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Episode 28 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts with some recent news: the closure of Skully and the near-passage of California’s lane-splitting law.

The conversation about Skully quickly moves from the failed startup, to a broader conversation about helmet design and the progress of technology in this space. The show then turns to California’s lane-splitting law, and what it could mean for motorcyclists in states other than California.

Once the news items are out of the way, the show spends a bit of time talking about crankshaft design, namely what it means to have a “crossplane” crankshaft.

Further down the rabbit hole, this turns into a larger conversation about how engines make their power, and how that power is tuned for specific tasks. It’s a tough subject to do only via voice, but we think you’ll enjoy it.

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!

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

08/10/2016 @ 1:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Someone is trying to pass off the above photo as the eagerly awaited 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – unfortunately, it’s a fake. I’m actually surprised this piece of photoshop has some legs, and is making its way around the internet, considering how obvious the forgery.

To verify its authenticity, all one would have to do is to compare the above photo with photos of the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1. Contrasting the two, it’s clear that the chassis and exposed parts of the engine are right off the Yamaha YZF-R1 (it’s easiest to see on the swingarm).

The real smoking gun though is that the forger used a Yamaha press photo as their base. I was able to find the base photo (after the jump), which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo – even the holes on the front brake discs and rear sprocket line-up.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review: Pol Espargaro

08/07/2016 @ 4:03 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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There has been a reversal of fortunes in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage.

Last year, it was Bradley Smith who was the clear top satellite rider, putting in strong and above all, sensible and consistent performances week in, week out, while Pol Espargaro tried hard to get the Yamaha M1 to do things it didn’t want to do, and either crashed or finished well down the order.

This year, it is Espargaro who has the consistency, while Smith is trying (and failing) to get the Michelins to do what he wants them to do.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review: Valentino Rossi

08/05/2016 @ 1:15 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Yet another impostor. Valentino Rossi is arguably the most complete racer on the MotoGP grid, and probably the most complete racer of all time. His experience is unrivaled, as is his ability to adapt to circumstances.

Yet he has thrown away one win and the chance of a very strong result through something resembling youthful impatience. The most experienced rider on the grid has made life impossible for himself as a result of two rookie mistakes.

That is a real shame. For Rossi, like Lorenzo, arrived at the start of this year in better shape than ever during his career. His training is more intense and more focused, his demeanor more single-minded.

He has separated from his long-time girlfriend, and hired a rider coach in Luca Cadalora. Quite literally, Valentino Rossi has done everything possible to try to win the 2016 MotoGP title.