Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff. The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.

2017 Montesa Cota 4RT260 Gets “BNG” – Still Awesome

Normally, we would roast a brand for bringing a “bold new graphics” model to market, but in the case of the 2017 Montesa Cota 4RT260, we will give the Spanish firm a pass…purely because we think trials riding is AWESOME. So, yup…for the 2017 model year, Montessa is brining basically the same machine to market, with the big changes being the red, white, and blue HRC-inspired color scheme, along with the chromed fork tubes that have black-painted lowers. If it counts as a technical change, the kickstarter lever has been made longer than on what is found on the 2016 model, and of course there is a “race replica” version, which drips in carbon fiber, Showa suspension pieces, and has the traditional Repsol livery.

Bottpower BOTT XR1R – The Street Tracker You Deserve

The Bottpower BOTT XR1R is the bike that Harley-Davidson should be building right now, and it’s the kind of machine that actually would have benefitted from Buell’s “innovations” for street bikes. With 150hp and a target weight of 150kg, the BOTT XR1R should be plenty of fun on tight circuits, but still powerful enough for longer courses. And then of course, once you’re done flogging the XR1R for the day, you will still want to spend a couple hours drooling over its titanium frame, carbon fiber bodyworks, and modern-day electronics. We have always been a fan of Bottpower’s work, but it still feels strange to say that the Spanish builder has created the bike that America has been dreaming of for the past decade or more.

Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario – Celebrating 90 Years

Ducati is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, with the culmination of that celebration happening at World Ducati Week. As we previewed already, Ducati would give a sneak peak of a new model at the event, and debut a limited edition machine as well. Well, we have had more than a sneak peak of the upcoming Ducati Supersport model, and now we get the full monty of the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario – a special superbike that commemorates 90 years of Ducati motorcycles. Only 500 machines will get the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario’s limited edition paint job, gold-colored metal pieces, and bevy of technical upgrades. One interesting new feature though is the debut of the EVO version of the Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) systems.

Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

You may have already seen the leaked photo from World Ducati Week, which shows that the Ducati Supersport is making a return to Bologna’s lineup. We haven’t seen the “Supersport” sport-touring line in almost a decade, but it will be making a return for the 2017 model year, with two bikes. Since yours truly is at World Ducati Week this year, I was able to get a peak at the Supersport, and can share with you some details on the machine. The Ducati Supersport has a rich history as a sport-tourer; back when that segment actually existed, and was distinct from being just a superbike for the road. This model seems very much a return to that past.

Ducati SuperSport S Spotted at World Ducati Week

Of the many attractions at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Ducati is giving enthusiasts a chance to preview a new bike that will officially debut at the EICMA show in Milan (in addition to the two machines that will unveil tomorrow). The affair is a strictly managed, no cellphones allowed, sort of sneak peak at the new machine – thus, it comes as no surprise that some fan has snapped a photo of the secret bike on a hidden phone. In case you were wondering, this is why we can’t have nice things. You can’t put the cat back in the bag though, so get ready folks because we have good news: the Ducati SuperSport is coming back! As you can see in the photo, the machine in question is called the Ducati Supersport S, an homage to the bikes of the same name that came almost 40 years before it.

The Bullshit Argument That It’s Time to Say Goodbye to the Honda CBR600RR and Other Supersport Machines

British magazines MCN dropped a bombshell on the motorcycle world today, reporting that Honda was set to discontinue the Honda CBR600RR, with no supersport replacement in sight. According to their reports, the main impetus for the Honda CBR600RR being discontinued is the Euro 4 emission standards, which the Honda CBR600RR does not meet. Honda feels too that the demand for a 600cc sport bike is too low to warrant updating the CBR600RR to meet Euro 4 regulations, let alone building an all-new machine for the market that would be Euro 4 compliant.

KTM Is Working on an 800cc Parallel-Twin ADV Bike

“If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to” seems to be KTM’s marching orders right now, as the Austrian brand is pushing into seemingly every segment and market with its motorcycle lineup. KTM already has a robust off-road lineup, which they have used to launch themselves into the ADV category with great success. As such, the KTM 1190 Adventure series already sees strong sales success with adventure-touring riders, but KTM isn’t resting on those laurels. Set to debut a 800cc parallel-twin platform later this year, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has revealed, while talking to MCN, that his company will soon have a rival for the Honda Africa Twin.

XTR Pepo’s “Siluro” Custom Ducati Monster 1200

It has been a while since we showed you one of XTR Pepo’s custom works, so please forgive our sins. To make it up to you though, we have the Siluro, a custom Ducati Monster 1200 that Ducati Spain commissioned from the Spanish bike builder. If I’m honest, Ducati’s Monster line has really never struck a chord with me, but there is something about the Siluro that’s got me more than a little twitterpated. Perhaps it is the high-mount, scrambler-styled Termignoni exhaust, or maybe it is Pepo’s signature “RAD” seat, that has adorned so many custom Ducati’s before this one, but is now wrapped in suede. Whatever it is, it’s working.

MotoGP Bans Winglets from 2017 Season Onward

Winglets are to be banned in all three MotoGP classes from 2017 onwards. At Assen, the Grand Prix Commission met and decided on an outright ban on aerodynamic wings, after the MSMA had failed to reach an agreement among all manufacturers on a joint proposal. There has been much discussion of winglets over the past few months, as they have taken on an ever greater importance. With the introduction of the common ECU software, winglets were one way of reducing the amount of wheelie MotoGP bikes had. But as the factories – and especially Ducati – gained more experience with winglets, the winglets grew larger, raising safety concerns over the effect of an impact during a crash.

Zero Motorcycles Commences 2012 Model Line Production

01/27/2012 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has announced the full-commencement of production for its 2012 model line, which is expected to hit dealers in February & March of this year. First off the line was the 2012 Zero DS back in December, though the electric motorcycle company has recently started building the Zero S, Zero XU, Zero X, and Zero MX at its Scotts Valley facility as well. A story we broke back in November, Zero Motorcycles debuted its important 2012 electric motorcycle line up at the 2011 EICMA show in Milan, with the 2012 range being a substantial improvement upon the company’s previous offerings.

Boasting 6kWh & 9kWh battery packs, the 2012 Zeros have nearly double the available energy on board, with the styling and performance aspects of the bikes have been improved upon as well. Zero claims that the street-focused Zero S can hit up to 114 miles on that 9kWh pack (and also does a top speed of 88 mph on its new motor), making it more practical for the urban commuter. For 2012, all of Zero’s street models feature new brushless motors, and include regenerative braking, which charges the motorcycle’s batteries during deceleration.

Leaked: 2012 Zero Motorcycles Model Range Is Set to Debut Brammo Empulse Killer

11/06/2011 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Our first proper leak ahead of the upcoming EICMA show in Milan is now officially in the bag, as Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word on Zero Motorcycles’ 2012 electric motorcycles. Completely revamping its model range, our sources tell us that the 2012 Zero Motorcycles will have all-new motors, battery packs, and bodywork. Talking in numbers, the battery pack options will be 6kWh & 9kWh, with prices expected to be $11,000 and $13,000 respectively. Perhaps the most compelling news (and there’s plenty to be compelled about with this news) is that Zero Motorcycles plans to have the new models under production in December, and on dealer floors by January.

Costco and Zero Motorcycles Partner in Canada

09/08/2011 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

An article from our friends at CMG tipped us off to the fact that Zero Motorcycle has begun promoting its electric motorcycles through several Costco stores in Canada. Taking a page from Kawasaki’s playbook in working with Costco (which is itself a take on what automobile dealers have been doing with the warehouse brand for years), Zero currently has displays in six Canadian Costco warehouse stores, working as a part of the wholesaler’s Membership Benefits Program. Like the Kawasaki program, Costco isn’t actually selling Zero Motorcycles, but instead Costco members recieve a special value package if they purchase a Zero through the promotion.

If that raises your eyebrows, here is a quick primer on the Costco business model. Generally speaking, Costco keeps its company very efficient and lean by keeping very low inventories — I’ve heard it quoted that the company won’t carry more inventory than what it can sell in one to two weeks. Helping drive that turnover are the low prices that the company is known for, but instead of doing a high volume/low margin sales approach, Costco’s true bread & butter is its membership fees.

Recall: 2009-2010 Zero DS & Zero S

05/19/2011 @ 10:13 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles is recalling 160 of its electric DS & S motorcycles for an issue with the front brake caliper. Because of the defect, owners may experience permanent deformation of their brake discs when subjected to high braking loads, which induce misalignment of the front brake pads with respect to the front brake rotor. Accordingly, misalignment of the brake pads in relation to the rotor may cause reduced front braking performance, which could lead to a possible crash and potential injury or death of the rider.

The pertinent models and build dates are as follows:

  • 2009 Zero S – September 2, 2009 through December 22, 2009
  • 2009 Zero DS – July 27, 2009 through December 28, 2009
  • 2010 Zero S – February 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011
  • 2010 Zero DS – January 20, 2010 through March 31, 2011

Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors – But What Does It Mean?

05/17/2011 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has quietly announced some interesting news: that Mark Blackwell, V.P. of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, will be joining the electric motorcycle company’s Board of Directors. With a plethora of reasons as to why an industry veteran like Blackwell would join Zero’s board, it’s been no secret that the Scotts Valley company has been collecting seasoned industry professionals like pokemon characters, seemingly building a brain trust of people who actually know how to run a motorcycle company.

Blackwell’s addition to Zero is interesting because it could signal a relationship with the Polaris V.P. that goes beyond merely an advisory/visionary position, which is the core responsibility of a companies board. The timing is interesting as well, as Polaris has been on a buying spree, first acquiring the original American motorcycle company brand: Indian Motorcycles, and a few days later electric car manufacturer GEM. With a Polaris executive sitting on Zero’s board almost immediately after these aquisitions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a precursor to some sort of larger arrangement between the two companies.

This is What Electric Mini Moto Racing Looks Like

05/12/2011 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Unless you were there, you probably missed the AMA Mini Moto SX racing action last Friday in Las Vegas, which saw the debut of two bikes by Brammo, an electric mini moto the Brammo Encite, along with the full-sized Brammo Engage dirt bike. Featuring the company’s Integrated Electric Transmission (IET), Brammo took to the dirt to compete with some Zero electric bikes (Quantya seemingly abstained from the event), as well as a field of traditional gasoline-powered mini motos.

With footage from aboard Trevor Doniak’s Zero MX, we get to see what racing in the Vegas Mini Moto SX was like from behind the handlebars. Besides having a traffic jam of slower gas-powered bikes start ahead of them (it’s creepy how quiet the start for the electrics was in comparison), the old addage that “rubbin’ is racing” comes to mind as we see our protagonist hit the dirt, not once, not twice, but three times, seemingly always with a Brammo rider nearby.

We’re not saying that Doniak’s Zero was intentionally looking to take out the Brammo of Kris Keefer, thus assuring a podium sweep by Zero, but others are. Video after the jump.

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

Officially Official: Gene Banman Steps Down at Zero Motorcycles – Karl Wharton in as CEO

04/05/2011 @ 9:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It’s Tuesday, and in the world of electrics that means another Zero Motorcycles press release, and another weekly confirmation that Asphalt & Rubber is still on the Santa Cruz company’s “ultra double-secret probation” list of publications that no longer get media communiqués and press invites to its media events. That clearly hasn’t stopped us though, as today’s news release confirms what we already knew: Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman has stepped down from his position in the company, although he will continue to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.

“Don’t Call It a Management Shake-up” Continues at Zero Motorcycles – Gene Banman Out at as CEO

03/28/2011 @ 7:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

We’ve gotten confirmation from several Bothan spies sources that Zero Motorcycle CEO Gene Banman will no longer hold a position at Zero Motorcycles. We first reported on a management shake-up at Zero last month, with news that high-level changes at the Scotts Valley electric motorcycle company were underway. At the time we could only confirm that Zero Motorcycles founder Neal Saiki was out of his position as the company CTO, and now we can confirm that then CEO Gene Banman was also shown the door during that uprooting.

Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

03/17/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

Using strictly the Charlie Sheen sense of the word, Zero Motorcycles is WINNING right now. Announcing today that it closed another round of financing, Zero has $17 million of a $26 million round confirmed ($9 million still outstanding). The funding continues to be lead by the Invus investment group, who have been the major financial backbone at Zero Motorcycles. A funding round of that size can only mean one thing for a motorcycle company: going into mass production. Surely enough Zero states its intended use of the funds will go towards ramping up its US-based production plans.

Out of all the electric motorcycle vehicle players, Zero has been the most active in the funding department lately, closing round after round of capital investment. With those investments we’ve already seen changes at the Santa Cruz company, with the 2011 Zero Motorcycles line-up featuring upgrade motorcycles, as well as founder Neal Saiki departing the company.