Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

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 Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors   But What Does It Mean? Zero Motorcycles Mark Blackwell 635x453

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

This is What Electric Mini Moto Racing Looks Like electric mini moto race zero bramo 635x360

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

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over the great experiment 635x423

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

Officially Official: Gene Banman Steps Down at Zero Motorcycles   Karl Wharton in as CEO Zero Motorcycles bay area view 635x453

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

Dont Call It a Management Shake up Continues at Zero Motorcycles   Gene Banman Out at as CEO Gene Banman out Zero Motorcycles 635x423

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

Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment Zero Motorcycles quick charger 635x453

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.

Officially Official: Neal Saiki out at Zero Motorcycles

03/08/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Officially Official: Neal Saiki out at Zero Motorcycles Zero Motorcycles wheel hub 635x423

You can file this one under “news we broke a month ago,” but Zero Motorcycles has finally officially announced the departure of company founder Neal Saiki, despite sending an email to its employees last week that Saiki had not been sacked from his position.

According to Zero Motorcycles, Saiki is leaving his position to enter into the Igor I. Sikorski Human Powered Helicopter Competition, which Saiki first competed in while attending Cal Poly as aeronautical engineering student in 1989. However, our sources have told us Saiki’s departure was prompted by a fundamental shift in the company, precipitated by the Zero’s financial backers.

Management Shake-Up at Zero Motorcycles – Neal Saiki Out

02/11/2011 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Management Shake Up at Zero Motorcycles   Neal Saiki Out 2011 zero motorcycles zero ds 08 635x453

The news coming out of the Santa Cruz area today is that there’s been a management shake-up at Zero Motorcycles, as multiple people at the top of the company’s leadership have been given pink slips, including company Founder & CTO Neal Saiki. Recently talking to PlugBike.com‘s John Adamo, Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman denied that Saiki had been let go from the company, saying that Saiki’s absence at the company was due to his child’s recent birth and Saiki’s desire to spend time with his newborn.

However multiple sources close to the company have confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that Neal Saiki was a part of a larger management shake-up that was precipitated by the company’s lead investor. With many of the terminations expected to be finalized next month, and spanning more than one division at the California-based startup, there appears to be a considerable personnel and culture shift occurring at Zero at this point in time.

2011 Zero Motorcycles Get Quick-Charge Option and More

02/08/2011 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

2011 Zero Motorcycles Get Quick Charge Option and More 2011 Zero S belt drive 635x453

Fresh off its latest $2 million fundraiser, we get more news from Zero Motorcycles, as the Santa Cruz, CA company has released its 2011 line of electric motorcycles. Immediately noticeable is new livery and color schemes, but we think it’s the technical changes that will get people truly excited. Most prominant in the model year unveiling is the fact that every bike in Zero’s 2011 line-up can have a quick-charge option installed.

A major highlight, the quick-charge system will allow Zero Motorcycles with the add-on feature to be charged in nearly half the time of the standard version. Also a part of this technology’s allure is the ability for Zero Motorcycles to be charged off the J1772 public charging stations, which municipalities are starting to install in public parking spots.

Zero Motorcycles Raises Another $2 Million

02/03/2011 @ 5:59 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles Raises Another $2 Million Zero Motorcycles Fundraising 635x423

Zero Motorcycle continues to raise money despite the wallowing economy, dropping another $2 million into its war chest during a $2.4 million round. The news of this funding comes shortly after we’ve gotten word that the Santa Cruz company plans on building a production facility for its electric motorcycles, and as of yesterday secured distribution in Mexico. While Zero hasn’t said what it plans to do with these newly acquired funds, we imagine the purpose will go something along the lines of the famous Daft Punk song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.