The Fruits of Carmelo Ezpeleta’s Grand Plan for MotoGP

Sometimes decisions are a long time in the making. Tech3’s decision to leave Yamaha and sign with KTM may have been made in the space of a few months, but the genesis of that choice, the process that made it all possible is ten years in the making. If MotoGP hadn’t switched from 990cc to 800cc at the start of the 2007 season, if the ban on tobacco sponsorship in sports hadn’t been enforced from 2005, if the financial system hadn’t collapsed under the weight of tranches of “ninja” loans, Tech3 would be a Yamaha satellite team for the foreseeable future. Whether they wanted to be or not. How did MotoGP get to a place where Tech3 could switch to KTM? To make complete sense of the story, we have to go back to the end of the last century.

Here’s How to Race a $20,000 KTM RC390 R in the USA

In case you haven’t noticed, the Supersport 300 class is heating up, and perhaps most interestingly with virtually zero machines with a 300cc displacement…but that is a subject for another time. This has put pressure on KTM to remain at the pointy end of business in the small-displacement category, which has lead the Austrian company to the release of a homologation special for the 300cc class. As such, say hello to the 2018 KTM RC390 R sport bike. A street legal motorcycle, the KTM RC390 R aims to sharpen the points where the entry-level KTM RC390 is a bit dull, namely by using better suspension and new intake trumpets that widen the powerband, but also with a new triple clamp, clip-ons, and levers.

The Future of Fast, A Review of the Alta Redshift MXR

I always joke with industry folk that “it’s called Asphalt & Rubber for a reason,” as I am a dyed in the wool street bike guy. So when Alta Motors invited A&R to ride the new Alta Redshift MXR, I knew there were better people for the job than I. This is where heterosexual life partner Carlin Dunne comes into the mix. On top of being one of the fastest men ever up Pikes Peak on two wheels, as well as the fastest electric motorcycle to compete in The Race to the Clouds, Carlin is an accomplished off-road racer – both with and without a motor between his legs. So, we sent Carlin down to Southern California to ride Alta’s newest machines, and with already a bevy of time in the saddle on electric motorcycles, I can’t think of a better person’s opinion for these electron-powered off-road racers.

What A Trade War Means for Motorcycles

Strangely enough, we have talked about trade wars several times before, here on Asphalt & Rubber, as the Trump administration has been keen to use this tool in its toolbox, often with effects that reach into the motorcycle industry. The first time around, we talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affected the motorcycle industry, namely Harley-Davidson, and how the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement would likely be a negative effect for US motorcyclists. We have also had to talk about how fighting over beef imports could lead to possible tariffs on small-displacement European motorcycles in the United States, a tariff that would seriously hurt Piaggio/Vespa scooter sales and KTM dirt bike sales.

KTM and Tech3 Team Up in MotoGP for the 2019 Season

It was a shock to hear that the venerable Tech3 team would be leaving the Yamaha family, come the 2019 MotoGP season, after all Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal cut his teeth with Yamaha. But, once the news of his move sunk in, we are not surprised to hear that he is headed to KTM for the 2019 season, as was officially announced today (and rumored for well over a week). That is right, for the 2019 MotoGP Championship, the Tech3 team – one of the most regarded satellite teams in the GP Paddock – will be racing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, with full-factory machines from Austria. That last caveat is likely the tipping point and main reason for Poncharal’s switch, with Tech3 long having to put-up with having the leftovers from the Yamaha Racing factory squad.

What If Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors Had a Baby?

With the news that Harley-Davidson has invested an undisclosed sum in electric motorcycle manufacturer Alta Motors, the following concept might seem like a no-brainer. That is because the folks at Carbon Projects invisions the partnership between the two American brands as lending itself to the creation of an electric street-tracker model. Taking the heritage-focused roots of Harley-Davidson, and applying them to Alta’s Redshift platform, the resulting model is quite a looker, if we do say so. Of course, we should remember that Alta has already shown a street tracker concept of its own, displaying the Alta Motors Redshift ST concept at last year’s One Moto Show, in Portland, Oregon.

This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor, Redux

In this installment of “This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor,” we again take a look at the motor of this venerable sport bike. The rumor going around the interwebs right now is that the 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa will feature a “semi-automatic” gearbox. Side-stepping the part where saying a gearbox is semi-automatic is  a lot like saying someone is “semi-pregnant” (you either are, or aren’t), the rumor stems from a patent filed by Suzuki that shows a gear-shifting mechanism with the foot-shifter that doesn’t require a clutch. If this sounds a lot like an up/down quickshifter system, then you score extra bonus points today for being a rational human being, but you would be very wrong about what this whole rumor should actually be about.

Harley-Davidson Invests in Alta Motors

Harley-Davidson has announced its strategic investment in Alta Motors, which will see the two American companies co-developing two new electric motorcycle models. As one can imagine, the news has big ramifications for both brands. For Harley-Davidson, it means having access to cutting-edge electric vehicle technology, and a technical partner that can help them navigate the coming shift to electric drivetrains. And for Alta Motors the news is perhaps even more impactful, as Harley-Davidson brings not only a key monetary investment into the San Francisco startup, but the deal likely provides access to a variety of assets for Alta, namely purchasing power with parts supplier, access to a worldwide dealer network, and instant credibility with other future investors.

Here Comes a New Complaint About Californian Drivers…

If you are riding in California anytime soon, you might want to think twice before blaming the state’s fleet of drivers, as The Golden State just made it legal for self-driving cars to operate without a human behind the wheel. While similar actions have stalled in the US Congress (the SELF DRIVE ACT is stuck in a Senate committee), states have begun to take matters into their own hands, like they did in Arizona. That is right, the dawn of truly autonomous vehicles has just arrived, and it is primed to change the driving landscape as we know it, which by correlation means changes for the motorcycle community as well. Announced on Monday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved rules that would make it legal for automated vehicles to operate without a human behind the wheel. 

BMW S675RR Concept by Nicolas Petit

I really like the idea of BMW making a supersport model, to compliment the already potent BMW S1000RR. The category is a tough one though, and it is dominated by the Japanese brands. Maybe, this is why BMW Motorrad is the perfect brand to disrupt the supersport segment. The S1000RR made a killing in the liter-bike space, because it brought European features and performance, at a Japanese price-point. Because of the success that resulted from that formula, maybe the Germans can do the same in the 600cc segment. Putting some pen and paper to this thought, Nicolas Petit has inked together a render of a proposed BMW supersport machine, which he dubs the BMW S675RR.

Recall: 2015 Zero Motorcycles

09/19/2016 @ 12:10 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS


Zero Motorcycles is recalling a number of models from its 2015 lineup, all for issues with DC-DC converter, which takes direct current electricity from one voltage and converts it to a different voltage.

According to the recall documents, when under high-power demands the DC-DC converter can suffer from insufficient output, which in-turn can cause the anti-lock brake system (ABS) not to function properly.

Since the failure of the ABS can lead to an increase in the risk of a crash, Zero Motorcycles has issued this recall, and while this recall affects the SR, S, DS, and FX motorcycle lines, only 96 motorcycles are actually being recalled under this notice.

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Report: Traffic Fatalities Increased in 2015

09/13/2016 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS


National crash statistics for 2015 have just been released, and overall, the news is not good. After decades of seeing road fatalities drop, 2015 saw an 7.2% increase in fatalities across all vehicles.

The increase comes primarily from an increase in miles driven by Americans, but the data also shows an increase in the number of crashes per mile driven, suggesting that the trend isn’t just from drivers being on the road more.

For motorcyclists, 2015 was especially bad, with motorcycle crash fatalities increasing by 8.3%, though motorcycle crash injuries were down 4.3% last year.

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Ducati North America Has Record Sales Year in 2015

02/01/2016 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT


Ducati North America is reporting a record year for sales, selling 12,132 motorcycles in 2015 – this number includes all Ducati sales in the USA (9,674 units, +10%), Canada (1,458 units, +12%), and Mexico (1,003 units, +85%).

The news is perhaps not surprising, since Ducati sales grew globally by 22% last year, for a total of 54,800 motorcycle sold in 2015.

Ducati North America’s numbers continue a six-year trend of solid sales growth, with last year’s sales being fueled primarily by the Ducati Scrambler.

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Crunching the Numbers of BMW’s Record Sales Year

01/22/2016 @ 3:55 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS


BMW Motorrad set another record year of sales in 2015, seemingly along with all the European motorcycle manufacturers (Husqvarna, Ducati, & KTM). BMW quotes that 136,963 motorcycles and maxi-scooters were sold last year, and thankfully the Bavarian brand is fairly forthright with its sales data.

This allows us to make some interesting points of observation about BMW Motorrad, the most potent of which is the brand’s success in the sport bike market, which accounts for 16% of all BMW motorcycles sold last year.

Equally interesting is the fact that BMW’s boxer-engine machines, the R-Series, accounts for over half of BMW Motorrad’s sales (see the chart above) – a strong signal to the power of BMW’s iconic past.

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Husqvarna Has Another Year of Record Sales

01/20/2016 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS


In case you missed it, KTM as a company is doing extremely well, selling over 180,000 units last year. KTM the company now has two brand of motorcycles under its roof though: its namesake, and then also the Swedish brand of Husqvarna.

The latest report from Mattighofen suggests that the sales success of KTM isn’t due solely to the KTM brand, and that Husqvarna had a very strong 2015 as well.

As such, Husqvarna is reporting that it sold 21,513 units in 2015, an increase of 31% over last year’s figure of 16,337. This means that 2015 was another record for Husqvarna, the best in the company’s 112 year history.

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BMW Motorrad Sold 136,963 Motorcycles in 2015

01/11/2016 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT


After hearing of the sales growth from BMW Motorrad USA for 2015, we speculated that we would soon here from the German marque on its yearly results internationally, and it seems we were right.

As such, BMW Motorrad is happy to report its fifth consecutive all-time best sales year, with 2015 seeing 136,963 motorcycles and maxi-scooters sold by the German brand. That figure is an impressive 10.9% gain over the sales from 2014, and BMW shows no signs of slowing down.

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BMW Motorrad Grew 9% in the USA for 2015

01/08/2016 @ 3:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS


News from BMW Motorrad shows that the Germans did quite well in the United States last year, selling 16,330 units in 2015. That figure is up 9.3% from the 14,945 units that BMW Motorrad sold in 2014, in the USA.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, BMW Motorrad USA’s best model was its liter-bike offering, the BMW S1000RR, which accounted for 13.3% of BMW’s total sales in the USA – roughly 2,170 units.

The S1000RR has often rivaled the BMW R1200GS for the top-billing in the US market, with the R1200GS Adventure taking 12.2% of BMW sales and the R1200GS with 11.5%, (roughly 2,000 units and 1,900 units, respectively).

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Rating the Riders: Dani Pedrosa

12/30/2015 @ 8:41 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS


Dani Pedrosa, Honda, 4th, 206 points – Score: 8

If you wanted the very definition of a roller coaster career, look no further than Dani Pedrosa. Three world championships in the junior classes, and one of the most successful riders in the premier class.

He has never won a championship, but he has come within a whisker in 2012, winning more races than the eventual champion Jorge Lorenzo. Injury has dogged him, breaking most of the bones in his body, and fracturing his collarbone so often there is hardly a piece left intact.

His collarbone nearly ended his MotoGP career once, the plate fitted after his practice crash in Motegi in 2010 causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, causing numbness and weakness in his left arm, making it almost impossible to last a race.

He suffered through 2011, until the removal of the plate on his collarbone fixed the problem. He was back with a vengeance in 2012, winning seven races and getting close to beating Jorge Lorenzo. That experience stood him in good stead in 2015.

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Rating the Riders: Marc Marquez

12/29/2015 @ 11:55 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS


Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda, 3rd, 242 points – Score: 8

This was Marc Márquez’s worst season in Grand Prix racing since 2009. From 2010 onwards, in 125s, Moto2, or MotoGP, Márquez has finished as either champion or runner-up.

Not only did Márquez finish outside the top two for the first time since finishing eighth in 2009, but this was also his worst championship points total since that year. You could say this was a very bad year for the Repsol Honda rider.

Yet it was also undoubtedly the year in which Márquez learned the most in his Grand Prix career. This was the year in which Márquez changed his approach, and gained a deeper understanding of how to win a championship, rather than just races.

Márquez crashed out six times in 2015, fully one third of the races. Four of those crashes were entirely on his own, and completely his own fault.

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Rating the Riders: Valentino Rossi

12/28/2015 @ 11:39 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS


Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, 2nd, 325 points – Score: 9.5

British MotoGP commentator Julian Ryder has one cliché he uses about Valentino Rossi all the time. “Never write Valentino Rossi off.” It may be a cliché, but in 2015, Rossi showed once again why clichés exist.

At the age of 36, he was past his physical prime, and not capable of keeping up at the front. Twenty seasons of top level racing had dulled his desire to compete.

Two seasons at Ducati and a poor return to Yamaha proved he was past his prime. With more money than he will ever need for the rest of his life and a fashion model girlfriend (who rides motorcycles), there was nothing to fire his motivation.

The VR46 racing team was proof Rossi was looking to his retirement, not another championship.

There was at least some truth in all of those statements, voiced by pundits and fans across the world. But they overlooked one crucial fact: you can never, ever, write Valentino Rossi off.

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