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.

Say What??! – Tech3 and Yamaha Will Part Ways in 2019

If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team. The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 has been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro. However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months.

Trademark Hints at Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle

Has Harley-Davidson just tipped its hand regarding its upcoming electric motorcycle? It would seem so, according to the latest trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering the name “Revelation” with the USPTO, Harley-Davidson has set aside the trademark for two uses: 1) batteries for vehicles, and 2) drivetrains for electric motorcycles and vehicles. Other publications are running this story as the “Revelation” name being the moniker for Harley-Davidson’s production version of the Livewire electric motorcycle concept, but the actual trademark makes a very clear alternative to that narrative.

Why You Should Own a Monkey

11/03/2017 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Honda Grom is a motorcycle I cannot explain. I don’t know why Honda built it; I don’t know who that bike is for; and I don’t know where you would actually ride a Grom…I just know that I want one.

Interestingly, the Honda Grom shares an ancestry with the Honda Monkey lineup – a series of small-displacement, and curiously sized, Z-series motorcycles from the 1960s and 1970s.

Now paying homage to the Monkeys of yore, Honda has one last concept from the Tokyo Motor Show that we need to cover: the obviously named Honda Monkey 125 concept.

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More Details About Yamaha’s AI-Powered MOTOROiD

10/30/2017 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR)…these are the three bid buzzwords of Silicon Valley right now. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to see the motorcycle industry blindly latching onto them, in order to keep some sort of relevance in the space.

From the manufacturers, we have seen more than a few mentions of how the motorcycles of the future will use artificial intelligence to improve the two-wheeled experience, though with virtually none of the brands talking about how an AI-powered motorcycle would be better…or even work.

Yamaha has finally made the jump though with its MOTOROiD concept, taking AI and viewing the technology through the company’s long-term focus with “kando” – the Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.

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This Is Surely the Suzuki SV650X, A Café Racer

10/26/2017 @ 6:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We are pretty confident that Suzuki has some interesting motorcycles for us at this year’s EICMA show. This is not one of them.

Part of the “me too” movement that the Japanese manufacturers are going through in order to have heritage motorcycles in their lineup, the 2018 Suzuki SV650X is exactly what you think it is: the company’s popular street bike, dressed in a vintage aesthetic.

There isn’t anything wrong with that, per se, as we have seen some great builds using the same formula, like the Yamaha XSR900 and more recently the Kawasaki Z900RS and Honda Neo Sports Café concept.

However, we know exactly what we are getting with the Suzuki SV650X, and it’s not pretty. With the concept already getting unveiled at the Tokyo Motor, we expect its debut for the Western markets to happen in Milan, Italy. Look for it next week.

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It can be hard to get excited about a new scooter design for the 2018 model year, especially when so many other crazy machines are being unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show today (new Honda Gold Wing, Yamaha’s three-wheeled motorcycle of awesome, and the Kawasaki Ninja 400…just to name a few), but give us a minute here.

One of the less-publicized releases from Big Red caught our attention today, two scooters in fact: the Honda PCX Electric and the Honda PCX Hybrid. As the names suggest, both machines are built off the same basic concept, though they differ in their drivetrain.

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There is no replacement for displacement, the old adage tells us, and that is exactly the driving force behind the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400, which debuted today at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Replacing the Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the lineup, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is set to be Team Green’s new entry-level model, and help Kawasaki better compete against bigger bikes like the Yamaha YZF-R3 and KTM RC390.

This news may come as a shock however, since the Ninja 300 was only available for five years (whereas the Ninja 250R served in various guises for decades), but Kawasaki says the major driving force behind the new model is the Euro4 homologation requirements, which required a clean-slate design.

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Valentino Rossi Defeats Motobot…For Now

10/25/2017 @ 3:08 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Back in 2015, Yamaha Motors set out with an ambitious objective: to create a robot that is capable of beating around the race track one of the greatest motorcycle riders of all time, Valentino Rossi.

Along the way, the Japanese manufacturer would learn a limitless amount of information about how motorcycle racers achieve the lap times that do, and Yamaha would then be able to quantify one of the great mysteries in how to make a motorcycle go faster.

With the Motobot project born to achieve all these goals, Yamaha now two years later has pit its creation against their factory-back MotoGP racer, and the results are very interesting.

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After much teasing, Honda quietly debuted its Neo Sports Café concept at the Tokyo Motor Show today. Releasing nary a detail about the simple but modern motorcycle design, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the machine.

We had hoped that the Honda Neo Sports Café would lead to a retro-styled version of the Honda CB1000R, much in the same vein that the new Kawasaki Z900S is a hipsterfied version of the popular Z900 street bike.

It’s not clear if Honda intends to produce the Neo Sports Café concept, but its design is intriguing, especially when you consider the now ancient four-cylinder engine that resides in its chassis, which is of course derived from the previous generation Honda CBR1000RR.

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Retro-Styled Kawasaki Z900RS Debuts in Tokyo

10/25/2017 @ 2:09 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

As expected, at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Kawasaki unveiled a new retro-syled model based off its popular Z900 street bike, thus creating the 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS.

As the core of the bike is the same four-cylinder, water-cooled, 900cc engine that is found on the Kawasaki Z900, but Team Green has completely revamped the styling to have a more heritage look and feel to the “RS” model.

Peppy motorcycle meets trendy aesthetics, the Kawasaki Z900RS truly lives up to its “Retro Sport” moniker. Equipment includes LED lighting, new spoke-looking wheels, and a revised exhaust design.

The paint scheme is meant to mimic the design found on the 1972 Kawasaki Z1, one of the Japanese brand’s more classic motorcycles, while appealing to the features that modern motorcyclists rely upon.

Set for sure for the European market, it will be interesting to see if Kawasaki brings the Z900RS to the USA. We would expect so, but stay tuned for more information.

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Those bastards at Yamaha actually did it, they actually did it…the Yamaha MWT-9 leaning trike concept has been made into a production model. As such, say hello to the new 2018 Yamaha Niken.

Powered by the familiar 900cc three-cylinder engine found on the Yamaha FZ-09, that is all that is familiar about Yamaha Niken, as this isn’t your ordinary motorcycle.

This is because the Niken is based on a leaning-chassis design with three wheels, as it explores a different type of motorcycling fun.

Yamaha isn’t saying too much about the model, though it does appear to be coming to the United States. What the tuning fork brand has relayed to us is that the Yamaha Niken will use 15″ wheels up front, with dual-tube upside down forks.

The Niken is long too, just a touch over 7 ft. long (2,150mm), while staying just under 3 ft. wide (885mm). Debuting today at the Tokyo Motor Show, we expect more details on the 2018 Yamaha Niken to emerge at the EICMA show in Milan, in two weeks’ time.

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Yamaha’s New Leaning Car Concept…The Future?

10/13/2017 @ 11:49 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Remember the Yamaha Tesseract? The four-wheeled concept is about as close to a motorcycle that something with four wheels can get. And now, the Tuning Fork brand is building upon that idea, but with a fully enclosed vehicle concept that picks up where the Tesseract left off.

Called the Yamaha MWC-4, this four-wheeled concept brings the idea of the Tesseract’s leaning chassis and multi-wheel design into a more practical form for everyday use, and it’s debuting at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.

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