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.

Of all the words that you never want to see in a recall announcement, “explode” probably ranks pretty high on that list.

But, this is exactly what we saw for this recall that affects the 2009-2016 Honda Gold Wing models equipped with an airbag, as the “air bag inflator may explode,” according to the recall headline.

This recall is of course part of the ongoing set of recalls that affect vehicles equipped with Takata airbags – of note, the new 2018 Gold Wing Tour Airbag model does not use a Takata-made airbag.

In total, this recall only affects 960 units (2009-2010 and 2012-2016 model years), though this is the third time that Honda has had to issue a recall for its Gold Wing models, because of Takata.

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Airbag Suits Now Compulsory for Grand Prix Riders

01/11/2018 @ 3:00 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Starting this season, it will be mandatory for GP riders (Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP) to wear an approved airbag system within their leather racing suits.

The move has been a long one coming, and aims to bring increased safety to the Grand Prix classes.

The rule applies to all permanent racers in the GP paddock, as well as replacement riders who participate for more than two rounds, but it does not apply to wildcard riders.

Along with the mandate, the new rule sets a number of conditions that the airbag systems must conform to, and their specificities are eyebrow-raising to say the least.

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In the automotive world, there have been massive recalls of Takata airbag systems. And one has already found its way in the motorcycle industry, affecting over 2,700 Honda Gold Wing motorcycles.

Well, now with another wave of Takata airbag recalls, once again we see Big Red’s venerable tourer getting recalled by the NHTSA – 882 units to be precise, from the 2006-2009 and 2012 model years.

The recall stems from the fact that the inflators for the airbag may degrade over time, because of humidity and temperature, which could cause an unpredictably larger explosion when an airbag inflation is triggered.

The explosion may be large enough in fact, that it could rupture the inflation device, and thus pose a health risk.

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The FIM is taking further steps to contain the cost of aerodynamics. The banning of winglets decided earlier this year was made on two grounds: removing the danger of being struck by a protruding wing, and reducing the potentially astronomical cost of an aerodynamic war beginning.

Banning winglets would prevent the first issue from being a problem, but would do nothing to address the second point. Indeed, with the aerodynamics cat well and truly out of the bag, the factories have already hinted that their focus would switch to fairing design.

The Grand Prix Commission have moved to stop that war starting before it begins. From 2017, factories will have to homologate fairing and front mudgard designs, with only one upgrade to each allowed per season.

The idea behind it is to allow factories to continue to develop aerodynamics, but to limit the amount of time and money spent in search of wheelie prevention.

The rules do leave one loophole open, however. The aerodynamic homologation rules apply to each rider separately. In theory, each rider on a Yamaha, Honda, or Ducati could start with a different fairing, the results of which could be assessed by the factory to help develop the next homologated version of the fairing for use in mid-season.

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Recall: Honda Gold Wing Airbags

05/31/2016 @ 3:01 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS


If you follow the four-wheeled world at all, you will know that there has been a massive recall for vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. The recall affects roughly 34 million vehicles in the United States, at last count, though more seem to be added each week, my own four-wheeler included.

The size of the recall is due mostly to the fact that Takata makes the majority of vehicle airbag systems, and their design is fairly universal. In fact, it’s so universal that Takata even powers the airbags found on the Honda Gold Wing, which brings us to this story.

For the same reason that millions of cars are being recalled, American Honda is recalling 2,701 Honda Gold Wing motorcycles that were equipped with an airbag feature.

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Alpinestars Tech-Air Race Coming the USA This Summer

03/07/2016 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS


American riders will be pleased to hear that the Alpinestars Tech-Air Race airbag technology, which is a self-contained and self-actuated system, will finally be available in the USA, starting later this summer.

This means that the same technology that protects MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, and Dani Pedrosa will now available to the common two-wheeled enthusiast – thus a huge step forward for motorcycle safety.

Alpinestars says that when the Tech-Air Race is fully inflated, it protects that back (with an integrated back protector), kidneys, chest and shoulders. Additionally, with a firmware upgrade, the Race system can be configured to run the Tech-Air Street settings, for non-race use in both on-road and off-road situations.

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Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.

First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.

Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.

You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.

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Last week we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over their respective airbag suit systems. In response to that story, and the subsequent retellings of that story on other sites, Alpinestars has issued a press release that further clarifies, corrects, and explains the situation between the two companies.

The first big takeaway from Alpinestars’ statement is that at issue in the patent infringement suit is actually the material of the airbag itself, i.e. the actual physical material used in the bladder that holds the air. This corrects the information A&R received that at issue was the algorithm used to detect a crash.

The second big takeaway from the Alpinestars press release is that German retailers were directly contacted by Dainese, and told to cease and desist from offering the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system.

This action resulted in some retailers pulling the product from their shelves, but Alpinestars says that no legal action has taken place in the German market, and that the company continues to offer the Tech-Air Street in Germany.

You can read Alpinestars full press release after the jump. Asphalt & Rubber will be sure to keep you apprised of further developments regarding this story, as it unfolds.

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Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain.

Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level.

The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.

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Dainese Just Made Your Motorcycle Jacket Obsolete

09/14/2015 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS


For reasons too obvious to mention, motorcycle gear protection has been on my mind lately. Though my broken collarbone is unfortunate, it is timely, as Dainese just released its D-Air Misano 1000 jacket, the world’s first commercially available self-contained airbag jacket for motorcyclists.

Let’s be really clear about one thing: this is a sea change for motorcycle safety.

Debuting at the San Marino GP, the venue for the Dainese D-Air Misano 1000’s release is no mistake, as the jacket builds off the Italian company’s experience with airbag suits in the MotoGP World Championship.

At the highest level of racing, airbag technology has become a game-changing technology, and now riders on the street can use essentially that same airbag system, that same proprietary crash-sensing software (modified for street use), and that same company history of safety that the professionals rely on while on the race track.

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