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.

Turbocharged Can-Am Spyder F3 Concept

02/18/2016 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS


Despite what the DMV says, you might not consider the Can-Am Spyder to be a motorcycle, but the three-wheeler is part of a growing segment of on-road fun machines that have a pretty strong overlap with two-wheeled buyers.

It is not necessarily our cup of tea, but we wouldn’t mind swinging a leg over BRP’s latest creation, a turbocharged Can-Am Spyder F3 concept, which just debuted at the Daytona International Speedway.

The venue comes from Can-Am’s involvement as a title sponsor in the series, so naturally the Canadian brand wanted to spice things up with a special concept.

As such, the turbocharged 1,330 three-cylinder Rotax engine puts out 150hp (considerably more than the stock 113hp figure), and is aided in its breathing by its custom Akrapovič three-into-three exhaust system.

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The KTM 1290 Super Duke R Special Edition is an easy motorcycle to explain. You take the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, raid the KTM power parts catalog, slap some gold paint on the sucker, and call it done.

The extra goodies include an Akrapovič titanium exhaust, wave brake discs, stiffer triple clamps, adjustable hand levers, carbon fiber engine cover, and of course the orange anodized paint scheme.

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Every race track has something special, but each is special in a different way. There are the tracks which are notable for the speed, such as Mugello, Termas de Rio Hondo, or Phillip Island. There are tracks which have a spectacular setting, such as Phillip Island, Mugello, or Aragon.

There are tracks which are notable for their layout, either fast and flowing like Assen or Brno, or tight and treacherous such as the Sachsenring. And then there are tracks which are so unlike anywhere else that motorcycle racing goes to that they have a character all of their own. Like Indianapolis.

What makes Indy such a unique challenge? “The special thing about this track is that during the weekend, the grip is improving a lot, so this is one point you must understand during the weekend how the grip improves,” Marc Márquez said.

Understanding this, that the track you roll out onto on Friday morning bears no relation to the track you will be racing on come Sunday, presents a very specific challenge.

It rewards riders and teams who understand how a track matures and changes, can anticipate what is coming without getting ahead of themselves and paying the price for overestimating the available grip. A number of riders did that on Friday morning, especially in Moto3.

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It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle.

The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber.

Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

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Known better for its fine exhausts, Akrapovič is starting to get into the habit of making some intriguing concept motorcycles as well.

So far the Slovenian brand has kept these bikes to a cruiser theme, perhaps to amplify the company’s message to the Bar & Shield realm that other options exist outside of their Screamin’ Eagle©®™ Patriot-Freedom exhaust cannons that are so ubiquitous in that segment.

In contrast to the current trend, Akrapovič’s designs have been sleek, and this weeks’ latest, the Akrapovič Full Moon concept continues that ideal.

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Ducati 1299 Panigale – 205hp, Across the Board

11/03/2014 @ 9:00 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS


As was rumored, Ducati’s flagship machine, the Panigale superbike, gets an update for the 2015 model year. Now called the Ducati 1299 Panigale, the number designation means different things for the base, S, and R models.

All three models will sport a class-leading 205 peak horsepower, have the “cornering ABS” thanks to the inertial measurement unit (IMU) that is installed, and have the new Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) system, with its up and down clutchless shifting.

All three models also have a revised chassis geometry, with the steering head angle set at 24° now, while the fork pivot is 4 mm lower — all in the name of more precise steering (a critique of the 1199 model).

For the Ducati 1299 Panigale and Ducati 1299 Panigale S trim models, the high-revving Superquadro motor gets a displacement increase to 1,285cc, via a larger bore size (116mm). The Ducati 1299 Panigale R will remain at the original 1,198cc displacement, in order to comply with World Superbike regulations.

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One of the more eye-catching things we saw today at the EICMA show (besides the Triumph Tiger 800 XC SE), the Husqvarna 701 Concept is an homage to the Swedish brand’s past, and a signal to its future. Truly Scandinavian in its aesthetic, the modern, yet simple, lines of the Husqvarna 701 provide a unique approach to the very cookie-cutter supermoto segment.

Featuring a 650cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine, Husqvarna says that the concept is good for 75hp and “outstanding” torque. Built with a chromoly steel trellis frame, WP Suspension, and Brembo brakes, the real eye-catcher is the custom Akrapovic exhaust and its integrated bodywork shroud.

The seat is made of multiple materials, and is designed to have grippy spots for where the rider sits under braking and acceleration, and slippery spots for where a rider needs to move along the seat unimpeded. We aren’t huge fans of the LED headlight, but otherwise it is a nice concept by Husqvarna.

Will the folks at Husqvarna create an on-road machine in the future? Certainly not. A supermoto perhaps though? Time will tell. Photos of the machine, taken in-person by yours truly, are after the jump.

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So Yamaha have brought their seamless gearbox to Misano. Being of a mind not just to blindly believe what Yamaha say they are doing, I naturally spent all of MotoGP FP1 on pit wall, watching the bikes come out of the 2nd gear final corner, and recording the sound of the gear changes to measure the gaps and estimate the length of time spent changing gears.

Without even looking at the numbers, you could tell the difference: the gear changes of both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were audibly quicker, taking place without the usual bang of exploding fuel as the quickshifter cuts ignition.

The difference was clear even when they were riding on their own, but when Bradley Smith and Cal Crutchlow went past shortly afterwards, the difference between the factory and the satellite machines was stunning. Where a large gap and small explosion could be heard when the Tech 3 bikes changed gear, the factory machines sounded smooth, revs dropping but continuing to drive, well, seamlessly.

You didn’t even need to hear the noise: just watching the bikes come out of the final corner gave you enough visual clues to see the bikes were using the seamless gearbox. The factory Yamahas were smoother, with less wheelie, and no movement of the rear when the gears were changed. This was clearly a seamless transmission Yamaha were using.

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2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike

07/12/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS


Another year, and another Pikes Peak race bike from the Falkner Livingston Racing crew to frustrate current Ducati Multistrada 1200 S owners. This gorgeous machine was quick all throughout practice week in the hands of Micky Dymond, but being the first runner out of the gate on race day, with a very green track that had endured two heavy rainstorms, Micky hit the tarmac on several occasions during his Race to the Clouds — a herculean effort in its own right.

Certainly not the result the team deserved, but as Nicky Hayden is found to remind us, that’s why we line-up on the grid on Sunday. Taking the “official” fastest time up the mountain on a motorcycle was Bruno Langlois, with the Frenchman riding a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S as well. Of course, we all know Carlin Dunne was the fastest up the course on his electric superbike from Lightning Motorcycles, but the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb doesn’t count the exhibition class in those results.

Each year I wax on about how gorgeous these Multistradas are, and this year is no different. In the pictures after the jump you will find yet another mouth-watering Ducati, with a new race livery, a custom-built exhaust from Akrapovič (only six were made), carbon brakes, a dry slipper-clutch conversion, and a bevy of other interesting modifications to the Italian adventure sport-tourer. Enjoy!

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Minor Updates for the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

09/25/2012 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Thanks to our good friends at the Dutch site Oliepeil, we have our first glimpse at the updated 2013 Yamaha FJ1300A. Said by Yamaha to have minor updates for the upcoming model year, it is clear from these photos that the FJR has spent some time at the spa, and gotten a visual makeover. What is underneath the fairings is anyone’s guess, though beyond some upgraded systems, the new Yamaha FJR1300A seems relative unchanged, which should surprise no one.

Exposed by Akrapovic’s 2013 exhaust catalog, the pictures here show the Yamaha FJR1300A with an aftermarket exhaust (of course), as well as a new instrument cluster, which supposedly makes way for the addition of traction control to the sport-tourer. Leaked EPA document’s peg the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300A as staying with its 1,298cc motor and 143 hp, seemingly putting to bed suggestions that the FJR will get a displacement boost for 2013.

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