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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #35 – No Brainer

10/11/2016 @ 5:08 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS


Episode 35 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast comes to us right after my trip to Los Angeles for the Arai Helmets press launch for the Quantum-X and Signet-X helmets. The show covers these new helmets, as well as what it’s like to ride the Piaggio MP3 500 – a three-wheeled leaning scooter. Spoiler alert, it’s pretty fun.

The conversation about helmets eventually evolves into a discussion about helmet design and construction, how the business side of this part of the industry works, and what the future holds for helmet designs.

There’s a fair bit of debunking going on in this part of the show, with helmets being a subject where conjecture and bad information exist in too large of quantity.

The show ends with a listener question from the folks at Rizoma, who was about air injection for emissions controls. This leads into a pretty lengthy conversation about how motorcycle control the gases they emit, and also how valve timing affects how motorcycle make power and handle emissions.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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Every year Arai Helmet comes out with a highly coveted limited edition lid for the Isle of Man TT; and each year has a different design, with the latest crop coming from the studio of Aldo Drudi.

This year’s design comes on the Arai Corsair-X, a helmet we were very impressed with when we tested it at Thunder Hill last year.

As you can see from the photos, Drudi has emblazoned the Corsair-X helmet with the “TT” logo, as well as the island nation’s Triskelion symbol, which is of three running legs. “Ellan Vannin” is of course the native Manx name for the Isle of Man.

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Gear Review: Arai Corsair-X Helmet

07/23/2015 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS


When it comes to helmet brands, Arai Helmet is perhaps one of the best known in the business; and when it comes to the Japanese company’s flagship model, the track-focused Corsair reigns supreme.

So, it’s a big deal when Arai decides to update its ready-to-race helmet offering, creating the Arai Corsair-X in the process.

This week, we got to test the new Corsair-X in the flesh, spending a full-day riding at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California on Monday — melting away in the 104°F heat — as well as riding around my new hometown of Portland, Oregon.

So let’s cut the fluff, breakdown what’s new with the Corsair-X, and talk about what our impressions are of this top-of-the-line helmet.

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You can’t talk about old school TT racing without mentioning the name Joey Dunlop. The outright record-holder for the most TT race wins at the Isle of Man TT, Joey Dunlop is an absolute icon at the Manx island, and road racing in general. He is quite simply the King of the Mountain.

So to help celebrate this year’s Classic TT, Arai will produce 300 units of its RX7-GP helmet in Joey Dunlop’s livery from 1985. Arai is calling the helmet the most authentic limited edition Joey Dunlop replica helmet ever produced, and it’s using the actual design and sponsors from 1985 season. Additionally, Linda Dunlop, Joey’s widow, will be signing each of the 300 exclusive helmets being produced.

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Photos: Nicky Hayden’s Laguna Seca Helmet

07/21/2013 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS


The Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, fan favorite Nicky Hayden will be sporting a new lid. Themed after Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, the Arai helmet has another clever use of Nicky’s face in the livery, giving the impression that the Kentucky Kid is wearing a combat helmet while on his Ducati Demsosedici GP13.

When we asked about any meaning behind the helmet design for the US GP Hayden said he simply liked the camo paint scheme, and that his helmet designer, Roby Marchionni of Starline, had thought of the design for the race. However, it is hard not to make some connections between Nicky’s time at Ducati Corse and some of the themes portrayed in Full Metal Jacket. After all, the former World Champion certainly has that thousand-yard stare down pat.

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J.D. Power and Associates have released their 2011 Helmet Satisfaction Study, and the results are pretty interesting. The study takes an 11-point approach on helmet satisfaction, having helmet purchasers rank their lid on the following attributes: quietness; ventilation/air flow; de-fogging performance; face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out; face shield resistance to scratching; ease of replacing face shield; scratch resistance of shell; color/graphic design; weight; ease of fastening the strap; and fit and comfort.

Perhaps unsurprising to many, Arai topped the list as having the highest rating (this makes the 13th year in a row for the Japanese helmet manufacturer), but this year will carry an asterisk, as Icon tied Arai in customer satisfaction with a score of 852 out of 1,000. According to JDPA, Arai’s scores across all 11 attributes were strong, with a particular strength in “fit & comfort” and “face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out”. Similarly, Icon scored especially well in “color/graphic design”, while Shoei got strong marks for “ease of replacing the face shield”.

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Nicky Hayden Will Lap at the Isle of Man TT

04/14/2011 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

This year marks 100 years of racing on the Mountain Course at the Isle of Man TT, which should make for a special event for all of those involved. Usually each year there is a famous motorcycle racer(s) that has the honor of doing a parade lap on the historic road course, and this year should be especially interesting for us Americans as Nicky Hayden will take a lap around the Isle of Man TT course.

The 2006 MotoGP World Champion will be joined by five-time 500GP World Champion Mick Doohan, as well as Ian Hutchinson, who astoundingly won all five solo races in last year’s TT. With Hayden sponsored by both Arai and Dainese (both event sponsors), it perhaps isn’t too surprising that the charismatic American will be taking part in the Arai Parade lap at the TT. Of course it could be the allure of British food and miserable weather that sealed the deal…tough call on that one.

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Despite the concern that he might not race this weekend, Jonathan Rea appears to gotten of easy with his latest get-off during testing at Phillip Island. Having to make the difficult choice between being a human fireball and hitting the tarmac at 120 MPH, Rea opted for the latter, ditched his firing stead, fractured his wrist, and injured his hand & arm in the process.

Now with video of the frightening event, we get a glimpse into the crash that nearly sidelined the British rider, who will still ride in Sunday’s World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island. We generally don’t like our motorcycles on fire, and there’s something very creepy about watching Rea’s Castrol Honda CBR1000RR do a ghostride into a barricade. While unconfirmed reports say Colin Edwards has welcomed Rea to the club, check after the jump for Rea’s personal message to Arai Helmets.

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Holding a press conference this morning at the Wrooom media event in the Dolomite Mountains, Valentino Rossi finally got a chance to officially talk to the press about his experience testing the Ducati at Valencia late last year, and his general impressions on riding with Ducati Corse. Commenting that “the Ducati is different from all the other bikes, it’s a proper prototype, the concept is different from the Japanese factories,” Rossi went on to explain that “you need a bit of a ‘dirtier’ style to ride the Desmosedici.”

In addition to his thoughts, official photos of Rossi’s leathers (Nicky Hayden’s as well, but to less fanfare) have been released by Ducati Corse, which see Rossi’s neon yellow color scheme mixed in with the red and white of Ducati Corse. The clashing colors might not please the aesthetically critical, but we have a feeling people will get used to the arrangement. Photos of the GP11’s race livery are expected tomorrow (Wednesday).

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Arai Tops J.D. Power & Associates Helmet Rankings

05/21/2010 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

For twelve years in a row, Arai Helmets has topped J.D. Power & Associates motorcycle helmet rankings for customer satisfaction. This is important because J.D. Power also found that highly satisfied owners are more likely to buy their brand of helmet again (that’s a no brainer, right?). The kicker though is that the likelihood of a repeat customer is nearly 10x more likely when they are highly satisfied with their helmet. In a world where it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one, a 10x multiple is a staggering figure on how product quality plays into a company’s sales and growth strategy.

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