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.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

01/13/2015 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS


We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry.

For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas.

Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

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Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

04/05/2014 @ 4:46 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS


Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012.

How different the situation looks today. The CRTs have served their purpose – to persuade the factories to help fill the grid, and supply the teams with (relatively) affordable equipment – and the reduction in costs brought about in part by the spec electronics is enticing factories back to MotoGP.

Suzuki is in full testing mode, and getting ready to return to racing full time in 2015, and Aprilia is working towards a full-time return in 2016.

In a recent interview with the official website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

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“Kesh Angels”: The Fierce Females of Morocco

02/27/2014 @ 11:03 am, by Aakash Desai12 COMMENTS


It’s always nice to get a firm slap in the face from somewhere in the world that contradicts our notions of what motorcycling is all about.

Toeing the line between the hedonistic expressionism of Western culture and the more austere conservatism of traditional Islamic culture, London-based artist Hassan Hajjaj aims to pull-apart the pretentious self-importance of both worlds.

More importantly, by using female subjects as the protagonists in his compositions, Hajjaj challenges numerous Western and Eastern stereotypes about gender roles in this context.

The poses are playful and challenging and the use of scooters and motorcycles cements the subjects in Moroccan two-wheeler culture as well as in the Western two-wheels-as-freedom narrative. A metaphorical straddling, if you will.

Titled “‘Kesh Angles”, Hassan’s compositions are bright, colorful and chock full of cultural references. The subjects embody bravado, aggression, sexuality and even normalcy in high fashion and hip-hop poses.

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The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition

01/17/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Aakash Desai52 COMMENTS


The Riverside Art Museum is hosting “The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition,” an exhibit featuring the photography of Lanakila MacNaughton until March 16th.  The Portland-based photographer is also motorcyclist and wanted to capture a female-centric perspective on the colorful and wild side of motorcycling that is either underrepresented or misrepresented in this male-dominant culture.

Lanakila’s portraits show women embodying roles that are typically reserved for male motorcyclists, including images where a male takes on the role of pillion passenger in an obvious gender reversal. Another interesting set of images depicts a desert road scene where two barely dressed ladies (save for the stickers on their breasts) ride missionary (a la Kanye’s “Bound 2” music video).

We were excited by the potential for this exhibit to further the conversation around reimagining the role of women in motorcycling. Although the number of women riders in the U.S. is increasing, in marketing and in product development women are still considered a niche demographic.

There is not much space in the culture for women to stand on their own without being coddled or catered to by patronizing marketing gimmicks or feeling ogled by every dude on the road. Simply developing bikes with lower seat heights and apparel with pink and purple flower schemes is not going far enough to really opening the doors of the industry guys’ club.

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Got some time to waste? We have just the thing for you, thanks to our friends at Yamaha. The tuning fork brand has long made papercraft models of its various products — scale models made only out of paper, and not to be confused with origami —  and the different designs have been swirling on the internet for as long as we can remember.

Available for download are patterns for building a range of motorcycles, like the Yamaha MT-01, Yamaha YZF-R1, and Yamaha VMAX, and while Yamaha provides the blueprints, you must supply the sheets of paper, bottles of glue, and buckets of patience — this not an undertaking for the ADD inclined.

Now in time for the new year, Yamaha has released perhaps the mother of all papercraft projects, a diorama of Valentino Rossi’s Corkscrew pass on Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca.

It took papercraft designer Mr. Mukouyama a year to design and create the kit, and the detail shows. Getting a chance to show his masterpiece to The Doctor himself, who praised Mukouyama-san’s hardwork, the young artist will have a hard time topping this.

Whether you are riding out the Northeast’s current Freezepocalypse, or just counting down the months until the racing season begins again, here is a new garage endeavor for your undertaking. If any A&R readers complete this papercraft diorama, you must send us some photos of it. We’ll send you a shirt or something.

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A little something to end the week with, Roland Sands Design has put together a video called “Art of the Machine” that is a bit different from the usual fare you find in the motorcycle industry, even from the exceptional creative types at RSD.

Using a kaleidoscope treatment on a series of fabrication and riding clips, the short film has an eerily dark and deep feel to it. You don’t have to be a fan of RSD’s work in order to become enthralled by the mesmerizing visual and audios here, and while we’re not quite sure why we like it…we know that we just do. Obey.

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Gino Borsoi’s MotoGP Dilemma for Team Aspar

07/05/2013 @ 3:57 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS


The Power Electronics Aspar team have seized the opportunity offered by the CRT rules with both hands. By teaming up with Aprilia and employing two talented and fast riders, Aspar has helped turn the RSV4-based ART machine into a genuinely competitive machine, in every respect except for horsepower.

At Assen, Aleix Espargaro finished eighth, ahead of two factory Ducatis and three other satellite MotoGP machines. The bike is clearly good.

For 2014, however, Aspar must face a dilemma. With the introduction of the spec-electronics system, teams choosing to race the ART bikes will lose the current advantage those machines have, a highly-developed and very effective electronics package.

Teams running ART machines must choose, either to accept the Magneti Marelli developed software, and keep 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines, or persuade Aprilia to port their software to the spec-ECU Marelli, and try to race with 20 liters of fuel and either 5 or 9 engines, depending on whether the Grand Prix Commission decided Aprilia had already been competing in MotoGP as an MSMA member or not.

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Motorcycle Art by Adam Nickel

11/05/2012 @ 12:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

There isn’t a enough motorcycle art in the two-wheeled world. I am not talking about a shortage of photos, paintings, or drawings of motorcycles; but instead, I lamenting my desire for more of these pieces that really move me — works of art that strike a chord with my emotions, and then lead my thoughts down to some longing, proposal, or recollection of good times on a motorbike.

For our own part, A&R strives to pair inspiring photographs with our articles, often showing photos that add another dimension to the story, or at least a double entendre. But alas, the seemingly requisite need for visuals to provide an editorial explanation to the words below them can make achieving both goals often a lost endeavor.

Motorcycling in the western world is about passion though (that’s not to say there isn’t passionate motorcyclists all over the world, of course), so we still strive to straddle both sides of that fence anyways. It is for this same reason that we publish intriguing concept sketches & designs, when we find them, since the reality of the still unknown is a powerful one. You do remember what an imagination is, right?

Coming across the work of Adam Nickel, my imagination was again lit-up. Publishing a few of his drawings on his blog, I was drawn to the alliterately titled pieces Dedication, Defeat, Dreams, & Decisions — which portray four events that are sure to feel familiar to any motorcyclist. Enjoy them after the jump, and be sure to stop by Nickel’s site for more pieces of moto-inspiration.

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Photos: Some Classic Motorcycle Line Art Drawings

09/06/2012 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

This next article comes to you as a direct biproduct of my Labor Day weekend. While I don’t have any children of my own (none that I know of at least), I did spend the long-weekend around what I hope will be Asphalt & Rubber‘s future generation of readers, as well as motorcycling’s future demographic of riders (their parents may take some more convincing).

Kids seem to be fascinated with motorcycles…along with trains, firetrucks, planes, submarines, etc, so when I saw these line art drawings of some classic motorcycles today on Racing Café, I thought the mothers and father who regularly read A&R wouldn’t mind having something moto-related they could print out, and have their children color, shade, or draw all over.

For those of you without kids, well…here are some cool line art drawings of motorcycles. How’s that for a win/win? If you like these drawings there is a bunch more on Flickr, and it looks like the artist who made these drawings is selling them in poster form. Cool, right?

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Cardboard Yamaha R1 Model is so Awesome It Hurts

06/05/2012 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

For some time now, Yamaha Japan has had some fun downloadable paper craft sheets that make a variety of paper art motorcycles (if you haven’t made a paper YZR-M1 yet, you are really not living life). Taking that thought a step further, Jack Chen from Australia has made a scale 2007 Yamaha YZF-R1 out of cardboard.

Roughly 60% the size of the genuine road-going version, Chen used Yamaha’s sheets as the basis for his masterpiece, and then super-sized the proportions. Skill, patience, and scissor control…you sir are a cardboard motorcycle Jedi, and we salute you. Photos after the jump.

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