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.

At the Yamaha Wall of Champions Induction

12/23/2015 @ 2:23 pm, by Andrew KohnADD COMMENTS


What makes a champion? Is it talent? Desire? Drive? Today we had an opportunity to learn about those things from the champions themselves, as Yamaha closed out their year-long 60th Anniversary celebration by inducting twelve members into the Yamaha Wall of Champions.

The celebration occurred at Yamaha’s headquarters in Cypress, CA with much of Yamaha’s senior leadership team present. Four of the inductees came from the motocross and supercross side of the house, two were ATV champions, and six prefer the slick tires of motorcycle roadracing.

Yamaha used this ceremony as an opportunity for its employees to celebrate the holiday, to give back to the community, and to enjoy some time with factory racers, both past and present.

The mood was festive and spirits were high. A band comprised of Yamaha employees added to the festive atmosphere and a couple of food trucks ensured that everyone was well fed.

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Yamaha Debuting an FZ-09 Powered Side-by-Side?

08/05/2015 @ 5:51 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS


A teaser video from Yamaha Europe is very clear on the fact that Yamaha is getting ready to debut a sporty off-road side-by-side, for the European market and likely the American market as well.

The interesting thing, and the reason we’re talking about it here at Asphalt & Rubber, is the four-wheeled desert-shredding monster is powered by a three-cylinder engine – a peculiar choice of lumps, from the Tuning Fork brand.

Of course the only model in Yamaha’s lineup that has such an engine is the FZ-09 (that’s an MT-09 to you non-Americans), which has been the basis for the FJ-09 sport-tourer as well.

Perhaps hoping to get some more mileage, no pun intended, out of its three-cylinder engine design, Yamaha has repurposed its triple for this unique use.

We will likely have to wait a little while longer to see what Yamaha has brewing, though it does seem intriguing…if you like to sit-down and steer your adult-sized toys.

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AMA Pro Racing Hires Michael Lock as a Consultant

02/13/2015 @ 10:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT


It seems DMG has made its second smart decision in recent memory, the first being to sell its interesting AMA Pro Road Racing to the KRAVE, which started the MotoAmerica series.

What is this new “smart” decision, you might ask? The hiring of former Ducati North America CEO Michael Lock as a strategic consultant AMA Pro Racing.

Certainly a contentious name in the Ducati dealer network, one cannot deny however that Lock brought growth to DNA (not to mention Triumph) during his tenure, and that he understands the importance of branding and public perception — something DMG clearly does not have at its core competencies.

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Brutus, This Is What Half an ATV Looks Like

11/15/2012 @ 3:43 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

You know that scene in Crocodile Dundee where Mick says, “that’s not a knife, this is a knife!” and whips out a big-ass bowie blade? That’s the inner-dialogue Alessandro Tartarini (of modern Lambretta fame) must have had as he designed the simply named “Brutus” motorcycle concept. Likened to being half an ATV, the main calling in life for the Brutus is to go where no other motorcycle dare dream.

Helping it achieve that lofty goal, the Brutus has a massive 750cc water-cooled single-cylinder motor, which is rated at around 50hp, and is paired with a CVT transmission. 14″ wheels are mated to Maxxis Big Horn tires, which give the two-wheeler that Bigfoot look, though we were surprised to learn that the Brutus is only one-wheel drive.

Expected to debut a production model later this year, with public availability in Spring 2013, the Brutus will come with a bevy of options, including sidecar, ski, and fire-fighting configurations. Massively over built, the Brutus is completely ridiculous in almost every way, yet the idea of monster-trucking our way through the most rugged terrain seems oddly appealing. Hrmmm…

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Trakrok Concept by Alexei Mikhailov

05/23/2011 @ 5:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Well maybe it’s not strictly a motorcycle, but Alexei Mikhailov’s Trakrok concept certainly look like a lot of fun. Part quad, part snowmobile, part dirt bike, we imagine the Trakrok would be able to get us into all sorts of trouble on some of the more impassable terrain available. Featuring futuristic off-road tires up front, the real thing that catches our eye with the Trakrok is the rubber snowmobile-like independent track that replaces the rear tires.

Complimenting the angular modern design, is the idea that the Trakrok would be powered by a hydrogen power cell. A bit out there on the practical meter, we do like the design elements that Mikhailov is using here, and the Trakrok looks like something straight out of the KTM playbook (or would that be the Kiska playbook?). Angel eye headlights set-off the front, while trellis framing abounds on the frame and track supports. It might be a bit hard to find tires for the thing though. More photos after the jump.

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US Motorcycle Sales up 7% in Q1 2011

04/25/2011 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The Motorcycle Industry Council is reporting that US motorcycle sales are up 7% in Q1 of 2011, with 102,547 units being sold in the year’s first three months. Leading the charge were scooter sales, which were up nearly 50% to 6,246 units, while on-road units were up as well, pushing 70,879 units in Q1 (a 6.9% gain).

Despite the strong numbers from on-road and dual-sport models, off-road vehicles did not fare as well, with ATV sales down 16% and off-road motorcycle sales down 5.5% (47,702 & 18,725 units respectively), making 2011 still a mixed bag depending on what side of the industry you are on.

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Honda Sales up 28% for Q1 2010

08/05/2010 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Honda has closed its books for the first quarter of 2010, and the company’s motorcycle, scooter, and ATV sales are up 28.2% over Q1 of 2009. Selling over 2.8 million units (compare that to Q1 2009’s 2.25 million units), Honda’s sales created $3.7 billion in net sales. Honda reported $3 billion in net sales during the same time period last year. While the Asian markets powered most of Honda’s sales, North American sales were up 11% to 60,000 units sold.

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Polaris Packs Up Manufacturing and Moves to Mexico

05/21/2010 @ 6:21 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

In about 18 months, roughly a thousand workers will be out of a job at the Polaris plant in Osceola, Wisconsin. In that timeframe Polaris plans to close the Osceola plant, and move its production south of the border to Mexico. The move comes about as Polaris looks to increase production efficiency (i.e. lower production costs with cheaper labor), which will then allow the company to be more competitive with its products’ positions in their respective marketplaces.

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Industry Report: Have We Found the Bottom?

10/21/2009 @ 9:32 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS


The latest data from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), suggests that the end of cascading motorcycle sales may be near. According to the MIC, the combined new unit sales for motorcycles, scooters, and ATVS during the past 9 months were down 40% from last year’s numbers. While still frighteningly low, these results show a 2% rebound in sales when compared to the first 6 months of 2009.

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Kawasaki Offers to Buyout Workers in Nebraska

05/15/2009 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS


Kawasaki, not be left out of the metric manufacturer meltdown, is offering a buyout package to 320 workers at its plant in Lincoln, Nebraska, which produces ATVs and personal water craft for Team Green. While, the buyout applies to only about 16% of the plants total 2,000 or so workers, if further costs reductions are not met then deeper cuts will likely be made.

According to Kawasaki, “rapidly declining sales” of recreational and utility products prompted the buyout, and if not enough of the employees excericse the option to have their contracts bought, then Kawasaki will “be forced to terminate some employees.” Workers at the Nebraska plant already have been working short weeks and will continue to do so for the next several months. No further comment from Kawasaki is expected until Friday, May 22. 

Source: PowerSports Business