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.

BMW S675RR Concept by Nicolas Petit

02/23/2018 @ 3:43 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

As the name suggests, the bike is powered by a 675cc three-cylinder engine, and visually it makes a strong connection to the next BMW S1000RR, which we have already seen leaked in spy photos.

Continue Reading

BMW Motorrad USA Sales Down 1.3% for 2017

01/11/2018 @ 3:57 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

End-of-the-year sales figures are starting to trickle in, now that 2017 is behind us, and BMW Motorrad USA has completed its tally. Selling 13,546 motorcycles in 2017, BMW Motorrad is posting a rare decline in yearly unit sales, down 1.3% last year.

Despite this loss, BMW Motorrad is quick point out that other manufacturers are suffering worse than the German brand, with the industry said to be down 3.2%, while BMW’s relevant competition is said to be down 6.3%.

For those keeping score, that is basically like saying “Yeah sales were bad, but look at how much worse the other guys did” in PR speak.

One should not forget the seven recalls (#1, #2, #3#4, #5#6, and #7 here) that BMW encountered in rapid succession during 2017, including the massive fork recall for the popular R1200GS.

Continue Reading

As expected, the TVS Apache RR 310 debuted today in India, thus ending the bike’s nearly year-long delay in coming to market.

Why do we care so much about a motorcycle that will likely never set foot on US soil? Because at the heart of the TVS Apache RR 310 is BMW Motorrad’s next small-displacement motorcycle: the BMW G310RR.

…well that, and the TVS Apache RR 310 looks pretty tasty as a track bike.

Continue Reading

The TVS Apache RR 310S Is Finally About to Drop

12/05/2017 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We have been patiently waiting for the TVS Apache RR 310S (formerly known as the TVS Akula 310) to debut in India, though probably not for the most obvious of reasons. Now, with only a matter of hours before it officially debuts, we have some thoughts on the newest sport bike from India.

While we are intrigued by the new motorcycles that debut in India, the TVS Apache RR 310S is a bit more special for Western riders.

Built in collaboration with BMW Motorrad, the TVS Apache RR 310S gives us our first glimpse into what the German brand’s 300cc-class sport bike will look like, which should hopefully debut late-2018.

Based around the same 313cc engine (34hp) that is found on the BMW G310R and BMW G310GS, that TVS Apache RR 310S is expected to be a BMW G310RR wrapped in different bodywork.

Continue Reading

If you needed a bigger sign that the current zeitgeist of vehicle transportation is electric, look no further than BMW’s recent investment of €200 million for what the German brand is calling a “battery cell competence centre.”

The rather large capital expenditure, based in Munich, centers around the German brand’s commitment to electric vehicles, and its desire to develop next-generation electric drivetrains.

Specifically, the battery cell facility will allow BMW to explore new battery cell designs, chemistries, and technologies, so it can better work with battery cell manufacturers for the automotive company’s growing needs.

Continue Reading

BMW Debuts Revised F750GS & F850GS Models

11/07/2017 @ 10:39 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The middleweight ADV segment is hot in Milan right now, with a bevy of models in this category debuting at this year’s EICMA show. For BMW Motorrad, its a two-pronged effort, showing the updated BMW F750GS and BMW 850GS models.

This space has always been a big crowded in the BMW motorcycle lineup, with the F700GS and F800GS having considerable overlaps. For 2018, the Germans explain how they see the F750GS and F850GS as differing.

Accordingly, the BMW F750GS is designed for riders who prefer a travel enduro that has a low seat height, good power, and plenty of bang for the buck.

Conversely, the new BMW F850GS boasts more power and torque, is more feature-heavy, and is designed with extensive off-roading in mind.

Continue Reading

Determined not to let the new Honda Gold Wing have all the fun in the modern tourer category, BMW Motorrad too wants a piece of the American two-wheeled lifestyle, debuting today at the EICMA show the new 2018 BMW K1600 Grand America.

The production version of the K1600B bagger that we saw last year, the K1600 Grand America has grown a bit in a year’s time, and truthfully looks very similar to the BMW K1600 GTL, which already fills the German brand’s need for a full-on dresser motorcycle.

Still, BMW Motorrad says that the Grand America is built for cruising down the highway, and the German brand hopes that the more sweeping lines found on the BMW K1600 Grand America entice riders away from the offerings of other makers.

To our eye, the changes to the Grand America are incredibly subtle, though we prefer the new model to the others in BMW’s six-cylinder lineup.

Continue Reading

BMW F850GS Teased for EICMA Debut

11/03/2017 @ 6:54 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad is set to debut four new motorcycles at this year’s EICMA show, and surely one of those news machines will be the BMW F850GS.

How do we know this? Well, BMW was pretty obvious about the new model in its latest teaser video (watch it, after the jump). It also helps that the revised middleweight ADV bike has been caught numerous times by spy photographer.

Also helping this conjecture is the fact that the BMW F800GS was last updated for the 2013 model year, with a visual refresh for the 2016 model year. As such, the model is due for an overhaul. 

Expected to have a bit more punch than the outgoing F800GS, the 2018 BMW F850GS should provide a bit more stratification in BMW’s adventure-touring range, which gets a bit confusing when you get to the models below the venerable BMW R1200GS.

Continue Reading

Yet Another BMW Recall Has Been Issued

10/06/2017 @ 12:35 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Oh yes, my friends…it is another BMW recall. We have seen seven recalls from the Bavarian brand over the recent months (#1, #2, #3#4, #5, and #6 here) – a comedy of both serious and minor errors by the German company and its two-wheeled products.

This time around, the issue is of the “oops” variety, with the BMW 2014-2016 F800GT and 2015-2016 F800R being tagged for improper reflectors, which fail to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, “Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.”

In total, the recall will affect 1,478 motorcycle units, and pertains to the rear-side reflectors not be properly visible in certain traffic conditions.

Continue Reading

Recall: BMW Motorrad Accessory Turn Signals

09/26/2017 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Mark this as the sixth recall (#1, #2, #3#4, #5 here) that BMW Motorrad has had to issue in the United States, as the German brand has seen a number of its models run afoul of DOT and NHTSA standards.

This time around, BMW’s headache stems from its accessory turn signals, which may not be sufficiently visible to other drivers, and as such, they fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, “Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.”

In total, this recall affects 9,000 units, which fit a bevy of motorcycles in the BMW Motorrad lineup.

Continue Reading