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.

Gone Riding: MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR

03/13/2018 @ 12:14 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Hello and good morning to a cold but dry Varese, Italy – the home of MV Agusta and just a stone’s throw away from Milan and the Dolomite mountain range.

Today we are riding the Euro4-spec MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR, and our course will be a street ride, around the region’s Lago Maggiore – a large lake not too far from the MV Agusta factory.

The current MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR isn’t exactly a new model, but it is one that has gotten lost in the shuffle with the Italian brand’s lengthy history of financial troubles

Historically one of the best-selling machines in the MV Agusta lineup, the Brutale 800 RR is a bike that I have been looking forward to riding for quite a while now, after I was first impressed with the changes made to the Euro4-spec Brutale 800 a few years ago.

The big difference between the Brutale 800 RR and the Brutale 800 is the engine, with the RR making 140hp from its three-cylinder power plant, an increase of roughly 30hp over the base model.

As you can imagine, the torque curve is considerably further up the rev range on the RR as well, which should make for a sportier ride. It’s not all roses though, and hopefully MV Agusta has been tackling my list of complaints to an otherwise awesome machine.

Will the Brutale 800 RR be just as fun to ride as the Brutale 800? That’s what we are hear to find out…well, that and whether its worth the $3,800 price difference ($18,498 MSRP here in the USA) over the base model.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Brutale 800 RR, before even my own proper review is posted (Italian cell service permitting). As always, if we don’t know an answer, we will try to get a response from the MV Agusta personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #MVAgusta & #Brutale800RR

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Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you from Varese, Italy this week, as we get ready to ride the Euro4-spec Brutale 800 RR.

Before we ride tomorrow though, we had a chance to sit down with MV Agusta boss, Giovanni Castiglioni, and pick his brain on a variety of subjects (keep an eye on the MOTR podcast for the full interview).

Revealing a few company secrets to us, as all good Italian CEOs do, Castiglioni has provided more insight on the company’s new four-cylinder platform, which will begin to debut this year, likely at November’s EICMA show, but possibly before then.

Described to us as “like Leon Camier’s bike, but without fairings”, the new Brutale 1000 will be the first of three models using the Italian company’s four-cylinder platform.

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MV Agusta Says New Four-Cylinder Bike in 2018

12/18/2017 @ 12:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We have been teased with near four-cylinder models from MV Agusta before, but after today’s announcement, the follow-up story that MV Agusta will launch its new four-cylinder platform in 2018 seems actually plausible.

Something we were expecting at this year’s EICMA show, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni has already shared that we can expect to see a 1,200cc four-cylinder Brutale in the near future.

We say this because its naked street bikes are MV Agusta’s best-sellers, so we expect the new Brutale to be given the nod over a new F4 superbike, in terms of priority, primarily because of financial reasons.

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One New MV Agusta Debuting in 2017, Two in 2018

03/13/2017 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

It has been a long road for MV Agusta, over the past few years. However, the Italian brand seems ready to finally move on from its financial troubles, once we see its debt restructured in the Italian courts, and the investment secured from Black Ocean.

MV Agusta latest issues, which concern cash flow difficulties, seem to be balancing out as well, though the effect on the company’s new model lineup has been noticeable, with a disappointing lack of new machines to show at the 2016 EICMA show.

As such for the 2017 edition of the trade show, we should have measured expectations, with Giovanni Castiglioni saying in an interview with MCN that only one new model will debut later this year, and only two new bikes will be shown in 2018.

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To call the last couple of years for MV Agusta turbulent would probably be understating the situation.

The company has struggled for financial stability ever since its re-acquisition by the Castiglioni family, and that struggle has recently come to a zenith with the firms debt restructuring and investment by the Anglo-Russian investment group Black Ocean.

With that comes some harsh realities, namely that MV Agusta will not be producing a new superbike any time soon, as the cost of the project exceeds the Italian manufacturer’s capabilities – so said MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni while talking to Alan Cathcart for Australian Motorcycle News.

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When we rode the MV Agusta Brutale 800 earlier this year, we called it the best motorcycle ever to come out of Varese, Italy. The current Brutale 800 is finally a motorcycle that comes from fully baked from the MV Agusta factory, and it shows what the Italian company can accomplish.

Riding through the MV Agusta Brutale 800 at the press launch, our only lament was our desire for more power from the 800cc three-cylinder engine. Thankfully, the Italians have heard our request.

Debuting at the EICMA show in Milan, the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR comes with all the refinements we praised in the Brutale 800 model, and adds a 140hp peak power figure to the mix (63 lbs•ft @ 10,100 rpm), along with new forged wheels and updated electronics.

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You know the new-bike season is just around the corner, because we’re starting to get glimpses of what the motorcycle OEMs will debut at shows like INTERMOT and EICMA.

We’ve already had a glimpse of the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR, as well as the 2017 BMW S1000R, and if the folks at Italian motorcycle magazine Motociclismo are correct, the following is a concept sketch of the four-cylinder 2017 MV Agusta Brutale.

The new Brutale is one of two new bikes that MV Agusta will launch at the EICMA show, with the other machine pegged as a special edition three-cylinder model.

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CEO Tips New MV Agusta Brutale in the Works

06/01/2016 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS


Many words lately have been spent telling the tale of MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer is at an interesting crossroads for its future. It’s marriage with Mercedes-AMG failed, and now MV Agusta is in a precarious state, financially.

Because of its financial troubles, the motorcycle brand from Varese, Italy has had to rethink it production goals, and its model lineup.

MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni sat down with Alan Cathcart (that interview is slowly making its way out from the publications that Cathcart works with internationally) about this subject, and many other topics of interest.

One of the more interesting elements to come from their discussion is MV Agusta’s work on a new inline-four platform, and when we can see MV Agusta’s most iconic models getting a refresh.

We originally thought this delayed endeavor would manifest itself in a new superbike platform, with the next-generation MV Agusta F4 debuting shortly, but as Castiglioni reveals, the first new four-cylinder from MV Agusta will not be and F4, and instead will be a Brutale.

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Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

01/29/2016 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS


Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show.

Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward.

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We have mentioned already that MV Agusta is getting ready to make an all-new F4 superbike, and from which a new liter-displacement Brutale as well.

Today, we get the first official word of these new machines, as Giovanni Castiglioni confirmed the new models at the company’s “Friends of Claudio” yearly gathering.

For bonus points, Castiglioni also mentioned that a third “crossover” model would be coming from the Italian brand, making for three all-new 1,000cc models from MV Agusta for 2016.

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