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.

Say What??! – Tech3 and Yamaha Will Part Ways in 2019

If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team. The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 has been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro. However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months.

Trademark Hints at Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle

Has Harley-Davidson just tipped its hand regarding its upcoming electric motorcycle? It would seem so, according to the latest trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering the name “Revelation” with the USPTO, Harley-Davidson has set aside the trademark for two uses: 1) batteries for vehicles, and 2) drivetrains for electric motorcycles and vehicles. Other publications are running this story as the “Revelation” name being the moniker for Harley-Davidson’s production version of the Livewire electric motorcycle concept, but the actual trademark makes a very clear alternative to that narrative.

You would have to be living under a rock not to notice the heritage theme that has taken the motorcycle industry by storm.

That being said, Suzuki’s hibernation, as we like to call the company’s complete withdrawal from the two-wheeled space during the recession, is a lot like living under a rock.

Finally seeing the daylight, the Japanese brand is a bit late to the post-authentic retro game, and finds itself having to scramble to stay relevant. That is to say, this is how we read the fact that Suzuki has only one new machine for 2018: the SV650X.

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Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe Brings Modern to Retro

11/07/2017 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Kawasaki made an impression at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, debuting the new Z900RS standard. The premise was simple there: take the potent Kawasaki Z900 street bike, and dress it in retro clothing.

The effect was something that looked incredibly like the Kawasaki Zephyr of old, but with modern brakes, suspension, traction control, and even a slipper-assist clutch. Now we see that Team Green plans on already expanding the line, debuting today the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe.

Basically the Z900RS with a bikini fairing, this modern café racer should be a perfect fit for those riders that want an older looking motorcycle that doesn’t run like an older looking motorcycle.

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Mega Gallery: Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

11/07/2017 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We have had to wait two years to see it come into production, but the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 will finally be available to motorcyclists in March 2018. As an added bonus, the street-going machine stays true to its concept design, which wowed the crowd at last year’s EICMA show.

This year in Milan, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is all the talk of EICMA, and while “Best in Show” at EICMA almost exclusively goes to an Italian marque, the real winners are surely coming from Austria, as both the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 and KTM 790 Duke look like winners.

A duality from Mattighofen, KTM and Husqvarna approach motorcycles from two opposite spectrums. KTM lives in the extreme, with an edgy focus on its “Ready to Race” mentality. Conversely, Husqvarna is subtle and sophisticated…maybe even understated.

It is that understatement that has been the driving force behind the success of the brand’s Vitpilen and Svartpilen motorcycles, with both the “white” and “black” arrows showing unique design languages.

For the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, the 690cc single-cylinder engine is wrapped in a modern take on an old design. As such, this neo café racer makes 75hp, 53 lbs•ft of torque, and is made tame by a traction control system.

Still, this new Husky must be an odd duck around the office, as Husqvarna is very terse on its basic specs and features, instead focusing on the design of this café racer. Such is the state of a bike that sells on emotion and lifestyle, rather than outright performance.

We imagine then that if you’re here, you can to ogle some photos. We have kept the 90+ photos attached to post in such an annoying large format that we will probably have to pay Amazon quite a bite extra this month for all the bandwidth.

If you want to help foot the bill, might we suggest an A&R Pro account?

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Honda Motor Europe is quickly making a name for itself when it comes to drool-worthy concept designs for Europe’s motorcycle shows, and this latest example at the 2017 EICMA show is proof of that statement.

This is the Honda CB4 Interceptor concept, and it makes our Hormone Monster want to do dirty, dirty things to the computer screen.

A continuation of Honda’s Neo Sports Café design aesthetic, which brought us Honda’s first CB4 concept back in 2015, this new edition focuses on a “Sport Endurance” idea from Big Red.

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On its Instagram account, Husqvarna is teasing the fact that its next Vitpilen model is finally going prime time. That’s right, the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen will be unveiled tomorrow at EICMA as a production.

This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise for anyone following the Swedish brand (or who read our EICMA preview story), but considering the reception that the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen concept got at last year’s show, we would expect the Husqvarna stand to be pretty crowded in Milan.

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This Is Surely the Suzuki SV650X, A Café Racer

10/26/2017 @ 6:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We are pretty confident that Suzuki has some interesting motorcycles for us at this year’s EICMA show. This is not one of them.

Part of the “me too” movement that the Japanese manufacturers are going through in order to have heritage motorcycles in their lineup, the 2018 Suzuki SV650X is exactly what you think it is: the company’s popular street bike, dressed in a vintage aesthetic.

There isn’t anything wrong with that, per se, as we have seen some great builds using the same formula, like the Yamaha XSR900 and more recently the Kawasaki Z900RS and Honda Neo Sports Café concept.

However, we know exactly what we are getting with the Suzuki SV650X, and it’s not pretty. With the concept already getting unveiled at the Tokyo Motor, we expect its debut for the Western markets to happen in Milan, Italy. Look for it next week.

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After much teasing, Honda quietly debuted its Neo Sports Café concept at the Tokyo Motor Show today. Releasing nary a detail about the simple but modern motorcycle design, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the machine.

We had hoped that the Honda Neo Sports Café would lead to a retro-styled version of the Honda CB1000R, much in the same vein that the new Kawasaki Z900S is a hipsterfied version of the popular Z900 street bike.

It’s not clear if Honda intends to produce the Neo Sports Café concept, but its design is intriguing, especially when you consider the now ancient four-cylinder engine that resides in its chassis, which is of course derived from the previous generation Honda CBR1000RR.

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If we had to guess at a unifying theme for this year’s new bike launches, it would have to be “what is old is new again” as several brands are working on modern-engineered retro-styled motorcycles for the Tokyo and Milan expos.

Big Red is throwing its hat into the ring for this game as well, teasing what it calls the “Neo-Sport Café” on its YouTube channel. The videos center around Honda’s design and engineering team working on a new motorcycle, which will debut next month at the EICMA show in Milan.

In the teaser videos, we see a retro-looking motorcycle, with modern flares, such as an LED headlight, single-sided swingarm, and bazooka shaped exhaust can.

And then of course, there is the name” Neo-Sport Café and Honda’s description that it is true to “the spirt of the café racer.

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Naughty Quadro by Alexey Afanasyev

09/29/2017 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

If you needed more proof that the Ducati 1299 Panigale can make for an attractive retro-styled motorcycle (here, here, and here), then may we present to you one more piece of evidence, the “Naughty Quadro” by designer Alexey Afanasyev.

To make the Naughty Quadro, Afanasyev took the Panigale’s Superquadro engine and built around it an attractive and trendy body structure, which should look familiar to Scrambler owners. If the swingarm looks familiar too, that is because it is off of a Ducati Monster S2R 1000.

One of the most noticeable aspects of Afanasyev design is the custom radiator, which creates a tasteful line for the superbike engine, though we’re not sure if it will do the duty in heavy traffic.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of the motorcycle is that it isn’t a motorcycle at all…as Afanasyev has created some very detailed and very convincing renders for his concept on the computer, which include even the dirt and debris on the engine and tires. It’s really well-crafted.

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Italian Volt’s debut model, the Lacama, isn’t the most beautiful motorcycle that we have ever seen, but the Italian brand certainly has done a good job making a stylish machine for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Capable of hiding up to 15 kWh of batteries in its brick-like case, the Italian Volt Lacama does a good job of tackling one of the biggest design problems that motorcycle manufacturers face with electrics: styling the massive battery packs that these machines require.

Taking things a step further though, Italian Volt will offer the Lacama in several different form-factors, with owners able to choose from options that include café racer, scrambler, and roadster designs.

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