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.

What You Need to Know About the Triumph Speed Triple RS

The original factory streetfighter, the Triumph Speed Triple latched motorcycling’s punk movement in 1994, and never looked back. Riding the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS in Almería, Spain, Asphalt & Rubber got to see first-hand how these updates build upon Triumph’s street-hooligan reputation, and whether the Triumph Speed Triple RS is a worthy alternative to the bevy of robust machines already in this category. The result? The 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS is a smart update to the British brand’s streetfighter, and though it falls short of the high-water mark in the space, it offers some strong bang-for-the-buck hooning, which makes it very appealing. Let me explain.

First Look at the Triumph-Powered Kalex Moto2 Race Bike

The 2018 season will be the last year that Honda powers the Moto2 World Championship, with the intermediate grand prix series set to use Triumph’s 765cc three-cylinder engine from 2019 onward. This should be cause for quite a shakeup in Moto2, with the British brand making a stronger effort in recent time to be part of the racing scene. That effort will be ancillary though, because the real magic in the Moto2 class comes from the various chassis-builders. As such today, we get to see the first completed Moto2 machine for 2019, and it shouldn’t surprise us to see that it is a Kalex. The German company has dominated the Moto2 Championship with its machines, save for one special year where an unstoppable Marc Marquez blew away the competition on his Suter race bike.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Lineup Recalled Because Gears Might Break from High Impact

Attention owners of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR motorcycles from the 2016 thru 2018 model yeas, as news has come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that roughly 4,000 of these machines might have issues with their gearboxes. According to the recall, a high impact force can cause the transmission gears to break during shifting – specifically the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gears in the gearbox. First discovered in the Thai market, Kawasaki found upon further investigation that the strength of these gears was not sufficient, and could break under excessive force. As such, two warranty claims in the US have already been made for this issue.

After yesterday’s news of BMW Motorrad’s modest 1.3% sales drop for 2017, today we have another brand reporting its year sales: Ducati Motor Holding.

Like BMW, Ducati’s sales figures from last year didn’t move the needle much, with the Italian brand showing only 0.7% gain over the previous sales cycle. In total, Ducati delivered 55,871 bikes to customers worldwide, compared to the 55,451 units it sold in 2016.

This marks Ducati’s eighth year of positive sales growth, but over the past two years we have seen that growth crawling almost to a halt, as the Bologna Brand has run out of new markets to develop, and new segments to pursue.

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Macau Grand Prix Cut Short by Tragic Fatality

11/18/2017 @ 3:56 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The 51st running of the Macau Grand Prix got underway today under auspicious conditions, the race organizers finding a narrow window in the rain to let the motorcycles out on the road course.

That would prove to be a fateful move however, as the race would last only six of its twelve laps, with tragedy striking and red flags flying.

A crash in Fisherman’s Bend caused the race’s early conclusion, and in its aftermath we have learned that British rider Daniel Hegarty lost his life in the unfortunate incident.

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Triumph’s Bid to Take Over the World with Bajaj

08/09/2017 @ 11:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I'm not sure that the news of Triumph partnering with Bajaj quite made the impact on the motorcycle industry that it deserves.

Maybe it is because we have seen Triumph misstep with smaller displacement machines in the past (with an Indian partner, no less), or perhaps it is because the press release penned by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor was utterly incomprehensible, and devoid of any concrete facts.

Either way, the news is worth spilling some more pixels over, because there is a bit at stake in the coming years for the motorcycle OEMs, and Triumph just made a bid for sizable land grab for it.

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The motorcycle industry is still deep in the throes of trying to prevent the United States Trade Representative (USTR) from taxing small-displacement motorcycles from Europe with a 100% tariff.

The proposed tariff would double the cost of any two-wheeled vehicle manufactured in Europe, with displacements between 51cc and 500cc , but the real kicker is that the proposed tariff isn’t really about motorcycles…it’s about beef.

For roughly 30 years now, the United States (one of the largest producers of beef) has been trying to gain access to the European market, but the EU bans beef that has been grown with hormones, because of health concerns (the ban also has the nice side-effect of protecting European beef growers).

To put pressure on the European Union, the beef industry (through lobbying the USTR) has proposed a number of retaliatory tariffs on European imports in the USA, motorcycles being one of them. Welcome to International Trade 101.

However, a major breakthrough happened last week, one that could affect this bovine standoff, and it has to with Chinese chicken.

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Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles.

Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year).

India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

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Watch the BMW HP4 Race Do Its Thing

04/23/2017 @ 10:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad is one of the few brands still growing in this motorcycle economy, even in the United States, which is facing another year of doubtful sales increases. That’s no easy task.

Not so easy is also improving upon the BMW S1000RR superbike – a machine that tops the lists of many motorcycle publications, near and far. When you ride the BMW S1000RR, it is easy to see why the Bavarian Bullet is so popular.

The BMW S1000RR is beating the Japanese brands at their own game, offering a 1,000cc inline-four superbike with near-200hp peak horsepower figures, anemic measurements on the scale, and a full-suite of electronics…all with aggressive pricing.

How do you improve on this design? Well, a carbon fiber chassis is certainly one way to start; a WorldSBK-spec 212hp engine certainly helps; and factory-set electronics don’t hurt nothin’ either. In other words, you make the BMW HP4 Race.

There are so many reasons why we should heap praise on BMW Motorrad for building the 2017 BMW HP4 Race, but instead we are just going to let this video from the German brand do the talking.

Does anyone know what the 3asy pricing on the HP4 Race is looking like? What if I use my kidney as a down payment? No, seriously…asking for friend.

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Mega Gallery: BMW HP4 Race

04/19/2017 @ 10:04 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

The BMW HP4 Race has finally dropped, the Bavarian brand’s extreme superbike offering that drips in carbon fiber pieces. A track-only liter-bike for true enthusiasts, the BMW HP4 Race sees a potent 212hp engine packed into featherweight 377 lbs wet body.

Of course to hit those weight goals, BMW Motorrad employed extensive use of composite materials to shed weight from the already robust BMW S1000RR superbike. As such, the frame, bodywork, and wheels are made from carbon fiber, including the self-supporting tail section.

BMW doesn’t reveal too much on how it has boosted the power from the 199hp found on the S1000RR’s inline-four power plant, though the result is an increased redline to 14,500 rpm (up from 14,200 rpm).

Keeping inline with its ~$85,000 price tag though (BMW Motorrad hasn’t released pricing figures yet, unfortunately), the BMW HP4 Race comes with top-of-the-line brakes and suspension pieces. It also has a robust electronics package that features the usual suspects of three-letter acronyms.

There is plenty to drool over on the BMW HP4 Race, so we have 64 high-resolution photos of the machine, waiting for you after the jump. Enjoy!

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Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Debuts in China

04/19/2017 @ 8:18 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan.

Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine.

Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

BMW Motorrad has interestingly chosen an aluminum swingarm for the HP4 Race though, a departure from the show bike, likely for rigidity/handling reasons.

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Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

04/11/2017 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today.

Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad.

The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

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An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

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