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.

The Precarious State of MV Agusta

03/23/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS


MV Agusta as a motorcycle company has always seemed to have feet of clay, especially when its financial future is concerned. Today is no different, as MV Agusta has announced its intentions to restructure its debt, in order to keep the company afloat.

Afloat is an interesting phrase, as the storied Italian brand has changed hands four times in the past 12 years, with two of those purchase prices being a token euro, as MV Agusta’s liabilities far outstripped the company’s assets and holdings.

Fast-forward in time and it would be easy to say that not much has changed, as MV Agusta now has €40 million in liabilities on its balance sheet, all non-essential staff have been furloughed, the production lines in Varese recently have been motionless.

While this seems like more of the same from MV Agusta, the situation is far more complex, and for once in its lifetime, it isn’t MV Agusta’s lack of sales that are to blame. In fact, it’s the opposite, as it is MV Agusta’s success in growing its motorcycles that is the cause of its current financial situation.

That might seem like a counterintuitive notion, but if you understand the relationships between chickens, eggs, and which came first, then you will understand the situation at hand here with MV Agusta.

And while this impasse isn’t a new one in the business world, it doesn’t change the fact that the future of MV Agusta is in a precarious state.

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Video: Building the MV Agusta F3

12/23/2012 @ 2:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Have you ever wondered what the backstory was to building a motorcycle? Perhaps no greater version of that story exists than the rebirth of MV Agusta from the hands of Harley-Davidson, and the building of the company’s supersport model, the MV Agusta F3. Making an appearance on National Geographic‘s “Mega Factories” show, the doors of MV Agusta were opened up to the film crew’s cameras, and a fairly candid look at what is behind the curtain takes place.

The reason for the show’s success is because it is always interesting to see what goes into building our favorite machines, and for motorcycle enthusiasts, the insight given by MV Agusta tells more of the saga that surrounded the development and production of the F3, and the reason for its delays to market.

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An Open Letter from MV Agusta’s Giovanni Castiglioni

09/09/2011 @ 10:17 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

It is a tumultuous time for MV Agusta right now. Recently bought back from Harley-Davidson, MV Agusta not only changed back into Italian ownership, but the company also saw its massive debt removed, its business structure massively revamped, and its product line-up about to burst several key new models. With the passing of Claudio Castiglioni, MV Agusta lost its paterfamilias, leaving many to wonder how the company would navigate its turbulent waters.

Writing an open letter to the motorcycle industry, Giovanni Castiglioni, CEO of MV Agusta and son of Claudio Castiglioni, not only pays tribute to his father and his vision, but also aims to alleviate concerns about the next chapter in MV Agusta’s story. The path for any Italian motorcycle company right now is uncertain, and MV fans are anxious to see what Castiglioni has in store for the rebirth of this iconic brand. While we’re still seeing the tail-end of Harley-Davidson’s playbook for the Italian company, over the next few years we will begin to see the changes and projects from the new Italian regime.

Where that leadership will take MV Agusta as a brand and as a company is not immediately clear, but it is worthy to note that not only has the company changed its corporate ownership, but MV Agusta has also now undergone a generational change in its core management. Though likely not to be talked about in great deal in the mainstream, make no mistake about how this will factor into changes at MV Agusta.

With the Italian company reported facing serious cash flow problems, and a bevy of new models to debut in the coming months, all of these factors create plenty to watch at MV Agusta. Certain to be full of highs and lows, the only thing we know for certain about the company’s future going forward is that it will be interesting. Giovanni Castiglioni’s open letter is reproduced in full after the jump.

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Claudio Castiglioni Passes Away at the Age of 64

08/17/2011 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Claudio Castiglioni, President of MV Agusta, passed away this morning in Varese, Italy at the age of 64. In a statement from MV Agusta, the company says that Castiglioni succumed from an unnamed illness while attending a clinic in Varese. Over the course of his career, Castiglioni touched such esteemed brands as Ducati, Cagiva, Husqvarna, and of course MV Agusta. His most recent accomplishment was bringing MV back into Italian ownership, in an act of business acumen that saw Harley-Davidson actually pay Castiglioni €20 million to take back the recent refurbished company.

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MV Agusta Registers “Elephant” Trademark

02/16/2011 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Registering “Elephant” with the United States Patent & Trademark Office, MV Agusta looks poised to make an adventure bike, based off the Cagiva Elefant mark of yore. In its application, MV Agusta cites the use of the trademark for “land vehicles, namely, motorcycles,” which certainly bodes well for those loyal to the old Elefant brand.

The trademarking process began in July of 2009, meaning the Elephant-branded motorcycle was a glimmer in the company’s eye while it was still a part of Harley-Davidson, as was the MV Agusta F3. Granted the trademark in October of 2010, it’s possible that the project has since been disbanded after MV’s divesture from Harley-Davidson. However there are plenty of arguments to suggest MV Agusta would have kept the project alive through its transition of ownership.

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UPDATE: Get your first glimpse of the MV Agusta F3 here.

In what can only be described as a terse press release, MV Agusta has released two teaser photos of its upcoming MV Agusta F3, the three-cylinder supersport bike that Claudio Castiglioni hopes will save his company. Known to be using a three-cylinder motor, it has been previously reported that the MV Agusta F3 would be a 675cc machine, just like the Triumph Daytona 675. However the Italian brand has confirmed that it will be using a 600cc displacement for its street machine, while giving us a glimpse of the bike without its F4 camouflage.

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UPDATE: The MV Agusta F3 has officially broken cover.

Italian news site Il Sole 24 Ore sat down with the new owner of MV Agutsa, Claudio Castiglioni, and asked the Italian perhaps the most pertinent question about his new company: what’s next? Striking to the point of things, Castiglioni says much of MV Agusta’s future will depend on the company’s new three-cylinder motorcycles, which the company hopes to sell 10,000 of during the next model year.

Officially now called the MV Agusta F3, Castiglioni was also forthright on some of the details. Already rumored to be a 675cc three-cylinder powered motorcycle, Castiglioni has confirmed this setup along with the fact that there will be at least two price points, with a base and sport model being available.

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There has to be a bevy of high-fives going on in Milwaukee right now, as Harley-Davidson has finally unloaded MV Agusta from its holdings (we broke the news on the purchase earlier this morning). Harley-Davidson bought MV Agusta for $109 million back in 2008 (most of which was bad debt), and now just a little over two years later is making a tidy profit of…well, nothing. After wiping the books clean, investing in new infrastructre, and getting MV Agusta back on track with an all new model line-up (with a bike on the way), Harley-Davidson saw a paltry sum of €1 cross its desks. Harley-Davidson shares are down 3.5% as of this writing.

Instead Harley-Davidson is calling things even with the Castiglioni family, who would have seen a stock pay-out had the company exchanged hands with another buyer, like TPG for instance. The Castiglioni’s stock was worth somewhere between €20-€30 million, and now with 100% ownership, the Italians are free to once again run MV Agusta into the ground, just like they did leading up to 2008.

Harley-Davidson & MV Agusta press releases are after the jump. One interesting point of note that taking the helm of MV Agusta is former Ducati General Manager and Chief Engineer Massimo Bordi. Bordi was once offered the job of CEO at Ducati, but turned it down, and the position was filled by Gabriele del Torchio, Ducati’s current CEO. Bordi’s last item of business at Ducati was trying to sell the Italian brand to Harley-Davidson, which makes for some good irony in today’s announcement.

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Claudio Castiglioni Purchase of MV Agusta Imminent

08/06/2010 @ 8:40 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

UPDATE: The deal is now done, with Harley-Davidson issuing a press release.

Expected to be closed within hours, Harley-Davidson is on the verge of selling MV Agusta to Claudio Castiglioni. Castiglioni was able to leverage the purchase of MV Agusta by using the funds that would have been generated by his stock buy-out, which is rumored to be between €20 – €30 million. Castiglioni is today’s big winner in the deal, as the Italian is basically buying back the company he sold to Harley-Davidson for pennies on the dollar, while Harley-Davidson is left holding the tab on a hefty purchase price and cash infusion into the Italian company.

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Italian newspaper Il Sol 24 Ore is reporting more rumors about MV Agusta divesture and the company’s possible suitors. As we’ve reported already, there’s been some speculation that Paolo Berlusconi might be interested in the Italian brand, but he’s also been linked to another Italian company looking for a home. Now coming out of the woodwork are some new names, with links to Ducati & MV Agusta.

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