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.

How About a Ducati 916 Superleggera?

03/22/2017 @ 8:21 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Yesterday we brought you an interesting Photoshop mashup, where Ducati 851 Superbike fairings were CGI’d onto a Panigale chassis (it was a 1199 Superleggera, to be precise), with drool-worthy result.

That lead to the guys at OTTO Revista pinging us, to show their work, which includes the bodywork from the venerable Ducati 916, photoshopped onto the Ducati 1299 Superleggera, Borgo Panigale’s latest and greatest.

Taking from arguably the most beautiful Ducati ever produced, and adding to it the most technologically advanced Ducati street bike ever concieved, well…the result (above) speaks for itself.

Just for kicks too, there is a Supermono mashup, as well as a TT2 (Pantah) version, after the jump.

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Ducati 851 Bodywork on a Panigale Looks Damn Good

03/21/2017 @ 9:40 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

If you are a regular reader of Asphalt & Rubber, or listen to the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you have probably heard our musings on where the next big design trend is coming, and know our affinity for the rise of bikes from the 1980s and 1990s.

So, with the being said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we are intrigued by the following piece of photoshoppery, which smashes together two Ducati superbikes, the 851 and the Panigale.

At first you wouldn’t think that the two designs would work together, but the more we look at this, the more we are intrigued to see one in the flesh.

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I think in 2016, we will find that the whole post-authentic motorcycle movement officially jumped that shark right about at this point in time. The 2015 EICMA show was inundated with café racers and scramblers from manufacturers that wanted to cash in on the budding trend.

Now with Deus ex Machina up for sale and no Honda CB350 left behind, the industry feels ready for the next moto du jour – though not before we give it one last go, of course.

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Ducati has nine new models to showoff at the EICMA show later next month in Milan. We know one of them is the Monster 1200 R, and it seems very likely that we will see two more Ducati Scrambler models as well.

CARB filing documents point to a Ducati 959 Panigale, as well as a Ducati Hypermotard 939, which we expect to be mild updates to the current models, with obviously larger engine displacements.

All of this leaves another four models for us, though rumor suggests we could see some more variants of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 line come to market.

One of those variants is expected to be an off-road focused model, which will align better against the BMW R1200GS; while the other variant is thought to be a long-distance touring model, which will align better against the KTM 1290 Super Adventure.

One model were are unlikely to see is a revised sport-tourer, since the current Multistrada 1200 fills this niche quite well, but that doesn’t mean Ducatisti cannot dream of another ST model.

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I simply love the latest sketches from Nicolas Petit. The French designer is sort of re-imaging a previous project of his, where he designed a modern-looking dustbin-style fairing for a BMW HP2 Sport and Moto Guzzi V12 Le Mans.

Taking on now the Ducati 1199 Panigale, Petit has mixed the old-styled TT racer look with Italy’s premier superbike, in an effective manner. We haven’t seen this sort of clash between old and new technology since John Hopkins raced the last two-stroke GP bike, the Yamaha YZR500 in 2002.

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Whoa, hold on…don’t worry, you’re still at the right site. Yes this is a car, and yes this is a site dedicated to motorcycles, but it will all make sense in a minute…or however long it takes you to read the headline of this story. Don’t worry…scroll up…we’ll wait.

Anyways, one of the perks for Audi AG’s acquisition of Ducati is that parent company Volkswagen can play around with interesting concepts that involve the compact, yet powerful, engines that come out of Borgo Panigale. One of those flights of fancy has manifested itself into a real-life concept, the Volkswagen XL Sport.

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Ducati 1199 Streetfighter Concept by Shantanu Jog

09/15/2014 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS


One of the reason we show concept sketches here on Asphalt & Rubber is to help churn the imagination of our more creative two-wheeled brethren, so it warms my soul a little bit when a reader sends me something they’ve produced, which is due in part to their daily A&R patronage.

As such, A&R reader Shantanu Jog sent us these sketches he did of a 1199-based Streetfighter. As good Ducatistas will know, the chassis of the Panigale creates some challenges for a fairing-less machine, and then there is the whole thing about how the Ducati Streetfighter as model never really sold well for Borgo Panigale.

Still, for those who like their superbikes with a little less plastic, the idea of an 1199 Streetfighter is certainly appealing — we even hear that Ducati considered such a model, but has since forward with the liquid-cooled Monster 821 & Monster 1200 takeover that niche from the Streetfighter line.

So while Ducati might be breaking our naked-bike hearts, we hold true to our original ethos, and provide you again with some fodder for your imagination. Enjoy the sketches after the jump.

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Print Out Your Own Ducati 1199 Panigale Motorcycle

09/14/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS


One day, 3D printing technology will fundamentally change the motorcycle industry. Currently however, companies use 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, to quickly and cheaply build parts for development machines. Enthusiasts also use the technology, though mostly as a novelty, which is the case here.

A glimpse perhaps in how we will one day buy motorcycles, some clever modelers have “printed” a pretty convincing 3D copy of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Built in CAD, and printed with a Ultimaker, the attention to detail is pretty astounding — note the chain that exactly meshes up with the front and rear sprockets.

Forty pieces comprise the work, which have also been painted and lacquered to look like the genuine article. The lines you see are the limits of the resolution of the printer, which builds each piece a ~0.1mm layer at a time.

While it won’t replace the real thing anytime soon, it’s compelling how close the model looks to the full-size genuine article. If you’re so inclinded, you can get the files to print out your very own, right here.

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Ride Review: TerraCorsa – A 195hp “Dirt Bike”

08/05/2014 @ 12:09 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS


I have made a number of bad decisions in my life, some of which have come hand-in-hand with my duties here at Asphalt & Rubber. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I can certainly think of a couple machines that I have naively swung a leg over with enthusiasm. Unsurprisingly, the word “prototype”, used in only the loosest of definitions, has been involved in these endeavors.

With rare occasion though, I have been able to see trouble coming ahead of time, and have either had the prudence to step out of its way, or the foolishness to forge ahead with a “what could go wrong” attitude. I would add MotoCorsa’s TerraCorsa project to that latter category.

A proper 195hp superbike, designed by Italians to win road races, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is an alphabet soup of features designed to make a rider go as fast as possible on asphalt.

So when MotoCorsa’s Arun Sharma gave me an opportunity to ride his “track bike” Panigale S, which he painted in Desert Storm beige and shod with Continental TKC 80 tires, well…I of course uttered “what could go wrong?” and graciously accepted.

On its face, the whole idea of taking a superbike off-roading is preposterous. No doubt, you are already making a list of all the things wrong with this idea, while pouring a cold glass of Hatorade in the process. And you’d be right in doing so.

The suspension travel is too short, the Panigale’s 1,199cc Superquadro v-twin engine has too much power, the riding position is all wrong, and let’s just skip over mentioning that the machine is a rolling bone fide crime against motorcycling. Ducatisti, pour out an espresso for this fallen Bolognese, but be forewarned that Arun and the TerraCorsa feed off the hate that this concept brings.

Before you sharpen your pitchforks and storm the castle gates at Borgo Panigale though, let me explain briefly how putting knobby tires on a purebred superbike isn’t as bad of an idea as you think. If anything, the gods must be crazy, because it is surprising how well the whole thing works. These crazy Oregonians are onto something…

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UPDATE: The Superleggera has been taken off the market.

Did you miss your chance to get a Ducati 1199 Superleggera? Were you not one of the chosen few Ducatisti who were whisked away to Bologna, wined and dined on carbon fiber, titanium, and magnesium? Did you just not have $65,000 last year to plunk down on Bologna’s ultimate superbike?

Have no fear, despite the Superleggera basically selling out before it was even publicly debuted, there is hope for collectors and enthusiasts to own this magnificient machine…but it’s going to cost you.

Available on eBay is a 0 miles, straight-from-the-crate brand new, corse-painted Superleggera (#123 of 500). The catch? It’s being offered for a cool $85,000 — $20k over MSRP.

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