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.

Two New BMW R nineT Models Coming

08/16/2016 @ 3:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS


Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that BMW Motorrad has two more variations of its retro-styled motorcycle line coming to the USA: the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer.

These two bikes would join the other two air-cooled models we have already seen from the Germans, the base model BMW R nineT and the recently released BMW R nineT Scrambler, which debuted at EICMA last year.

Our friends at spotted the CARB filings, and believe one of the machines will be based off the BMW Lac Rose concept – an ADV throw-back to when the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar.

The other model though, could be anyone’s guess, as BMW hasn’t dropped any other concepts or hints in the past months.

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EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

04/18/2016 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS


If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events.

The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts.

Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

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AMA Supports RPM Act – Fighting EPA Regulation

03/09/2016 @ 2:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Picture 308

We are finally seeing some movement from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in regards to the EPA’s proposed regulations against converting street vehicles for racing purposes and the sale of aftermarket “race use only” parts.

Today, the AMA published a press release detailing much of the same information we brought you yesterday about the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 – better known as the RPM Act.

In its press release, the AMA says that it supports the efforts being made in Congress, and that the motorcycle lobbying group is also working with SEMA to keep EPA regulations for vehicles used in competition as they currently stand.

The AMA also says that its focus is to have language in the RPM Act that would specifically exempt competition motorcycles from EPA regulation, a move that would ensure that MotoAmerica and other race series in the US would continue to operate unrestricted.

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In case you missed it, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to close a loophole on how the Clean Air Act is applied to race-oriented vehicles, namely by cracking down on “race use only” parts and and going on to say that it is illegal to alter the emission control systems on a vehicle, even if it is not being used on-road.

The issue has caused quite a stir in the aftermarket parts business, which is understandable since the EPAs enforcement would likely mean hefty fines for any manufacturer who produces these “race only” parts.

Dealerships and other business that sold the racing components could also come under the long hammer of the EPA, with these proposed changes.

While there is some interesting discussion to be had on the matter, the EPA’s actions are certainly troublesome. The federal agency’s reversal on 46 year’s worth of precedent seems a bit disingenuous, and its unilateral “reinterpretation” of the Clean Air Act seems like nothing more than a well-lawyered land-grab.

Thankfully, we have Congress on our side.

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It looks like Europe’s new Euro4 emissions standard has claimed its first victim (if you don’t count the exhaust pipe on the Ducati 959 Panigale), as neither KTM nor Husqvarna will be producing their 125cc two-stroke enduro models for 2017, and the foreseeable future afterwards.

The move is a euros and cents decision, and a slightly complicated one at that, but it boils down to the fact that making the small-displacement smokers meet the more stringent Euro4 emissions requirements was financially prohibitive.

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The Unpopular Argument That the EPA is Right

02/17/2016 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler136 COMMENTS


Last week, we published the story about how the EPA was laying claim to emissions regulation on production vehicles, even when they were being used privately for off-highway uses, such as racing.

This news sent a shockwave through the motorcycle and automotive communities, because this viewpoint from the EPA would drastically change not only the racing and track-enthusiasts landscape in America, but also the aftermarket sales of performance parts that are sold through the “race only” loophole.

As you can imagine, two-wheel and four-wheel enthusiasts were incensed over this revelation from the EPA, and I am sure a number of pitchforks were sharpened in the process.

So against my better judgment, I want to put forward to you an idea that I already know that many of you will disagree with out of hand: the unpopular argument that the EPA is right about all this.

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Interesting things are afoot with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as the governmental body is seemingly under the impression that it can regulate the modification of racing vehicles that were originally made for on-road use. As such, the EPA is looking to update legal language to solidify that opinion.

If granted, this would mean that any production-based racing series, both cars and motorcycles, would be subject to EPA emissions regulations, and as such aftermarket modification to those machines would be greatly reduced.

In essence, that sport bike that you take to the race track, whether or not it ever spins a wheel on the road, could be deemed illegal if you modify it from its EPA-certified form, i.e. add an exhaust, intake, etc. Needless to say, this is causing quite the stir.

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For the 2016 model year, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 gets an obvious makeover, with changes coming to the tail section, fuel tank, exhaust, taillight, and LED headlight.

What is less obvious though, are the effects of having to be Euro4 emissions compliant, which drop the Brutale 800’s peak power from 125hp to 116hp, though there is an increase in peak torque, from 59 lbs•ft to 61 lbs•ft.

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Ducati 959 Panigale Gets Normal Exhaust for the USA

11/16/2015 @ 11:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS


Judging by the amount of traffic the story is getting, we imagine the sight of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale at the EICMA show has ruffled a few feathers.

That’s understandable, since the Euro4 emission standards have forced the Italians to give the Ducati 959 Panigale an exhaust system that we’ve previously only seen on the Japanese-spec model of the Ducati 1199 Superbike.

While the shotgun exhaust isn’t as gawdy as one would think, it’s certainly a stark departure from the underslung units we are used to. We imagine it’s a moot point though, considering how many 959 Panigales will get some sort of slip-on or full-system exhaust from their new owners.

Just the same, the issue seems to be isolated to European soil, as the US-spec version of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale exhaust is just how we remember it. Check out the photos, after the jump, and compare it to the European-spec model (the first photo in the gallery).

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Triumph Begins Teasing the Liquid-Cooled Bonneville

10/12/2015 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS


That headline is a bit of a misnomer, since the new liquid-cooled Triumph Bonneville has been “spied” for some time now in the media.

Triumph is at least capable of admitting that its hipster machine is getting an update now, releasing this teaser video that hints at “something big” coming our way – if liquid-cooling an engine is something big, then we couldn’t agree more.

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