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.

2014 Benelli BN302 – How to Learn Italian?

11/03/2013 @ 2:13 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS


Next up from Benelli is the 2014 Benelli BN302, a pint-sized two-cylinder machine that continues the Italian company’s quest to bring in new riders to the brand. As such, styling is taken obviously from the Benelli BN600, though shrunken down into a smaller format for younger riders.

We assume that the BN302 uses 300cc parallel-twin motor, though the Italian company failed to mention engine capacity in its press release. Nonetheless, we do know the lump has fuel-injection and that the key power figures are 36hp and 20 lbs•ft of torque.

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Helping cultivate road racing’s future talent, KTM has teamed up with ADAS to bring you the “ADAC Junior Cup powered by KTM” series. Along the same vein as the Red Bull Rookies Cup for MotoGP, and the European Junior Cup for World Superbike, the ADAC Junior Cup is a spec-bike series aimed at developing young riders — good stuff, but not exactly a new concept.

What is exciting though is the “powered by KTM” part because zie Austrians have basically just unwrapped their new small-displacment street bike that is based off the KTM 390 Duke, you know it as the KTM RC390, and for the ADAC series, we know it as the 2014 KTM RC390 Cup Racer. Missing only a headlight, signals, and a license plate, the cup race bike is essentially what KTM will debut at EICMA in a few months’ time. We like.

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That the Red Bull Rookies Cup has been a huge success goes without saying. Former rookies now fill the front of the Moto3 grid, and are starting to make an impact in Moto2. The goal of the Red Bull Rookies Cup, of bringing young riders from around the world into Grand Prix racing, has clearly been met.

So successful has it been that two years ago, the World Superbike series set up a similar project. After a modest first year, the European Junior Cup is thriving in its second year, and providing some fantastic racing for talented young riders.

At Jerez earlier this year, we had the opportunity to talk to Red Bull Rookies Cup supervisor Peter Clifford about the series he is involved in, as well has the European Junior Cup. He gave us his view of the rival series, but also on a range of other subjects.

The interview covered the difference between four-strokes and two-strokes, the range of nationalities participating in the Rookies Cup, the complementary role of the European Junior Cup, and the approach the Rookies Cup is taking towards female riders in the series. As always, Clifford provides plenty of food for thought.

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There is not much that we don’t already know about the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300. It looks pretty much exactly like the re-designed 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 250R that broke cover in Indonesia earlier this year. The EPA already spilled the beans on the Kawasaki Ninja 300’s 296cc displacement and 40hp, and we know that the Ninja 300 is the peppier fuel-injected cousin to America’s dreadfully under-developed Ninja 250R…and now we know that the bike will come to the American market for next year.

Tipping the scales at the curb with 387 lbs, with its 4.5 gallons of fuel, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 isn’t a featherweight, but it isn’t a slouch either. In fact, when it comes to a sporty learner-class motorcycle for the American market, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 may very well be the bike of choice.

In a category where prospective buyers are raiding the couch cushions for a down payment, price is king. And with its $4,799 starting MSRP, the Ninja 300 is an expensive option, but is it still a bargain?

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I wax on about the importance of the Indian market with far too much regularity to regurgitate it yet another time, but its suffices to say that like Ron Burgundy, India is a pretty big deal. With two of the three largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world coming from India, and the country continuing to account for a massive amount of the world’s two-wheeler consumption (India is the second largest consumer of motorcycles in the world, by volume), it should come with little surprise then that Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha wants a bigger piece of the pie.

Yamaha currently accounts for roughly 500,000 of the 10+ million units sold per year in India (read: less than 5% of the total Indian motorcycle market), and the Japanese company is already offering several cheap motorcycle options in India. However, hoping to increase that figure to 600,000 next year, and to continue future growth in the market down the line, the tuning-fork brand has let it slip that a $500 motorcycle is in the works. Game on Honda.

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Up-Close with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept

11/22/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

While KTM made waves with the debut of the KTM Freeride E electric dirt bike, the Austrian brand wasn’t the only OEM hocking an electric offering at the 2011 EICMA show. Unveiling a very rough electric concept, Husqvarna continued to redefine itself for the future with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept. The physical size of a 125cc dirt bike, the Husqvarna E-Go is the exploration of entry-level electric street motard.

Like the KTM Freeride E, the battery pack looks a bit small for serious street duty, and we’re not so sure about the air-cooled brushed motor, but honestly the E-Go is more about the Swedish brand exploring electric motorcycles in anticipation of that market developing further. With OEMs hoping that electrics will bring in a new generation of rider, the Husqvarna E-Go seems to hit all the right bullet points for that concept, but as always, time will tell.

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Watch out Zero, Brammo, BRD, and KTM as Husqvarna just decided to enter the electric motorcycle market with its Husqvarna Concept E-go. An urban commuter aimed towards first-time bikers, the E-go concept draws from the Swedish brand’s dirt and supermoto background to bring a stylishly aggressive electric motorcycle package to the table. Clocking in at 80kg (176 lbs), the Husqvarna Concept E-borders on anorexic, and is the first electric motorcycle we’ve seen specifically geared towards younger riders.

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UPDATE: According to CMGonline, the MV Agusta Brutale 1090R will replace the Brutale 920 only in the Canadian market.

The Canadian importer of MV Agusta motorcycles has once again outed a new model from the Italian company. First it was the entry-level (if you can call it that) 2011 MV Agusta Brutale 920 that broke cover because of our neighbors to the north, and now the Canadians have let slip news of the 2011 MV Agusta Brutale 1090R, another lower-spec version of the Brutale 1090RR (let us pause for a moment while we collectively go “hmmm…”)

Available in Summer 2011, the MV Agusta Brutale 1090R is sporting a $16,695 price tag in Canada, which will likely translate into a sub-$15,000 MSRP here in the United States. At the core of the Brutale 1090R is a 1078cc that’s good for 144 hp, which is based off the Brutale 990R’s motor, but makes similar spec’s as the lump found in the Brutale 1099RR.

If you’re asking yourself why does MV Agusta need another lower-spec Brutale? “It doesn’t” would be the answer, but the Italian company has seemingly quietly nixed the Brutale 920, presumably in favor of the 1090R instead. With the Italian site still listing the entry-level Brutale as a 921cc model, Canada has either outed a new model, or the news that the Brutale 920 will be replaced by the Brutale 1090R (interestingly enough, the Canadian site has done away with almost all reference to the 921cc machine). Either way, details on this bike are after the jump.

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Harley-Davidson Considering an Electric Model

04/01/2011 @ 10:11 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Our favorite brand from Milwaukee continues to surprise us, as we’ve gotten confirmed reports that Harley-Davidson is considering an electric model to its line-up. Details are scarce on the project, but the company has made a poor secret out of its desire to return as an industry innovator (yes, there was in-fact a time when you could call a Harley-Davidson a trendsetter in the motorcycle industry…it just hasn’t been in this blogger’s lifetime). Likely eyeing the next big trend in motorcycling, internally the Bar & Shield brtand has been exploring the idea of an electric or hybrid ICE/electric drive train.

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2011 MV Agusta Brutale 920

12/21/2010 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

After the news yesterday that the Canadian distributor for MV Agusta had posted pricing on its website for a new Brutale model, MV Agusta has quietly released photos and information on the 2011 MV Agusta Brutale 920, an entry-level version of its big street-naked motorcycle. With its four-cylinder radial valve 921cc motor, the MV Agusta Brutale 920 shares the same crankshaft as the Brutale 1090RR (55mm stroke), resulting in this over-square motor making 129hp with its 73mm bore. Available in matte black and white, we expect the new Bruatle to his US shores with a ~$14,595 price tag.

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