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.

Harley-Davidson Invests in Alta Motors

03/01/2018 @ 4:00 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We bring you big news this first day of March, as 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.

For the immediate future though, Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors foresee their collaboration including two new electric motorcycles, which will be branded under the Harley-Davidson name. 

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MV Agusta Buys Back Shares from Mercedes AMG

12/18/2017 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

A bit of a housekeeping item, but today it was announced that MV Holding has completed the acquisition of the shares that were previously held by Mercedes AMG, thus effectively removing the German brand from the Italian motorcycle company’s business operations.

This means that MV Agusta is now solely controlled by Giovanni Castiglioni and the Sardarov family, though today’s news is likely due to investments by the latter, into the struggling motorcycle brand.

For fans of the MV Agusta brand, this surely is the start of a new chapter for this mercurial motorcycle marque. 

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The Yamaha Corporation announced today that it will be selling 8 million shares of its holdings in Yamaha Motor Co., a movement of shares that will see roughly 2.3% of the voting power in the powersports company changing hands.

This deal is expected to close on December 4th, and the Yamaha Corporation says that it will be selling its position to various unnamed securities companies, presumably to then be sold on the open market.

At the current market price for Yamaha Motor stock, this deal should be worth close to ¥26 billion, and ¥18 billion after tax expenses have been factored.

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MAG Files for Chapter 11

11/16/2017 @ 1:14 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Aftermarket Group (MAG) is not a name that motorcycle enthusiasts are usually familiar with, but the family of brands that the company owns certainly is: Performance Machine wheels, Renthal handlebars, Vance & Hines exhausts, Tucker Rocky, J&P Cycles, etc.

The network of brands has been struggling over the recent years though, and today we learn that many of them will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while the overarching MAG Group business restructures its debt and finds new ownership.

While this is not the sexiest news story to happen in the motorcycle industry this year, it is certainly one of the most important and complicated. As such, we will try to break it down in a digestible way for you.

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Volkswagen Lacks the Votes to Sell Ducati

07/31/2017 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The hits keep on coming, in terms of Volkswagen’s plans (or non-plans) to sell its Italian motorcycle manufacturer, Ducati Motor Holding.

According to the latest report from Reuters, the votes are lacking on supervisory board for Volkswagen, when it comes to selling Ducati and transmission-maker Renk.

The lack of votes at the Volkswagen board isn’t a new problem, of course, with the German company’s labor unions accounting for half of the board seats, and reportedly very unenthusiastic about selling either brand.

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MV Agusta Closes Deal with Russian Investors

07/25/2017 @ 9:44 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

MV Agusta has finally closed a very important funding round, getting equity investment from ComSar Invest, which is backed by the Black Ocean Group, which in turn is owned by Russian billionaire Timur Sardarov.

The move sees MV Agusta able also to repurchase its stock from Mercedes AMG, which previously owned a 25% stake in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer.

The details of the ComSar deal however have not been disclosed, though we do know that the deal includes enough cash to finish MV Agusta’s recapitalization plan with its creditors and to begin its new, more focused, business plan for new models and motorcycle production.

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Harley-Davidson Q2 2017 Sales Tank 9.3% in the USA

07/18/2017 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Any hopes of the US motorcycle market making gains in 2017 appear to be going out the window, as Harley-Davidson reports that its Q2 2017 sales are down a whopping 9.3% – prompting the Bar & Shield brand to readjust its delivery numbers to dealers in the United States.

Sales worldwide were equally bleak for the American company, with international figures down 2.3% for the same time period. This means Harley-Davidson’s combined worldwide sales numbers are down 6.7% for Q2 2017.

As a result, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said that Harley-Davidson would see a reduction in its workforce, though he would not offer specifics on what that could look like for its mostly union workforce.

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Circuit of Wales Project Dealt Death Blow

06/27/2017 @ 11:22 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The Circuit of Wales, the track which was to be built near Ebbw Vale in South Wales, has been dealt what will likely be a fatal blow. Today, the Welsh Government rejected the request of the Heads of the Valleys Development Company to underwrite the debts incurred for the construction of the circuit.

The HOTDVC, the company that had been set up to build and run the project, had originally requested that the Welsh Government underwrite the full £280 million cost the project had been expected to cost.

After years of negotiation, the estimated costs had risen to £433 million, and the Welsh Government refused the HOTVDC proposal to underwrite half that debt.

The Welsh Government had demanded that the HOTVDC find external investors, and the firm had brought in outside money from UK investment firm Aviva, but Aviva had only agreed to become involved if the Welsh Government had promised to underwrite the project.

With the Welsh Government refusing to underwrite the debt, Aviva’s commitment now looks to be at an end.

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Report: Harley-Davidson Looking to Buy Ducati

06/21/2017 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Rumors and reports continue to swirl around Ducati, as the Italian manufacturer is linked to one brand or another for a potential divestiture from the Volkswagen Group. And now, the latest name being thrown into the hat is none other than iconic American brand Harley-Davidson.

In a report by Reuters, Harley-Davidson is linked to buying Ducati by unnamed sources, with a purchase price that is pegged around €1.5 billion, a number that has been put together by the bean-counting minds at Goldman Sachs.

Volkswagen is said to be taking bids on Ducati this July, which means the fate of the Italian motorcycle brand could be decided by the end of this year.

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Alta Motors Raises $27 Million in Fundraising

06/06/2017 @ 1:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Alta Motors is announcing that it has closed two fundraising rounds, for a total of $27 million capital raised in exchanged for preferred stock in the San Francisco based electric motorcycle company.

The B & C series fundraising rounds were led by Grassy Creek Ventures, with the Series C round joined by Latin American venture capital fund Mountain Nazca, along with motorcycle legend Bob Fox – of Fox Racing fame.

Alta Motors says that the use of funds goes to the expanding the company’s existing manufacturing and R&D facility in Brisbane, CA; refining the company’s vehicle technology; and developing more lightweight vehicles.

From the funding, Alta Motors sees two more board members added to the company’s board of directors: Travis Bradford, Professor of Practice and Director of the Energy and Environment graduate program at Columbia University, and Hector Sepulveda, Managing Partner at Mountain Nazca.

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