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.

FIM Creates Helmet Crash Test for Race Helmets

10/17/2017 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The FIM is getting into the helmet certification game, creating a new protocol – as part of the FIM Racing Homologation Programme (FRHP) – to test helmets that are worn in FIM-sanctioned motorcycle races.

Previously, the FIM had relied upon domestic testing criteria, such as DOT standards in the United States, ECE standards in Europe, and SG/JIS standards in Japan.

With those standards varying in how they test motorcycle helmets though, the FIM Technical and Circuit Racing Commissions saw a need to create a single unifying helmet crash test protocol that will be used at any event the FIM sanctions, starting in the year 2019.

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Bell Helmets Acquired by Vista Outdoor

02/25/2016 @ 11:20 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS


With RevZilla joining forces with Cycle Gear and Motorcycle USA shutting down this week, it has been a busy month for the business side of the motorcycle industry. Now we have more news to report, as BRG Sports, owner of the Bell Helmets brand, has sold its action sports business to Vista Outdoor.

The move adds some of the BRG Sport brands: Bell Helmets, Giro, Blackburn, and C-Preme, into Vista Outdoor already extensive lineup of impressive outdoor and shooting brands, such as Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, and Federal Premium.

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Every year Arai Helmet comes out with a highly coveted limited edition lid for the Isle of Man TT; and each year has a different design, with the latest crop coming from the studio of Aldo Drudi.

This year’s design comes on the Arai Corsair-X, a helmet we were very impressed with when we tested it at Thunder Hill last year.

As you can see from the photos, Drudi has emblazoned the Corsair-X helmet with the “TT” logo, as well as the island nation’s Triskelion symbol, which is of three running legs. “Ellan Vannin” is of course the native Manx name for the Isle of Man.

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Are you ready for another post about helmets, especially one with integrated technology? Sure you are, Sparky – and you will be happy to learn about this collaboration between Bell Helmets and a company called 360fly.

Like the Nikon KeyMission video camera, 360fly’s system captures everything around the rider in 4k video resolution, and then creates a video that can be viewed from an immersive virtual-reality perspective.

Thanks to a built-in GPS, altimeter/barometer, and accelerometer, the 360fly system is capable of overlaying telemetry data into its video, among a variety of other features. What really separates the unit from the rest though is what is in the pipeline from 360fly.

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BMW Developing HUD Motorcycle Helmet

01/08/2016 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS


Another release by BMW Motorrad at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the German company says it is working on a motorcycle helmet with an integrated heads-up display (HUD), thus responding to the call for more advanced helmet technology.

BMW already has this technology in its automotive wings, using an optional HUD system that is projected onto the interior of a vehicles windshield.

Now BMW seems to be taking a page from other players in the helmet space, and is looking to bring HUD technology to its motorcycle offerings with the help of California-based company DigiLens.

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The Massive 2016 MotoGP Rule Update

01/08/2016 @ 2:14 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS


With major changes to the technical regulations for MotoGP in 2016, it has taken some time for the FIM to produce a new and revised version of the rulebook.

The first provisional version was made available today, the new rules bringing together all of the new rules agreed over the past few years into a single set of regulations.

Most of the new rules have already been written about during the year, but putting them into a single rulebook helped clarify them greatly.

The biggest changes are to the technical regulations. The abolition of the Open class means everyone is back on a single set of rules. Or rather, nearly everyone.

There are still two types of manufacturers: manufacturers subject to the standard rules, and manufacturers who have not yet had sufficient success, and therefore have been granted a number of concessions.

Those concessions are more limited than the Open class, though, and relate now only to testing and to engine development. Everyone will have the same amount of fuel, the same tire allocation, and everyone will use the same electronics, the spec hardware and the unified software.

Though many fans are disappointed that there isn’t just a single set of rules, the concessions which remain are absolutely vital to the long-term health of the series.

With Honda, Yamaha, and since last year, Ducati, all subject to a freeze on engine development and limited testing, Suzuki and Aprilia (and KTM, when they join the series in 2017) stand a chance of cutting the gap to the more successful factories.

Without concessions, the smaller factories wouldn’t stand a chance of catching the others, especially not a factory with almost limitless resources like Honda. Indeed, without the concessions granted to Ducati, there is a very good chance the Italian factory would have left MotoGP in 2014, after three long years without results.

The previous era, when the factories all competed under a single set of rules, ended up with just 17 bikes on the grid, and manufacturers showing more interest in leaving MotoGP than in joining. That situation has been completely reversed.

A more intriguing change has been the introduction of clear rules on the safety equipment to be used by riders. Back protectors and chest protectors are now compulsory, and minimum standards have been imposed for helmets, leathers, boots and gloves.

Rider safety equipment will now be much more closely regulated and monitored.

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Jorge Lorenzo Drops HJC for Shark Helmets

01/04/2016 @ 10:31 am, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS


Jorge Lorenzo’s helmet issues through the 2015 season have finally caused him to switch brands. The Spaniard today announced he has signed a contract for the next three seasons with the French helmet maker Shark.

Shark have a long history in MotoGP and World Superbikes, having supplied many top riders such as Olivier Jacque, Carl Fogarty, Randy De Puniet, and Troy Corser.

They currently support Aleix Espargaro, Johann Zarco, the Lowes twins Alex and Sam, Tom Sykes, Sylvain Guintoli, Scott Redding and Miguel Oliveira, among others. As such, Shark is an established name in motorcycle racing and a known quantity.

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Skully Sends Update Regarding Its Delayed Helmets

08/05/2015 @ 5:32 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS


Most Asphalt & Rubber readers are aware of Skully, the San Francisco startup that is making a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display (HUD), and many A&R readers are also aware that Skully is now officially late in delivering its maiden product to the masses.

Finally acknowledging the tardiness to its 2,000 or so early-adopting customers, Skully has released a video (after the jump) explaining its activities, and that the company is on-track for its new delivery date, before the end of the year – or as they say in marketing speak: just in time for Christmas.

Of course we knew back in late-2013, when Skully first announced its helmet, that there was no way the company was going to hit its delivery promise for 2014, though now the company seems in good stead for its new 2015 promise, with an actual office in SF, a deal with Flextronics to make the augmented reality portion of the helmet, and manufacturing tooled-up.

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AGVisor – AGV Helmets Get LCD-Tinted Visors

03/02/2015 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS


One visor to rule them all, that’s the dream of many motorcyclists that enjoy tinted visors during the day, but want an easy “clear” option for night-time riding.

Until recently, if you wanted to protect your eyes from the sun, most helmet systems required you to have two shields: one clear – for night-time riding, and one tinted – for daytime use.

Not always a convenient or practical solution, we have seen riders resort to wearing sunglasses behind clear visors; or worse, wearing tinted visors at night.

Thankfully, some solutions have emerged from the motorcycle helmet industry, namely transitional visors (as seen from Bell Helmets), which change tint based on the ambient light.

Another technology is electrochromatics, which tints the glass or plastic by applying an electrical current (actually, the electricity makes the cells clear in most use-cases). Helmet startup Skully features this technology on its now vaporware AR-1 helmet design.

Add respected helmet manufacturer AGV to the mix now, as the Italian company debuted its LCD-based AGVisor system in Switzerland last week, though with little fanfare.

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Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf?

08/05/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

I ride bikes for a living, in case you didn’t know this already. I ride more miles on two wheels in a year, than the average American does in their automobile (I put more four-wheel miles down a year than the average American does as well, if that gives you any idea how much of Asphalt & Rubber is written while on the road). With all this riding, I’ve become increasingly concerned over my hearing, as I’d like still to have it when I’m older. Thus for my own personal benefit, I’ve been trying out the different kinds of ear protection that are available to motorcyclists, as well as a variety of helmets from manufacturers (articles surely to ensue).

So when the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Bear in mind I’m a staunch believer in helmet laws and riding with a full-face helmet (my apologies to the Libertarians in the group), so when the study suggested that my two main concerns regarding my head may be at odds with each other, it piqued my interest.

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