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.

Say What??! – Tech3 and Yamaha Will Part Ways in 2019

If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team. The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 has been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro. However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months.

Trademark Hints at Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle

Has Harley-Davidson just tipped its hand regarding its upcoming electric motorcycle? It would seem so, according to the latest trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering the name “Revelation” with the USPTO, Harley-Davidson has set aside the trademark for two uses: 1) batteries for vehicles, and 2) drivetrains for electric motorcycles and vehicles. Other publications are running this story as the “Revelation” name being the moniker for Harley-Davidson’s production version of the Livewire electric motorcycle concept, but the actual trademark makes a very clear alternative to that narrative.

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.

Through the last 1990s, the popularity of Grand Prix racing was waning, while the World Superbike series went from strength to strength. The manufacturers were losing interest in the 500cc class, as two strokes were gradually disappearing from the road.

Big-bore four-strokes were the flavor of the month among motorcycle buyers, and the factories were investing less and less in their two-stroke racers.

The manufacturers expressed an interest in racing four-strokes in the premier class, and Dorna sketched out a contract with the MSMA, the organization representing the manufacturers, and MotoGP was born.

From 2002, 990cc four-stroke machines would enter the class, and go up against the 500cc two-strokes. (The 990cc capacity was chosen to avoid any perceived encroachment onto the territory claimed by World Superbikes, then owned by rival promoters the Flammini brothers, which had bikes with a maximum capacity of 1000cc at the time).

From 2003, MotoGP would be completely four-stroke, the two-strokes banished forever. The agreement was made for five years, Dorna promising stability in the technical rules to allow the factories to get a return on their investment.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #72 – The Lost Episode

02/28/2018 @ 5:49 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Have you ever lost the key to your bike? Forgotten where you parked? Can’t remember your last dank whoolie? Episode 72 is kinda of like that for us.

What should have been something like the 68th episode in our queue, comes to us today as the great Lost Episode of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. It’s a good one too.

In it, we talk about what it’s like to ride the new Honda Gold Wing, as well as the new Ducati Panigale V4. Quentin also gets a few good kickstand jokes in there, and my asshole cat even makes an appearance.

All in all, pretty standard podcasting fodder from your favorite enthusiasts podcast.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. 

We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address:

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MOTR Podcast #2 – Honda Gold Wing Press Launch

02/12/2018 @ 9:00 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

In Episode 2 of the MOTR Podcast, I sit down with motorcycle journalists Adam Waheed (freelance), Lemmy (RevZilla), and Abhi Eswarappa (Bike-urious) to discuss what it’s like to ride Big Red’s flagship motorcycle, the Honda Gold Wing.

Recoded at the international media launch for the Gold Wing – in Austin, Texas – the four of us gathered around the microphones to discuss the sixth generation of this iconic touring machine.

With no shortage of opinions, the show is an interesting discussion about our first impressions of the Gold Wing and Gold Wing Tour models. We think you will find it quite interesting.

To get our full opinions on the new Honda Gold Wing you can read my review here on Asphalt & Rubber, as well as Adam’s reviews on Rider’s Domain, Lemmy’s review on RevZilla’s Common Tread, and Abhi’s review on Bike-urious.

You can find the latest episodes of the MOTR Podcast on iTunes, Google PlaySoundCloud, or via your RSS feed, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

If you’re not already, you should also listen to our sister podcasts, the Two Enthusiasts Podcast and The Paddock Pass Podcast.

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Randy Mamola Named A “MotoGP Legend”

02/09/2018 @ 8:16 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Randy Mamola will be the newest edition to the list of “MotoGP Legends” – an honor roll that serves as the World Championship Hall of Fame for motorcycle racing.

Racing alongside some of the greatest names in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Mamola is known best as the winningest GP rider never to win a GP championship, with 13 race wins and 57 podiums credited to his name.

Mamola is as famous for his aggressive on-track riding style during the 1970s and 1980s, as he is for his generous contributions to the sport and world at large, which continue to this day as a co-founder to the Riders for Health charity.

A GP staple, you can often find Mamola in the MotoGP paddock, rider-coaching for several racers, interacting with his legion of fans, and occasionally brow-beating unwieldy motorcycle journalists.

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In many ways, the appointment of Alberto Puig as Repsol Honda team manager is both surprising, and a logical choice. Puig was both the obvious person to run the Repsol Honda team, as an experienced team manager with a long association with Honda.

But, also someone with a complicated history with the team’s existing riders, having previously managed Dani Pedrosa, and crossed swords with Marc Márquez’s manager Emilio Alzamora.

The Sepang test was the first time the Spaniard had a chance to talk to the racing press since his appointment. In a press conference with some of the assembled media who had turned up early, Puig addressed a broad range of topics.

He talked about the challenges he sees in the Repsol Honda team, and his new role as its manager. He gave his perspective on managing relationships with the riders.

But Puig also shared his vision on racing, and the key ingredients in racing success. He spoke about how he sees the rider contract situation developing.

And he also talked about Honda’s main focus at this particular MotoGP test, telling us that the main objective will be to choose an engine for the rest of the season.

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An interesting news item for you today, as Honda has teamed up with Forever 21 to bring young adults a unique motorcycle-branded line of clothing. The apparel line is inspired by Honda liveries from the 1980’s and 1990’s, though with a healthy dose of on-trend fashion, for both men and women.

“Honda’s motorcycle racing success in the ’80s and ’90s was legendary, with our riders earning many championships in domestic and international series,” said Mike Snyder, Senior Manager of Honda Powersports Marketing. “While we’re focused on winning with our current teams, it’s fun to see our racing heritage honored by Forever 21 with a completely new audience.”

“We are so excited to announce our partnership with Honda for this ’80s and ’90s inspired collection,” said Linda Chang, VP of Marketing for Forever 21. “We are always looking for new and unexpected partnerships, and this collaboration with Honda is especially relevant now with the popularity of racing and strong ties between fashion and motorsport. We hope that both fans of Honda and our customers will celebrate with us through this collection.”

Of course, the launch of this line is being promoted by a contest on Instagram, where the winner gets a brand new Honda CRF250L dirt bike, once they take a photo of themselves in their F21xHonda gear and tag it on the photo-sharing service, of course.

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Of all the words that you never want to see in a recall announcement, “explode” probably ranks pretty high on that list.

But, this is exactly what we saw for this recall that affects the 2009-2016 Honda Gold Wing models equipped with an airbag, as the “air bag inflator may explode,” according to the recall headline.

This recall is of course part of the ongoing set of recalls that affect vehicles equipped with Takata airbags – of note, the new 2018 Gold Wing Tour Airbag model does not use a Takata-made airbag.

In total, this recall only affects 960 units (2009-2010 and 2012-2016 model years), though this is the third time that Honda has had to issue a recall for its Gold Wing models, because of Takata.

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We just finished riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour in Austin, Texas – a day early I might add…because it’s snowing…in Texas. Still, clocking close to 200 miles on Honda’s sixth generation of this venerable touring machine has provided us with some interesting insights into the next Wing.

A bike designed for long-distance riding, we have gathered our thoughts on the new Honda Gold Wing Tour, in a short and sweet format, so you can sound informed at your next bike night or internet forum.

Overall, the all-new Honda Gold Wing Tour is a smart update to an iconic motorcycle, and it brings the Gold Wing name inline with the current state of technology.

As we found on the road, the new Gold Wing is an improvement over its predecessor, but that comes with a caveat or two. There might be some deal-breakers here for modern touring riders, as Honda shifts its focus to “younger” riders. Let me explain.

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Gone Riding: Honda Gold Wing

01/15/2018 @ 5:23 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Hello from Texas Hill Country, just outside of Austin, Texas. In addition to soaking up some of that prairie life, I am out here to ride the 2018 Honda Gold Wing.

For this model year, the iconic touring bike gets an all-new design, making it the sixth generation of the Honda Gold Wing, which has a focus on being more compact, refined, and built for today’s modern touring rider.

As such, roughly 90 lbs of fat have been trimmed off the ol’ Wing, thanks largely to a more compact engine design and what Honda calls a “double wishbone” front end (you might call it a Hossack suspension design). 

In total, there are five variations of the new Gold Wing. The Honda Gold Wing Tour is the design you will most likely recognize, as it comes with integrated trunk and passenger chair, it in turn has three flavors: standard, DCT (dual-clutch transmission), and the airbag model returns to the lineup as well.

Replacing the Honda Gold Wing F6B is what Big Red simply calls the Honda Gold Wing. It has a more bagger look, with the trunk/passenger chair removed. It comes in two flavors, standard and DCT.

A hallmark technology for Honda now, this is the third generation of Honda’s dual-clutch transmission, which has considerable refinements over the previous generation, especially in its Gold Wing application, and features seven speeds for optimal cruising.

With snow and ice expected in Texas this week, our ride plans have changed a bit, but we still should be able to give the new Gold Wing a couple hundred miles of testing, riding through the hill country, outside of Austin.

For bonus fun, Honda has brought some of its 2017 models as well, so we should be able to give a good comparison between the two generations of this incredibly popular motorcycle (roughly 800,000 of them have been sold worldwide, and most of those were in the USA).

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the new Honda Gold Wing models right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Honda Gold Wing, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Honda personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtag #2018Goldwing.

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