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A patent application spotted by Ben Purvis at Cycle World hints at Honda expanding its variable valve timing technology on its two-wheeled offerings, with designs of a sophisticated VVT system could come to a new CBR model.

Filed in June 2018, the patent application (not yet an actual US patent, mind you) is a restatement of a Japanese patent that dates back to 2017, and in it Honda describes a mechanism where “an internal combustion engine is provided with a variable valve operating apparatus.”

2018 is coming to a close now, so we of course are looking back at what happened over the past year in the motorcycle industry.

There was no shortage of weighty stories in 2018, so we picked just our Top 5 big themes from the year to share with you.

They range from business items, racing news, and new motorcycles (or the lack thereof). Without too much fanfare, let’s get into it, and see Asphalt & Rubber‘s most important stories from 2018.

As the year winds down, we continue to think about the future. The other day, Bugatti showed us its 3D printed titanium brake calipers, and now we turn ourselves to another budding technology.

Roam Robotics is not a company you are likely to have heard of, but Yamaha Motor certainly is, and the Japanese motorcycle brand recently flexed its investing arm, leading a $12 million investment round  into the aforementioned Silicon Valley tech startup.

While the technology is complex, the concept behind Roam’s business is not, as they are developing an exoskeleton system that will help to enhance the physical movements of both the able-bodied and handicapable.

If you needed further proof that the 3D printing revolution is upon us, take this case study from Bugatti to heart. The French brand is at the pointy end of the automotive space, which means that Bugatti gets all the fun toys.

One of the spaces where they are innovating is in the use of titanium parts that have been created by using an additive manufacturing process.

In this case, they are making a brake caliper (shown above)…which also happens to be the largest 3D-printed titanium component ever produced.

It surprising to us that there is so little investment in technologies and business in the two-wheeled space by the established players.

Maybe it is the conservative nature of the motorcycle industry, or maybe it is because motorcycle companies are just miserably bad at corporate development. Whatever the reason may be, it makes today’s headline an intriguing one.

This is because Yamaha Motor Corp. in Japan has just set aside $100 million to invest in technologies and business startups, over the next 10 years. 

Ducati's announcement that it is making its final production run of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition got me thinking this week. This could be the very last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand, making it a true "Final Edition" motorcycle? It certainly appears so.

Right now, the Italian marque is betting its superbike future on the V4 platform, which means it could be another 5 years or longer (10 years could be a reasonable number, even) before Ducati debuts its next superbike platform.

What do we imagine that motorcycle will look like? Where do we imagine the motorcycle industry will be in the next five to ten years? That future isn't too far away, but the answer is still hard to fathom.

Can we really see a future where Ducati builds another v-twin engine? Understand, the Superquadro motor is the pinnacle of v-twin design, and pushes the limits of what kind of power such an engine configuration can create.

This is the very reason that Ducati abandoned the Superquadro v-twin design for the Desmosedici Stradale V4. That is a big deal in Ducatista land, but it is a notable move for the motorcycle industry as a whole.

So, the thought experiment evolves from this, and we begin to wonder what is not only in store for a brand like Ducati, whose history is rooted in a particular engine design, but also what is in store for the other brands of the motorcycle industry, who have been tied to thermic engines for over a century.

For the Japanese brands, the hand that holds that future has been tipped, with turbocharged and supercharged designs teased by three out of the Big Four manufacturers. We have even see Kawasaki bringing its own supercharged motorcycles already to market already.

But, is this really the future? Or, is this resurgence of forced induction for motorcycles dead on arrival?

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Additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) is going to change the motorcycle industry – and industry in general – in a big way. Rapid prototyping materials are already changing how we develop new products, and as cost, sophistication, and quality increases, we can see this technology turning manufacturing completely on its head. It is exciting to watch.

For the motorcycle industry, this means that there will come a day when all you need to do to get a new part for your motorcycle is to download the design from the OEM, and “print” it out at home or at a local 3D printing facility.

This will fundamentally change the role of dealerships and how we design and build motorcycles. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The day of this industrial revolution just got a little closer today too, as we see what is being dubbed as the world’s first completely 3D printed motorcycle

Airbag technology is making your traditional motorcycle apparel items obsolete, and the technology just keeps getting better and better. Both Alpinestars and Dainese continuously raise the bar against one another, proving that competition improves the breed.

As such For the 2019 model year, Dainese is releasing its third generation D-Air airbag system, which boasts significant improvements over the previous iteration.

For starters, the new Dainese D-Air system is 37% lighter the previously generation, which is a big deal if you have ever picked up an airbag-equipped leather suit or jacket.

Dainese also says that its third-generation system has better ergonomics and efficiency than before. Most importantly though, Dainese is going to start using the D-Air technology in suits and jackets for women.

Bad news from San Francisco today, as we learn that Alta Motors has ceased business operations, effective immediately, sending the company’s staff home as the electric motorcycle manufacturer looks for future funding.

Talking to an anonymous source, Asphalt & Rubber has been told that Alta Motors is in the midst of a strategic wind down, as it looks for an outside acquisition or investment.

The dawn of aerodynamics is upon the motorcycle industry, because aftermarket winglets for superbikes are now a thing.

If we are surprised about anything, it is that it has taken this long for someone to come up with a winglet for modern superbikes.

Ever since the first MotoGP bike rolled out of the pit lane garage sporting aerodynamic aids, the clock has been ticking until someone made them for the general public. That time is today. That someone is the good folks at Puig.

We have known about the 2019 BMW R1250GS for some time now, but today we get our first real look of the machine, thanks to the bike’s promotional video, which has leaked on the internet (hat tip to the folks at Motorcular.com). And, despite everything we knew about the BMW R1250GS, the Germans still managed to surprise us.

This is because instead of the “Shiftcam” technology that BMW Motorrad has developed for its revised boxer engine.

Originally tipped to have variable valve technology, we now see how BMW is going to achieve this goal, and the answer is with a camshaft that has dual lobes and a shift gate that engages the high valve lift set during full throttle applications.