WorldSBK Approves the Use of Winglets*

The World Superbike Championship released the latest decision from the SBK Commission today, which clarified a few rules for the 2018 season, most notably the new rev-limiter and parts cost rules, which have been discussed already at great length here on Asphalt & Rubber (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3). There was another interesting rule change of note though, which is likely to get over-looked by the racing community, and that is the World Superbike Championship permitting the use of winglets, although there is a catch. In its rules update, the SBK Commission decreed that teams and manufacturers may fit aerodynamic components (e.g. winglets) to their superbikes so long as the winglets are fitted to the homologated motorcycle.

Crunching the Numbers: Rea vs. MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured. How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX Priced at $19,000 for the USA

Kawasaki’s newest supercharged motorcycle is also its most affordable supercharged motorcycle, with the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX coming to the USA with an MSRP of $19,000. Even the better-equipped 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE is an “affordable” $22,000, when compared to the more sport-focused H2 models. Featuring a 200hp version of Kawasaki’s supercharged, four-cylinder, 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 SX is a fully faired sport-tourer, with an emphasis on the sport side of the equation. The base model comes in any color you want, so long as it’s black, while the Ninja H2 SX SE comes in the traditional Team Green color scheme of Kawasaki.

Oh Yes, The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Is USA Bound

Good news sport bike fans, Kawasaki USA in its infinite wisdom has decided to bring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE to the United States for the 2018 model year. Debuted at this year’s EICMA show, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE takes the potent superbike and most notably adds Showa’s new semi-active suspension to the package. Other perks include the seven-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, found already on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, as well as an up/down quickshifter. Like what you hear? Well brace yourself…If you want a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE in your garage, you are going to need to shell out $21,899 MSRP for it. That sticker price represents quite the premium over Team Green’s race homologation machine, the ZX-10RR, which goes for $18,899.

PJ Jacobsen Racing in WorldSBK for 2018

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yamaha Selling Shares in Yamaha Motor to Raise Money

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. The news means that while the Yamaha Corporation will remain the single largest shareholder in Yamaha Motor Co., its ownership position as a shareholder will drop from 12.22% to 9.93%, as a result of the divestiture.

Valentino Rossi’s Winter Test Helmet Gets Mexican Flair

It is another winter testing period for the MotoGP riders, and that means that Valentino Rossi has another special “Winter Test” AGV helmet design for us. This year, The Doctor takes his inspiration from Huichol bead art, after he visited the region on a recent vacation to Mexico. As such, Rossi’s winter test AGV Pista GP R helmet features a hand-painted bead design that plays on the winter motif, with the Italian’s usual affinity for symbols. “Huichol art immediately intrigued me, because it uses many of my symbols, like the sun and moon or the turtle,” explained Valentino Rossi. “We have tried to recreate the effect of the beads that the Mexicans use to bring color and shape to these objects, but to do so with a Valentino Rossi twist.”

Jonathan Rea Talks About New WorldSBK Rules

Three years of unparalleled success has seen Jonathan Rea notch up 39 victories, 70 podiums, and 3 WorldSBK titles. To put those numbers into context, only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, and Noriyuki Haga have won more races in their WorldSBK careers. It truly has been a historic run of form for Rea and Kawasaki. For WorldSBK though the achievements have been outweighed by the reaction of fans to these results. Feeling that significant changes were needed to ensure a more competitive balance for the field, WorldSBK has introduced a wide range of new regulations to curtail the Kawasaki dominance. The goal isn’t to stop Rea and Kawasaki winning but simply to allow other manufacturers to get on an even keel.

The “Smart” Approach to Writing the WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes. “There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”

Ben Spies Returns to Motorcycle Racing…On Dirt Bikes

Ben Spies fans will be happy to hear that the Texan is returning to racing motorcycles, announcing the news while talking to Matthew Miles at Cycle World. However, the news might not be as expected, as Spies isn’t returning to the superbike paddock, but instead will compete in the AMA National Enduro series next season. As such, Spies will take part in several rounds on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro calendar, in the mid-level “Pro2” class; as well as an ISDE qualifier, with an eye on making the squad for Team USA. Certainly not the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship bid that was reported earlier, though Spies confirmed that he had been in talks with Ducati about racing a Panigale, and had also spun some laps on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at a track day in Texas.

3D Metal Printing Takes Another Step Forward

07/20/2017 @ 5:52 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The next generation of manufacturing is rapidly upon, if you will excuse the pun. Rapid prototyping and 3D metal printing is about to get considerably faster and cheaper, if you believe the hype surrounding manufacturing startup Desktop Metal, which just got another $115 million in funding, I might add.

Until now, traditional 3D metal printers relied on lasers to melt metal powders so they could be “printed” into complex shapes, which not only limited what alloys could be used in those situations, but it was also fairly time intensive.

Using what it calls “microwave enhanced sintering” though, Desktop Metal can print with virtually any kind of metal (including steel, aluminum, titanium and copper), and do it at a much faster rate – 100x faster than other additive manufacturing processes, if you believe them.

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Wazer, A Mass Market Water Jet Cutter

09/12/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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I know more than a few Asphalt & Rubber readers are do-it-yourselfers, so this news about the Wazer mass market water jet cutter should be of particular interest.

The $6,000 desktop water jet cutter by Wazer offers a key technology that previously was only available to larger fabrication outfits, with typical water jet cutters costing up to $50,000 for standard units, and north of $100,000 for industrial-level cutters.

Suitable for cutting metal, rock, composites, and other materials, water jut cutters are what the big boys bring out for cutting jobs, when laser cutter can’t…umm…cut it, making this of particular note to builders and creative-types who previously could not afford the technology.

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The folks in Talent, Oregon have some exciting news today, as electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo has announced a strategic partnership with TEAM Industries, a leading drivetrain technology firm. The partnership with TEAM brings a variety of advantages to Brammo’s production and design process, and it also sees TEAM becoming an investor in the electric vehicle startup.

TEAM’s ability to develop and produce, locally in the United States, will help Brammo not only develop its future products more effectively, but also help lower the cost of its current offering. Talking to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher, he called TEAM Industries “American manufacturing at its finest,” and highlighted TEAM’s commitment to creating jobs throughout Minnesota, and its ability to work on a wide variety of manufacturing stages

Aside from the capital infusion, which is the lifeblood of any startup company, Brammo seems to be getting a wide array of benefits by working with TEAM.

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How 3D Printing Is Going To Change Motorcycling

10/05/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.

Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.

For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).

The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.

This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.

As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.

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Yamaha recently announced that it will be closing its factory in northeastern Spain, and consolidating the production into its Saint Quintin plant in France. The move comes as a result of Yamaha feeling the pain from the dwindling global demand for motorcycles, resulting in the Spanish plant having considerable excess capacity in its production.

Located near Barcelona, Yamaha’s Spanish Palau-Solita i Plegamans facility is capable of producing 130,000 units per year, but only managed 96,000 in 2010. The plant’s closure will affect 420 jobs, and Yamaha management has already reportedly confirmed that they will be forgoing any bonuses for the first half of 2011, and will be taking a healthy pay cut (15%-30%) during the same time period.

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US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding

01/20/2011 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Six months after US Highland lost three members of its executive team in a tragic small-plane accident, the American company has announced that it will be idling its Tulsa plant while it continues to finish its latest round of funding. Despite this news, US Highland is reportedly close to achieving its fundraising goals, and hopes to have production rolling again once the fundraising is complete.

The Southbridge Advisory Group (SAG) has been brought in to help find a new executive team for US Highland, and is also helping the motorcycle manufacturer find new investors. While any one of these goals would be a large undertaking on its own, having to contend both with raising capital and finding a new executive team is a daunting task.

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Royal Enfield to Double Production Capacity

06/17/2010 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Royal Enfield Motors has released a statement saying that the historic company is getting ready to double its current production levels in the coming years. The proposed expansion, which would see the company’s current production level of 52,000 yearly motorcycles get bumped to 70,000 units in 2011, 90,000 units in 2012, and finally 100,000 units in 2013, stems from the positive response the company has seen to its fuel-injected motorcycles. This would seem to be refinement of Royal Enfield’s similar announcement 6 months ago, where the company also said it planned to double production.

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Polaris Packs Up Manufacturing and Moves to Mexico

05/21/2010 @ 6:21 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

In about 18 months, roughly a thousand workers will be out of a job at the Polaris plant in Osceola, Wisconsin. In that timeframe Polaris plans to close the Osceola plant, and move its production south of the border to Mexico. The move comes about as Polaris looks to increase production efficiency (i.e. lower production costs with cheaper labor), which will then allow the company to be more competitive with its products’ positions in their respective marketplaces.

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Mission Motors has announced today that they have replaced co-founder Forrest North in his role as company CEO. The move signals a change within Mission Motors that shows the company focusing on bringing products into production and putting them into consumers’ hands. In their announcement, Mission Motors’ Board of Directors have begun their search for a long-term CEO with experience in product development and automotive manufacturing, but in the interim the company will be headed by its current COO Jit Bhattacharya.

The transition, while seemingly drastic, is one that every startup must face as it moves from a visionary and industry challenging mindset to a functional and operational capacity. This movement in management is one that virtually all startups face at some point or another, and something we’ve talked about here in some detail in our “Tradition is not a Business Model” series, so it’s announcement at this point in time isn’t terribly surprising to this author, and storied lesson in entrepreneurship that transcends even into the motorcycle industry.

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Investing in emerging markets, Yamaha Motors is set to invest $150 million in a new motorcycle manufacturing plant located in Pakistan. The plant, which is to be established in the National Industrial Park at Bin Qasim, Karachi, will serve as a central location for Yamaha’s move into Pakistan, India, and other emerging Asian and African markets.

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