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.

Announcing today its “New Medium-term Management Plan” that will cover the next three years of business operations, Yamaha Motor Co.’s strategy is fairly simple, yet also very ambitious. While fighting against the global currency exchange rate with the yen, the Japanese company is hoping to release over 250 new units over its various product segments.

While this goal encompasses all of Yamaha Motors’ product lines, the most obvious additions for the motorcycle division will be Yamaha’s recently announced three-cylinder motorcycles, as well as the now confirmed Yamaha YZF-R250, a 250cc sport bike that will debut in the Indian market.

Unless you have an MBA, Yamaha’s three-year business strategy is a pretty dull read (it might still be a snoozer, even if you do have an MBA), but one Powerpoint slide struck me as interesting (you can see the full presentation here).

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After the news that the Benelli Due 756 would finally be produced and released came out last week, the Italian brand has released a clarification in response to the news that hit the interwebs. Confirming that the Due would indeed become a production model (after making the rounds at motorcycle shows for the better part of the last five years), the Chinese owned Benelli Q.J. released a statement saying that the release date would not be the end of 2011 as some sites had reported, but instead at the end of 2012 (seemingly making this a 2013 model year motorcycle).

Benelli has not outright denied that the news that the Due will hit the Chinese market before it makes its way to Europe, though the Chinese company was quick to say in its statement that “the current version of the Due will be produced in Italy and exported to China and the emerging global markets (without neglecting the European market).” Cryptically we gather that means that the Due we’ve seen will be a world model, while an updated version is slated to hit the European market at some point in the future (2018 perhaps?).

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Benelli Due 756 Finally Goes Live…in China?

12/16/2011 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Benelli Due concept has been in the works for so long, we’re officially giving it the Duke Nukem Forever status of the motorcycle industry. I first laid my eyes on the two-cylinder street-standard back in 2009, as the then called “2ue” was making its second EICMA appearance (the Due made its first appearance as early as the Cologne show in 2006).

Essentially a Benelli triple with a cylinder lopped off, the Benelli Due displaces 756cc with its inline cylinders, and is an otherwise attractive motorcycle. Given how much of a basketcase the “Tre” motor was, we can only imagine the “character” its two-cylinder counterpart brings to the table, though that is an entirely different issue.

Finally announcing that the Benelli Due will hit dealership floors in 2012, the Chinese-owned Italian company has an interesting twist with its news: the Benelli Due will be released in China first, then Europe and other markets.

At play surely is the idea and principle of pride that Chinese companies should release models in their home country first, before servicing other markets. This notion is surely understandable, but does strike us as interesting considering that Europe and North America are likely to be bigger volume markets for this big-displacement motorcycle.

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Blasphemy, heresy, stupidity, sacrilege, un-American, and downright irreverence. Go ahead, get all those words out of your system. I’ll wait.

The default opinion of marketers, analysts, and the general population is that Harley-Davidson has one of the strongest brands in the United States, this being confirmed by the fact that every business student in America has studied Harley’s marketing efforts if they’ve ever taken a brand management course. So why would I start a three-part series on how to fix Harley-Davidson by arguing to change one of the most revered marketing houses in the motorcycle industry?

Giving credit where credit is due, Harley-Davidson, or I should say its admirers in business school academia, wrote the book on demand generation marketing geared towards the baby-boomer generation. However, in defending this market position, Harley-Davidson has painted itself into a corner by only engaging a very small segment of the population with its product. Unless they redefine and reposition their company image and who it resonates with, Harley-Davidson is going to watch the continued erosion of its footing in the motorcycle industry, and also the continued deterioration of its only industry leading quality: its brand.

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Ducati Opens First Store in China

10/24/2009 @ 2:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS


There’s a large stigma around China and the motorcycle industry, but Ducati isn’t one to let some misconceptions get in the way of their bottomline. With China rapidly becoming one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world, Ducati has its eyes set on establishing itself as the premium brand of choice for uppity Chinese urbanites, and thus has opened its first Official Ducati store in China this week. More after the jump.

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The 2008 financial for BMW Motorrad are in, and the verdict is CH-CHING! Despite what the economies around the world are saying, BMW sold 101,685 bikes in 2008, just .8% off of last year’s numbers. Continue reading to see the full sales breakdown, and win a free kitten.


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Ducati: Bear Market Winner

11/17/2008 @ 9:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The world markets may be down, and stores may dropping out of business like it’s third period French class, but Ducati is finding the economic downturn to have an upside on its balance sheet.

Ducati’s sales revenue for the first three quarters of 2008 grew by 25% compared to last year’s figures. This means to close to $417MM in revenue for the Bologna Bandits, with their bottom line looking 87% better than before, totaling in at $41MM.

Why now brown cow? Well shipments from Desmo-central to dealer floor rooms has been up by 19% for the year so far, with sales up 8% worldwide. In the meantime, worldwide industry sales are down 6%. Evidently, those cars that people aren’t buying, is not equating into motorcycle purchases (you know…for the mileage advantage) 

The Bologna Boys say they are still on track to achieve a forecast 20% growth in worldwide sales for full fiscal year, up from a predicted 15% sales growth.

How are the other European manufacturers doing? 

KTM has had a 50% drop in operating profit for the full 12 months of its fiscal year, closing the books at $21MM. The House of Orange (not Oranj) is blaming this decline on a bad Dollar to Euro exchange rate, and plans to cut motorcycle production for the 2009 season by 10%.

Piaggio (owner of Aprilia, and most of Europe’s scooters) is also cutting back on production across all its motorcycle and scooter brands after depressing results for the first 3 quarters of 2008. Overall sales were down by almost 6%, falling 10% in Europe, which accounts for about 80% of its bike and scooter sales.

BMW, while slightly more insulated, is feeling the pain too, with global motorcycle sales down by 2.5% in the same period, and profit from bikes falling by nearly 16%.

Source: visordown

In other financial news, the trade-deficit for sportbike hotness in the United States has increased another 300%. Sorry Buell.