Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

Layoffs Reported at Mission Motors

10/10/2012 @ 2:36 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word that Mission Motors has let go of a significant portion of its staff, both on the engineering and non-engineering sides of the San Francisco based startup. With the layoffs presumably the result of a lack of funding, the news comes interestingly just a few months after the departure of Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Moe, who made his return back to Vectrix in July of this year.

The bulk loss of its workforce is certain to be a blow to Mission Motors, which according to our sources, still has a core team in place to continue basic business operations. Making the switch from being an electric motorcycle company to supplying electric drive components to OEMs in Q1 2010, it wouldn’t surprise us if some of the now former Mission Motors employees found their way into other electric motorcycle manufacturers, and today’s news paints an interesting picture for the future of the Mission R electric superbike.

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Rumor: Vectrix to Debut an Electric Superbike at EICMA?

09/11/2012 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

With all the hype that surrounds the electric motorcycle industry, it is easy to forget the company that basically paved the way for the current batch electric motorcycle OEMs. Depending on how closely you follow the space, Vectrix may or may not be a name that is familiar to you, but it should be. By our last count, the American-based, now Chinese-owned (it went bankrupt in 2009), EV company had put more electric two-wheelers on the road in the USA than Brammo and Zero Motorcycles…combined.

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Will the Mission R Actually Be Built? Yes, No, Maybe So…

08/06/2012 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

If you didn’t have the time to read my 3,700 word tome on what it is like to ride the Mission R electric superbike through San Francisco’s motorcycling playground, I will break it down for you: it was awesome. Of course, riding an entirely custom-built motorcycle with the absolute best components, design, and engineering available should be an awesome experience, especially when you add in one of the most sophisticated electric powertrains on the market. The Mission R isn’t some exercise in hugging trees and saving humpback whales though, it is an exercise in building a better motorcycle than what we have today.

We have known the downside to this discourse for some time though: Mission Motors is no longer in the business of selling motorcycles, and the Mission R is not, and will not, be available for sale (just ask Ryan Reynolds, who was turned down by Mission when he tried to get a Mission R of his very own) — sad trombone. If you too feel a might blue because of that news, I have some information that will pick you up this Monday afternoon. The guys at Mission Motors have been floating the idea of licensing the Mission R to a manufacturer, creating the possibility that if the right OEM was interested, the Mission R could become a publicly available motorcycle for your two-wheeling pleasure.

Tight-lipped on specifics, the only formal comment that Mission Motors will make about the subject is that conversations of this nature have taken place with OEMs, and that the company is open to the idea of either licensing the entire Mission R, or just its powertrain, to a well-qualified motorcycle manufacturer. While the Mission R in its current trim is easily a six-figure machine, using more obtainable components, and producing a run of some volume could bring the electric superbike’s price down into the $40,000 to $50,000 price range. Still a pricey endeavor to be sure, but not entirely unheard of when it comes to limited edition sport bikes.

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Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

08/02/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven.

I suppose we could frame our discussion about the Mission R in the same tone that we would talk about other ultra-exclusive motorcycles, like for instance the Moto2-only Bimota HB4 or the connoisseur’s NCR M4 ONE SHOT. That kind of analysis would in essence read more like an art critique, since the closest any real motorcyclist would get to one these bikes is via a computer screen (perhaps the pages of a magazine, if that is your thing) or on display at some sort of public event, no doubt inside a corral of faux-velvet ropes. In that case, I could wax-on some of the best hyperbole possible, building the dream of riding such fantasy machine as far as possible. After all, the Mission R at the moment is complete unobtainium, and that only serves to fuel our product-lust further.

Just as equally, we could have a nitty-gritty discussion about the weights and measures of the Mission R. We could explore every technical detail that Mission Motors has available, and extrapolate everything else that the San Franciscan company would rather not disclose to the general public. We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps.

Simply the best electric motorcycle with a license plate, I suppose when pressed we could talk about the future of motorcycling, how electrics are coming of age, and how the Mission R is the embodiment of what performance parity looks like in a two-wheeled electric vehicle. Make like the Pope, get out the holy water, and let us convert some petrol-loving heathens, right? I think there is about as much of a Mormons-on-your-doorstop chance in hell of convincing any internal-combustion riding motorcyclist to see the light when it comes to electrons being the fuel of the future, so why don’t we just spare ourselves that sermon as well. So where does that leave us?

Instead, let us play an exercise in mental cognition. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal motorcycle. The design is fresh and edgy, but also refined and timeless. The motorcycle has all the right go-fast parts and brands: Öhlins WSBK-spec suspension, Brembo beryllium brake calipers, 10-spoke Marchesini forged-magnesium wheels, custom carbon fiber bodywork, and a bevy of other top-shelf components and accents. On the dynamometer, the torque curve on this mythical machine is shaped like a plateau, and the power comes on immediately, but is still smooth and linear. The motor has no flat spots, and there are no pits or falls on its dyno graph; and best of all, at the end of the day, this exercise in fantasy packs twice as much torque as your typical liter-bike. The cost for a day’s worth of fuel? About one dollar.

Hold all these elements in your mind for a moment, and then open your eyes. The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. Click past the jump for our account about riding San Francisco’s motorcycle playground on the Mission R electric superbike.

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Mission R Spotted in Street-Legal Trim

03/01/2012 @ 10:31 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

To be filed under the heading: “right place, right time,” I had the good fortune of catching Mission Motors’ Mission R out on the streets yesterday, as one of the San Franciscan company’s engineers took the bike out while doing errands at the SF Dainese Store. Stopping by the store myself to show off the Zero S that’s been camping in my living room for the last two weeks, I quickly found my thunder stolen by Mission’s two-wheeled masterpiece.

Of course, any opportunity to see the Mission R is a treat, as the electric superbike is not only a delicious dish in person, but it also happens to have no problem doing supersport lap times at Laguna Seca when Steve Rapp is on-board. However, what made this sighting of the Mission R extra special was the fact that Mission Motors has outfitted the Mission R with a headlight, mirror, and most importantly, a California license plate.

Other choice pieces include an Android-powered Samsung tablet that fills in as the Mission R’s digital dash, which is sure to tickle the fancy of our geekier readers. If you are an SF native, keep an eye out for the Mission R on the city streets, the rider you see might be a Mission Motors engineer, a Hollywood celebrity (we hear Ryan Reynolds has been jonesing for a Mission R like something fierce), or a Fortune 500 executive.

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The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

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Sprint Features Mission Motors in TV Commercials

08/30/2011 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

On my way to the Indianapolis GP this weekend, I was sitting in coach (because that’s how we roll here at A&R) on Delta flight 147 to Atlanta (direct flights are for wusses), passing the time on the 5 hour flight by watching the airline’s 15 or so TV channels ($6 for an in-flight movie??! Who are you kidding Delta?). Suffering through mostly daytime soap operas, I opted to to watch the news stations instead. While the day’s headlines were mostly about the impending apocalypses that were hurricane Irene and the retirement of Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO, the segment I found the most interesting were the commercials (this should say something about CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News).

Somehow managing to stay conscious long enough through the advertisements, I hear a Sprint spokesman quickly say “what if we design an electric motorcycle?” Surprised to hear such a non sequitur on TV, I looked up in-time to briefly see a CAD drawing of a motorcycle, whose frame quickly reminded me of the Mission R (with and without its clothes). With the rest of the commercial talking about some Samsung tablets, I remembered that Mission Motors uses a Samsung Tab for the prototype Mission R dash (photo after the jump). Could it be the Sprint was hocking Mission Motors in a TV ad?

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Co-Founder Edward West Leaves Mission Motors

08/23/2011 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has learned that Mission Motors’s co-founder Edward West has left the company. West’s departure is contemporaneous with the San Francisco startup’s recent $9 million Series B funding round, which sees another $41 million in funding on-tap should the company need it. Helping start Mission Motors roughly five years ago, West’s next endeavor isn’t immediately clear, though, he was quick to praise the Mission Motors team, and the collection of highly talented individuals that he had the pleasure of working with throughout the years.

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Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus

08/17/2011 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

News comes to us from across the Bay this morning, as Mission Motors has announced that it has closed a $9 million Series B financing round led by Warbug Pincus. A global private equity firm with $30 billion in assets under management, Warbug Pincus invested $7.5 million in Mission Motors (with room up to an additional $41 million), while Infield Capital, one of Mission’s original investors, doubled-dipped back into the company, presumably with the remaining $1.5 million for the series.

The use of funds will go towards Mission Motors’s continued venture of supplying OEM customers with electric and hybrid drive train solutions — an exclusive endeavor the company has been undertaking for over a year now, but apparently something the less-informed motorcycle press is only now taking notice of today.

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The Rappture Comes to Laguna Seca – Mission Motors Wins Electric Bike Showdown

07/24/2011 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

With the micro-weather climate that is Laguna Seca, the skies cleared in time for the FIM e-Power/TTXGP Championship race. Fast throughout the week, Steve Rapp stood on the pole position riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike supersport. Qualifying second was Michael Barnes on the Lightning entry, and rounding out the front row was Michael Czysz on the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc. With eleven motorcycles on the starting grid, Laguna Seca proved to be one of the most well-attended grids for electric motorcycle racing; but perhaps more importantly, it was host to some of the most professional entries we’ve seen to-date from electric racing.

With 11 seconds covering the top six riders, the gaps between teams has narrowed in the two short years of electric motorcycle racing. Most of that gap caused by Mission’s scorching pace, a margin of just three tenths of a second covered the second row of the grid, making a battle for fourth almost assured from the get-go. Though the qualifying times were far apart overall, there was still some close racing to be had at Laguna Seca.

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