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.

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle.

These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years.

Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA. 

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No Polaris Slingshot in Texas, For Now

11/17/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS


Bad news if you live in Texas and want to grab the hottest trike on the market right now, the Polaris Slingshot, as the Lone Star State has rescinded its approval for Slingshot sales in Texas.

Despite initially approving the Polaris Slingshot for sales on November 4th, the State of Texas reversed its approval, leaving Polaris to notify dealerships on November 10th that they would be unable to sell the Slingshot, for the foreseeable future.

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First Sketch of the Honda Scooter/Motorcycle Hybrid

09/25/2012 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

If you want some more proof that Honda’s emerging larger and more “torqueful” two-wheeler, which is based on the Mid Series, is going to be one-part scooter and one-part motorcycle, then look no further than this screen capture of the slide Honda CEO Takanobu Ito used at the company’s end of the fiscal-year event.

While only a very vague sketch of sweeping lines, the image shows a shape that looks striking similar to the Honda DN-01 crossover, which also featured a scooter/motorcycle hybrid design. While Ito-san only talked about the machine in generalities, we do know that Honda’s new motorcycle will be suitable for commuting and touring, built in Honda’s flagship Kumamoto plant, and debut in the North American market.

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What’s Faster: A Bicycle or Motorcycle?

07/18/2011 @ 4:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

The question seems fairly rhetorical, right? We thought so too when we got a tip that someone had pitted a Yamaha YZF-R1 against a custom carbon fiber road bike, afterall there’s a 179hp power discrepancy, right? Well here’s the catch, the contest for this battle of two-wheeled brawn is took place on the downhill slope of the Alpe d’Huez, a part of the French alps that also happens to be one of the hardest climbs and descents on the Tour de France (that little bicycle race that’s going on right now).

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When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

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“I’m So Sorry. Are You Okay?”

02/07/2011 @ 9:46 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

We don’t really know how this accident happened on the byway (it’s hard not to notice a motorcycle that you sat behind at a traffic light just seconds earlier), but we’re pretty sure of two things: 1) that Suzuki is a total loss, and 2) the rider’s face plant into the Mitsubishi SUV will buff right out. It’s amazing that his rear-end job didn’t result in a worse outcome for the motorcyclist (from what we can tell at least). Thank goodness for ATGATT. Thanks for the tip Jason!

Source: Jalopnik

Tom Sykes Tests the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R WSBK

08/05/2010 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Kawasaki is at the track again with its 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R World Superbike platform, and this time at the helm is WSBK rider Tom Sykes. Sykes, who is picking up the slack for his injured teamamte Christopher Vermeulen, isn’t sure of his chances of staying with Team Green in 2011, but was obliged to help the team develop it’s new superbike. Kawasaki has had a horrible run of things in WSBK lately, despite killing its MotoGP program. Hoping to turnaround its poor results, Kawasaki has been teasing us with its WSBK development, which of course also clues us in to how the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R road bike will shape up. Photos and videos after the jump.

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Motorcycling on the Moon

06/18/2010 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

In the late 1960’s we were this close to motorcycling on the moon, which might be the most awesome thing you can do on two wheels. Built as an alternate to the Lunar Rover (LRV), NASA wasn’t entirely confident that Boeing would have the LRV ready for the Apollo 15 mission, and explored using a two-wheeled vehicle instead for helping astronauts bound around in the Palus Putredinus. As we know from history, the LRV was built in time for Apollo 15 and its subsequent missions, thus the Lunar Motorbike was never used.

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Volkswagen Motorcycle Could be NSU Comeback?

04/15/2010 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

This rumor just doesn’t want to die (maybe there’s some truth in it then?), but talk continues about a possible Volkswagen motorcycle. This time the speculation centers around NSU an old german brand that VW bought back in the 1960’s. Known for its wankel-style rotary motors, NSU was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in 1955, but sadly went out of business in 1969 when the failing brand (primarily due to its automobile division) was acquired by Volkswagen, never to be seen again or so it would seem.

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35 motorcycles, 7 model lines, 4 chassis, 3 motor families, & 1 market segment, that’s Harley-Davidson’s product line by the numbers. Where many large production motorcycle companies might have 30 or so motorcycles that span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets, Harley-Davidson has put all of its eggs in the heavy cruiser market. This singular pursuit of one market segment has not only been the cause for Harley’s success, but also a significant contributing factor to the company’s recent downfall, which has led to a recently rumored leveraged buyout.

As the old idiom goes, one should not put all their eggs in one basket, which is exactly the faux pas being committed here by Harley-Davidson in its product offering. Businesses, especially public ones, should always have an eye on sustained long-term growth, and a key element to that goal is a well-diversified position in their appropriate industry. Taking this lens and applying it to Harley-Davidson, one can immediately see a portfolio that has been extensively mismanaged by focusing on only one segment of the total motorcycle industry: the heavy cruiser market.

What this has effectively created is a motorcycle company that looks like Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Baskin Robins: 31 flavors, but they’re all Rocky Road.

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