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.

As a fan of the original Japanese animation film of the same name, I am pretty stoked to see that Hollywood is making a live-action version of The Ghost in the Shell (despite the obvious whitewashing of its characters).

While the movie appeals to me on a personal level, now I have a good “professional” excuse to see the film when it screens, thanks to Honda. This is because Scarlett Johansson’s character, “The Major” (again, more whitewashing), will be riding a modified Honda NM4 motorcycle around New Port City.

Yes, Honda’s strange creation – which itself is sometimes referred to as “the Akira bike” or “Batcycle” – seems perfect for a life on the big screen. It might be the first product placement for a motorcycle that actually makes sense to us.

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An Homage to the Kaneda Bike in Akira

08/15/2016 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS


If there is a piece of Japanese animation that has transcended from the niche realm of anime into the larger consciousness of mainstream film, that piece surely has to be the movie Akira.

And while the dystopian themes of a future that is still recovering from the fallout of WWIII predominate the film, it is surprising to see how many fans have latched onto the motorcycle the main character, Kaneda, rides in the story.

I wasn’t even a motorcycle enthusiast when I first watched Akira, but Kaneda’s bike always struck me profoundly. Judging from the number of people who have tried to re-create the motorcycle in the flesh, I am not alone on this – even Kanye West has given the movie a nod.

Our friends at MotoFire luckily found this short tribute trailer from filmmakers Brad Kremer and Dean Fowler, who like us, also have a fascination with the Kaneda bike, and have re-made the iconic movie’s trailer to focus on this piece of machinery.

Fans of the original movie will find the imagery familiar, and for those who are getting their first taste of Akira, we hope the trailer intrigues you further.

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Barry Sheene is one of grand prix racing’s greatest riders, and perhaps one of its most intriguing characters. The two-time World Champion comes from a era when motorcycle racers were as unapologetic as the machines they rode, and Sheene exemplified both those those facts to the maximum.

Perhaps the original playboy of grand prix racing, Sheene eventually married Penthouse model Stephanie McLean – you’ve likely seen the set of iconic photos with her in Sheene’s unzipped leathers.

A heavy smoker, a big drinker, and a constant partier, Sheene represents a forgotten time in motorcycle racing where polished personalities weren’t the norm, and the personality of racers weren’t whitewashed by PR firms.

Why are we telling you all this? Because the epic story of Barry Sheene is finally coming to the silver screen, thanks to IO Films Australia and Deep Spring Pictures UK. It looks like it’s still early days for the crew, but the trailer is waiting for you after the jump.

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MotoGP fans should recognize the name Mark Neale, as he has produced some of the sport’s most popular movies, such as Faster, The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid, the sequel Fastest, and now Hitting the Apex.

Continuing the timeline of Neale’s films, Hitting the Apex chronicles six riders: Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Marco Simoncelli, and Marc Marquez.

The movie picks-up just as Valentino Rossi is making his way from Yamaha to Ducati, carries us into the start of the 2015 season, and touches on the major events of those seasons. Neale as always provides a good balance between making MotoGP appealing to non-enthusiasts, while keeping plenty on the table for avid fans.

We’ll do a full review closer to the movie’s debut, but we think that fans and soon-to-be-fans will enjoy the two-hour film. We certainly did.

After the jump is the trailer for Hitting the Apex, and you will note it is narrated by Brad Pitt, who Neale tells us was instrumental behind-the-scenes in getting the movie released.

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It’s not our cup of tea, but we can see how hardcore cinephiles can get easily worked up about behind the scenes photos of movies that are still in production — it’s likely not too dissimilar from how we feel when we catch a glimpse of an upcoming motorcycle before its release. It’s not our thing, but we can understand it.

What is a lot easier to understand though is when an actual motorcycle gets caught by these Hollywood spy cameras, as is the case here. On the set of the next Avengers movie, the eagles eyes of the linkbaity Daily Mail caught photos of what is clearly an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle — piquing our interest, of course.

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Trailer: Quick – Now We Get It…Sorta

01/27/2012 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Back in May of last year, we brought you the trailer for the Korean movie Quick (allegedly set to be released under the name Fast in the United States). Other than featuring a BMW S1000RR, we had no idea what was going on in the original trailer, though we certainly were intrigued. Thankfully, an updated trailer has been released that actually unfurls the plot line a little bit more for us, and we can get an idea about what the Quick, Fast, but not Fastest, movie thing is about.

Already out in South Korea and Japan, Quick will debut in Singapore next week on February 2nd, however there is no date for the US market premiere at this time (sad trombone). Could a foreign film supplant such masterpieces as Biker Boyz and Torque as the definitive motorcycle action movie of our time? We don’t know, and only time will tell. Can someone send us a copy of this though? Thanks for the tip Rick!

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I just got the box office and donation results in from our screening of Fastest last Thursday night, and I’m very happy to report that we raised $1,500 for Riders for Health that evening. Hosted in conjunction with the San Francisco Dainese Store (thanks D-Store Crew!), we had a packed house of over 250 MotoGP fanatics for the SF premiere of the sequel to Faster. Director Mark Neale even drove up from Los Angeles, and signed posters, DVDs, and t-shirts, in addition to participating in the Q&A after the screening.

Those in attendance had a chance to win a signed Randy Mamola illustration by Rich Lee Draws, a Marco Simoncelli Photo Tribute by Scott Jones Photography, and a signed Valentino Rossi VR|46 hat, among other items. A big “thank you” to everyone that came out to watch Fastest with us, and for helping raise so much money for one of motorcycling’s great charities. Hopefully we can do it again soon (more on that to come).

Photo: Glen Coddington

Fastest in San Francisco is a Sellout

12/01/2011 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

We hope you bought your tickets to the San Francisco premiere of Fastest, Mark Neale’s latest MotoGP documentary, because our screening, co-sponsered by the San Francisco Dainese Store, has sold out. If you happen to fall into the group of GP junkies who haven’t purchased tickets to the SF Fastest screening, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve left 20 or so tickets waiting for you at the box office, but you’ll have to pick them up in person, and by pick them up, we mean walk/ride/swim to the Embarcadero Center Cinema right now.

For those of you who already purchased your tickets, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve got a fun evening planned for you. Director Mark Neale will be on-hand to do a Q&A about making Fastest, and we’ve got some nice items to raffle off to attendees, with all proceeds going to Asphalt & Rubber‘s favorite charity: Riders for Health. The official charity of MotoGP, Riders for Health is an international non-profit organization that provides motorcycles (and rider safety and maintenance) to healthcare workers in Africa.

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Asphalt & Rubber has teamed up with the San Francisco D-Store to bring you Mark Neale’s Fastest, the long-awaited sequel to the hit MotoGP documentary Faster that features Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Marco Simoncelli. The San Francisco Bay Area premiere of Fastest, our screening will be held at 7pm on Thursday, December 8th at the Embarcadero Center Cinema in downtown San Francisco.

Tickets will be available online or at the box office for $10.50, though we recommend purchasing your tickets ASAP, as we anticipate to sell out the movie well before the event date. All proceeds will go to A&R‘s favorite charity: Riders for Health. The official charity of MotoGP, Riders for Health is an international non-profit organization that provides motorcycles (and rider safety and maintenance) to healthcare workers in Africa. We hope to see you there.

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Anne Hathaway + Catwoman + Batpod = Awesome

08/10/2011 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

For Christopher Nolan’s last installment of his Batman trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises, Hollywood hottie Anne Hathaway will don the leather bodysuit (no word yet on the leather whip) of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. Exactly where in Catwoman’s tumultuous relationship with Batman will Hathaway’s character stem from is uncertain, but it looks like her feminine wiles managed to get her Batman’s motorcycle, the Batpod. Filming is currently going on in Pittsburgh, and confirmed from this photo, Pennsylvania is a no-helmet state. If this feels like a shameless attempt to get photos of Anne Hathaway dressed in leather on the pages of Asphalt & Rubber, then you’d be right.

Source: Top Gear