Introducing the MOTR Podcast

Today we are announcing the third podcast that Asphalt & Rubber is involved with, the Motorcycles on the Record Podcast…or as we like to call it: the MOTR Podcast. The concept is pretty simple, as the MOTR Podcast is designed to compliment our popular Two Enthusiasts Podcast production. For those who don’t listen to it aleady, on the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, myself and co-host Quentin Wilson take an outside perspective on what is happening in the motorcycle industry. So, to contrast that with the MOTR Podcast, this new show will provide an insider’s view of what’s going on in motorcycles, with a focus on interviews and discussions with the industry’s leading figures.

Say Hello to the New Triumph Speed Triple RS

Back in 1994, Triumph created the streetfighter segment with the Speed Triple. But, the bike of 20 years ago is very different from the one debuting today, however the basic ethos remains: an aggressive sport bike for the city streets. In this time span though, the streetfighter segment has changed. Brands like KTM and Aprilia rule the roost, with high-horsepower bikes that come competently packed with high-tech electronics. Hoping to stay relevant with the same basic 1050cc platform, the British marque shows us now the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS – which boasts over 100 “new” parts just in the engine alone. The changes are subtle to the outgoing model though, but the highlights do stand out.

2018 Alta Motors Redshift MXR Officially Debuts – More Power, More Torque, Less Weight, and “Overclocking”

Here it is. After we broke the story that Alta Motors would be debuting an R-spec machine for its motocross line, we get our first glimpse of the 2018 Alta Motor Redshift MXR. A souped-up version of the 2018 model, which already gets some upgrades over last year’s bike, the Redshift MXR boasts some impressive features, in the pursuit of a no-compromises MX race bike. As such, Alta is quoting a stout 50hp and 42 lbs•ft of torque for the Redshift MXR, while the “wet” weight of the machine has been reduced by 8 lbs, to 259 lbs ready-to-ride. Recharge times have also been reduced, to just 1.5hrs on a 220v system – a savings of 30 minutes over the standard model.

Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle Coming in 18 Months

Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich dropped more than a few bombs during today’s earnings report, first saying that the Bar & Shield brand would close its Kansas City factory and consolidate production around its York, Pennsylvania plant. The American brand isn’t stopping the news there though. Offering a carrot of good tidings, Harley-Davidson reports that it will make its first production electric motorcycle within the next 18 months, effectively bringing its Livewire concept into production. The Livewire was a purpose-built concept done by Harley-Davidson in order to gauge the market reaction to the Bar & Shield brand going electric. Offering limited test rides, Harley-Davidson got positive responses to the Livewire experience, and the project has been internally green-lit ever since.

Harley-Davidson Will Close Its Kansas City Plant

The economic outlook for Harley-Davidson right now is not looking good. Just last year, the Bar & Shield brand cut 118 jobs from its plant in York, citing the need to cut production costs, and to reduce factory capacity so that it was more inline with consumer demand. That demand has seemingly dropped even further though, as Harley-Davidson will cut 260 jobs from its production ranks, losing roughly 800 positions in Kansas City, but adding 450 positions back to its York facility, where it is consolidating. The news comes as part of Harley-Davidson’s recounting of its rough go at 2017. The American brand saw its sales in the United States down 8.5% (down 6.7% worldwide), with the fourth quarter of the year taking a particular beating: down 11.1% in the USA (9.6% worldwide).

Hervé Poncharal Talks About Replacing Jonas Folger

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement. It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. “You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from,” he told us. “There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract.”

Honda and Forever 21 Create Clothing Line for Millennials

An interesting news item for you today, as Honda has teamed up with Forever 21 to bring young adults a unique motorcycle-branded line of clothing. The apparel line is inspired by Honda liveries from the 1980’s and 1990’s, though with a healthy dose of on-trend fashion, for both men and women. “Honda’s motorcycle racing success in the ’80s and ’90s was legendary, with our riders earning many championships in domestic and international series,” said Mike Snyder, Senior Manager of Honda Powersports Marketing. “While we’re focused on winning with our current teams, it’s fun to see our racing heritage honored by Forever 21 with a completely new audience.”

What You Need to Know About the Ducati Panigale V4 S

Is the Ducati Panigale V4 S the most anticipated motorcycle of 2018? If you are a diehard sport biker, the answer is probably yes, though a number of significant models are debuting this year, from several manufacturers. Still, in terms of ground-changing machines, the Panigale V4 has to rank high up on the list, as it is Ducati’s first proper four-cylinder motorcycle to go into mainstream production. I am writing to you today from Valencia, Spain – where we just finished a day of riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is better known as the final stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar. So, let me tell you what you need to know about Ducati’s new flagship motorcycle, the Panigale V4 S. 

What You Need to Know About the 2018 Honda Gold Wing

We just finished riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour in Austin, Texas – a day early I might add…because it’s snowing…in Texas. Still, clocking close to 200 miles on Honda’s sixth generation of this venerable touring machine has provided us with some interesting insights into the next Wing. A bike designed for long-distance riding, we have gathered our thoughts on the new Honda Gold Wing Tour, in a short and sweet format, so you can sound informed at your next bike night or internet forum. Overall, the all-new Honda Gold Wing Tour is a smart update to an iconic motorcycle, and it brings the Gold Wing name inline with the current state of technology. As we found on the road,  the new Gold Wing is an improvement over its predecessor, but that comes with a caveat or two.

Brembo Issues Statement on Its Master Cylinder Recall

Just over a week ago, we broke the news that a massive recall was coming to motorcycles equipped with a particular Brembo master cylinder. Since then, we have seen recall notices from Aprilia and Ducati (affecting roughly 10,000 motorcycles in the USA) with more recalls expected from other brands. Because recalls in the United States typically come from the motorcycle manufacturer and not the part supplier, mum was the word from the folks at Brembo, though there were a number of questions regarding these recalls that weren’t answered in the NHTSA documents. Today, Brembo has finally decided to speak about the recalls that are underway in the United States, and presumably will be occurring in other markets as well.

The Three Big Trends That We Saw at EICMA

11/14/2017 @ 12:04 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The 2017 EICMA show has come and gone, and with it our glimpse at the new motorcycles that will arrive for the next model year, and beyond. EICMA week has always been my Super Bowl, as it culminates the year's work, and also sets the tone for the upcoming riding season.

Beyond just my limited world though, EICMA sets the trends and the expectations of the motorcycle industry. There is no trade show in our two-wheeled microcosm that has a larger influence than EICMA.

So, while all the new models that we just saw are the week's big headlines, it is really the trends and movements that will dictate the future of the motorcycle industry.

For this round of the EICMA show, three major trends presented themselves in Milan, along with a few more notable occurrences. Don't worry, I'll break them down for you, though it might take a while.

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Why Valentino Rossi Will Try To Ride at Aragon

09/20/2017 @ 2:35 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

20 days ago today, Valentino Rossi fell off an enduro bike at slow speed, breaking his tibia and fibula in the crash. That night, he had pins fitted to fix the bones, and went home the next day to recover.

It looked like his championship was over. He would have to miss both Misano and Aragon, and that would put him too far behind to ever catch up.

20 days later, and Rossi has already ridden a motorcycle on track. Twice. On Monday and Tuesday, he rode a Yamaha R1M around a damp Misano. A few laps on Monday, a total of 20 laps on Tuesday.

The press release Yamaha issued said that he finished the second day “with an improved feeling and a more positive impression compared to yesterday.” Translation? He’s going to try to ride at Aragon.

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Triumph’s Bid to Take Over the World with Bajaj

08/09/2017 @ 11:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I'm not sure that the news of Triumph partnering with Bajaj quite made the impact on the motorcycle industry that it deserves.

Maybe it is because we have seen Triumph misstep with smaller displacement machines in the past (with an Indian partner, no less), or perhaps it is because the press release penned by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor was utterly incomprehensible, and devoid of any concrete facts.

Either way, the news is worth spilling some more pixels over, because there is a bit at stake in the coming years for the motorcycle OEMs, and Triumph just made a bid for sizable land grab for it.

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The Herculean Task of Fixing World Superbike

07/13/2017 @ 10:07 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

After Laguna Seca, the future of World Superbike was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer, though.

“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city, but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status quo. 

While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera, and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading.

It's always easier to swim with the tide, but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive and making the wrong decision.

Since Imola, the WorldSBK paddock has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec-ECU, will there be concessions for different manufacturer, will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams?

The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?

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No, The MV Agusta RVS Isn’t a New Motorcycle

05/18/2017 @ 1:25 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I don’t know why I have to write this story, it seems so obvious to me, yet I have read about half a dozen publications this week spewing fake news about how MV Agusta is about to release a new scrambler model, based either off the Brutale or Dragster street bike. 

In case you missed it, MV Agusta released a terse video trailer the other day, touting something called “RVS” which stands for “Reparto Veicoli Speciali” in Italian.

In English of course, this means “Special Vehicles Department”…and thus to us it seems fairly obvious what the Italian brand is up to. Well, apparently we are somewhat alone in that regard. Le sigh.

The ending of this video does show what looks like a scrambler-type motorcycle, with a few obvious MV Agusta lines to its styling. And, this is apparently enough fuel to start a fire about a brand new model from the Varesini brand, at least if your mammalian ancestry is more closely linked to the noble lemming.

The thing is though, MV Agusta has given us all the pieces of information required in order to know that the iconic brand isn’t releasing a new motorcycle, and is instead up to much bigger things within its factory walls.

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Lost in a story about testing for this year's TT Zero, the all electric motorcycle race on the Isle of Man, was an image that portends great things for the future of long-range, high-speed battery-powered biking.

A trick learned from two giants: the Boeing 787 and the Humpback whale.

2009 was a watershed year for motorcycling. Globally sales of new bikes vaporized, forcing the giants to shut plants and kill brands.

The major brands, like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki all pared down to the bare minimum, while European brands clung to life by their fingernails. In America, Harley-Davidson quietly asked for a loan.

But 2009 was also a touch-point for the modern electric vehicle. Tesla unveiled its first car; governments invested billions to support EV development; and the TTXGP, the world's first all-electric motorsport event was held at the historic Isle of Man TT.

Within five years, street-legal electric motorcycles were commercially available and the annual TT Zero race (as it was called after 2010) became the place to watch the amazing potential of battery-powered vehicle technology.

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The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

05/01/2017 @ 10:09 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

“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.

Three races into the new season, Kent has left the team. He competed in two races for them, scoring three points in the first, crashing out of the second. At Austin, after a miserable few practice sessions, Kent refused to race.

The team could have seen the decision coming, perhaps: Kent had finished 29th in morning warm up, 2.5 seconds off the pace of fastest man Taka Nakagami.

Later that afternoon, in a series of tweets, Kent explained his decision was because of “irreconcilable differences”, which had prevented him from reaching his potential.

He said he was still hungry, and believed he could be competitive in Moto2. Team boss Stefan Kiefer told Dutch Eurosport, “personally, I do not think this is correct, but that’s what he decided.”

In a press release later that day, Kiefer stated that the decision was “difficult to understand from the team’s point of view.”

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It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season.

I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict.

This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

From India, through Southeast Asia, motorcycle racing in general and MotoGP in particular has a huge following. But the only country in the region that has a race is Malaysia, hosting its Grand Prix at Sepang.

So expanding the calendar to include Thailand is a welcome addition for fans in the region. If the financial and logistical problems with organizing a race in Indonesia ever get sorted, then there might even be a third race in the region, at the Palembang circuit in South Sumatra.

Given the massive interest in MotoGP from that country, it is a racing certainty that any race there will be a complete sell out.

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Caution: Radioactive Material

03/02/2017 @ 10:02 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The warning label for radioactive substances (technically, the warning label for ionizing radiation) was born in 1946, at the UC Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, and the now iconic symbol began life a bit different from how we know it today, originally colored with a very hip magenta "trefoil" on a blue background.

The shape of the three-bladed trefoil is quite specific and purposeful - drawn with a central circle of radius R, an internal radius of 1.5R, and an external radius of 5R for the blades, which are separated from each other by 60° of empty space.

It's shape is tightly defined because it is to noticeably and clearly warn you against the dangers of ionizing radiation, which at their very worst would cook you instantly like an egg, or in less worse conditions, still potentially cause life-changing mutations to your cells and DNA.

The yellow and black trefoil is supposed to be a literal warning (the IAEA and ISO adopted this new coloring in 2007) of course, but labeling something radioactive carries with it a metaphorical weight as well. And, it too demands a cautious interaction from the user.

In the motorcycle industry, we have our fair share of radioactive elements, though few come with a warning label. On Episode 45 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you may have heard me refer to a motorcycle company as being radioactive. I thought it was worth spending some words on what that means in that context.

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What do chickens have to do with potatoes? For that matter, what do chickens have to do with steel? And what do both of those things have to do with tires?

The answer isn’t as obvious as you may think, and this week everyone in the motorcycle industry is asking themselves what European motorcycles have to do with beef exports.

The answer to all these questions is the same though, and it involves the rather unsophisticated motorcycle industry being dragged into the rather complex world of international trade negotiation. Let me explain.

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