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.

Triumph Just Put the Desert Sled on Notice

03/17/2018 @ 1:50 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Triumph is sending a major wakeup call to its colleagues down south in Bolonga, as the revamped 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 just broke cover in spy photos, and the bike looks to be a direct competitor to the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled.

Abandoning its previously frumpy British roadster-with-knobbies design, the new Triumph Scrambler 1200 looks the part, and seems focused on actually going off-road, like a good scrambler should.

It is a big surprise from the British brand, and a bit of a new direction for Triumph, but clearly the Brits have been feeling the post-authentic pressure from Ducati, and are thus responding in kind.

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Norton Teases Future 650cc Street Bike

11/15/2017 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Norton is getting closer to releasing its next motorcycle, this one being a 650cc twin-cylinder street bike. As you can see above in the photo, courtesy of our friends at MotoFire, the Norton 650 will take a roadster form, with a positively vintage vibe.

The bike will serve as a platform though, for several 650cc motorcycles, one of which will be the basis for an Isle of Man TT race bike.

Said to make around 100hp, the Norton 650 would be a potent weapon in the Lightweight TT race class. It would also serve as a good counterpoint to Norton’s 1200cc superbike project.

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We are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the new KTM 790 Duke is the bike of this year’s EICMA show.

Making a potent 105hp from its 799cc parallel-twin engine, packed into a 418 lbs (wet)steel trellis body, the 2018 KTM 790 Duke brings a host of features to the middleweight sport bike category.

In typical KTM fashion, the 790 Duke left no angle behind in its high school honors geometry course, and the LED headlight builds upon the common design features that KTM has been putting together on its street-going machines.

Not quite the vision that was the KTM 790 Duke prototype, the production model still evokes the same emotions, and is handsome in its own right – allaying our fears when seeing spy shots of the machine.

Adding a TFT dash, IMU-powered traction control, cornering ABS, launch control, and an up-and-down quickshifter are all strong moves from the “Ready to Race” brand, making the KTM 790 Duke have not only the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, but it is also one of the most feature-packed.

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They are calling it “The Scalpel” – a smaller, more nimble sibling to “The Beast”, aka the KTM 1290 Super Duke R. Debuting today at the EICMA show in Milan, we are talking about the new KTM 790 Duke streetfighter, which will be a 2018 model from the Austrian brand.

Based around an all-new 799cc parallel-twin engine, the KTM 790 Duke makes 105hp / 63 lbs•ft of torque, while tipping the scales at only 418 lbs when at the curb, with a full tank of gas (373 lbs dry). KTM says this makes for the best power-to-weight ratio in the class.

The 2018 KTM 790 Duke comes packed with features too. LED lights, a TFT dash, IMU-powered traction control, cornering ABS, launch control, and an up-and-down quickshifter are all standard on this “Ready to Race” machine.

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There is no replacement for displacement, the old adage tells us, and that is exactly the driving force behind the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400, which debuted today at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Replacing the Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the lineup, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is set to be Team Green’s new entry-level model, and help Kawasaki better compete against bigger bikes like the Yamaha YZF-R3 and KTM RC390.

This news may come as a shock however, since the Ninja 300 was only available for five years (whereas the Ninja 250R served in various guises for decades), but Kawasaki says the major driving force behind the new model is the Euro4 homologation requirements, which required a clean-slate design.

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Up-Close with the KTM 790 Duke Prototype

11/09/2016 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS


One of the machines that caught our eye at this year’s EICMA show in Milan is the KTM 790 Duke Prototype. Powered by an all-new 800cc parallel-twin engine that’s being developed by the Austrian brand, the KTM 790 Duke adds an interesting dimension to the Duke line of street bikes.

Fitting in between the single-cylinder KTM 690 Duke and the v-twin powered KTM 1290 Super Duke R, the KTM 790 Duke with its parallel-twin engine will hopefully provide riders with something neither of the other two machines provides.

Still, we are curious to see how KTM handles such an impacted lineup of street-hooning machines, especially as the 800cc market moves more towards a 900cc format, something the Husqvarna Nuda 900R designers understood. As with the Nuda, thinking outside of the 270° crankshaft angle might be of benefit for KTM.

Looking at the photos from EICMA, the design of the KTM 790 Duke prototype is striking, though we should expect as much from the folks at KISKA, especially after seeing the KTM 1290 Super Duke R prototype from a few years ago.

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For KTM, the 2016 EICMA show is all about the Duke line of streetfighters. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R got a pretty sizable upgrade for 2017, the KTM 690 Duke received a facelift, and the KTM 390 Duke is now easily the best bike in its class.

The Austrians didn’t stop there though, they also gave us a taste of what is still to come for the Duke brand, teasing us with the KTM 790 Duke prototype.

Rumored heavily before the new bike season, this “KTM 800 Duke” features an 800cc parallel-twin engine, slapped into an upright motard-esque chassis.

The Kendo-styled LED headlight that’s finding its way into the entire KTM range features here as well, though that is hardly the most radical part of the 790 Duke’s design – checkout the undertail exhaust, which probably spit plums of fire before the lawyers got ahold of it.

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

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Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

08/10/2016 @ 1:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS


A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay.

On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle.

The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

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Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

04/20/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS


There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles.

As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride.

With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Using a similar chassis and the same motor as the MT-07 (that’s the FZ-07 for us Yanks), the Yamaha Tracer 700 adds a longer swingarm (+50mm), larger fuel tank (+3 liters), revised suspension settings, manually adjustable windscreen, a new seat and headlight, as well luggage options.

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