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.

That Suzuki Katana 3.0 Concept Though…

11/15/2017 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

One of the less-publicized motorcycles on display at this year’s EICMA show was this Suzuki Katana concept, which has since been making the rounds on social media.

Rightfully so, we would say, as the “Katana 3.0” is a very intriguing idea into how Suzuki can revitalize one of its most iconic names.

A creation by the folks at Motociclismo, with the help of designer Rodolfo Frascoli and Engines Engineering, the Katana 3.0 concept isn’t the “official” concept that many had hoped for from Suzuki.

However, the fact that Suzuki hosted the concept inside its EICMA display is a sign that the Japanese manufacturer is certainly listening to the feeback the bike generates.

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You would have to be living under a rock not to notice the heritage theme that has taken the motorcycle industry by storm.

That being said, Suzuki’s hibernation, as we like to call the company’s complete withdrawal from the two-wheeled space during the recession, is a lot like living under a rock.

Finally seeing the daylight, the Japanese brand is a bit late to the post-authentic retro game, and finds itself having to scramble to stay relevant. That is to say, this is how we read the fact that Suzuki has only one new machine for 2018: the SV650X.

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Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe Brings Modern to Retro

11/07/2017 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Kawasaki made an impression at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, debuting the new Z900RS standard. The premise was simple there: take the potent Kawasaki Z900 street bike, and dress it in retro clothing.

The effect was something that looked incredibly like the Kawasaki Zephyr of old, but with modern brakes, suspension, traction control, and even a slipper-assist clutch. Now we see that Team Green plans on already expanding the line, debuting today the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe.

Basically the Z900RS with a bikini fairing, this modern café racer should be a perfect fit for those riders that want an older looking motorcycle that doesn’t run like an older looking motorcycle.

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For the 2018 model year, Ducati is updating the Scrambler Desert Sled with another color option, one that the Italian brand calls “Shining Black”. As boring as that name sounds, it might be the best retro Scrambler paint job that we have ever seen from Borgo Panigale.

We know that up until this point, the Scrambler Ducati brand has been all about its bright green AstroTurf faux lawns, pristine giant yellow container boxes, and post-authentic marketing calls with skateboards, wide-brim hates, and semi-homeless millennials.

But, the new Desert Sled color scheme (we would have called the color “Shag Carpet Sexy” or “Dr. McNasty”) screams back to another part of the 1970s – a time when souping up passenger vans and living in them was an acceptable thing for non-creepy men to do.

Still, we love the effect that is done with the all-black paint, contrasted with the warm red/orange/yellow rainbow colors. It gets us excited about the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled all over again.

Now, the only question is how hard would it be to wedge the Scrambler 1100’s engine in this off-road chassis? Not too hard, we think.

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After much teasing, Honda quietly debuted its Neo Sports Café concept at the Tokyo Motor Show today. Releasing nary a detail about the simple but modern motorcycle design, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the machine.

We had hoped that the Honda Neo Sports Café would lead to a retro-styled version of the Honda CB1000R, much in the same vein that the new Kawasaki Z900S is a hipsterfied version of the popular Z900 street bike.

It’s not clear if Honda intends to produce the Neo Sports Café concept, but its design is intriguing, especially when you consider the now ancient four-cylinder engine that resides in its chassis, which is of course derived from the previous generation Honda CBR1000RR.

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Retro-Styled Kawasaki Z900RS Debuts in Tokyo

10/25/2017 @ 2:09 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

As expected, at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Kawasaki unveiled a new retro-syled model based off its popular Z900 street bike, thus creating the 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS.

As the core of the bike is the same four-cylinder, water-cooled, 900cc engine that is found on the Kawasaki Z900, but Team Green has completely revamped the styling to have a more heritage look and feel to the “RS” model.

Peppy motorcycle meets trendy aesthetics, the Kawasaki Z900RS truly lives up to its “Retro Sport” moniker. Equipment includes LED lighting, new spoke-looking wheels, and a revised exhaust design.

The paint scheme is meant to mimic the design found on the 1972 Kawasaki Z1, one of the Japanese brand’s more classic motorcycles, while appealing to the features that modern motorcyclists rely upon.

Set for sure for the European market, it will be interesting to see if Kawasaki brings the Z900RS to the USA. We would expect so, but stay tuned for more information.

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Yamaha XSR700 Brings the Hip to the USA for 2018

09/21/2017 @ 6:23 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Announced today at the AIMExpo, Yamaha is bringing the XSR700 to the US soil, as the tuning fork brand sees an opportunity for the twin-cylinder heritage model in the land that brought hipsters their skinny jeans.

The choice must have been an easy one for the folks at Yamaha Motor USA, with the Yamaha FZ-09 and Yamaha FZ-07 selling well here in the United States, and the XSR900 already being critically acclaimed by the US moto media.

Adding the Yamaha XSR700 to the 2018 model lineup seems like an obvious no-brainer for Yamaha, and we are happy to see it finally coming to the United States of America.

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New Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster Teased for 2018

09/18/2017 @ 11:41 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Are you ready for another flavor of Triumph Bonneville? We hope so, because the British marque is teasing a new model: the Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster.

Set to debut on October 3rd, Triumph’s social media channels are boasting that the new Speedmaster will have “classic custom style” and “class leading capability” – along with “British attitude” which either means a stiff upper lip, or passive-aggressive social graces…we can’t be sure.

In seriousness though, we can assume from the name and attributes that the new Speadmaster will be getting the same liquid-cooled upgrades that we have seen come to the Bonneville line in past few model years, following in the footsteps of the Thruxton and Bobber.

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A Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen Is Coming Soon

05/24/2017 @ 11:25 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

At the 2015 EICMA show, the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen (shown above) debuted to much fanfare, as the neo-retro model showed a new direction for the Swedish brand’s street lineup, with the machine heavily expected to come as a production model.

And now today, we see that a “Svartpilen” 701 model will debut as well, with spy photos of the bike being captured in its near-production form.

The black-colored and more scrambler-styled Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen is an addition to the white-colored and more roadster-styled Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen that we have already seen.

As such, it seems clear that Husqvarna is expanding its on-road offering in a big way, and to be beyond its current crop of simple supermoto designs.

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Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

04/17/2017 @ 6:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned.

The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them.

The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils.

Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

If the current trend in the custom world is to re-invent these machines, then we are all for it.

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