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.


In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel.

Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches.

This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog.

There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel. It makes for an interesting mixture. We’ll be curious to see how this resonates with American cruiser riders.

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Roland Sands Crashes Bike into Crowd at Sturgis

08/08/2016 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS


During an event at the Buffalo Chip venue at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, masses gathered to see former-racer, bike designer, and motorcycle lifestyle brand purveyor Roland Sands. Unfortunately for all of those involved, the debut didn’t go quite as planned.

As the video after the jump shows, Roland rides his Hooligan race bike onto the stage (not the new Indian Scout FTR750, as had been reported earlier)…and then right off of it, and into the watching crowd. Right before the bike goes off the stage, you can hear someone say that the bike has no front brakes.

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If you’ve ever wondered what the FZ-09 would look like as a café racer, the Yamaha XSR900 is it. Fresh off its EICMA debut, the 2016 Yamaha XSR900 is the Japanese brand’s attempt to build out its “sport-heritage” line. That is to say, it’s Yamaha’s attempt to appeal to the skinny jean and beard crowd.

That’s about all the hate we can muster for the Yamaha XSR900 though – probably because we used it all up earlier on the Yamaha MT-10 – but truthfully, Yamaha’s appeal to the “heritage demographic” feels a lot more genuine than say, a certain Italian brand that also debuted a hipster bike today.

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BMW Motorrad Concept 101 – Six Cylinders of Bagger

05/22/2015 @ 11:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS


Released today at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy, the BMW Motorrad Concept 101 is a six-cylinder bagger aimed at the American market. Using the K1600 platform as a base, BMW once again enlisted the help of Roland Sands to build a concept, this time one that was suitable for touring on America’s highways.

The name “Concept 101” comes from the 1,649cc displacement, which clocks in at roughly 101 cubic inches. BMW says that the name is also an homage to Highway 101, which isn’t far from BMW’s design studio in Southern California, where this bike was conceived.

“The Concept 101 opens up a new chapter in the history of our concept bikes. It is the BMW Motorrad interpretation of endless highways and the dream of freedom and independence – the perfect embodiment of ‘American touring’. Designing this big touring bike study was amazingly exciting for us because we haven’t been involved with a motorcycle concept like this before. To me, the Concept 101 is the epitome of elegance, power and luxury on two wheels,” says Edgar Heinrich, Head of BMW Motorrad Design.

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A BMW Scrambler Cometh?

04/20/2015 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS


It appears that BMW Motorrad wants in on the retro-styled scrambler game that Ducati and Triumph are playing, and is looking to use its R nineT platform to do the job.

The scrambler model, which has already been previewed to BMW’s European dealers, would be just the first of several budget-oriented models to come from BMW, all of which would be based off the BMW R nineT.

The scrambler is expected to debut later this year with its 100hp air-cooled engine, while the other models, namely a café racer model, will come in 2016.

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What happens when you give Southern Californian bike builder Roland Sands few instructions beyond “build something cool”? and a 2012 Yamaha Tmax 530? You get one of the most pimped out Tmax scooters ever seen…and that is saying a lot. A popular choice with bike tuners and builders in both Europe and Japan, the Yamaha Tmax 530 hasn’t caught on here in the “scooters are for girls” United States of America.

Based around a 46hp 530cc parallel-twin motor, the Tmax 530 has some pep underneath its feet-forward design. Disguised as docile scooter, the Yamaha Tmax is no stranger to shedding its clothes for some performance persusasion, and Roland Sands has tapped into that vein of the Tmax here with his build, which will debut at EICMA tomorrow.

A “hypermodified” 2012 Yamaha Tmax 530, Sands has his usual touches in the machine, which is both a tasteful and raw representation of the looming scooter apocalypse. If Mad Max rode a scooter, this might be it. We love the tan leather seat with its subtle beige stitching, and of course the “braaaaaap” of the baffle-less exhaust. More photos after the jump.

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Roland Sands Desmo Tracker Begins to Take Form

07/08/2011 @ 8:13 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

We’ve had our fair share of controversial articles here on Asphalt & Rubber, with some posts dealing with hot-button topics, while others were designed to stir the pot a bit. Usually though we know what sort of trouble we’re getting ourselves into, even before the first comment is left by a reader, but no article caught us by surprise more than our initial coverage of Roland Sands’s latest custom project: the RSD Desmo Tracker. A flat track bike with a Desmosedici RR heart, there’s something about taking the MotoGP replica and turning it into a steel-shoe racer that elicits a very visceral response from Ducatisti and flat trackers alike.

Maybe it’s because those two parts of the motorcycle world are just that far apart — one is reserved for dentists having a mid-life crisis, and the other for back-woods hillbillies that can only turn left. Maybe it’s because people think that if you own a $40,000 Desmosedici RR, the last thing you should be doing with the machine is making it something else. There’s no doubt that Desmo is the sort of thing little boys put posters of on their bedroom wall, so does tampering with Bologna’s GP opus change that childhood fantasy?

We could delve into this topic further, but I doubt we’d get very far in the conversation. I will say this though, just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a bike by its build progress. That being said, this post is one of those articles that we see trouble brewing a mile away. A friendly reminder: the comments section is below, near the bottom of the page.

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Another Day in the Roland Sands Office

05/10/2011 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Making custom bikes of his choosing in Southern California is pretty lush gig, and helping prove the point that we should give up this crazy blogging lifestyle, Roland Sands Design has come up with this “typical day in the office” video. Tracking a promotional photo shoot that starts in the RSD shop, and ends in some apocalyptic industrial park, there’s a bevy of women, motorcycles, and Roland.

After crushing a small mutiny here in the office (we must not have enough bikes for our decor here in the A&R office), we can share with you  the video of a typical day in the Roland Sands Design office. Employers beforewarned as your workforce may start complaining of unfair working conditions. Employees beware, not all the scenes here are strictly work safe.

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Roland Sands Talks about Bell Helmets

01/17/2011 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

We’ve had more than a few Bell Helmets rolling around the A&R office these past months, and one of the things we’ve really liked from this American-based company is how it has teamed up with notable designers from inside and outside of the motorcycle industry to bring attractive and fresh looks to consumers. While it’s been the Bell Star and Vortex that have been keeping our brains firmly in-between our ears, it’s the designs by Roland Sands and Jona Cerwinske that have been attracting us to Bell, and propelling the company back into the motorcycle helmet market as a whole.

Taking some time to talk to Roland Sands at his new Southern California shop, Bell Helmets has put together this short video with the former motorcycle racer turned designer. While Bell and RSD are obviously out to hock the new gold-leaf-over-carbon fiber “Speed Freak” helmet they’ve created for 2011, Roland has some interesting stories about his process and growing up around motorcycles…the photography is spectacular too boot.

With Bell in the process of restoring its name after having its motorcycle helmet division operated overseas by another company, we expect to see more videos in the future like the one after the jump that engage riders with this once-defunct American brand.

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More Photos of the Roland Sands Design Ducati Diavel

10/17/2010 @ 11:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Our good friends at Ducati News Today have released more photos of the Ducati Diavel that Roland Sands built at his Southern California shop. While this photo is RSD’s take on how the Diavel should look, Roland and his crew have made a variety of accessories and OEM parts that Ducati will carry for the Diavel when it officially launches.

You’re not likely to hear Ducati brass tout the fact though, as they’ve tried to distance themselves from Roland Sand Design’s involvement — a misstep in our opinion. If anyone can connect the stodgy custom chopper market to a more hip and younger motorcycling audience, it’s Roland Sands Design, and Ducati could do well to associate themselves with the talent surrounding that firm. After all Roland Sands Design is really the only link in the US market that exists between the sport bike and cruiser markets.

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