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.

MotoGP Silly Season Begins for 2018

01/24/2018 @ 12:51 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

There were signs that the MotoGP Silly Season could be wrapped up early last week in Bologna, at the launch Ducati’s MotoGP team.

Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti said he expected to sign the riders for the factory team ‘quite early’. “Quite early probably means the second half of February or the first half of March,” he clarified.

So before the lights have gone out for the first race of the 2018 MotoGP season, Ducati hope to have two factory riders wrapped up, and they are unlikely to be the only factory to have done so.

It is apparent that the riders have taken note of this, and are adjusting their strategy accordingly.

After Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport ran a story suggesting that Ducati were about to sign Pecco Bagnaia to the Pramac team, Danilo Petrucci has told the same paper that 2018 will be his last year with Pramac.

“[Team boss] Paolo Campinoti and I both know this. He pulled me out of the gutter, but we know this is our last year together. The cycle is complete.”

Poetry aside, Petrucci’s announcement is significant. The Italian has a contract with Ducati that promises him a seat in the factory team if one becomes available, in much the same way that Andrea Iannone did previously. But the question is, will there be a seat there for Petrucci to take?

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MotoGP: Lorenzo/Ducati Rumors Heat Up

03/30/2016 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS


They call it Silly Season for a reason. Every year, the MotoGP paddock engages in intrigue and speculation as to where certain riders will land for the upcoming season.

Lately, this means that the MotoGP Silly Season has its ebbs and flows, as the contract cycle for many of Grand Prix racing’s riders have come into synch with a two-year cycle. As such, it is game-on for this year, as the 2016 season has turned into a perfect game of contractual musical chairs.

We have already seen Valentino Rossi sign a two-year deal with Yamaha Racing, likely The Doctor’s last contract in MotoGP, as many expect the nine-time world champion to retire at the end of that stint.

We have also already seen Bradley Smith sign a two-year deal with KTM’s new MotoGP entry, which is perhaps the ideal situation for both the Austrian factory and the British rider.

These are both important pieces to the Silly Season puzzle, but the seat that everyone is watching the closest is that of Jorge Lorenzo, and whether the reigning world champion will remain as a Yamaha rider, or try his hand elsewhere – likely at Ducati.

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Are You Ready for the Ducati Scrambler 400?

10/23/2015 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS


We have been hearing rumors of a smaller displacement Ducati Scrambler since the 803cc machine dropped on us last year. The rumors have varied in detail, with some quoting a v-twin engine, and others saying Ducati might finally bring back a single-cylinder engine to its lineup.

The displacement figure has also varied, with sizes quoted between 300cc and 600cc. In fact, only two things have been constant in the rumors we have heard: that Ducati is working on a smaller Scrambler, and that it would be cheaper than the current $8,500 Scrambler Icon, thus creating a better entry point into the Italian brand.

All of that has been too vague to publish, but there seems to be some clarity now on the new model, with a Ducati Scrambler 400 widely expected to debut in a month’s time in Milan.

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Nine New Ducati Models for 2016

09/22/2015 @ 2:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS


We all know the new model season is upon us, and Ducati has wasted no time in already letting slip two new models for the 2016 model year: the Ducati Monster 1200 R and the Ducati Diavel Carbon.

The Bologna Brand has a few more tricks up its sleeve, as it plans to debut nine new models at the upcoming EICMA show in Milan. In addition to that, Ducati says we can expect machines the will push the company into two market segments that the Italian brand is not in with its current lineup.

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We already know that BMW Motorrad has a bevy of new machines coming out for the 2015 model year, and now the Germans are ready to admit as much. Confirming that a new BMW S1000RR superbike will debut at the INTERMOT show, BMW has also teased that two more new models will also debut at EICMA.

From the spy photos that we obtained, we know that the 2015 BMW S1000RR features modestly updated bodywork, a restyled exhaust, and likely features a mild engine reworking. We will have to wait a couple more weeks to get the full details though, but expect a modest hp boost, semi-active suspension, and the Bosch MSC cornering-ABS system as standard — much like the BMW HP4.

As for the two new machines debuting in November at the EICMA show, BMW Motorrad is surely referring to the S1000XR adventure-tourer, which we have spied on several occassions, as well as the expected new water-cooled version of the R1200R.

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Mission Motorcycles: The Mission R Lives??!

05/07/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS


Mission Motors tweeted out something interesting just a moment ago, a link to a new website for Mission Motorcycles. Teasing there a photo of the Mission R, it would seem that the electric superbike that does competitive AMA Supersport lap times at Laguna Seca, is finally set to come to production.

The stars have been aligning these past few months for such an occasion, with rumors that an old Mission Motors investor was back in the mix, and looking to bring the Mission R to production. You may recall that Mission Motors made a course correction away from the two-wheeled world, focusing instead on supplying the automotive world with electric-drive components.

That change of course saw the departure of two Mission Motors founders, and the heartbreak of two-wheeled enthusiasts, petrol and electric alike, who wished to see the Mission R come to market. With layoffs reported at the San Franciscan startup just six months ago, it would seem more changes are afoot for the EV company, but we think you will like the sound of this.

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Casey Stoner Denies Retirement Rumors

05/04/2012 @ 1:21 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Casey Stoner has moved to quash rumors of his retirement which appeared in the Spanish press after Jerez. He would continue competing in MotoGP for as long as he still enjoyed the racing, and right now, he was still having fun, he said after the pre-event press conference for the Estoril MotoGP round. When he stopped having fun, he would retire, but that moment had not yet been reached, he said.

The rumors of his retirement which had emerged had irritated the reigning World Champion, and he had a few sharp comments for the media who made them. Asked by one journalist what he meant when he said he intended to continue racing for a few more years, Stoner retorted “I was basically saying, don’t listen to what you read in the press. Don’t read what you produce.”

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Valentino Rossi’s litany of complaints about the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 given live on Italian TV after the Qatar round of MotoGP triggered a wave of speculation. For the first time, Rossi had openly complained that Ducati had not given him the bike that he believes he needs to go fast, and that he had felt like pulling in before the end of the race. That, combined with an interview Rossi also did with the Italian magazine Motosprint in which he implied that Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi was failing to provide the help that he and the other Ducati riders needed caused a massive reaction throughout the media and across the web.

Some reaction was amusing, such as the Downfall parody on YouTube, discussing Rossi’s poor qualifying at Qatar. Others were more serious, including an article on the Spanish website suggesting that Rossi could try to get out of his contract before the year was over and wait for 2013, when, the article suggested, he could obtain a satellite Yamaha M1 to compete with the blessing of Dorna. Rumors quickly started to grow that Rossi’s relationship with Ducati could be over, and sooner than anyone expected.

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Gresini Says No to Marco Simoncelli in WSBK, for 2011

05/12/2011 @ 10:45 am, by Victoria Reid7 COMMENTS

In an effort to get out ahead of rumors suggesting Marco Simoncelli would be participating in World Superbike racing in 2011, his Gresini Honda MotoGP team has definitively stated that he will not be doing so. Though he appeared at the WSBK Monza round just this past weekend, Simoncelli will not be repeating his 2009 wild card performance at Imola or any other rounds this season. There, he placed third in the second race on an Aprilia, after not finishing the first race.

Simply put, there will be no extra racing for Simoncelli in a MotoGP field already marred by riders suffering health problems from extracurricular racing. However, Gresini Honda will be providing their star rider with a Honda CBR1000RR that he may test at his and the FIM’s discretion.

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Brammo Going Racing at the AMA Mini Moto SX

04/26/2011 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The Asphalt & Rubber Bothan spies were hard at work over the weekend. Taking a break from finding ALL of the Easter Eggs in the A&R office, the Bothans did what they do best, and found the entry list to the AMA Mini Moto SX that’s going on next week in Las Vegas.

Sure enough in the paperwork was our favorite Ashland-based motorcycle company, which isn’t surprising since Brammo likes to go racing, but raises some eyebrows since you might recall the Mini Moto event is an off-road supercross-style race. Since a company doesn’t just decide to go racing on a whim, this surely must mean that Brammo has dirt bikes on the brain.

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