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.

We are still about three weeks away from the official unveiling of the Mugen Shinden Nana, the seventh iteration of the Isle of Man TT winning electric superbike, but news is starting to trickle in about this racing effort.

In case you didn’t know, Mugen is looking to make the 2018 Isle of Man TT its fifth-straight victory at the iconic road race, and the chances are very good of that result happening.

This is because with scant competition coming from the other race teams, Mugen is set to race itself again this year, but for 2018 it will be with not one, not two, but three riders on the grid for this year’s TT Zero race, as the company confirmed via Twitter.

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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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Mugen Shinden Roku Electric Superbike Breaks Cover

03/24/2017 @ 6:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

In Japanese, “roku” is how you say the sixth ordinal, which means the electric superbike you see above, the Mugen Shinden Roku, is the Japanese firm’s sixth entry into the Isle of Man TT.

Piloted this year by John McGuinness and Guy Martin, the expectation is that the Mugen Shinden Roku will be the first electic motorcycle to do a 120 mph lap (from a standing start, no less) at the TT – a barrier that was nearly broken last year.

Team Mugen has progressed rapidly each year it enters the TT Zero class at the Isle of Man, and for 2017 they once again are bringing a new machine to the starting line at Glencrutchery Road.

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Mugen Shinden Go Debuts in Japan with More Power

03/25/2016 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS


The Mugen Shinden Go has officially dropped in Japan, showing us the Japanese outfit’s fifth evolution of the Isle of Man TT electric superbike.

As we reported earlier, the Shinden Go comes with obvious changes to the fairing design, though likely there are further enhancements underneath its skin.

To our eye, the Shinden Go looks to have smaller frontal cross-section than bikes of the past, and there are noticeable changes to the race bike’s carbon fiber chassis, which now looks to be of a monocoque design. The carbon fiber swingarm design has also been changed.

Additionally, Mugen says that the rear suspension is a “cross link rocker” design, which has been developed specifically for the Shinden Go.

Of course, the biggest change people will be talking about is the 10kW power increase, which brings the Mugen Shinden Go’s peak horsepower figure up to 161hp. Weight remains at 550 lbs, with peak torque down to 154 lbs•ft (from 162.24 lbs•ft).

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Mugen Shinden Go Caught Testing in Japan

03/21/2016 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS


The Isle of Man TT is still two months away, but Team Mugen is looking ready to make it a three-peat in the TT Zero electric race. Mugen’s 2016 bike is called the Shinden Go, and while “go” might be Japanese for “five” the name is very appropriate for the electric superbike.

Many expect Mugen to break the 120 mph lap barrier at the Isle of Man TT, especially since John McGuinness came extremely close to the mark last year, with a 119.279 mph lap.

Caught testing in Japan this month, here are our first glimpses of the Mugen Shinden Go, with test rider Hikaru Miyagi on-board at the Tsukuba Circuit (above) and Sodegaura Forest Raceway (photos after the jump).

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Development for properly fast electric racing motorcycles has fallen onto the shoulders of one brand: Team Mugen, and the Japanese firm has confirmed that it will continue to push boundaries at the Isle of Man TT this year.

Confirming this week that it would race the 2016 Isle of Man TT, in the SES TT Zero electric race, Mugen also announced the return of its two-rider team of John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

In addition to that news, Mugen formerly divulged the fifth edition of its electric superbike, called the Shinden Go  – in case you haven’t caught onto Mugen’s naming scheme, “go” is “five” in Japanese.

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Team Mugen Confirms 2015 IOMTT Entry with Shinden Yon

02/01/2015 @ 12:01 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS


A bit of a formality, since rider John McGuinness already spilled the beans in December last year, but Team Mugen has confirmed its entry into the 2015 Isle of Man TT.

Mugen will have a new bike at the contest, named the Shinden Yon, “Yon” being “four” in Japanese, and the bike being the company’s fourth TT racer — like its lap times, Mugen’s engineers are very consitent with their naming conventions.

Little is known about the Shinden Yon, and Mugen is saying only that the machine is “newly developed to improve over last year’s model.

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John McGuinness Confirms 2015 TT Zero with Mugen

12/02/2014 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS


John McGuinness has confirmed his place in the 2015 TT Zero race during next year’s Isle of Man TT, and as expected he will be racing with Team Mugen, riding the electric Shinden motorcycle.

McGuinness will once again be partnered with Bruce Anstey, and the 21-time race winner expects the Japanese firm to have an all-new bike for their efforts next year.

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IOMTT: Anstey Laps 112 MPH on the Mugen Shinden San

06/02/2014 @ 4:41 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS


When it comes to single-lap speed, Bruce Anstey is the man at the Isle of Man this year. Setting the outright fastest lap ever around the Snaefell Mountain Course, on the last lap of the Dainese Superbike TT no less, Anstey has another record to be proud of at the 2014 Isle of Man TT: the fastest TT lap ever on an electric motorcycle, at 112.355 mph unofficial.

For those not keeping up with the TT Zero news, Bruce Anstey is playing teammate to John McGuinness on Team Mugen. The Japanese tuning brand has brought its third-generation electric superbike to the TT, appropriately calling the 500+ lbs behemoth the Mugen Shinden San (san meaning “three” in Japanese).

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Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

04/03/2014 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS


Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni.

You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

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