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.

Mega Gallery: Triumph Speed Triple

02/05/2018 @ 2:35 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Want a better look at the new Triumph Speed Triple that debuted today for the 2018 model year? Don’t you worry, Asphalt & Rubber has you covered.

Revamping the 1050cc platform, the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple S and 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS represent Triumph’s ongoing evolution to its modern motorcycle lineup, with the Street Triple, Tiger 800, and Tiger 1200 models also seeing mild refreshes for 2018.

A bike that literally created the streetfighter segment for production motorcycles, the Speed Triple has fallen behind to offerings like the KTM 1290 Super Duke R and Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR, and its dual-headlight aesthetic being not the only thing that has remained constant on the three-cylinder sport bike.

The British brand hopes to change that with this latest iteration of the Speed Triple, which includes IMU-powered electronics (RS model) and a modest 13hp power increase.

That might be a tall order for this iconic model, but it at least propels the Triumph Speed Triple lineup into the 21st century.

Always a popular machine with street riders, Triumph at the very least has given two-wheeled enthusiasts a reason to consider the Speed Triple S and Speed Triple RS, when considering the purchase of a dank-whoolie monster for their garage.

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Say Hello to the New Triumph Speed Triple RS

02/05/2018 @ 1:52 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Back in 1994, Triumph created the streetfighter segment with the Speed Triple. But, the bike of 20 years ago is very different from the one debuting today, however the basic ethos remains: an aggressive sport bike for the city streets.

In this time span though, the streetfighter segment has changed. Brands like KTM and Aprilia rule the roost, with high-horsepower bikes that come competently packed with high-tech electronics.

Hoping to stay relevant with the same basic 1050cc platform, the British marque shows us now the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS – which boasts over 100 “new” parts just in the engine alone.

The changes are subtle to the outgoing model though, but the highlights do stand out.

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USA Gets Upgraded with the Kawasaki Ninja 400

12/01/2017 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The 300cc sport bike class has become the 400cc sport bike class – the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 is proof of this. As expected, the all-new Ninja 400 model comes to the United States for the next model year, and replaces its smaller sibling.

This perhaps is good news for American riders, as Kawasaki USA isn’t raising the price ($4,999 for the non-ABS model) of the small-displacement machine, with the ABS model priced between $5,299 and $5,499 (the latter is for the KRT race replica).

Featuring a completely new chassis and motor, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 also borrows its styling cues from the supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 lineup.

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Benelli 302R – Rebranded & Now Euro4 Compliant

09/19/2017 @ 1:09 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Benelli Tornado 302 is an adorable motorcycle that boasts Italian design with Chinese manufacturing. When we showed it to you two years ago, it received positive acclaim, and was one of a handful of stand-out bikes that the Italian brand surprised us with at the 2015 EICMA show.

It seems now that Benelli is relaunching the Tornado 302, under a new name, the Benelli 302R. Little seems to have changed in the past two years, aside from a new graphics package on the bodywork, Euro4 compliance, and over course the new moniker.

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In early 2016, I was fortunate enough to ride the revamped and Euro4 version of the MV Agusta Brutale 800. On paper, the Brutale 800 lost power and gained weight, but the reality is that MV Agusta improved upon already one of its best-selling machines, in subtle and clever ways.

Now a year-and-a-half later, the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is finally available in the United States, and I have been reunited with one of the best street bikes on the market.

Spending almost all of last month with this motorcycle again, it is clear that not much has changed from a rider’s perspective, though internally improvements have been made to some of the weaker elements of the design, like the sprag clutch and valve train.

While not much has changed with this year’s edition of the MV Agusta Brutale 800, I am mostly fine with that.

I say mostly, because the MV Agusta Brutale 800 could benefit from some changes, with those handful of refinements, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 could be the best street bike on the market…and I don’t say those words lightly.

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Honda CB650F Comes to the USA for 2018

05/09/2017 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Honda CB650F is coming to the United States as a 2018 model year machine, so says American Honda. Expected to arrive in August 2017, the Honda CB650F adds a naked option to Honda’s middleweight street bike lineup, complimenting the CBR650F in the range.

The 650cc inline-four Honda CB650F creates a solid middle-point between the Honda CB500F and Honda CB1000R, which helps create a set of steppingstones between Honda’s entry-point machines and top-of-the-line range.

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Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

04/07/2017 @ 4:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen.

Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit.

That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

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Yamaha YZF-R15 Gets Updated with Variable Valves

03/31/2017 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

What you see here is the very unassuming 2017 Yamaha YZF-R15, a 155cc single-cylinder sport bike that was designed with the Asian market in mind – as such, the bike will debut in Indonesia in April 2017, and the rest of the ASEAN market later this year.

Hold on before you click through though, as while the R15 might be too small by our Western market standards, the new Yamaha YZF-R15 packs some interesting technology, namely Yamaha’s variable valve actuation (VVA).

Because of this technology, Yamaha says that the 2017 model of the YZF-R15 achieves a 18% increase in power output (19hp in total), and a 4.7% increase in fuel efficiency, all from its 3% engine displacement increase and with the VVA technology.

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Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Is Finally Ready

03/17/2017 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Every time I hear about how the Japanese brands are abandoning the 600cc sport bike market, I have a little chuckle with myself. Honda et al will tell you that the issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride supersports anymore.

However, I am a firm believer that the real issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride the same old supersports that the OEMs keep cookie-cuttering out of their factories every year. In my mind, the Vyrus 986 M2 proves this point.

I can think of no other machine that has generated a bigger response on Asphalt & Rubber than this 600cc Italian exotic. The sweet irony too is that it’s powered by a Honda CBR600RR engine.

The motorcycle industry keeps trying to sell supersports, pitches them as watered-down superbikes, and then acts surprised when the bikes don’t sell.

Instead, they should take a note from, Vyrus, which has managed to create an inline-four 600cc speed machine that you want so bad, that you would sell a kidney from your middle-child for it.

Carbon fiber fairings, hub-center steering, edgy design…this bike screams unique and special…and no one cares that it’s not a 1,000cc 200hp monster. 

In other news, the street bike version of the Vyrus 986 M2 is finally available for order. You can order one completed, or in kit form.

As with all things from the Italian factory, each bike is built bespoke to its owner’s wishes, though last we heard the Vyrus 986 M2 was fetching a reasonable €25,000 price tag. Strike that, Vyrus just sent us an updated price list: €37,940 for the Vyrus 986 M2, and €27,930 for the street bike kit.

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For Suzuki, the debut of its first all-new superbike design went swimmingly well, with the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R impressing journalists at its launch in Phillip Island earlier this year.

We would hope so, as the Japanese manufacturer once laid claim to being the King of Superbikes, but then cowardly abdicated its throne for an eight-year period, where only modest updates came to the line.

Like most of Suzuki’s motorcycle lineup, the GSX-R models have suffered from abandonment by their caretakers in Hamamatsu, and while there is a new GSX-R1000 for us to drool over (though its true mettle yet untested against its rivals), what is to come of its 750cc and 600cc counterparts?

Our friends from Down Under seem to have the answer, as Australia’s Motorcycle News reports that a new Suzuki GSX-R750 is in the works, likely to debut as a 2019 model year machine.

As for the GSX-R600, well…that appears to be going the way of the dodo, as Suzuki seems set to follow Honda’s on its exit out of the supersport market.

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