Introducing the MOTR Podcast

Today we are announcing the third podcast that Asphalt & Rubber is involved with, the Motorcycles on the Record Podcast…or as we like to call it: the MOTR Podcast. The concept is pretty simple, as the MOTR Podcast is designed to compliment our popular Two Enthusiasts Podcast production. For those who don’t listen to it aleady, on the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, myself and co-host Quentin Wilson take an outside perspective on what is happening in the motorcycle industry. So, to contrast that with the MOTR Podcast, this new show will provide an insider’s view of what’s going on in motorcycles, with a focus on interviews and discussions with the industry’s leading figures.

Say Hello to the New Triumph Speed Triple RS

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.

2018 Alta Motors Redshift MXR Officially Debuts – More Power, More Torque, Less Weight, and “Overclocking”

Here it is. After we broke the story that Alta Motors would be debuting an R-spec machine for its motocross line, we get our first glimpse of the 2018 Alta Motor Redshift MXR. A souped-up version of the 2018 model, which already gets some upgrades over last year’s bike, the Redshift MXR boasts some impressive features, in the pursuit of a no-compromises MX race bike. As such, Alta is quoting a stout 50hp and 42 lbs•ft of torque for the Redshift MXR, while the “wet” weight of the machine has been reduced by 8 lbs, to 259 lbs ready-to-ride. Recharge times have also been reduced, to just 1.5hrs on a 220v system – a savings of 30 minutes over the standard model.

Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle Coming in 18 Months

Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich dropped more than a few bombs during today’s earnings report, first saying that the Bar & Shield brand would close its Kansas City factory and consolidate production around its York, Pennsylvania plant. The American brand isn’t stopping the news there though. Offering a carrot of good tidings, Harley-Davidson reports that it will make its first production electric motorcycle within the next 18 months, effectively bringing its Livewire concept into production. The Livewire was a purpose-built concept done by Harley-Davidson in order to gauge the market reaction to the Bar & Shield brand going electric. Offering limited test rides, Harley-Davidson got positive responses to the Livewire experience, and the project has been internally green-lit ever since.

Harley-Davidson Will Close Its Kansas City Plant

The economic outlook for Harley-Davidson right now is not looking good. Just last year, the Bar & Shield brand cut 118 jobs from its plant in York, citing the need to cut production costs, and to reduce factory capacity so that it was more inline with consumer demand. That demand has seemingly dropped even further though, as Harley-Davidson will cut 260 jobs from its production ranks, losing roughly 800 positions in Kansas City, but adding 450 positions back to its York facility, where it is consolidating. The news comes as part of Harley-Davidson’s recounting of its rough go at 2017. The American brand saw its sales in the United States down 8.5% (down 6.7% worldwide), with the fourth quarter of the year taking a particular beating: down 11.1% in the USA (9.6% worldwide).

Hervé Poncharal Talks About Replacing Jonas Folger

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement. It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. “You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from,” he told us. “There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract.”

Honda and Forever 21 Create Clothing Line for Millennials

An interesting news item for you today, as Honda has teamed up with Forever 21 to bring young adults a unique motorcycle-branded line of clothing. The apparel line is inspired by Honda liveries from the 1980’s and 1990’s, though with a healthy dose of on-trend fashion, for both men and women. “Honda’s motorcycle racing success in the ’80s and ’90s was legendary, with our riders earning many championships in domestic and international series,” said Mike Snyder, Senior Manager of Honda Powersports Marketing. “While we’re focused on winning with our current teams, it’s fun to see our racing heritage honored by Forever 21 with a completely new audience.”

What You Need to Know About the Ducati Panigale V4 S

Is the Ducati Panigale V4 S the most anticipated motorcycle of 2018? If you are a diehard sport biker, the answer is probably yes, though a number of significant models are debuting this year, from several manufacturers. Still, in terms of ground-changing machines, the Panigale V4 has to rank high up on the list, as it is Ducati’s first proper four-cylinder motorcycle to go into mainstream production. I am writing to you today from Valencia, Spain – where we just finished a day of riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is better known as the final stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar. So, let me tell you what you need to know about Ducati’s new flagship motorcycle, the Panigale V4 S. 

What You Need to Know About the 2018 Honda Gold Wing

We just finished riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour in Austin, Texas – a day early I might add…because it’s snowing…in Texas. Still, clocking close to 200 miles on Honda’s sixth generation of this venerable touring machine has provided us with some interesting insights into the next Wing. A bike designed for long-distance riding, we have gathered our thoughts on the new Honda Gold Wing Tour, in a short and sweet format, so you can sound informed at your next bike night or internet forum. Overall, the all-new Honda Gold Wing Tour is a smart update to an iconic motorcycle, and it brings the Gold Wing name inline with the current state of technology. As we found on the road,  the new Gold Wing is an improvement over its predecessor, but that comes with a caveat or two.

Brembo Issues Statement on Its Master Cylinder Recall

Just over a week ago, we broke the news that a massive recall was coming to motorcycles equipped with a particular Brembo master cylinder. Since then, we have seen recall notices from Aprilia and Ducati (affecting roughly 10,000 motorcycles in the USA) with more recalls expected from other brands. Because recalls in the United States typically come from the motorcycle manufacturer and not the part supplier, mum was the word from the folks at Brembo, though there were a number of questions regarding these recalls that weren’t answered in the NHTSA documents. Today, Brembo has finally decided to speak about the recalls that are underway in the United States, and presumably will be occurring in other markets as well.

Let’s just say that Yamaha’s concepts are a bit…ambitious. Take the Yamaha 07GEN concept, for example – a three-wheeler from the Tokyo Motor Show that we seemingly overlooked.

What a colleague called like a “tribute to Miyazaki“, this oddly styled electric three-wheeled motorcycle for urban travel is a interesting mix of new-world technology with old-world aesthetics. It might even be too hippy for the hippest of hipsters…maybe.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #65 – Tokyo Motor Show

11/13/2017 @ 10:13 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 65 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we cover the recent Tokyo Motor Show, as well as the unveiling of the new Honda Gold Wing.

Finally getting to see the venerable tourer up-close in California, Jensen reports back on the new features that have come to the Gold Wing, which is much lighter and more compact than the outgoing model.

We also briefly discuss Suzuki’s recent decision to halt its MXGP and All-Japan motocross racing programs, which is curious considering that the Suzuki RM-Z450 got a significant update for the 2017 model year.

Turning to the Tokyo Motor Show, there were a bevy of significant releases making an appearance in Japan, which we discussed in detail: Honda Neo Sports Café Concept, Kawasaki Ninja 400, Kawasaki Z900RS, Suzuki SV650X, Yamaha Niken, and Yamaha MOTOROiD.

There’s plenty for everyone in this show, and we think you’ll enjoy it, but beep an eye out next week for our coverage of the EICMA show in Milan.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Why You Should Own a Monkey

11/03/2017 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Honda Grom is a motorcycle I cannot explain. I don’t know why Honda built it; I don’t know who that bike is for; and I don’t know where you would actually ride a Grom…I just know that I want one.

Interestingly, the Honda Grom shares an ancestry with the Honda Monkey lineup – a series of small-displacement, and curiously sized, Z-series motorcycles from the 1960s and 1970s.

Now paying homage to the Monkeys of yore, Honda has one last concept from the Tokyo Motor Show that we need to cover: the obviously named Honda Monkey 125 concept.

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More Details About Yamaha’s AI-Powered MOTOROiD

10/30/2017 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR)…these are the three bid buzzwords of Silicon Valley right now. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to see the motorcycle industry blindly latching onto them, in order to keep some sort of relevance in the space.

From the manufacturers, we have seen more than a few mentions of how the motorcycles of the future will use artificial intelligence to improve the two-wheeled experience, though with virtually none of the brands talking about how an AI-powered motorcycle would be better…or even work.

Yamaha has finally made the jump though with its MOTOROiD concept, taking AI and viewing the technology through the company’s long-term focus with “kando” – the Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #64 – Sol Crushing

10/28/2017 @ 1:45 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 64 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and celebrates another trip around the sun for our lovely podcast…and one of its hosts.

In the show, we talk about Harley-Davidson’s vanishing motorcycle sales, which could be a canary in the mine for the future of the American motorcycle industry.

We also look at two intriguing models that Yamaha will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show: version of the Yamaha Motobot and the Yamaha MOTOROid concept – both which are intriguing machines, with tragic names.

Our show wraps up with KTM’s launch of the new Freeride E-XC electric dirt bike, and what it means for the future of the Austrian brand, and where transportation is headed.

There’s plenty for everyone in this show, and we think you’ll enjoy it.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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This Is Surely the Suzuki SV650X, A Café Racer

10/26/2017 @ 6:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We are pretty confident that Suzuki has some interesting motorcycles for us at this year’s EICMA show. This is not one of them.

Part of the “me too” movement that the Japanese manufacturers are going through in order to have heritage motorcycles in their lineup, the 2018 Suzuki SV650X is exactly what you think it is: the company’s popular street bike, dressed in a vintage aesthetic.

There isn’t anything wrong with that, per se, as we have seen some great builds using the same formula, like the Yamaha XSR900 and more recently the Kawasaki Z900RS and Honda Neo Sports Café concept.

However, we know exactly what we are getting with the Suzuki SV650X, and it’s not pretty. With the concept already getting unveiled at the Tokyo Motor, we expect its debut for the Western markets to happen in Milan, Italy. Look for it next week.

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It can be hard to get excited about a new scooter design for the 2018 model year, especially when so many other crazy machines are being unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show today (new Honda Gold Wing, Yamaha’s three-wheeled motorcycle of awesome, and the Kawasaki Ninja 400…just to name a few), but give us a minute here.

One of the less-publicized releases from Big Red caught our attention today, two scooters in fact: the Honda PCX Electric and the Honda PCX Hybrid. As the names suggest, both machines are built off the same basic concept, though they differ in their drivetrain.

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There is no replacement for displacement, the old adage tells us, and that is exactly the driving force behind the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400, which debuted today at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Replacing the Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the lineup, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is set to be Team Green’s new entry-level model, and help Kawasaki better compete against bigger bikes like the Yamaha YZF-R3 and KTM RC390.

This news may come as a shock however, since the Ninja 300 was only available for five years (whereas the Ninja 250R served in various guises for decades), but Kawasaki says the major driving force behind the new model is the Euro4 homologation requirements, which required a clean-slate design.

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Valentino Rossi Defeats Motobot…For Now

10/25/2017 @ 3:08 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Back in 2015, Yamaha Motors set out with an ambitious objective: to create a robot that is capable of beating around the race track one of the greatest motorcycle riders of all time, Valentino Rossi.

Along the way, the Japanese manufacturer would learn a limitless amount of information about how motorcycle racers achieve the lap times that do, and Yamaha would then be able to quantify one of the great mysteries in how to make a motorcycle go faster.

With the Motobot project born to achieve all these goals, Yamaha now two years later has pit its creation against their factory-back MotoGP racer, and the results are very interesting.

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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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