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.

What A Trade War Means for Motorcycles

03/06/2018 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

This week a new specter is on the horizon, as the Trump administration is eyeing tariffs on both steel and aluminum, at 25% and 10% a pop - respectively.

Naturally, the increase in the cost on importing raw metals into the USA is going to have an adverse effect on manufacturing-based businesses, but not all of these companies are affected equally when tariffs are imposed.

So, let's take a look at what this really means for the American motorcycle industry.

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For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated.

Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015.

Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations).

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beIN Sports to Continue Televising WSBK thru 2015

05/19/2014 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS


World Superbike fans may, or may not, be pleased to hear that beIN Sports will continue televising WSBK for the American market, through the 2015 season.

As was the case previously, beIN Sports will continue as the sole-television provider for the American and Canadian television markets, while the beIN Sports online streaming service will operate alongside World Superbike’s own internet property.

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US Motorcycle Market Drops 14.7% in Q1 2013

05/21/2013 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS


While we have mostly been lamenting the loss of the European motorcycle market, thanks chiefly to the Spanish and Italian economies, things here in the United States appear to be a bit tougher than was thought. While Americans contemplate whether or not we are headed into a double-dip recession, the American motorcycle market certainly seems to be headed that way.

While last year showed signs that motorcycling in the US had hit rock-bottom, and even posted very modest signs of growth, the first quarter of 2013 is anything but reassuring. With the US motorcycle market down 14.7% overall in Q1 2013, the MIC is reporting losses pretty much across the board (off-highway bike sales are more or less flat).

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That MotoGP is too Iberocentric – too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders – is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.

This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race.

In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.

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Say Hello to the 2013 Honda…Grom?

05/14/2013 @ 4:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS


We already covered the Honda MSX125 monkey bike when it debuted at the start of this year, and at the time we knew that the tiny street-terror would be a world market machine. Confirming our hopes at the time of its launch, Honda Motor Corp. has announced that it intends to bring the MSX125 to the United States, renaming it the Honda Grom.

The 2013 Honda Grom will come with just under 10hp, and features a four-speed gearbox that is mated to a 125cc single-cylinder motor, which comes from the common-parts bin of the Japanese company’s popular Honda Wave 125i scooter. Fuel-injected, 225 lbs at the curb when topped-off with its 1.45 gallons of fuel, and priced at $2,999 MSRP, we think Honda hit its mark with an affordable, bulletproof, and fun grocery-getter.

Track day enthusiasts, we have found your perfect pit bike; new riders, we have the ideal machine for you to cut your teeth on, while still being “cool” in the eyes of your more experienced riding friends; and for those who are vertically challenged, your 29.7 inch inseam machine is ready. More photos after the jump, but note America will only be getting the red & black models.

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I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.

As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.

Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.

That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.

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Harley-Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012

01/30/2013 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS


Helped by a strong fourth quarter, Harley-Davidson is reporting signs of growth for 2012, with the company’s global sales again up 6.2% over the figures from last year. With sales up 6.6% in the United States, and 5.6% abroad, Harley-Davidson sold 249,849 motorcycles in 2012, and those sales figures translated onto the balance sheet into a 6% growth in revenue ($4.9 billion) and a 4% increase in net income ($623 million).

“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our employees, dealers and suppliers, Harley-Davidson achieved its growth and restructuring goals in 2012,” said CEO Keith Wandell. “The ambitious restructuring of our manufacturing operations, aimed at delivering better responsiveness for customers and greater operating efficiency, is now largely behind us.”

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Uh-Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales-Year Ever in 2012

01/11/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS


If we asked you which Germanic company was the largest motorcycle brand by volume, you would likely guess BMW Motorrad…and you would be wrong. Snap! Displacing the venerable brand from Bavaria, which set its own sales record, KTM’s 2012 sales year of 107,142 units has handed the Austrian brand the distinction of being the best-selling Germanic brand worldwide (by a margin of less than 1,000 machines).

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Two curious things happened today: an EPA certification document outed details on the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R and Kawasaki USA announced the “global debut of its 2013 line of iconic Ninja motorcycles in New York’s Times Square.” Add in to the mix that the EPA documents also make mention of Kawasaki Ninja 300 & Kawasaki Ninja 400R models, along with the recently updated Kawasaki Ninja 250R, and Team Green could very well be dropping the news about three or four brand new models for the US market.

Of course what is really interesting about this news is how Kawasaki could do a two-fold offer of 300cc & 400cc bikes in the US market, and how those two models would fit alongside the Ninja 250R, which we can only assume will be updated in the United States to the model that was debuted in Indonesia earlier this month. Or will it?

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