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.

The day is done and the battle is won. Yamaha claimed its third-consecutive Suzuka 8-Hours on Sunday.

The victory put a stamp on their dominance of the one race each year that the Japanese manufacturers place more emphasis on than any other. As such, Asphalt & Rubber takes a look at the winning machine, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s YZF-R1.

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If you haven’t already drooled over the photos of the GMT94 Yamaha YZF-R1, we recommend doing so. The French outfit is fresh off a race win in Portimao, and a strong contender for the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) title.

Yamaha has two factory-supported teams though, the second being the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), which won the Endurance World Championship in 2009, and is always a force to be reckoned with.

What has always struck me though, is how different the two teams build their bikes, despite starting with the same platform: the Yamaha YZF-R1. Today, I want to illustrate some of those changes, so we can enjoy the subtleties of the French and Austrian teams.

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The gearbox recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 was a massive undertaking. In total, the recall affected 2,921 motorcycles, with Yamaha estimating almost 16 hours of labor per bike in order to change out the gearbox. That’s a lot of shop time for each individual motorcycle.

That time isn’t cheap either, and the cost of the labor alone was somewhere around the $5 million mark. By the time you threw in the cost of the parts, the R1 recall likely cost Yamaha somewhere north of $10 million.

To get a sense of how long that recall work took, checkout this time-lapse video that a mechanic made while working on one of the affected superbikes. Be sure to note that the video spans two days of shop time. It’s quite the process.

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Tasty Bits, Courtesy of the GMT94 Yamaha EWC Team

06/19/2016 @ 12:08 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS


I was reminded by a recent post on Racing Café about the FIM Endurance World Championship, which despite being headed to its third round of the season (at Suzuka), is fairly wide open Championship for its top teams.

At the top of the standings is Team April Moto Motors Events, which is an unfamiliar name to us, but they are campaigning on the venerable Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Usually dominating on that machinery is the Suzuki Endurance Race Team (SERT), who are sitting in third, seven points back in the standings.

Between them is the SRC Kawasaki squad, who won the opening round at Le Mans, and is always a strong contender. You also can’t discount the GMT94 Yamaha squad, who just recently won at Portimao – the second round on the schedule.

The Suzuka 8-Hour is sure to disrupt the field even more though, as the track’s specialty outfits often out-class the EWC regulars. For instance, expect to see Nicky Hayden and the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team scalping some points in the process.

This means fewer points will be taken home for the factory teams, which only adds more credence to the FIM Endurance World Championship going to down to the season-closer, at the Oschersleben 8-Hour in Germany.

To help fuel the fire of interest in endurance racing, today we bring you some high-resolution photos of the French-based factory-backed Yamaha, the GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team.

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Here’s Your First Look at the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10

06/08/2016 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

"MTN1000 MT-10 FZ-10 USA CAN 2017"

The news is official now, the radical looking Yamaha MT-10 will be coming to the USA as the Yamaha FZ-10 street bike. Originally debuting at the 2015 EICMA show in Milan, the streetfighter model takes the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, and turns it into a 160hp asphalt-eating street machine.

Since it has race track DNA, the Yamaha FZ-10 tips the scales at paltry 463 lbs, when fully fueled and ready to ride. The FZ-10 comes with a four-level traction control system, different throttle modes, and cruise control – because sometimes you want to be a law-abidding citizen.

Priced at $12,999 MSRP and available in “Armor Grey” or “Matte Raven Black” color schemes, American motorcyclists can expect to see the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 at their location Yamaha dealership later this month.

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The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 Is Ready for WSBK Duty

01/18/2016 @ 1:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS


Yamaha is headed back to the World Superbike paddock, and it is not taking any half-measures in doing so. As such, the Japanese manufacturer has retained the talents of Sylvain Guintoli (World Superbike Champion, 2014) and Alex Lowes (British Superbike Champion, 2013), with the highly regarded Crescent Racing running the factory-backed team.

Officially debuting the team today in Spain, along with Yamaha’s other racing programs, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team should be a potent package for the pinnacle of production motorcycle racing, and we expect strong results from them, right off the bat.

This is because the new Yamaha YZF-R1 had an entire year of honing at the national level, where in the USA it won both the Superbike and Superstock 1000 classes in the MotoAmerica racing series, and in the UK Josh Brookes took the BSB Championship victory as well.

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Officially Official: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 Recall

12/29/2015 @ 8:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS


We have known that Yamaha USA is recalling all of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 superbikes it sold this year, for quite some time, and hopefully today we can end our coverage of that situation, as NHTSA has finally published the recall for the R1 on its website.

As expected, the recall touches roughly 3,000 units (2,921 to be precise), and will involve Yamaha dealers dropping the four-cylinder engine from the motorcycle, and replacing the entire gearbox – a roughly 16-hour job for the service technician.

The recall affects all 2015 YZF-R1, YFZ-R1C, YZF-R1MF, and YZF-R1MFC models, which were made between August 1, 2014 and June 1, 2015. This recall of course does not affect any 2016 models, which will have the issue address while still at the factory.

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Apologies, apologies, apologies for our tardiness in keeping your Two Enthusiasts Podcast addiction flowing, but never fear…Episode 13 is here, and it’s a good one.

In it, we run through some of the upcoming events in the moto-industry, one of which we will cover at length in Episode 14. We also tackle the looming sale of Deus Ex Machina to Louis Vuitton, and what it means for the beard and flannel crowd in the two-wheeled space.

And lastly, we give an update on the R1 recall and discuss the intricacies of US lemon law – though listeners should note that some of what we talk about regarding the recall has already been addressed by Yamaha, in the time it took us to get this show posted (we will wrap-up our R1 recall coverage in the next show as well).

All-in-all, we think Episode 13 is a pretty good show from the Two Enthusiasts Podcast crew.

As always, 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. Enjoy the show!

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By now, Asphalt & Rubber readers should be well aware of the recall being issued on all the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA.

We broke the news back in November, and even covered how recalls work in Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast – the show is well worth having a listen to if you want to know more about how recalls work.

In the show, we speculated a bit about what Yamaha would do to fix the gearbox issues with the latest R1 superbikes, and now we have official confirmation from Yamaha Motor Corp. USA on how it will handle the 3,500 or so models that need to be recalled.

Yamaha was kind enough to supply us with a letter, which will be sent to all affected R1/R1M owners, as it outlines what is being recalled, what actions Yamaha and its dealers are taking, and what owners should do going forward. Read it, after the jump.

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Yamaha YZF-R1 Gearbox Recall Affects All USA Units

12/09/2015 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS


More trouble looms for Yamaha and its pending recall of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, as our sources have indicated that all of the superbikes sold in the USA will be affected by the new R1’s transmission issues.

You may recall that Asphalt & Rubber broke the story two weeks ago about the upcoming recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, and we explored the topic in-depth on Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast.

Still, we are surprised that a more formal announcement hasn’t emerged from Yamaha Motor USA regarding the matter.

In the meantime, Transport Canada – the importer for Yamaha motorcycles in Canada – issued a recall for 240 units, while some YZF-R1 owners in the USA have begun to receive letters from their local Yamaha dealers concerning the recall procedure.

For 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 owners who haven’t received a recall notice from the dealer, you should expect one, as it’s our understanding that ultimately all of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA will need to have their transmission replaced.

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