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Yamaha Suspends Production in Italy and France Due to Coronavirus

More Shutdowns

Yamaha is far from the first company to shut down production facilities in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but it likely won’t be the last. According to MoreBikes, the company has suspended production at two of its facilities. The first is in Italy and the second is in France.

Production at the Motori Minarelli engine factory in Calderara di Reno, Italy, is the first. The second is the MBK Industrei assembly plant in Saint-Quentin, France. Both will shut down until March 22. The plan, according to the report, is to review the status of the virus outbreak weekly and decide if the facility should continue to stay closed or not.

Eric de Seynes, Chief Executive Officer of Yamaha Motor Europe said: “The health of our employees and our social responsibility are our priorities at this stage, which is why we took the decision to suspend production at these two facilities in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We also value highly the skills and commitment of a workforce that has shown tremendous loyalty to Yamaha, but now faces an unprecedented situation outside of the workplace.”

He went on to say that the company is working to ensure that no employee will lose out financially between now and the time that it can re-open the facilities. While March 22 is the target date to get back on track, that totally depends on how things go with the virus. It could be longer before things return to normal. 

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Could Yamaha Redesign the R1 Due to European Emissions?

Newer and Better

The Yamaha YZF-R1 is a force to be reckoned with in the liter bike category. It has been since the late 1990s. Now that bike may be redesigned to meet new European emissions standards. According to iMotorbike, the R1 doesn’t meet the restrictions for the Euro 5 emissions standards that will take effect in 2021. 

The publication also said the company won’t just scrap the old bike. It also won’t add in the necessary emissions compliant engine parts. It’s going to completely redesign the motorcycle and infuse it with more MotoGP technology. That could mean things like a counter-rotating crankshaft—like is in the Ducati Panigale V4—variable valve timing, and a seamless gearbox.

There’s supossed to be a patent application for the seamless gearbox floating around out there, but I was unable to find it. iMotorbike reported on it, though, and RideApart reported it as well. A seamless gearbox improves acceleration and makes the shift from one gear to the next extremely smooth.

The downside is it requires a ton of maintenance. If Yamaha will put one on its next R1 production bike, I’d assume it found a way to make the gearbox less labor intensive. That could make the new R1 a truly amazing machine indeed. If Yamaha has figured out how to do that, I’d assume it would use it for racing applications, too, which would be pretty cool.

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Harley-Davidson Stock Expected to Continue Its Nosedive

Not a Good Sign

While many people continue to discuss Harley’s future bikes, the financial folks have projected continued drops in Harley’s stocks. According to Barron’s, RBC Capital Markets analyst Joeseph Spak says retail sales for the company could drop by 10 percent for the quarter. We’ll see if he’s accurate on April 23, when Harley reports its numbers.

Harley’s stock started its long decline around five years ago from its high at $74 per share to about mid $30s. Spak said he would guess the company will see a year-over-year decline of 20 percent in shipments to dealers. The decline in shipments is directly tied to sales. If dealers can’t move the bikes, they won’t take any more shipments of them.

Part of the issue for Harley are tariffs. Europe imposed 25% punitive tariffs in response to President Trump’s policies. Those tariffs have negatively impacted Harley, and continue to do so. With the original 6 percent tariff that was in place before the 25 percent punitive tariffs, that puts the total tariff at 31 percent.

Those tariffs are expected to rise to 56 percent in June of 2021, according to Barron’s. The tariff issue is what prompted Harley to move European production to Thailand. It’s a move that angered many people in the U.S., including President Trump.

Permanent Damage?

Spak says Harley’s production move could be permanent. He said that Harley “is quickly approaching a point of no return on the shifting of production.” He also said it would be smart for Harley to let the savings from the production move make an impact on the company’s bottom line. He thinks Harley should become a smaller and more profitable company overall. 

I’m no financial analyst, but even I can see Harley has a major problem on its hands. The company is in a tight spot. While the prospect of a new electric motorcycle strategy could make a difference, it will take a long time for the company to turn things around with electric bikes if it can at all.

Harley’s issues are multifaceted. The company can’t find the answers by wrapping itself in the American flag anymore. It’s seeing ailing sales here in the States and issues selling abroad, and in its pursuit to sell more bikes abroad it’s angered the audience it wants to sell to in the U.S. 

As much as I’d like to see Harley continue to be the juggernaut it was five years ago, I’m not sure it can be again. As Spak said to Barron’s, Harley’s best option might be to become a smaller company overall. 

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Lightning Motorcycle Unveils the Strike

It’s Here In All Its Glory

Lightning Motorcycles has teased its new Strike for weeks now, and the company finally revealed it. The bike gets three different battery configurations, each with its own range. The first is the Standard Strike and it has a range of 70 miles highway and 100 miles city per charge. The second is the Strike Mid-Range. It has a range of 105 highway miles and 150 city miles. The final version has a range of 200 miles in the city and is called the Strike Carbon Edition. 

Only the Standard Strike gets the $12,998 price tag that was teased early on. The Mid-Range gets a $16,998 price tag, and the top-dog comes with a $19,998 price tag. That’s still considerably lower than the Harley LiveWire, but not quite as good as I was hoping.

All three models get a liquid-cooled, AC induction motor that puts out 90 horsepower and a massive 180 lb-ft of torque. That’s a crap ton of torque. All will work with Level 1 and Level 2 chargers. Level 3 fast charging can be added for $1,500.

With the Level 1 charger, you’re looking at an overnight charge. The Level 2 charger makes it take two to three hours. With the Level 3 charger, it’s only 35 minutes, and you can get 100 miles of range in just 20.

From a design and aesthetic standpoint, the Lightning Strike looks a lot like the LS-218. The Strike is less aggressive, but you can tell the two bikes are related. You can order a Performance package if you want that will add things like Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes, and an AIM Strada racing dash. If I were buying one, that’d be on my list of options.

Overall, the Strike looks like a heck of a bike. The company priced it reasonably for what you get. I wish the base model offered a little more, but this seems to be where the technology sits at the moment. 

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Ducati’s Diavel 1260 Received the Red Dot Design Award 2019

This Is a Serious Feather in Ducati’s Cap

Ducati is no stranger to the prestigious Red Dot Design Awards. It won in the past for the 1199 Panigale and for the XDiavel S. Those awards were in 2013 and 2016 respectively. Now, the company has won again for the Diavel 1260. That should help prove to many just how good the Diavel 1260 truly is. 

According to Ducati, 21 design experts evaluated over 5,000 products in 34 different categories. That’s a lot of competition and speaks to the importance of the win. Andrea Ferraresi, Ducati Style Centre Manager, sounded extremely pleased with the result.

It’s never easy to win such important and sought-after recognition as the Red Dot Award. Succeeding for the third time thanks to another iconic bike like the Diavel 1260 is a tribute to the creativity and innovation of Ducati, which fills us with pride.

Ferraresi said that the competition for the award was extremely tough this year. He sounded pleased to see Ducati’s efforts so well-received.

Now that the award selections have been made, the folks who put together the awards will host a Red Dot Award gala ceremony in Germany at the Aalto Theatre in Essen on July 8. Ducati will attend the Gala to officially accept the award in front of 1,200 or so people.

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Moto E Releases Revised Schedule

A New Schedule Adds Races

Following the devastating fire in the paddock that housed all the bikes in Jerez, Spain. Moto E has released a new schedule that actually adds races to the calendar. According to the new schedule, there will be four events and six races held to finish the season.

Here’s a look at where and when the events will be held:

  • Sachsenring, Germany (July 5 to 7)
  • Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria (August 9 to 11)
  • Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, San Marino and Riviera di Rimini (September 13 to 15)
  • Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Comunitat Valenciana (November 15 to 17)

The events in Germany and Austria will hold one race each. The final two events will have two races each. This allows the end of the season to land in November at the same time that the MotoGP 2019 season will close, according to RideApart.

It’s a shame the schedule needed to be updated at all, but it’s good to see the officials for Moto E managed to make a new calendar work. The addition of the final event in November is a smart move, and it will be good to see the season conclude on a high point. 

The fire that necessitated the new schedule is still under investigation. None of the bikes were charging at the time of the fire, so a charging issue has been ruled out as the cause.

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Does Harley Have a Grand Electric Plan?

It Could Have a Large Selection of Electric Bikes

If you thought the future of Harley-Davidson and the motorcycle industry, in general, was all about high-powered electric motorcycles, you were wrong. I see speedy electric motorcycles as part of the HD portfolio for sure, but it will only be one part, and likely not the most important part. 

As Cycle World points out, the recent purchase of StaCyc hints that Harley has grander plans for its lineup. One that hits multiple ages and multiple areas of the market. Gone are the days of HD catering to one specific area of the market. The company seems to have learned its lesson.

Harley-Davidson StaCyc
Image from Harley-Davidson

The publication lays out a groundwork for Harley to have bikes at four different levels in the industry. The first level is for little electric bikes for kiddos (StaCyc), the second level is for electric bicycles for adolescents and adults (think your typical e-bike), third level is for lower-powered electric scooters and small electric motorcycles, and the fourth is for machines like the LiveWire (but hopefully much better than the LiveWire).

It’s an idea I stated when the news of Harley buying StaCyc. If Harley can get a kid riding a Harley electric bike when he’s young, he’ll want one when he grows up, too. Cycle World doesn’t discuss what would happen to its gasoline-powered bikes. I would assume those would stick around for quite a long time. People won’t want to give up on gas bikes, and Harley will still make a boatload of money selling them.

With that said, the future is electric. Harley-Davidson could be setting itself up for success. It needs to, too, with the way its bike sales are currently going.

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Cardo and JBL Launch Preorder of 45mm Audio Set

Improve Your Audio Experience

Cardo makes some of the best communication systems for motorcyclists. We’ve discussed and reviewed the company’s products in the past. Recently, the company reached out to us to let us know that it opened preorders for the new 45mm Audio Set.

Cardo and JBL teamed up to produce what the companies call “the highest quality audio experience for motorcyclists.” We’ll have to test that before we can believe that claim, but JBL’s quality is well-known and with Cardo’s communication systems being what they are, we wouldn’t be surprised if the 45mm Audio Set was legitimately a high-quality piece of technology.

The set will work with Packtalk and Freecom systems. It provides users of those products with JBL’s cutting edge Sound Processing and Equalizer Sound Profile technologies. The sound processing part of the technology helps make the sound appropriate for the 45mm setup. The equalizer sound profile tech lets you customize the audio settings.

You get three different sound profile settings: standard, bass boost, and vocal. It’s pretty obvious what each does from the names. If you want to be among the first riders with the new JBL audio set, you can head over to Cardo’s website and take advantage of the preorder availability.


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Royal Enfield Unveils Its Bullet Trials Off-Roader

A Killer Scrambler-Style Motorcycle

We recently reported on the teaser that Royal Enfield sent out. Now, it seems the motorcycle is truly part of the company’s lineup. The company has a 350 and a 500 version of the bike, just like we thought it would. The bike isn’t quite as crazy of a scrambler as some other company’s bikes. Royal Enfield went the minimalist route. The bike looks like just enough of an off-road machine to be interesting.

The frame, engine(s), and most of the rest of the bike have stayed the same. For the most part, the Bullet Trials is just a Bullet. What’s changed is the headlight design, handlebar design, upswept exhaust, and Cleat tires on a 19-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear wheel.

I find it surprising that Royal Enfield didn’t upgrade the suspension in some way, but I don’t expect many people to really take these bikes too far from the road. The styling will sell, but few people who buy these bikes are going to be beating on them as adventure riders do.

If you’re wondering about power output. As I said above, it won’t change from the regular versions of the Bullet. The 350 makes about 20 hp and the 500 makes about 27 hp. The bikes get disc brakes with standard dual-channel ABS. 

As I said above, these bikes are mainly about style. With that said, I could see cruising down a fire road on one, or slinging some stone around on a gravel road. They’re cool little bikes, and I hope Royal Enfield decides to bring them to the U.S. 


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Utah Legalizes Lane Filtering

Another State Does the Right Thing

California is still the only state that allows all-out lane splitting, and many people oppose that, but the movement to add lane filtering to more states is growing. In Utah, a recent bill passed that allows lane filtering. This is different than lane splitting but works under some of the same principles.

When the speed limit on a road is 45 mph or less and car traffic is stopped—like at an intersection— then you can filter through traffic. This will move motorcyclists more easily through congested urban areas. It’s a win for motorcyclists and something that more states should consider.

With all that said, there are some rules riders need to abide by to properly lane filter. First off, you must be on a motorcycle (no trikes or reverse trikes). Second, there must be two lanes of traffic at least. Third, as I mentioned above, the speed limit must be 45 mph or less. Fourth, you can’t ride faster than 15 mph while lane filtering. Fifth, you can’t filter lanes if the cars are not stopped.

The Utah law, HB0149, will expire in 2022 if the legislation doesn’t take further steps. Also, the law leaves a gray area. It says you must filter lanes in a safe manner. What people consider safe varies, so that may be a point of contention between motorcyclists and law enforcement.

As Common Tread pointed out, other states such as Connecticut, Maryland, and Oregon have similar laws in the works. It will be interesting to see if they shake out in the same manner that Utah’s did. I certainly hope so. While I can understand people’s concerns with lane splitting, lane filtering just makes sense. Also, it’s not like you have to do it. If you’re not comfortable with it, just wait with the cars. No harm there.

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