A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

This Is Pretty Much What the Monster 800 Will Look Like

With the advent of the Ducati Monster 1200, it was only a matter of time before Ducati’s middleweight liquid-cooled “Monster 800″ would be spotted, and unsurprisingly the machines have a great deal in common. The one big difference seems to be that the 821cc Monster gets a double-sided swingarm, which has become Ducati’s new way of differentiating between its big and medium displacement models of the same machine, see entry for Ducati 899 Panigale. With the spied Ducati Monster 800 looking ready for primetime, and a pre-fall launch isn’t out of the question. Giving us an excellent glimpse into what the Ducati Monster 800 would look like, Luca Bar has again used his Photoshop skills to render up images of the still unreleased “baby” Monster.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni. You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed

Mugen’s third purpose-built electric superbike for the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden San, has been revealed in Japan. Campaigning two machines for this year’s TT Zero race, Mugen has John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey at the helm of its “Shinden San” bikes, as the duo looks for a one-two finish in this year’s race. With MotoCzysz not racing at the Isle of Man this year, Mugen is a hot favorite to take the top podium spots, as well as crack the 110 mph barrier for electrics on the historic Snaefell Mountain Course (Mugen is targeting a 115 mph lap). An evolution on the company’s previous designs, the Shinden San fits 134hp — 10hp more than last year, thanks to a new smaller three-phase brushless motor provided by Mission Motors — into its 529lbs bulk.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment. Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well. Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.

Ride Review: Honda Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)

07/22/2010 @ 6:05 am, by Tim Hoefer10 COMMENTS

Ride Review: Honda Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) Honda VFR1200F dual clutch transmission dct 8 560x373

Perhaps bigger news than the bike itself is the Honda VFR1200F’s much-anticipated dual-clutch transmission (DCT) model. What Honda has developed for the sport bike world is an automatic shifting technology to enhance the rider’s experience. Automatic transmissions are a rare breed in motorcycling, and we have no doubt that some of you out there may be asking: Isn’t part of being on the road and on the bike, about feeling personal freedom? Or mastering your machine with skill and control? As kids in high school didn’t we make fun of our friend that couldn’t drive a stick? Is DCT an upgrade or a substitution? Well folks, that was the other reason Asphalt & Rubber got to test ride the new VFR1200F, and we put the DCT through its paces.

At first glance, the noticeable differences between the DCT and the standard manual transmission are of course the absence of a clutch lever and gearshift toe control. Unnecessary for our purposes, they have now become phantom controls that, in the beginning, you are constantly trying to reach for, but to no avail. An oddity for motorcyclists, the DCT also has the addition of a parking brake, which is to hold the bike in position when turned off.

DCT is not your typical automatic transmission; there is no torque converter. Instead what you are left with is a two clutch, two input shaft design, which is electronically controlled to give you seamless quick shifts just like a racecar. The first clutch engages gears 1-3-5 and the second clutch is for gears 2-4-6, this allows the bike to engage one clutch while disengaging the other when shifting gears. The experience for the rider is almost a complete absence of lurching while shifting, which can only be experienced by actually riding the DCT equipped VFR1200F.

Ride Review: Honda Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) Honda VFR1200F dual clutch transmission dct 1 560x373There are three shifting styles that exist on the new VFR, “D” or ”Drive” mode, which is intended for regular operation and maximizes your fuel economy by shifting early and downshifting less. “S” mode is the “Sport” mode, no this does not deploy a fancy spoiler or change the exhaust note, or even stiffen the suspension; rather it lets the revs reach a little higher and is more prone to engine braking and downshifting in an effort to keep the bike’s momentum up for more spirited riding. Lastly is the “M” mode, or the “Why didn’t I just buy a Manual” mode. There is in-fact a slight difference from “M” mode and a truly manual transmission: in “M” mode the VFR1200F will still downshift into first gear if you come to a complete stop, or it will downshift the bike if stalling is eminent. In addition to these drive modes, you can place the new VFR in “N” or neutral, which is best used as a safety precaution if no one is on the bike while its running. We await the inevitable YouTube videos that will come from riders who forget this.

When first mounting the Honda VFR1200F and turning the bike on you have to put the bike in “D” to get going, which seems scary at first. Your mind is telling you the bike is going to lurch when you shift into “D”, and thus it tells you that you need a death grip on the brake. This is not the case though; once you have selected “D”, the bike still sits at the ready, waiting for you to turn you brain off and just ride the bike. In drive, the bike wants to shift up all the time and if your not use to it, it does become annoying in traffic.

Most of the riders including myself switched to “Sport” in traffic just to hold the revs longer, as we would on a normal motorcycle. The “D” experience is very clunky from stoplight to stoplight. The transmission made several questionable noises trying to shift to soon and then back down that we can only assume are normal, but not confidence inspiring.

Ride Review: Honda Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) Honda VFR1200F dual clutch transmission dct 9 560x373Once out on the road, the DCT shifts almost seem transparently…when you’re not gunning the engine. It is amazing how quiet and easy the bike is to get around the inner city of Santa Barbara. Riding the VFR you constantly have to remind yourself that you are riding a 1237cc motorcycle and not a scooter; because without having to commit your mind to shifting, the VFR is a snap to ride. Should you want to manually operate the shifting, it’s as easy as going to the left-side handlebar controls where the shift up is a quick finger pull and shift down is a thumb press. Don’t be surprised if you hit the horn by accident the first couple times. To re-engage into an automatic mode it’s a quick right hand finger pull.

For little stints we were able to try the VFR in ”Sport” mode versus ”Manual” mode at a more aggressive pace. This was actually a pleasurable experience, and the bike becomes predictable in its automatic shifting. And as far as we could tell, we never hit too low a gear for a mid-corner scare. In fact the bike would shift in mid-corner at a lean and due to the fact the bike shifts so smoothly and quickly we barely even noticed. You experience a ”did that just happen?” moment, knowing fully that you would have thought twice about doing that on a manual transmission without proper clutch control.

Gunning the bike in drive is a lackluster event, it almost seems that the VFR chooses whether or not to shift down depending on if the machine felt like it or not. This leaves you hoping that whatever you are trying to get around the VFR can torque down appropriately for. When in “Sport” mode the bike would readily down shift gear by gear until you were satisfied or redlining to speed; much more how the typical rider would like it. And as you would imagine in “Manual” mode it shifts quickly to your demands…in a split second no less. We believe that most people would just leave the VFR in “Sport” mode, and every once in awhile manage a downshift for extra engine braking, or for pure amusement in almost all riding situations.

Ride Review: Honda Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) Honda VFR1200F dual clutch transmission dct 12 560x373Bang for the buck, is the DCT worth the extra $1500? The DCT had a wow factor as we rode it, both in the technological feat and we didn’t feel like anything was taken away from our riding enjoyment. We began thinking of how would this option be best used.

The dual-clutch transmission would definitely be a great way for handicapped riders who want to be on the road, but are tired of modifying bikes to fit their lifestyles. DCT also gives the ability for riders who don’t want to deal with clutch control but still want to ride a real motorcycle in a spirited and controlled manner, which as anyone who has sat in L.A. traffic will tell you, stop-and-go traffic on a manual transmission is a slow death by hand fatigue. At $1500 the option seems like a value it if these are your criteria.

Should the DCT become a cross-platform option is another interesting dynamic, especially in performance-oriented machines. Due to the current weight DCT adds to the bike you would be essentially adding some pounds to the motorcycle in exchange for a feature that could instead be achieved with a quick shift kit. Plus, with so many riders having a different style of shift points and engine-braking needs, the DCT would have to have a dynamic number of options to run a track in any mode other than “Manual”.

Yet again it’s a pragmatic decision: would A&R rather throw its leg around the DCT or the manual VFR1200F permanently? To us it’s not the toughest call, while we saw the benefits of the DCT and thoroughly enjoyed riding it; we still come back to the purity of riding a manual. We see the DCT as more of a novelty, an option for those who want to try a new technology. Those who don’t want to use the clutch. At A&R we don’t’ see the benefit of having the DCT for us yet. That doesn’t mean at some point we might gripe that we didn’t go for DCT option, or succumb to the fact that we’ll have to adapt because it is a future of motorcycling, but that day isn’t today for us.

Comment:

  1. Jim says:

    I’d save the $1500 to fund a vacation. Given the operator involvement that riding a MC requires, the lack of a clutch and shifter doesn’t simplify the experience a great deal and IMO using the clutch and shifting are the simplest inputs required of the rider.

    DCT’s will come to dominate race bikes and the accompanying race replicas, simply because the computer and solenoid will execute the shift much faster than the rider.

  2. Sloan says:

    My personal reliable source says the DCT will be in the 2012 Gold Wing to be released mid/early 2011. They didn’t say if it would be an option or standard equipment. There will be no official 2012 ‘Wing and will rely on 2010 models to be in stock (and hope there’s enough)

    And I rode the DCT VFR and have to agree with you on all points. It was street riding only, mainly in town but with a few spirited corners thrown in. From a stoplight, D mode has you in 5th gear before you cross the intersection and S mode can sometimes hold a lower gear too long when riding in traffic. But like you mentioned, it’s very easy to tap the shift button to either step up or step down a gear, then fan the auto/manual switch to go back to the automatic mode you had previously. One other helpful hint for anybody doing a test ride on the DCT bike… if you are sitting at a red light with it in gear, don’t blip the throttle like so many of us like to do with a clutch pulled in because the bike will try to take you into the intersection! Fortunately I was warned of this before I rode it! BTW, I’m not giving up my 2006 VFR for this one!

  3. Sloan says:

    Minor correction…there will be no official 2011 ‘Wing.

  4. Ride Review: Honda Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) – http://aspha.lt/171 #motorcycle

  5. RT @Asphalt_Rubber: Ride Review: Honda Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) – http://aspha.lt/171 #motorcycle

  6. RT @Asphalt_Rubber: Ride Review: Honda Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) – http://aspha.lt/171 #motorcycle

  7. Interesting tech, it will become the norm. I have not ridden the VFR of either persuasion but one area that does concern me with the DCT is doing a very tight U turn, I normally fan the clutch and drag the rear brake a bit for stability. With the VFR120o, both versions will operate front pucks as well which I despise (linked brakes) and I wonder about a real tight manouvres vs a DCT, if in 1st and super slow the rider has a choice of drive or neutral, not so sure about all that.

  8. Sloan says:

    I can answer that one for Derek. Before I took a VFR 1200 out on the road I did some parking lot drills including u-turns and tight circles. Basically I just applied some rear brake with a little throttle and it felt just like working a clutch in the friction zone but much easier. Within 2 or 3 circles I was able to let the steering to go full lock left or right and keep up the rotation. The electronics seem to do the work you would normally do with the clutch lever and provided the correct amount of friction.

  9. Skipper says:

    Honda will never sell this concept to the American public. Maybe it would be nice on a scooter or the Lead Wing but on a sport bike – get real – who in the hell wants an automatic type transmission on a sport bike or sport touring bike. This whole VFR1200 thing is a total nightmare. This bike is just plain overweight and overpriced and it has the ugliest muffler on any motorcycle to date. Maybe Honda is considering buying out Harley Davidson so they are practicing selling overweight and over priced motorcycles.

  10. Pat says:

    I’m in my 3rd year of riding and I’m just starting to become noob mechanic. Coming from a very high tech background, I absolutely hated the whole concept of my Ninja 250… Carbs in 2009… But now I’m starting to have a huge appreciation for how easy it is to fix/replace anything on the bike. With this in mind, I have some serious brain conflict over this monster bike. I love the technology, but I fear the ability to do anything on it.

    I guess the late 80′s automotive electronics conflict is coming to bikes…

    On a side note, I also have a 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS with electronic everything, including a CVT transmission. Maybe I’ll keep the bike stuff mechanical and the car stuff high tech :)