The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

It’s Official, Jorge Lorenzo Will Race with Ducati Corse

As expected, the announcement dropped today that Jorge Lorenzo will be leaving the Movistar Yamaha team at the end of this season, for a new racing opportunity with Ducati Corse. Details are light at this time, mostly because of Lorenzo’s ongoing contract with Yamaha Racing for the rest of the MotoGP season, but we do know that the Spaniard has inked a two-year with the Italian outfit. Lorenzo’s move to Ducati will mean a cascade of changes in the MotoGP paddock, with the next phase of the silly season process likely to focus on who will replace him as Valentino Rossi’s teammate. Good money is on Maverick Viñales, but as we pointed out in the latest Paddock Pass Podcast episode, Suzuki has redoubled its efforts to retain the young Spanish rider.

Photos from the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

08/16/2012 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is already off the mountain, and onto Indianapolis, but I am still wrapping up my coverage of the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second-oldest motorsport race in the United States, Pikes Peak gets a bit less fanfare than America’s oldest race, the Indianapolis 500 (apropos to my current locale). In general, the hill climb is a campy affair that is full of privateers, with that statement being even more relevant in the motorcycle class. More of a car event, than a bike one, it is the two-wheeled riders who are the real heroes in my mind, as stakes for any crash on the mountain is met with higher stakes, as well as trees, jagged rocks, and long drops.

Ducati is ever-present at the mountain, and brings with it another level of media attention for the motorcycles. The hope this year was that the Italian brand would not continue to race itself to the clouds, as Triumph was expected to arrive in force as well, with rider Joe Kopp giving Carlin Dunne and Greg Tracy a run for their money. This hope failed to materialize, with the 1205cc class hosting four Ducatis in total: the two backed Multistradas, as well as two Streetfighter entries. Now with the fully-paved course to the top, there was a lot of speculation regarding what sort of entries we would see this year in the motorcycle classes, though PPIHC put the kibosh on that fairly quickly, slotting the proper road bikes in the “Exhibition Powersports” class.

Watching the bikes file through, one after another, during the practice sessions, it is clear Pikes Peak is a still a dirt bike race masquerading itself as a road course event. Supermotos and flat trackers rule the entry list; but more so, it is the style of the riders that gives it all away. Foot out with the bike pushed down and under was the status quo, with the occasional rider coming through with a knee out and the bike leaned over. I will probably explore this idea further later, but you can’t help but feel that Pikes Peak is in a transitional state. Stymied in its history, it will be curious to see if the event can evolve into something else. The road certainly has.

PPIHC: Motorcycles Shatter 10 Minute Barrier at Pikes Peak

08/12/2012 @ 9:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With the road to the summit of Pikes Peak fully-paved now, riders not only had to contend with learning the 156 corners that comprise the race to the clouds, but they also had to learn the new asphalt sections that were paved after last year’s race. Getting three days of practice and sunshine on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course, on Saturday the weather hit the reset button, bringing rain down on the mountain, which made the road very green for racing the next day.

The sun returned for Sunday’s set of races though, with the motorcycles leading the charge up Pikes Peak. As with the previous years, the talk of class records falling was again high on the discussion list, which is unsurprising since Pikes Peak has added new pavement sections each year to the course. Though, with the asphalt now going all the way to the summit, the big question this year was by what margin the records would fall, and in the motorcycle category, whether a new class of motorcycle would dominate the mountain.

With most of the field still comprised of supermoto bikes and a handful of flat trackers, the 1205cc class showed the most diversity in entries, with BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, and KTM all represented. The PPIHC crew isn’t keen on full-fledged sport bikes racing on the mountain, relegating those entries that did show up into the exhibition class. Though many thought the sport bikers would dominate this year, it was the adventure-touring bikes in 1205cc class that would lay siege to Pikes Peak, in more than impressive style.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Takes Pole Position at Pikes Peak

08/10/2012 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Wrapping up their third day of practice on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) course, the motorcycles were on the lower section of the mountain, which also serves as the qualifying sector for Sunday’s big race. Repeating his performance from last year, Carlin Dunne took his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak race bike to the pole-position, clocking a 4’17.951 time on the lower section of the course.

Dunne’s teammate Greg Tracy is only a few seconds back on his Multistrada, posting a 4’20.443 time on the lower section, and taking the second-fastest lap time overall for the motorcycles. With Tracy riding stronger in the other sections, come race day the distinction should matter very little. After all, the hill climb is a race against the clock not the other riders, and Tracy has shown himself to be right on pace to give Dunne a hard time in repeating last year’s victory.

PPIHC Rescheduled for August 12th

07/05/2012 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After postponing the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) because of the then raging Waldo Canyon Wildfire, PPIHC officials have now announced that the Race to the Clouds will commence next month, on Sunday, August 12th.

Witnessing the enormous draw of safety personnel and resources to the Waldo Canyon fires, PPIHC official decided to cancel its scheduled July 8th running of the race, as the requisite number of support staff would be unable to attend, as they were battling the nearby blaze. Now with the Waldo Canyon Wildfire nearing complete containment, Colorado Springs officials can turn their attention to other matters.

90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Postponed Because of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire

06/28/2012 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been postponed by the race organizers because of concerns over the wildfire raging in the Colorado Springs, CO area. Originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 8th, PPIHC organizers have pushed back the race to later this summer, and while no alternate date has been given yet, one is expected in two weeks’ time.

“We have been informed by the U.S. Forest Service that conditions are so extreme, along with the inability to forecast the future of the fire, and with access to Pikes Peak in jeopardy that the agency can’t permit the event to go as scheduled, “said Tom Osborne, Chairman of the Board of the PPIHC and President & CEO of the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.

Ducati Announces Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Team with Carlin Dunne & Greg Tracy

02/02/2012 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Ducati has announced its factory team for the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), and the Italian company has secured the services of last-year’s winner and Rookie of the Year Carlin Dunne as well as six-time PPIHC winner Greg Tracy. Ducati has also partnered with the Spider Grips team, who will help prepare the teams Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the “Race to the Clouds” on July 8th.

For 2012, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will be fully-paved to the top of the mountain, which will surely see the speeds of competitors increase, and lap times drop on the 12.42 mile long course that ends at 14,110 feet. Holding the outright fastest motorcycle lap time on the mountain, Santa Barbara Ducati’s Carlin Dunne is eager to defend his title from last year, as well as his status as the fastest motorcyclist on the mountain.