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.

IOMTT: Michael Rutter Makes “The Ton” Official – Wins TT Zero with a 104.056 mph Lap

06/06/2012 @ 8:33 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

With water reported at various points on the track before the start of the 2012 SES TT Zero, there was serious concern from the riders about the racing conditions, though they would prove to be over-stated as the bikes took to the Mountain Course. With Miller, McGuinness, and Rutter all hungry to get the £10,000 bounty on the 100 mph lap barrier, the riders and teams also had serious concerns over whether the weather could prevent making the feat official.

Getting it done with “dodgy” conditions, Michael Rutter rode out to a commanding lead on his Segway MotoCzysz E1pc, and never looked back. Posting 126 mph at the Sulby Straight speed trap, Rutter made good time over the mountain, and set an official 100+ mph lap for electrics at the Isle of Man TT, with an average speed of 104.056 mph.

IOMTT: Q&A with Michael Czysz on the 2012 Mo’Czyzzle

06/06/2012 @ 5:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Getting a chance to sit down with Michael Czysz, ahead of the 2012 SES TT Zero race, we asked the designer of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc and CEO of MotoCzysz a few questions about the Segway MotoCzysz Racing team’s latest machine, as well as his thoughts on the 2012 season and the state of electric motorcycle racing. With aerodynamics being the centerpiece for the team’s 2012 entry, there’s a lot of reading between the lines between Michael’s comments on the bike’s technical aspects, which become fairly apparent when closely examining the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc u-close. And yes, we of course even asked the form-driven motorcyclist his thoughts on the bike’s aesthetics.

Kidding aside, Michael provides a ton of insight not only into the Segway MotoCzysz team, but also the state and trajectory of electric motorcycle racing as a whole. Developing new systems for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the bar for electrics is constantly being pushed farther, and with several potent entries this year, the TT Zero competition has never been fiercer. Like John McGuinness said to me earlier in the week, in five year’s time or so, everyone will be racing these.

IOMTT: Rutter Posts Unofficial TT Zero 100+ MPH Lap

06/04/2012 @ 9:24 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

With Sunday’s session cancelled on the account of rain, today’s combined practice/qualifying session for the 2012 SES TT Zero started under ideal conditions. With over 10 bikes starting from Glencrutchery Road, it was Michael Rutter on the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc who lead the field from the line to the finish — setting in the process the first 100+ mph lap for the electrics on the Mountain course, albeit unofficially.

Despite Rutter also posting a very impressive 153.200 mph trap speed at Sulby, for at least several more days the £10,000 bounty the Isle of Man government has put on the 100 mph barrier will stay in the island’s coffers, as the average lap speed has to be set during official timing, i.e. during a race lap.

Up-Close with the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/01/2012 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

More evolution than revolution, it is easy to see the lines of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc peaking out from underneath the complex shapes of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc. Building upon the design that won his company the 2011 SES TT Zero, Michael Czysz says he has finally had time to truly address the aerodynamic aspect of his designs, though he admittedly had to make some aesthetic concessions to find the right aerodynamic package for the job.

These concessions cause the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to have a bit of Buck Rogers feel to it at first glance, as the winglets, ducts, and neon colors hit you all at once. While it all seems a bit over the top, there is some method to the madness. Relying on computational fluid dynamics to develop his designs, Czysz’s designs aim to make the 2012 E1pc as slippery as possible in the wind, but also serve to allow the team to continue a design philosophy that first started way-back with the MotoCzysz C1 project.

2012 MotoCzysz E1pc Breaks Cover at the Isle of Man TT

06/01/2012 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Making its debut at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc was unveiled  today, ahead of the first TT Zero practice session on Saturday. Campaigned again by the Segway MotoCzysz Racing Team, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc is based heavily off its 2011 counterpart, but with obvious aerodynamic changes, as well as subtle system improvements. Boasting 200+ peak horsepower and 14kWh of battery pack, the new MotoCzysz E1pc tips the scales at 525 lbs — a full 45 lbs lighter than its main competitor, the Mugen Shinden.

Defending his #1 plate, Michael Rutter returns to Team Segway MotoCzysz, as well as American Mark Miller, who has been with the squad since its first TT race four years ago. Unlike last year, both riders will be on the same spec race bike, as MotoCzysz is racing to be the first team to crack the 100 mph average lap speed barrier. The Isle of Man government has put up £10,000 to the first rider to crack the 100 mph mark, which nearly went to Rutter in the 2011 SES TT Zero race.

Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Not Racing in TT Zero

05/30/2012 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Talking to a few of the Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing mechanics this afternoon in the Isle of Man TT paddock, unfortunately it looks like the the team’s electric entry, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev, is going to be a scratch for the 2012 SES TT Zero race.

When asked why the Kawasaki-Zytek entry would not be racing, the team cited the bike not being ready for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, intoning that the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev’s first laps ever would be on the Isle itself. Considering that the Kawasaki electric racing effort has been in the works for over a year now, the news is a bit surprising that it hasn’t been as extensively tested as its Honda Mugen counterpart.

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

Did Kawasaki Just Enter TT Zero Without Anyone Noticing?

04/24/2012 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The Isle of Man TT sent out an interesting press release yesterday, where it cited the largest competitor entry list in the TT Zero’s race history (lawyer’s crafty word choice note: this does not include when in 2009 the race was run under the TTXGP banner and 23 competitors allegedly entered). With 18 competitors signed up for the single-lap electric motorcycle race around the Mountain Course, we can surely expect the field to dwindle, as virtually none of the electric series have been able translate large entry lists into large starting grids, sans maybe the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, which TTXGP is now piggy-backing off of as well.

Announcing the return of MotoCzysz and its two-rider team of Mark Miller and Michael Rutter, the Isle of Man TT also gave a nod to the Mugen entry, which is widely believed to be a front for Honda’s own electric motorcycle racing program. Having 17-time TT race winner, and long-time factory Honda rider John McGuinness at the helm of the Mugen Shinden has only added further credence to the rumor. However getting only one sentence in the press release was perhaps the most intriguing entry to the list of competitors: Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive, which will race the team’s Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike.