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.

The Suter MMX 500 is the Ultimate Two-Stroke Track Bike

09/29/2015 @ 12:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically.

Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course.

That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).

Suter hopes that interested buyers will field their machine in the GP Bike Legends series, which pits two-stroke era racers back on their smokey machines. We’re not so sure about that, but the Suter MMX 500 is easily the ultimate track day queen.

Suter MMX500 Two-Stroke Beast Caught Testing

09/25/2015 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

suter-mmx500-two-stroke-spy-video

We may live in a four-stroke era, but the enthusiast-factor for two-strokes is extremely strong. One look at the popularity of our story on the Suter MMX500, a bike that hasn’t even been launched yet (or is that, re-launched?), confirms as much.

Narrow powerbands, high horsepower figures, and featherlight weights are three key ingredients to the strength of two-strokes. Huffing pre-mix helps too.

To help fuel that fire, no pun intended, we bring you this highly suspicious video of the Suter MMX500 “caught” testing. It seems staged, and that’s fine, just show us the damn bike already. Ra-dinnnng-a-ding-ding!

Suter MMX 500 – Reviving the 500cc Two-Stroke…Again

09/21/2015 @ 7:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

suter-v4-two-stroke-gp-track-bike

Suter Racing’s 500cc V4 two-stroke track bike project is back, in case you didn’t hear. Now called the Suter MMX 500, the ~200hp / 284 lbs motorcycle is set to debut again, as the Swiss firm gears up for the World GP Bike Legends event.

Presumably, not too much has changed on the GP-inspired machine, though we can expect to see an updated set of bodywork, suspension, and other farkles. At the core will remain that beautiful pre-mix consuming engine, in its V4 configuration.

We say presumably, because Suter is staying tight-lipped on this project, simply teasing the Suter MMX 500 with a dedicated website and with dyno-run soundtrack. So…stay tuned.

In the meantime, we have seriously just copy-and-pasted the same photos and information that was available four years. At least we’re honest.

Watch: The Unrideables 2

11/21/2014 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

unrideables-2

It’s almost the weekend, which means the end of another grueling work-week for many of our readers. With winter upon us, the release of riding a motorcycle after a long week has been diminished, if not extinguished entirely, which only adds to the no-motorcycle doldrums.

We have a little something for that though: 45 minutes of good ol’fashioned two-stroke awesomeness. The sequel to the much loved The Unrideables documentary, we bring to you The Unrideables Part 2, which picks up from its predecessor and covers the Rainey/Schwantz era of racing. Enjoy!

The Lineage of Honda’s Grand Prix Motorcycles

11/18/2013 @ 6:37 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

honda-rc211v

For the past twenty years or so, there is one manufacturer who has been above all others in the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing, and that manufacturer is Honda.

Winning 12 of the last 20 World Championship titles, Honda’s recent domination in 500GP and MotoGP has been a sea change for the series, and the company’s winning total in this modern era of four-stroke and two-stroke machines is double the next nearest OEM, Yamaha (MV Agusta still holds the outright record, with 18 championships from the 1956-1974 period of four-stroke racing).

Part of Honda’s success has been the fact that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has been able to attract some of the best riders ever to come to a Grand Prix race’s starting line, champions like Mick Doohan (1994-1998), Àlex Crivillé (1999), Valentino Rossi (2001-2003), Nicky Hayden (2006), Casey Stoner (2011), and now Marc Marquez (2013).

But also part of the equation has been the superb equipment that HRC, Honda’s racing department, produces for its riders, bike likes the Honda NSR500, RC211v, RC212V, and RC213V, which have widely been regarded as the best machines on the grid in each of their respective eras.

Looking down the pipe, as MotoGP adopts new rules and regulations, the RC213V and RCV1000R appear set to dominate their respective classes as the factory machines will be reduced to 20 liters of fuel for next year, and the open class machines are forced to use both the Dorna-supplied ECU hardware and software.

It would appear that Honda has a firm grasp on the next few years of MotoGP racing, and as a bit of an homage to this company’s fantastic two-wheeled craftsmanship, along with the racers who rode them, we give you wallpaper-sized photos of Honda’s Grand Prix motorcycles, from the 1995 to 2013 seasons.

Watch: The Unrideables

05/13/2013 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

the-unrideables

If you missed the glory days of when Americans dominated Grand Prix motorcycle racing, or simply want to relive the moments from yesteryear, then we have the perfect treat for you this Monday afternoon. A television production by Britain’s ITV4, The Unrideables is a 45-minute trip down memory lane with Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Kevin Schwantz, and many others.

Focusing on the racing from the late-1980’s, we get to hear the riders and journalists of the time recount their victories and defeats on the 500cc two-strone monsters of that era. It is a really well done piece by ITV4, and it is really a shame we can’t get similar programming here in the United States. A big thanks to whomever put it up on YouTube, and thanks to all our tipsters who pointed it out to us.

Video: Kevin Schwantz – A World Champion

05/11/2012 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Back in 1993 when grids were full, sponsors were smokey, and Americans dominated the sport, Kevin Schwantz was king. Riding on the Suzuki RGV500, Schwantz had to battle with a slew of 500GP legends in order to win his first World Championship — namely rival Wayne Rainey.

Deliciously 1990’s, the video is a bit hokey at times with its montages and questionable fashion choices, though it speaks to important issues currently being faced in MotoGP — namely the use of electronics.

Go ahead end the work-week an hour early, these four 15 minute segments are well worth watching, and show how far along Grand Prix motorcycle racing has, or hasn’t, come in roughly 20 years.

Lone Racer: The Wayne Gardner Documentary

03/06/2010 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Back when men were men, and GP racing’s crowning event was contested on two-stroke 500cc machines, Wayne Gardner found himself carrying the factory Honda GP team on his NSR 500. This fantastic 1986 documentary, Lone Racer, follows Gardner one year before he won the 500GP Championship, and became the first Australian to win GP racing’s premiere racing class.

The film includes great behind the scenes footage of the Aussie, his fiancée, and his team. So grab a cold beverage, put your feet up, and get ready to spend the rest of your Saturday afternoon watching the 30 minutes of video in this three part series. Videos after the jump.

Rossi: 100 Wins by the Numbers

07/01/2009 @ 9:37 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Rossi: 100 Wins by the Numbers

Valentino-Rossi-Assen-100-wins

If you didn’t know it by now, let us spoil the surprise from this last weekend’s Dutch GP for you: Rossi has claimed his 100th victory. With a century of wins under his belt, Rossi is only the second rider to achieve such a feat, and along that journey, an impressive array of statistics can be compiled.

Dorna Sports has compiled a list of Valentino’s accomplishments, which really showcases what a monumental rider the Italian is, and begs the question, will a rider every be able to fill the shoes he’ll leave behind? Continue reading for a comprehensive breakdown.