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: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/10/2015 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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It might be the shortest event during the TT fortnight, but the TT Zero packs the more technology and development than the other TT races combined. Every year, the electric race bikes make leaps of progress in their pace, and for 2015 the unofficial mark to beat was the 120 mph barrier.

Team Mugen seemed close to that mark during the practice sessions, with John McGuinness posting a timed 118 mph lap. With Bruce Anstey already a race winner from the Superbike TT, and McPint always looking good on the Shinden race bike, the duo was heavily favored to win.

This year’s TT Zero also sees the return of Brammo to the Isle of Man, disguised as the Victory Racing team.

Victory was originally slotted to have Lee Johnston and William Dunlop as its riders, but Dunlop’s crash during the Superstock race meant his TT racing was over for this year. Luckily, his Tyco BMW teammate, Guy Martin, was available and keen to ride the electrics, and thus substituted for the injured Dunlop.

Other entries include Saroléa and Saietta, as well as the university teams from Brunel, Kingston, and Nottingham.

eRoadRacing’s Miller Motorsports Park Round Cancelled

08/08/2013 @ 5:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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It’s been a while since we reported on the eRoadRacing World Cup series, the love child merger of the TTXGP and FIM e-Power electric motorcycle racing series, and that is for good reason.

While Asphalt & Rubber is a big proponent of the electric motorcycle uprising, and there are a lot of interesting things developing in this space (be sure read to our ride reviews of BRD RedShift SM, Mission RS, and MotoCzysz E1pc) the racing side of the equation has been rather lackluster.

So, it doesn’t surprise to hear that the FIM has cancelled the eRoadRacing event at Miller Motorsports Park, which was supposed to happen August 31st & September 1st.

Instead, the North American part of the eRoadRacing series will consist of only two rounds: last month’s Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, and this month’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Video: Still Think Electric Motorcycles Are Slow?

06/10/2013 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The progress in the last five years on electric motorcycles has been astounding. Taking their first laps around the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course, a 87.434 mph pace was the best an electric motorcycle could do at the prestigious road race in 2009 — a pace that was on par with the 50cc record set in 1971. Since that time though, the development of these machines has grown by leaps and bounds.

In just five years after the first laps were taken by electric motorcycles at Snaefell, these machines have grown their average lap speeds by over 20 mph at the TT Zero race, setting a new record of 109.675 mph in 2013, and boasting a rate of improvement of roughly 5 mph each year since 2009.

If hitting 142.2 mph down the Sulby Straight speed trap wasn’t further proof of the speeds these bikes are achieving, maybe some visual evidence will help support the notion. Checkout the on-board videos of Michael Rutter (on the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc) and John McGuinness (on the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni) after the jump.

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/05/2013 @ 3:28 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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You either love the technology and progress being showcased in the SES TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, or you hate the lack of sound, slower speeds, and fairly predictable outcomes that the electric race provides.

For our part, we love watching the electrics go around the Mountain Course, and if you have been following the practice and qualifying sessions for the TT Zero class, the racing is anything but a parade lap at the pointy end of the entry list.

With John McGuinness leading the field with his Mugen Shinden Ni going into the 2013 TT Zero, many wondered if MotoCzysz could make it four in a row at the 2013 Isle of Man TT.

To win though, McGuinness would have to defeat two-time TT Zero winner Michael Rutter, and the 2010 TT Zero winner Mark Miller, both of whom are on the brand new 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc this fortnight. Well, now we know the answer. Click through past the jump for our full race report 2013 SES TT Zero.

Up-Close with the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/05/2013 @ 12:54 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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In a few hours, the TT Zero race will kickoff for the 2013 Isle of Man TT, and if the practice and qualifying sessions are any indication, it should be a close-fought race between the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni of John McGuinness and the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc race bikes of Michael Rutter and Mark Miller (Update: The SES TT Zero race report can be found here).

McGuinness has been fastest so far with the Mugen Shinden Ni, posting a 109.038 lap during Monday’s qualifying session, while Rutter and Miller posted 107.817 mph and 105.806 mph laps, respectively. On the course, this means McGuinness is roughly 16 second faster than Rutter, a notable difference, but not a huge margin in this class, which sees huge (by TT standards) speed leaps from session to session.

Hoping to make it four wins in a row, it goes without saying that the MotoCzysz crew is working hard to close the gap. However, having Team Principal Michael Czysz stuck back in the US, undergoing cancer treatments, must certainly add another level of motivation for the on-island MotoCzysz crew.

Making time in their busy schedule, Asphalt & Rubber got to take some up-close photos of the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc. Check them out after the jump, you won’t see better photos of the ’13 E1pc anywhere else.

First Photos of the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc

05/29/2013 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Team Mugen has already shown off its new electric superbike, with the Japanese tuning firm looking to break the 110 mph barrier at the 2013 SES TT Zero event this year at the Isle of Man TT. To do that though, their rider John McGuinness will have to get past Mark Miller and Michael Rutter of the MotoCzysz team, which has won the past three years of the electric class at the TT.

While we still await the official debut of the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc race bike, the Portland based company has given us a tease with a few photos on Twitter. This year’s bike takes some cues from the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc that Rutter took to the winner’s circle last year (Miller finished third); but as expected for 2013, gone are all the aerodynamic winglets that we saw on the ’12 machine.

MotoCzysz Racing Announces Four Riders for 2013

04/29/2013 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Not that we needed any confirmation, but the MotoCzysz crew has announced its return to the 2013 Isle of Man TT, and as we expected the Oregon-based team will defend its record-setting win from last year’s TT Zero with again a two-rider team of Michael Rutter and Mark Miller.

Also announcing its intention to race in the new 2013 eRoadRacing World Cup, MotoCzysz has enlisted the help of Shane Turpin and Steve Rapp for riding duties at Laguna Seca, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Miller Motorsports Park.

MotoCzysz E1pc vs. Ducati 1199 Panigale S

10/12/2012 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

When it comes to electric motorcycles, I am not interested in saving the manatees. I don’t stand around in Starbucks parking lots debating the finer points of offsetting my carbon footprint. It is perfectly fine if that is your calling in life, but when it comes to motorcycles, I am really only interested in one thing: going fast. I am not going to berate someone for wanting to save the environment, or decrease our dependency on foreign energy reserves — those are both worthy and important sentiments that I share as well, just not when it comes to my two-wheel decadence.

The only political debate I am interested in hearing during a discussion about motorcycles is the politics of the apex. If you want to talk about “the green movement” on a ride with me, it better be in regards to your Kawasaki, which is why I have a love/hate relationship with the electric motorcycle community. There are two types of operators in this space, and they are seemingly at odds with each other. One group is convinced that petroleum is an imperfect fuel source, while the other thinks that petroleum-burning motorcycles are imperfect machines.

We can reconcile both these factions with the notion that they are both correct in the big picture, but when it comes to adoption of electric vehicles, only the Steve Austin principle applies: better, stronger, and most importantly faster. The modern sport bike is an analog machine, and the electric superbike is its digital successor.

Over one hundred years of riding on the vinyl scratches and distortions of gasoline motors has blinded us to the future. We use words like warmth and character to justify our resistance to the inevitable change coming, but make no mistake that the mainstream will readily adopt the MP3 riding movement once it hits its critical moments in price and performance parity. This does not mean the death of internal combustion, after all you can still find audiophiles with tube amps and vast LP collections — a certain amount of the demographic has to be frozen in time, right Harley-Davidson?

There is this idea though that motorcycles can be better than they currently are now. They can be integrated machines, from fuel source to wheel-spin. Road inputs don’t have to be muted by engine vibrations, throttle adjustments can happen at the speed of light, and fine…we can also save the manatees in the process. The concept being discussed here is the Digital Superbike, and the man who coined the term is Michael Czysz.

Traveling to Portland, Oregon to see Czysz’s latest creation, I got see first-hand how the MotoCzysz E1pc was progressing with its digital revolution. Read-on for that account.

MotoCzysz Performance Parts Coming Soon?

07/24/2012 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Since the Isle of Man TT, I have been hearing some talk about MotoCzysz developing some performance pieces for mainstream market consumption. Since the MotoCzysz crew is now busy making electrons go faster than the speed of light, the obvious candidate for the rumor would seem to be the company’s 6x-flex fork, which was originally tested on a Honda CBR1000RR and would only need some basic adjustments in order to fit modern dinosaur-burning motorcycles.

While I chalked the rumors up to conjecture, there appears to be some truth to the matter, as MotoCzysz was recently up at Portland International Raceway doing some testing. We assume the testing time was for the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc, which is set to make its track debut this weekend for the e-Power/TTXGP round at Laguna Seca. Tweeting about the test, MotoCzysz let it drop that “performance parts [for] your bike” would be announced soon. Schwing!

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.