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.

Marc Coma Retires from Racing…Sort Of

07/02/2015 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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When Marc Coma hinted at a return to the Dakar Rally for 2016, everyone assumed it would be on a bike and with KTM. The famous Spanish rally-raid racer has other plans now, announcing his retirement from the sport, and also that he will begin working as a Sporting Director for the Dakar Rally.

This makes the announcement a double-shock, one because we expected to see Coma vying for his sixth Dakar Rally win, and two because it was expected that when he did stop racing motorbikes, he would follow the path by many competitors, and race in the four-wheel classes.

Photos: Cyril Despres & His Yamaha YZ450F Rally Race Bike

12/19/2013 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Racing has officially debuted its 2014 Rally race team, which is being spearheaded by Cyril Despres, the five-time Dakar Rally winner who was formerly of KTM fame. Despres hopes to defend his latest Dakar Rally win, despite swapping orange for blue, and today is our first formal viewing of the 2014 Yamaha YZ450F Rally bike with his livery.

This year’s Dakar Rally goes through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile and will be a longer and tougher route than in past years. With KTM debuting a now purpose-built racing machine, the KTM 450 Rally, and HRC also fielding its refined Honda CRF450 Rally, Yamaha and Despres will have their work cutout for them in defending the Frenchman’s number one plate.

Team Blue has prepared itself though, taking many inputs from Despres and incorporating them into the 2014 bike’s design. We won’t know how it will go at the Dakar Rally course until January 5th, but from the pictures we have now, it sure looks the business.

Moar Photos of the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally

10/13/2013 @ 3:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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HRC is getting serious about this whole rally thing. After testing the waters last season, Big Red is ramping up a serious bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally. Already announcing its 2014 team of Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Javier Pizzolito, Paulo Goncalves, and Joan Barreda, HRC debuted its new machine, the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally, to the press.

Judging from the response the bike got in our comments section, we are betting a few marriages might be on the rocks because of this beauty, but that isn’t stopping us from posting some more photos of the Honda CRF450 Rally, and this time the come courtesy of Metzler tires.

Debuting the German tire company’s new unobtainium KAROO Extreme prototype tires, Honda and its riders are hoping Metzler will help make the difference in the Dakar, and will help HRC give KTM and Yamaha a race for their money, come January 5th in Argentina.

HRC Shows Off the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Race Bike

10/08/2013 @ 7:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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HRC already showed us its 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally race bike earlier this year at Mugello, during the Italian GP. Announcing a five rider team, Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, age 34), Sam Sunderland (U.K., 24), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina, 33), Paulo Goncalves (Portugal, 34) and Joan Barreda (Spain, 29) will race for Big Red in the 2014 Dakar Rally and other rally events.

Improving on its 2013 design, which in-turn was based off the Honda CRF450X enduro, HRC says that the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally has improved engine output, aerodynamic performance, durability, and maintenance requirements. It will be campaign by the Team HRC factory team, and also be made available to other rally teams as a production racer.

Cyril Despres Will Ride with Yamaha in the 2014 Dakar Rally

05/30/2013 @ 1:59 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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When it happened, we were shocked to learn that Cyril Despres was left out of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 2013 team announcement, though we American have a silver lining in the news as the five-time Dakar Rally winner was replaced by our own Kurt Caselli. However, with that upheaval, we were left to speculate as to the fate of the Dakar master.

Would Despres retire from rally racing, finishing his career at its peak? Or, would the Frenchman defect from KTM to another team, like say Honda’s upstart rally effort? Well, now we have the answer, as Cyril Despres has been outed as having joined the Yamaha Motor France rally team for the 2014 & 2015 Dakar Rallies.

What is Fesh Fesh?

01/29/2013 @ 4:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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A hallmark of both the African and South American varieties of the Dakar Rally, ask any of the competitors in the 2013 Dakar Rally about what the Arabians call fesh fesh, and you may see their faces turn as ashen as the material in your inquiry.

A very fine and light powdery substance, fesh fesh in large enough quantities can spell instant disaster for an adventure rider or rally racer, as it plumes can quickly obscure the vision, and its quicksand-like properties can instantly envelope tires that tread too deeply or too slowly.

The byproduct of countless years of the erosion process, fesh fesh is sand that has been worn down from its typical granular size, into a dust-like particle that closely resembles talcum powder. When layered thinly on hard rock, fesh fesh can be as slippery as ice, and when accumulated in deep pits, fesh fesh is essentially quicksand, minus the water.

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Wrong Turn Costs Despres 8 Minutes

01/06/2013 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Sunday marks the second day of the Dakar Rally, and the first real day of racing. Despite completing only two stages thus far of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the racing has gotten interesting, as race-win favorite Cyril Despres has lost eight minutes to the overall leader, Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda.

Fifth fastest overall thus far, Despres’s lost time was due to navigating around a massive dune, a move that caught several other riders out as well. With Monday’s Stage Three expected to be an even more difficult day, Despres said he was happy to start from behind, and let the other riders tackle the course ahead of him, where he could learn from their mistakes.

The Dakar Rally has been settled by less than the eight minute gap that Despres currently faces, though the Frenchman’s navigational error would have been more critical if rival and teammate Marc Coma was entered in the race this year, instead of sidelined with injury.

Reminder: The Dakar Rally Starts Saturday

12/31/2012 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In case you missed our build-up coverage and didn’t know, the 2013 Dakar Rally officially starts this Saturday, January 5th. Already shaping up to be an interesting race, KTM’s Marc Coma has already had to resign from this year’s rally because of injury, as well as two of the Honda’s factory riders.

Navigating their way through Peru, Argentina, and Chile, riders will compete over 16 grueling days, which will feature some of the most challenging terrain a motorcycle racer can face. A truly epic competition, count The Dakar as one of the great motorcycle races of our time.

To help you get in the mood, we have the official rally trailer and a couple longer highlight reels from last year waiting for your after the jump. Enjoy.

Confirmed: Marc Coma to Miss 2013 Dakar Rally

12/21/2012 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

As expected yesterday, KTM made an official announcement today regarding the participation of Marc Coma in the 2013 Dakar Rally, and simply stated that the three-time winner of the race will be unable to compete due to injuries he sustained to his shoulder in the Rally of Morocco. The news leaves KTM’s Cyril Despres as the runaway favorite for winning this upcoming edition of The Dakar.

“We worked really hard with the doctors and the physiotherapists right up until the last minute but we have to be realistic,” said a disappointed Marc Coma. “One of the muscles in my shoulder is still giving me problems and there is a lack of movement. This is the logical consequence and we must be honest and clear about the situation.”

Marc Coma Questionable for the Dakar Rally

12/20/2012 @ 3:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bad news for KTM rally fans, as Marc Coma’s ability to race in the upcoming 2013 Dakar Rally is being questioned this week. According to Spanish sport news authority AS, Coma has not fully recovered from a crash he had at the Rally of Morocco.

Injuring his left shoulder in the fall, Coma is reportedly sitting out events leading up to the Dakar Rally’s start on January 5th in order to give his shoulder the maximum amount of time to recover. Coma is expected at a press conference in Barcelona this Friday, where an update on his condition is expected, as well as his final commitment to racing The Dakar.