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.

Rossi Rides with an Aluminum Perimeter Frame at Valencia While Hayden Sits Out the Test with a Broken Wrist

11/09/2011 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

With the 2011 MotoGP season concluding in Valencia this weekend, the 2012 MotoGP season got underway with its first testing session, also held at the Spanish track. A glimpse into the re-established 1,000cc era, perhaps the most anticipated unveiling was Ducati Corse’s aluminum perimeter-style frame, dubbed the GP0. Just one step in the long process of addressing the Ducati Desmosedici’s front-end feeling problem, Ducati Corse’s latest incarnation of a MotoGP chassis has been rumored for some time now.

With all eyes in the GP paddock looking to see if a the conventional frame design would be the silver bullet to Ducati’s woes, the testing sessions in Valencia have been interesting to say the least. With everyone playing Monday Morning Pit Boss over Ducati Corse’s issues, the past two days of tests have been important for Ducati Corse to understand the issues inherent in their design, as well as establishing what the teams does, and does not, know.

Valentino Rossi to Test New Aluminum Frame at Jerez

09/21/2011 @ 8:57 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

According to both GPone and MCN, Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse will test a new aluminum frame at Jerez this week. Though the two MotoGP authorities differ on what sot of frame exactly will be used during the test (MCN says twin-spar, while GPone maintains an “open cradle” frame that leaves the motor still as a stressed object). Regardless of the style, the new chassis is reportedly made by FTR, and is another attempt by the Italian racing team to figure out how to solve the vague front-end feeling coming from the Ducati Desmosedici GP11/GP11.1/GP12.

Possibly similar to the chassis style used by Honda and Yamaha, this new frame design marks the fourth major chassis change this year for Ducati. Unable to compete against the top pack on the grid, Rossi has lately even struggled to keep up with his fellow Ducati riders come race day. While technically considered a test for the 2012 season and on the GP12 motorcycle, the results from the Jerez test (Ducati’s seventh test of an allowed eight) could easily find its way onto this season’s Desmosedici.

Ducati Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” Testing at Mugello

09/08/2011 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Testing at Mugello today and tomorrow, Ducati has very discretely (like that could actually happen) begun testing its Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” – a modified version of the GP12 that features an aluminum frame made by FTR. Replacing Ducati’s innovative carbon fiber “frameless” chassis, the twin-spar aluminum frame is an attempt by the Italian factory to bring more front-end feel to its riders (read David Emmett’s analysis of the Desmosedici’s troubles here). Testing today with Franco Battaini, we get these first photos of the Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” (or is it GP12.1?) testing at the Italian track.

Ducati Corse Running Parallel MotoGP Project with Aluminum Twin-Spar Chassis

08/18/2011 @ 3:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

While Ducati might not be getting a two-wheel drive system in MotoGP anytime soon, the Italians are apparently in the process of running a parallel program to its MotoGP racing effort that explores the concept of Ducati Corse switching to an aluminum twin-spar frame. Uncovered by French journalist Thomas Baujard of the French magazine Moto Journal (yes, we really wanted to make sure you knew the French were involved with this), Ducati Corse has apparently enlisted the help of a third-party chassis manufacturing and engineering firm to construct a prototype aluminum chassis.

This news plays into the fact that Ducati has absolutely no experience in making an aluminum twin-spar frame, having dropped the steel trellis design for an all carbon fiber version back in 2009. Not wanting to start from zero, like Corse did with the carbon chassis in 2009, and with the “frameless” chassis in 2010, Ducati hopes that with aid from a third party, the Italian company can come up to speed on the twin-spar design, and begin to make improvements for the GP11/GP12 for Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.