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.

No TV for AMA Pro Road Racing, But Live Stream for Events

03/13/2014 @ 4:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

ama-pro-road-racing-live-stream

So you want to watch AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track this year, but because DMG screwed the pooch on securing any form of TV deal, you think you’re up an apex without a kneepuck, right? Not so fast there speed racer.

To its credit, the Daytona Motorsports Group has created its own live streaming site for AMA Pro Racing, IMSA, and NASCAR content that is not on television: FansChoice.tv, which will be your go-to destination for watching the Daytona 200 live this weekend.

AMA Pro Road Racing Will Race at Laguna Seca with WSBK

03/13/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

laguna-seca-motogp-daniel-lo

When AMA Pro Road Racing released its 2014 calendar, there were no tracks out west, and there were only five race weekends schedule. The folks at DMG hinted a possible sixth round though, with Laguna Seca heavily rumored to be venue.

When Mid-Ohio reshuffled its schedule to accommodate AMA Pro Racing’s desire to race at Laguna Seca on the World Superbike weekend, it seemed like we were only moments away from an update to the provisional calendar. And then nothing happened.

Since then we’ve see John Ulrich put together his still unnamed “Triple Crown” event, which will bring three races, for AMA riders, west of the Mississippi. News of a complete lack of a TV deal has hit the AMA paddock shores, as even the Daytona 200 will be without a TV contract for 2014.

But, today we do have some good news for American motorcycle race fans: AMA Pro Road Racing will compete as the support class for the World Superbike stop at Laguna Seca, this coming July 11th-13th.

AMA Pro Racing Announces Tommy Aquino Spirit Award

03/13/2014 @ 1:27 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

tommy-aquino-YES-yamaha-ama

In the wake of the tragic death of factory road racing prodigy Tommy Aquino, AMA Pro Racing has announced the introduction of the Tommy Aquino Spirit Award. In order to honor and preserve Aquino’s memory and positive attitude, the award will be given to the rider “who best embodies the spirit of the paddock during the 2014 season.”

According to AMA Pro Racing, “the paddock will vote for the rider who exemplifies qualities mirroring those of Tommy including passion for the sport, fan engagement and team interaction. The award will be presented on behalf of Cortech and Shoei at the conclusion of the 2014 AMA Pro Road Racing season.”

Watch Benny Solis and His Crew Practice Their Pit Stops

03/12/2014 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

benny-solis-pit-stop

You don’t need a good excuse to watch a motorcycle pit crew practice their pit stop maneuvers, but the upcoming Daytona 200 certainly helps.

Common place in the four-wheeled realm, the pit stop is still a bit of a novelty in two-wheeled racing. Outside of the Endurance World Championship and Isle of Man TT, you would be hard pressed to see a team refuel and change tires on a bike mid-race.

Of course at Phillip Island last year, MotoGP riders had to try their hand at a pit stop. Though the GP riders had a simpler go of things than most, only having to switch bikes instead of servicing one.

Even with that relatively easy task, that Australian pit lane was like armageddon for the MotoGP paddock — so much so, photographers were banned from entering pit lane for that race, and we’ll say nothing about Marc Marquez’s snafu.

So with that all said, enjoy our yearly “pit stop practice video” for the Daytona 200. This year, Benny Solis and his crew show us how it’s done. Looking good boys.

Just So We’re Clear, This is How You Market a Race Team

03/12/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

triumph-ama-jason-disalvo-elena-myers

The start of the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar is just around the corner, and that means manufacturers, teams, and riders are getting their PR machines in full swing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get excited about our venerable national racing series (DMG’s shenanigans aside), but duds like this don’t help in whetting our two-wheeled racing appetite here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Just when we were about to lose all hope though, Triumph shows up and saves the day…with a little help from Jason DiSalvo and Elena Myers. Kneedragging, wheelie popping, backwheel drifting two-wheeled fun, all packaged in a well-done YouTube video that even manages to show a little personality from the riders.

We dig it, we dig it hard. A quick warning though: several orange cones were hurt during the filming of this video. Some footage may not be suitable for adult-sized children with a history of brrraaappptitus. Thanks for the tip Matt!

Ulrich’s Pro-Am Motorcycle “Triple Crown” Event Is a Go

03/04/2014 @ 4:42 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Triple-Crowns

In January, Roadracing World Editor-in-Chief John Ulrich penned an editorial where he outlined his desire to create a three-event road racing series that would take place between the six-week time period of AMA Pro Road Racing’s first and second rounds.

This “triple crown” event would be help bolster the current five — hopefully to be announced six — events on the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar, which in-turn would help AMA Pro Racing teams and riders meet their obligations with their sponsors.

Ulrich also hoped in his article that some sort of tape-delayed TV package could be put together for the three events as well, another item desperately needed by AMA stakeholders, yet seemingly elusive for DMG officials to put together.

Several sources have now confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that the triple crown series is a go, with Sonoma Raceway, Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, and Miller Motorsports Park to host the three rounds on its schedule.

Ulrich’s event will piggyback off the amateur racing schedules at those race tracks, making the triple crown event a proper Pro-Am outing of motorcycling’s best professional and amateur racers.

Yamaha “Spy Footage” to Be “Leaked” Online, By Yamaha

02/27/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

TOPSECRET-Yamaha

We see our fair share of weird press releases here at Asphalt & Rubber, though usually the strangeness stems around English not being the primary language of the writer — which to be fair, if we had to write something in a language other than our native tongue, it would read pretty strange as well.

Today’s weirdness however comes from Yamaha USA, who sent out a press release with the title: “Yamaha U.S. Road Racing Teams Discover Evidence Of Being ‘Spied On’ While At Recent Track Test”. The email title certainly grabbed our attention, after all who doesn’t like a good spy story? Danger Zone!

What followed of course was utter disappointment, as the whole premise for the release was to tease and setup a future social media campaign from the tuning fork brand — the giveaway is where the company states several times that the footage “may be leaked” onto social media. Le sigh.

You can’t fault Yamaha USA for recently holding a two-day test/media day at Thunderhill Raceway for its AMA Road Racing riders, nor can you fault the last-OEM-standing in the AMA paddock for wanting to promote its racing efforts there. What worries us, especially while looking at how AMA Pro Racing is collapsing in on itself, is how forced this campaign feels. Did The Fonz just jump over a shark on water skis?

Now don’t get us wrong, Yamaha USA has produced some amazing viral media in the past, so we want to give the benefit of the doubt, but this just feels tacky — or genius-level meta. You can read the press release after the jump, and decide for yourself though.

Daytona 200 Will Switch Back to Superbike Format for 2015

02/11/2014 @ 2:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

superbike-daytona-200

AMA Pro Racing has announced that the series’ premier race, the Daytona 200, will once again feature 1,000cc Superbikes, starting in the 2015 season. A bit of an oddity on the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar, the Daytona 200 is America’s longest-running motorcycle endurance racing event, and historically it has kicked off the road racing season in America.

With Daytona International Speedway’s high speeds and long stints, riding the Daytona 200 has been a challenge for riders, for a variety of reasons. This lead to Superbikes being replaced by the strangely formatted Formula Xtreme class for the Daytona 200 race class in 2005 thru 2008. As tire and safety concerns continued, the modified 600cc Daytona SportBike class took over in 2009, and has run the race ever since.

While it has always been seen as an oddity by fans that AMA Pro Road Racing’s premier class didn’t run the series’ headline event, the safety concerns regarding 200+ horsepower bikes chewing through tires on the road course has been a paramount issue — even the Daytona SportBike bikes have had their fair share of tire woes at Daytona.

In order to get the Superbikes through the 69-lap endurance race, the folks at DMG say that the new upcoming rules package, which will reduce the cost of racing in AMA Pro Road Racing, is largely to be thanked.

Remembering Tommy Aquino

02/11/2014 @ 10:01 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

We are still getting over the loss of Tommy Aquino, who died while riding motocross in Southern California just last week. A popular rider in the AMA Pro Racing, British Superbike, and Spanish CEV series, the untimely passing of Tommy is being felt around the world.

A memorial service for Tommy will be held at 2PM on Saturday, February 15th at the Bishop Alemany High School (11111 North Alemany Drive, Mission Hills, CA). A remembrance is also scheduled afterwards at 28588 Santa Catarina Road, Saugus, CA — the Aquino Family encourages all to attend.

While we all continue to grieve, we do best to remember the good times, and as such Roversberg Productions has put together a nice tribute video of Tommy. Enjoy it above.

Tommy Aquino Has Died While Motocross Training

02/02/2014 @ 8:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

tommy-aquino-ama-pro-racing-dan-lo

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of AMA Pro Racing rider Tommy Aquino, who died today in a motocross accident at the Piru Ranch MX — Tommy’s local riding spot. Colliding head-on with another rider at around 12:30 pm, Tommy was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Ventura County Star.

Tommy started his racing career back in 2008, at the age of 16. With five seasons in AMA Pro Racing, Tommy finished third in the 2011 Daytona SportBike Championship, with a race win at New Jersey Motorsports Park that season. In 2013, Aquino moved his racing across the pond to Great Britain, riding a superstock machine in the BSB series.

Universally loved for his big hair, great smile, and positive attitude, there are many in the A&R family who were close to Tommy and are grieving tonight. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family. At only 21 years of age Tommy was loved by many, and will be dearly missed by us all.