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.

US Congress Passes Favorable Laws for Motorcyclists

12/08/2015 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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Don’t say that the 114th US Congress hasn’t done anything for you, as the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) is happy to report that our legislature has passed a $305 billion highway bill – The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – which has a number of favorable provisions for motorcyclists.

The big wins come in the form of funding for recreational off-road trails, and the prohibition against motorcycle-only checkpoints, two growing concerns that the AMA has been involved in fighting.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 12 – Possibly Political

12/08/2015 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Episode 12 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast finds us going down the dark road of talking about politics at the dinner table. Accordingly, Quentin and I have a wandering conversation in the show, which touches on lane-splitting, helmet laws, ABATE, the AMA, and even guns.

The conversation makes some interesting comparisons to other enthusiast niches and markets, and touches deeply on the political landscape within the motorcycle industry. We think the show is pretty interesting, and it is sure to fuel some conversations with you and your moto-buddies.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Now Canceled

08/17/2015 @ 10:30 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Now Canceled

bonneville-salt-flats

After being a tentative “go” for racing last week, the 2015 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials has now been canceled because of conditions on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The announcement comes after rains in the Salt Lake City, Utah area put water on the salt flat racing course, and now currently half an inch of water sits on what the BMST calls its “Mountain Course” area.

AMA Says Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Still a “Go”

08/11/2015 @ 9:04 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on AMA Says Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Still a “Go”

Shunji-Yokokawa-Honda-Bonneville-land-speed-record

UPDATE: The 2015 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials has now been canceled, due to salt conditions.

The conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats are worrying, to say the very least. Each year the conditions of the salt flats are worse and worse, and 2015 marks the second year in a row that Speed Week has been cancelled by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) because of the conditions.

Last month, when Speed Week was cancelled, there was a lot of doubt cast on the rest of the land-speed record season, but the AMA says that its Speed Trials event has found a suitable course its motorcycle-only land-speed racers.

Set to run August 29th thru September 3rd, as of right now the “AMA Land Speed Grand Championship” that is the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials is a tentative “go” for racing.

UC Berkeley Study Shows Lane-Splitting to Be Safe

06/03/2015 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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The University of California Berkeley has finished its study of lane-splitting in California, and the results are encouraging for lane-splitting proponents.

Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013, including 997 in which the riders were splitting lanes at the time of the crash.

The big takeaway from this research is that when done reasonably, lane-splitting is just as safe as riding a motorcycle. As such, one of the more important insights found by Rice and his team was that motorcyclists can travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic with no statistical increase in crashing.

This study will be important for shaping the conversation about lane-splitting, not only in California, but throughout the entire United States. It’s no coincidence then that California’s current attempt to codify lane-splitting mirrors these findings from UC Berkeley.

California Close to Formalizing Legal Lane-Splitting, And What It Means for the Rest of the United States

05/29/2015 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Out of the 50 states in The Union, only California allows lane-splitting on public roads and highways. California’s position on lane-splitting has always been a bit nebulous though, falling only under the “safe and prudent” provision of the California Vehicle Code.

Several attempts to demystify California’s policy on lane-splitting have come and gone, including the very public kerfuffle with the California Highway Patrol’s riding “guidelines” for lane-splitting.

Most recent attempts to “legalize” lane-splitting have seen laws that were even more restrictive than the CHP’s frankly fair provisions, and created much ire in California’s vocal riding community.

On the table now though is Assembly Bill 51, which would actually grant more privileges than what the CHP deemed reasonable, and could set the tone for a larger national push of lane-splitting.

Oregon Kills Lane-Splitting Law in House Committee

05/25/2015 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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It’s bad news for Oregonian motorcyclists who were hoping to join the 21st century with the lane-filtering privileges that most of the world enjoys, as the Oregon House of Representatives has killed bill SB 694, in committee.

The bill, which had passed through the Senate Judiciary committee with an unanimous vote and the Oregon Senate with a two-thirds majority, was denied access to a general vote, by the bi-partisan Oregon House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.

SB 694 had faced strong opposition from the Oregon Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies because of perceived added danger to motorists if motorcycles were to filter through stopped traffic, and the opinions of the organizations carried weight with the House Committee, fueling its decision to kill the bill.

April Fools: IRS Makes Helmets Tax Deductible on 2014 Return

04/01/2015 @ 7:25 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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If you’ve already filed your 2014 tax return, you might want to make an addendum before April 15th, as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made several last-minute exemption to the US Tax Code, one of which allows motorcyclists to claim up to $500 on a new helmet purchase as tax deductible.

The move comes about after a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that suggested billions of dollars could be saved if all motorcyclists wore helmets.

Citing the efforts of groups like the  American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) whose anti-helmet political agenda has resonated the most with the same anti-tax libertarians who routinely fail to pay federal income taxes, the IRS has finally decided to fight fire with fire, and believes it has effectively found a way to bring a non-compliant tax group in line with the law.

Oregon Looking at Two Possible Lane-Splitting Bills

02/25/2015 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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The great State of Oregon, my newfound home, now has two lane-splitting laws on the docket for 2015. Senate Bill 172, introduced by State Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), would permit motorcycle and moped riders to pass in a lane with traffic, if that traffic is stopped or has slowed to less than 10 mph, and the lane-splitting rider is traveling at a speed of 20 mph or less.

Meanwhile Senate Bill 420, introduced by State Senator Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg), is a little less restrictive in its provisions, and would allow lane-splitting if traffic is stopped or slowed to 25 mph or less, and the motorcyclist is traveling at 35 mph or slower.

Both laws are more restrictive than the guidelines put forward by the California Highway Patrol (California being the only state in the USA that permits motorcycles to lane-split), but would be a start in the right direction for The Beaver State.

Miller Motorsports Park Added to MotoAmerica Schedule

01/07/2015 @ 11:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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When the provisional MotoAmerica calendar for the 2015 season debuted, a single date was left to be determined. Now the folks at KRAVE media are able to confirm that Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park will be featured on the rebooted American road racing series’ debut.

Miller Motorsports Park will host MotoAmerica June 26th thru 28th, which will help add more of a Western United States presence to the road racing series’ schedule.

A popular venue for fans and racers, Miller Motorsports Park is just a stone’s throw away from the Bonneville Salt Flats and is flanked by the picturesque Rocky Mountains, making for iconic imagery and a tour of two-wheeled racing history.