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.

MotoGP: Ducati Corse Completes One-Day Test at Mugello

05/13/2014 @ 12:25 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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While the World Superbike riders were busy at Imola, Ducati’s MotoGP team was making use of their freedom from testing restrictions to try out a few things ahead of the Italian round at Mugello. Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow were present for the factory Ducati team, as was official test rider Michele Pirro, while Andrea Iannone was circulating on the Pramac bike.

The two factory men had a new chassis to test, according to GPOne.com, though the frame was not radically different to the item they have raced so far. The new chassis did have a greater range of adjustment, something which the factory felt was needed as their riders had been operating at the limits of the current frame’s adjustment.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

04/05/2014 @ 4:46 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012.

How different the situation looks today. The CRTs have served their purpose – to persuade the factories to help fill the grid, and supply the teams with (relatively) affordable equipment – and the reduction in costs brought about in part by the spec electronics is enticing factories back to MotoGP.

Suzuki is in full testing mode, and getting ready to return to racing full time in 2015, and Aprilia is working towards a full-time return in 2016.

In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

MotoGP: Future Uncertain for IODA Racing Project

02/22/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The future of the IODA Racing project for 2014 is looking extremely uncertain. The Italian team, scheduled to race Aprilia ART machinery in the Open class in MotoGP this year, were absent from the first Sepang test, and it appears they will also be absent from the second Sepang test as well.

According to reports on both the GPOne.com and Bikesportnews.com websites, a lack of sponsorship has left the team in financial difficulties, and thrown their plans for 2014 into disarray.

Monday Summary at Silverstone: Rossi in the Second Group, An Improving Bautista, & Aprilia’s CRT

09/02/2013 @ 10:09 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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With so much happening at the front of all three races at Silverstone last Sunday, it is easy to overlook the battles behind. Especially when those battles seem to be falling into a fixed pattern, repeating the results of previous races.

A glance at the results of the MotoGP race Silverstone gives you a sense of déjà vu. While the top three swapped places, positions four to six were identical to their finishes at Brno, places seven to nine differed only in the riders who crashed out, and Aleix Espargaro took tenth spot, as he did in the Czech Republic. A pattern is definitely starting to form here.

MotoGP Silly Season Update: Forward’s Privateer Yamaha M1s, Hayden’s Future, & Honda’s Production Racers

08/20/2013 @ 3:00 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 – barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment – battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes – the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries – are all taken, the privateer machines – using Dorna spec-ECU software and extra fuel – are still mostly up for grabs.

The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda’s production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are a heavily modified version of Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike.

Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.

The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec-ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams.

Given just how good the 2013 M1 is – Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums – it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.

Is Aprilia Looking for Concessions to Join MotoGP Factories?

07/30/2013 @ 5:27 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

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The performance of Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet has made it clear that Aprilia’s ART machine is the bike to be on for any rider not on a factory or satellite machine. There are a lot of reasons for the bike’s success: the engine in its standard state is very strong, the bike handles exceptionally well, and is very easy to ride.

But perhaps the biggest advantage which the Aprilia has is the use of Aprilia’s WSBK-derived electronics package, which is helping to make the bike extremely competitive. “Electronics are 75% of the bike,” Aleix Espargaro said in a recent interview with the Dutch MOTOR Magazine.

And here lies Aprilia’s dilemma. From 2014, Aprilia will be forced to choose. If they wish to continue as a non-factory entry (as the category replacing the CRT will be called), they must use the Dorna-supplied spec-software, written by Magneti Marelli for the spec-ECU.

Though the spec-electronics has made huge bounds in the six months since it was introduced, it is still very much a project under development. However, Aprilia’s software is a proven package, with many years of development behind it.

MotoGP: FIM Confirms New Rules for Factory/Non-Factory Spec-Electronics, Engine, Fuel, & Entries for 2014

07/26/2013 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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We have already extensively reported the coming rule changes for the 2014 MotoGP Championship season (most recently the conclusion of the engine claiming rule), so the news today is really more about the FIM has giving its blessing to the new direction that Dorna is taking for the premier class.

Drawing a new distinction now as to how teams are classified as “factory” entries, and thus subject to differing fuel, engine, and entry requirements, the real crux of the equation revolves around whether a team uses the the spec-electronics software from Dorna, or decides to use its own software (note: all teams will be on a spec-ECU from 2014 forth).

Gino Borsoi’s MotoGP Dilemma for Team Aspar

07/05/2013 @ 3:57 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The Power Electronics Aspar team have seized the opportunity offered by the CRT rules with both hands. By teaming up with Aprilia and employing two talented and fast riders, Aspar has helped turn the RSV4-based ART machine into a genuinely competitive machine, in every respect except for horsepower.

At Assen, Aleix Espargaro finished eighth, ahead of two factory Ducatis and three other satellite MotoGP machines. The bike is clearly good.

For 2014, however, Aspar must face a dilemma. With the introduction of the spec-electronics system, teams choosing to race the ART bikes will lose the current advantage those machines have, a highly-developed and very effective electronics package.

Teams running ART machines must choose, either to accept the Magneti Marelli developed software, and keep 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines, or persuade Aprilia to port their software to the spec-ECU Marelli, and try to race with 20 liters of fuel and either 5 or 9 engines, depending on whether the Grand Prix Commission decided Aprilia had already been competing in MotoGP as an MSMA member or not.

Karel Abraham Debuts His Cardion AB Aprilia ART

01/28/2013 @ 10:19 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The Czech Republic’s favorite rider, Karel Abraham, is ready for the 2013 MotoGP Championship, as his Cardion AB team has debuted its Aprilia ART entry. Making the jump from the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 prototype, Abraham will contest his third season in MotoGP on a CRT entry.

With not all CRTs proving to be equal, Cardion AB’s choice of the Aprilia ART seems to be the sensible approach from all the entries available. Built off the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, which itself was built off Aprilia’s failed MotoGP program, Aprilia Racing has developed the entire bike in house, including the ARTs robust electronics package.

Competitive out of the box, it should be with little surprise that leas year saw two ART machines battling closely for the top honors in the makeshift sub-class (Team Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet).

Choosing the Aprilia ART doesn’t guarantee success for young Abraham however, as we saw the ARTs of Speed Master and Paul Bird Motorsports struggle for good results against the other CRT entries.

With the likely factor being money paid to Aprilia Racing (PBM didn’t even bother testing the Aprilia ART once during the 2012 season, instead choosing to develop the bike on race weekends), Cardion AB seems at least well-situated in that regard, having already weather the prices of Ducati Corse’s lease costs on the Desmosedici.

MotoGP: PBM’s New Aprilia Chassis by GPMS

01/07/2013 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Using a sole Aprilia ART racing machine last season, Paul Bird Motorsports is looking to double-down with the Italian V4 power plant, though for 2013 the British team will split its time between continuing to develop the Aprilia ART with Yonny Hernandez on-board, as well as developing its own racing platform for Michael Laverty.

Building the PBM-o1 with the help of chassis-builder GPMS, PBM will have Laverty also ace with an Aprilia RSV4 engine between his legs, though the rest of the machine will differ from his teammate’s more “factory” machine. Teasing out the first pictures of the PBM-01 chassis by GPMS, Team Principal Paul Bird has teased out some pictures of the team’s new GP chassis with the V4 motor mounted.