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.

The 2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF Will Be Available w/ Over 230hp*

11/13/2015 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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Aprilia has just dropped a shocker on us, saying that the 2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF superbike will have over 230hp. From what we can tell, there’s a slight catch to this huge horsepower claim, you have to have the bike built by the company’s new Aprilia Factory Works Project.

This means that the real story is that Aprilia is making available its racing department’s service, meaning you can buy a WSBK-spec  or WSTK-spec Aprilia RSV4 RF, that comes with different chassis, electronics, and engine options.

The most lurid of options, of course, is a 230hp figure.

2015 Aprilia RSV4 RF Spied at EICMA

11/03/2014 @ 7:27 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In addition to the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR that was spied by our friends at Oliepeil, the Dutch sleuths have caught a glimpse of the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RF. What does the “RF” mean, and how is it different from the “RR” model? We really have no idea, to be honest. Leave your best guess in the comments section, and we will give five A&R bonus points to whomever is closest.

First Photo of the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR

11/03/2014 @ 6:57 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on First Photo of the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR

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Our friends at Oliepeil are at it again this year, sneaking into the EICMA showroom ahead of tomorrow’s official opening. As usual, bikes left out in the open are being spied, and first up is the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR — a model we should have perhaps expected, since Noale already teased us with the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR model this weekend.

No word on specifications yet, though if the Tuono is any indication, we can expect a modest power boost, and additional refinements to the RSV4’s already class-leading APRC electronics package. We should know more tomorrow with Aprilia drops all the news on its 2015 models, officially.

AMA Pro Racing Homologates the Aprilia RSV4 Factory

04/01/2013 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Looking to add more manufacturers to the traveling circus, AMA Pro Road Racing has homologated the Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS for racing duty, though with one interesting caveat. Instead of giving the 999cc Italian V4 a birth in the AMA Pro Superbike class, the RSV4 Factory has been homologated instead to race in the AMA Pro Supersport.

With Aprilia USA lacking a 600cc machine and the budget necessary to race at the factory level in the Superbike class, AMA Pro Road Racing officials have come to a compromise with the Italian company on how it can enter the American road racing scene with its current equipment, and hopefully thus spur its sport bike sales.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK Race Bike Debuts

02/08/2013 @ 10:16 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Fresh from Italy, we get our first glimpse of the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK race bike in its new livery. While the uniforms may look the same, the men wearing them have changed to some extent, and in many ways so has the Italian brand’s racing strategy.

Building its previous team around Max Biaggi, the previous incarnation of Aprilia Racing catered to every whim of The Roman Emperor — read into that as you will. But now with Biaggi’s retirement from motorcycle racing, Aprilia is forced to replace tried-and-true talent with two up-and-coming stars.

Out from behind Max’s shadow, Eugene Laverty is expected to impress this year, having shown himself a formidable rider on the RSV4 Factory last season with his sixth-place Championship finish. Seventh in the Championship himself, Sylvain Guintoli will join the Irishmen, after coming off a tumultuous season with Liberty Racing. With three race wins and six podiums, Guintoli made a definite impression, especially when he was on the slower Ducati.

With both of Aprilia Racing’s WSBK riders starting to come into their own, the Italian brand is showing a lot of growth potential in the premier production-motorcycle racing series. Time will tell on the results, but we expect a bevy of podiums from the Aprilia riders this year, and maybe a win or two. Mas photos after the jump.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition

01/24/2013 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Helping commemorate Max Biaggi’s 2012 World Superbike Championship victory, Aprilia USA has commissioned a limited production run motorcycle: the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition — a model featuring a subtle graphics kit revision that will only come to the North American market.

Sporting the same features and refinements as the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS, owners of the SBK Special Edition will also enjoy the new three-level dual-channel ABS system from Bosch, as well as the  Brembo M430 calipers.

The Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition also has the same chassis and engine enhancements as the 2013 APRC model, which brings the sporty V4 to 181.4 hp at the crank and 86.3 lbs•ft of peak torque @ 10,500 rpm.

If you can distinguish it from the regular model, expect to see the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition on dealership floors in April, with pricing announced on February 1st (next week).

Photos: The 2013 Aprilia RSV4 R ABS in Matte Black Hi-Res

11/13/2012 @ 7:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

We already told you last month that the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 would get a bevy of revisions, not to mention the inclusion of ABS brakes…yet for some reason we had to wait until today to tell you that information again. Yes, it is completely bizarre yet completely normal situation to encounter when dealing with Italians, and especially so with the Noale company. Honestly, it is just one of the perks of working in the motorcycle industry, or not in it, as American Honda seems to think.

What is perhaps more newsworthy than these thinly veiled rants are these first photos of the Aprilia RSV4 R ABS in matte black, which is drop dead sexy in any language. Aprilia is keen to remind us that the RSV4 topped many of the superbike shootouts this year, besting machines like the Ducati 1199 Panigale and BMW S1000RR (we’d be keen to try an RSV4 Factory against the new BMW HP4 though).

Selling the RSV4 has never been a problem of product for Aprilia. The RSV4 is superb, and in its second year of racing, Max Biaggi took it to win the World Superbike Championship. The Roman Emperor repeated that feat again this year, though we doubt it will move that many more units in North America for Aprilia, which sells RSV4’s by the hundreds, not the thousands, in the largest sport bike market worldwide.

If there was ever a brand you wanted to see get its act together, Aprilia, and the Piaggio Group as whole, has to be it. Until that happens though, we will have to view the photos after the jump with a taste of foreboding. Like Eve’s apple, Pandora’s box, and Lindsay Lohan’s driving, the treat is tantalizing, though the headache is probably not worth it. Le sigh.

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT – New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor

04/18/2012 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

After a couple failed returns, Norton is set to race in the upcoming Isle of Man TT with a race bike that features an Aprilia RSV4 engine and proprietary chassis (does that remind you of anything?). Sponsored by Monster Energy, at the helm of the still unnamed Norton will be top be the TT Privateer’s Champion Ian Mackman, who will race in the Seniors TT on June 8th (the first time a Norton has been in the Senior TT since 1992).

The new Norton is a bit of a departure from the British company’s last race bike, the rotary motor-powered Norton NRV588. Unable to race the NRV588 in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, the new Norton is surely a byproduct of the firm’s heavily rumored MotoGP entry, as it fits very well within the premier class claiming rule team (CRT) provisions.

Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

Infographic: Aprilia – Ride Like a Champion

03/20/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Aprilia has the dubious distinction of having some of the most compelling motorcycles in its product lineup, which are mated to some of the worst market communications in the industry, but the Italian manufacturer certainly seems to be trying this year. Getting ready to launch the Aprilia Tuono V4 APRC in the US later this month, Aprilia is trying to expose more riders to the Italian brand and its racing heritage.

While we were less-than-impressed with the company’s more recent strategy of hiring motorcycle blogs to create online commercials for the brand, this latest media effort seems more genuine and original. Find after the jump an ever-so-trendy infographic on Aprilia’s racing heritage, APRC electronics system, and V4 engine, and RSV & Tuono motorcycles. Click on it for an even bigger version, it’s actually pretty interesting.