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.

Ducati Sold 54,800 Bikes in 2015 – Another Record

01/14/2016 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As expected from earlier sales reports, Ducati Motor Holding is posting a banner year for 2015. The Italian motorcycle maker says that it sold 54,800 bikes last year, a 9,683 unit (+22%) increase over the number of bikes sold in 2014.

Helping break the 50,000 units barrier, the Ducati Scrambler line accounted for virtually all of Ducati’s sales growth in 2015, with over 16,000 Scrambler models sold worldwide. As we have reported before, this paints an interesting picture of what is going on behind Borgo Panigale’s walls.

“The record sales of 2015 are the result of our company’s courage and skill,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding.

“Ducati closes 2015 with record volumes and also a substantial growth of 22% over 2014. During the year Ducati not only launched successful new motorcycles, but also a new brand, Ducati Scrambler, which immediately won global acclaim with over 16,000 sales worldwide.”

We Would Smog the German Right Out of this Ducati-Powered Concept Car by Jakusa Design

09/24/2015 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We’re really enjoying the work of Tamás Jakus, better known as Jakusa Design. If that name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, we’re sure his recent work on the zeffed-out Triumph Tiger 800 will surely strike you as familiar. This time, Jakus has imagined a Ducati-powered car.

That concept is already in our headspace, thanks to the engineers at Volkswagen making the Volkswagen XL Sport, but Jakus’ version is far more appealing to us.

Extruding the distinctive intake of the Panigale across the trellis frame of an Aeriel Atom type oversized go-kart – complete with pigeon-toed three spoke wheels, just like the superbike – there are enough Ducati design elements to link the car to the brand to make the exercise convincing.

Leave your thoughts and your best Volkswagen emissions jokes in the comments section.

Ducati CEO Leaves the Door Open for a Scooter Model

03/10/2015 @ 6:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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In a recent interview by Moto.it with Claudio Domenicali, the Ducati CEO fielded a number of questions about the Italian company’s business and its relationship with its German owners (read it here in Google English), but one question was of particular interest: a Ducati Scooter.

The often rumored, often debated, and often denied subject is perhaps the most feared topics for Ducatisti, and it ranks generally just below discussions on which oil to use, which tires are best, and how to break-in a motorcycle engine properly.

That being said, it seems we are headed for another round of debate, as Domenicali is quoted as saying the following to Moto.it: “a scooter marked Ducati is not blasphemy.”

Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

02/27/2015 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation.

Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last, seemingly at the cost of Ducati dealers who have found more and more inventory on their showroom floors.

But it shouldn’t surprise Ducati followers to hear the recent departure of Cristiano Silei, Ducati’s now-former Vice President of Sales and Marketing. With Ducati seemingly hitting a wall on expansion and model diversity, Silei’s departure may have been expected in some circles, and certainly all eyes will be on his successor Andrea Buzzoni, to see what he can do with the role.

Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

10/16/2014 @ 8:05 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT).

Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

MotoGP: Filippo Preziosi out of Ducati Corse?

11/11/2012 @ 1:29 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

A revolution is about to take place at Ducati, several reliable sources are reporting. The Bologna factory’s new owners Audi are pushing through wholesale changes, both MotoSprint and Moto.it are reporting, which include relieving Filippo Preziosi of his responsibility for Ducati’s MotoGP project and embarking on a parallel project to have Suter build a new chassis for the bike.

Who is to take the place of Preziosi at the head of Ducati Corse is unclear, but the name of Paolo Ciabatti, currently involved in World Superbikes and previously head of Ducati’s WSBK team, is being mentioned.

According to the reports in the Italian press, the removal of Preziosi is part of a wholesale reorganization of Ducati’s MotoGP project. The structure is to be altered to make it more ‘Japanese’ with the work divided up into separate divisions, and without tight central control of all aspects.

Suter has been commissioned by Audi to build a new chassis for the Ducati as part of a separate, parallel project to try to improve the bike.

Who Actually Owns Ducati? Lamborghini Paid €747 Million

08/01/2012 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Audi AG has released its 2012 Interim Financial Report, and in it the German automaker has released some interesting details about its acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding. Confirming our report that the Audi Group has bought 100% of Ducati’s shares, Audi however discloses that it paid much less for the Italian motorcycle brand than was previously reported.

Disclosing a buying price of €747 million ($980 million at the exchange rate at the time of sale), perhaps the most interesting news in Audi’s report is that Ducati was actually bought by Lamborghini, making Ducati a subsidiary of the boutique Italian car-maker. This news would explain Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio’s appointment to the Lamborghini Board of Directors earlier last month.

MotoGP: Rossi Decision Expected in One Week’s Time

07/31/2012 @ 3:08 pm, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

Just one more week, and the biggest open piece of MotoGP’s puzzle should be slotted into place. On Saturday night, Valentino Rossi met with Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio, to discuss the details of the offer Ducati have for Rossi, and on Sunday morning, Del Torchio told French journalist Michel Turco that he expected to know Rossi’s answer within the next seven days. The money from Ducati is generous, some 17 million euros a season (this figure has since been denied by Rossi — Ed.), if the rumors are to be believed, but the money will not be the important part of the deal.

The biggest item will be what help Ducati will get from Audi, and whether the rate of progress at Borgo Panigale can be ramped up to start rolling out updates faster, and start to change some of the things which Rossi and Burgess believe are vital before the bike can even begin to become competitive. Ducati is not Rossi’s only option, of course.

The second seat at the Factory Yamaha team awaits, though that ride is not so richly rewarded, financially at least. The offer from Yamaha is rumored to be around the 3-4 million euro mark, a pay cut Rossi may be willing to take if it leaves him capable of winning and challenging for championships again. But here, too, conditions will be key: Rossi will return as the #2 rider, Lorenzo already having clinched a two-year deal with the factory, and Yamaha having made it clear to Rossi that they saw Lorenzo as the future back in 2010, which caused Rossi to pick-up sticks and go to Ducati.

Even worse, though, Rossi may have to return alone; his crew will not automatically be rehired by Yamaha, the cost of flying them around the world being a major cost factor in the equation. What’s more, Rossi will have to bring sponsorship to the table, much more than just the amount needed to cover his salary.

Audi Reconfirms Gabriele Del Torchio as Ducati CEO

07/19/2012 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With the acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding by Audi AG, the German car manufacturer was bound to do some shuffling in the Italian motorcycle company’s executive ranks. Announcing that it has formed a new Board of Directors, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has unsurprisingly been name President of the Board, while Horst Glaser and Axel Strotbek (best names ever) from Audi have also been given seats on the Ducati’s Board.

Giving Audi AG a 3-to-2 controlling interest of over Ducati’s Board of Directors, the new board is also comprised of Gabriele Del Torchio and Claudio Domenicali. In an interesting move, Del Torchio has been reconfirmed by the new Board of Directors as CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, with Audi also appointing the Italian to the Board of Directors at Automobili Lamborghini SpA.

Audi Ponders Making a Two-Wheeler

07/17/2012 @ 7:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

According to Autocar, Audi is in the process of developing a two-wheeled vehicle, either a scooter or motorcycle, which is interesting news considering the recency of the company’s purchase of Ducati. Promised not to be a Ducati with an Audi badge, there are not many other details about the news, though intelligent conjecture would imagine the project is along the same vein as the BMW C600 scooter.

Automakers are currently obsessed with the “last mile” concept of people transportation, which foresees ultra-small cars, scooters, and other two-wheeled vehicles doing the bulk of urban transportation in the coming future.