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.

Bell Helmets Acquired by Vista Outdoor

02/25/2016 @ 11:20 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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With RevZilla joining forces with Cycle Gear and Motorcycle USA shutting down this week, it has been a busy month for the business side of the motorcycle industry. Now we have more news to report, as BRG Sports, owner of the Bell Helmets brand, has sold its action sports business to Vista Outdoor.

The move adds some of the BRG Sport brands: Bell Helmets, Giro, Blackburn, and C-Preme, into Vista Outdoor already extensive lineup of impressive outdoor and shooting brands, such as Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, and Federal Premium.

Bell Pro Star Helmet, Protecting A Head Near You

02/17/2016 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The narrative that surrounds the Bell helmet brand is a long and storied one, with some of the more interesting bits happening in just recent time, as the brand’s many different elements and organizations have finally come back together under one roof.

As such, Bell is keen on changing some of the perceptions of its products, especially in the motorcycle space, and has made great strides in doing so with its latest crop of Star helmets.

A full-featured race helmet, priced to undercut the top offerings from AGV, Arai, Shoei, et al, the Bell Star now sees its successor, the Bell Pro Star progeny coming to market.

We don’t talk a lot about gear here on Asphalt & Rubber, but that is slowing going to change in the coming months, and we wanted to give a nod to what Bell is up to with the Pro Star.

Bell Developing Helmet with Integrated 360° Video Camera

01/11/2016 @ 11:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Are you ready for another post about helmets, especially one with integrated technology? Sure you are, Sparky – and you will be happy to learn about this collaboration between Bell Helmets and a company called 360fly.

Like the Nikon KeyMission video camera, 360fly’s system captures everything around the rider in 4k video resolution, and then creates a video that can be viewed from an immersive virtual-reality perspective.

Thanks to a built-in GPS, altimeter/barometer, and accelerometer, the 360fly system is capable of overlaying telemetry data into its video, among a variety of other features. What really separates the unit from the rest though is what is in the pipeline from 360fly.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

04/05/2014 @ 8:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend.

Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon.

The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Video: Kentucky Flat Track with JD Beach and Troy Bayliss

05/08/2013 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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John Shofner is back with another one of his short films for Bell Helmets, and like the first one, it is some two-wheeled goodness for your Wednesday afternoon. Following JD Beach as he hosts his personal hero Troy Bayliss for a few days flat track fun, it is just another low-key day of playing in the Kentucky mud for these two riders.

It is pretty cool to see two different generations of road course racers come together, and JD is quick to remind us of Troy’s epic wild card victory at the Valencian GP on the Ducat Desmosedici GP6. If this flat track thing looks like your cup of tea, the AMA Pro Flat Track series is going to be live-streamed this year. It’s great two-wheeled racing (even better in person), and we highly recommend you go check it out.

Roland Sands Talks about Bell Helmets

01/17/2011 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

We’ve had more than a few Bell Helmets rolling around the A&R office these past months, and one of the things we’ve really liked from this American-based company is how it has teamed up with notable designers from inside and outside of the motorcycle industry to bring attractive and fresh looks to consumers. While it’s been the Bell Star and Vortex that have been keeping our brains firmly in-between our ears, it’s the designs by Roland Sands and Jona Cerwinske that have been attracting us to Bell, and propelling the company back into the motorcycle helmet market as a whole.

Taking some time to talk to Roland Sands at his new Southern California shop, Bell Helmets has put together this short video with the former motorcycle racer turned designer. While Bell and RSD are obviously out to hock the new gold-leaf-over-carbon fiber “Speed Freak” helmet they’ve created for 2011, Roland has some interesting stories about his process and growing up around motorcycles…the photography is spectacular too boot.

With Bell in the process of restoring its name after having its motorcycle helmet division operated overseas by another company, we expect to see more videos in the future like the one after the jump that engage riders with this once-defunct American brand.

Arai Tops J.D. Power & Associates Helmet Rankings

05/21/2010 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

For twelve years in a row, Arai Helmets has topped J.D. Power & Associates motorcycle helmet rankings for customer satisfaction. This is important because J.D. Power also found that highly satisfied owners are more likely to buy their brand of helmet again (that’s a no brainer, right?). The kicker though is that the likelihood of a repeat customer is nearly 10x more likely when they are highly satisfied with their helmet. In a world where it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one, a 10x multiple is a staggering figure on how product quality plays into a company’s sales and growth strategy.