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.

XXX: The Yamaha YZF-R1 in “Speedblock” Yellow & Black

09/19/2015 @ 6:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

60th-Anniversary-Yamaha-YZF-R1-yellow-black-paint-03

As we speak right now, Endurance World Championship machines are lapping around the Paul Ricard Circuit, competing in the 2016 Bol d’Or 24-Hour race.

Ahead of the endurance event though, Yamaha’s factory teams debuted a tribute to the company’s 60th birthday, as Yamaha Motor Company was founded in July 1955.

For us YZF-R1 fans, this weekend means a special yellow and black “speedblock” livery for the Yamaha race bikes – a paint scheme that will be available to the general public (in Europe, at least) starting December 2015.

This isn’t the first time that Yamaha’s special limited edition speedblock livery has helped spice up the R1, and like its previous efforts, we like the result. The added Akrapovic pipe is a nice touch too.

Speaking of results, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) is sitting in second place, at the time of this writing, just one lap behind the leaders, Honda Endurance Racing. Meanwhile, the French factory team that is Yamaha GMT 94 team sits in 5th (+4 laps), with roughly 11 hours remaining in the event.

We’re sure Yamaha would love to tie-up this press debut with a victory at the French track, with either of its yellow-clad factory teams. Until then, we have some super high-resolution photos of the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 in its 60th Anniversary livery. Drool over them, after the jump.

Kawasaki Deals Suzuki an Upset at the 76th Bol d’Or

04/16/2012 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With the weather changing almost constantly during the weekend’s race and close to freezing at night, the 76th annual Bol d’Or proved to be both an exciting and grueling race that saw teams changing to wets, slicks, and cut-slicks almost constantly in the pit stops. Racing for 24 hours, the SRC Kawasaki Team did the unthinkable, and beat the heavily favored Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) in this year’s Bol d’Or endurance race. Losing most of its time in the pits, SERT had to contend with a crash in the fourth hour of the Bol d’Or, which sent lead-rider Vincent Philippe home early with a broken collarbone.

Completing the remaining 20 hours of the race with only two riders, SERT was able to close the gap to SRC Kawasaki in the final hours of the contest to only 60 seconds, but after several more pit stops the team would have to settle for finishing just on the same lap as the Kawasaki squad, as they slowed their pace to ensure victory. While one could make the argument that SERT lost the race instead of SRC Kawasaki winning it, riding a flawless and careful 24 hours is a part of the winning strategy in the FIM World Endurance Championship. Kudos to the SRC Kawasaki Team.

Honda TT Legends Previews the Bol d’Or 24 Heures

04/13/2012 @ 6:03 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Honda TT Legends Previews the Bol d’Or 24 Heures

Tomorrow, the Honda TT Legends World Endurance Championship team will take to Magny-Cours, and compete in the 24 hours Bol d’Or endurance race. The first stop on the FIM World Endurance Championship, John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, Gary Johnson, and Simon Andrews qualified 11th for the Bol d’Or, but hope their 2012 Honda CBR1000RR will be able to make up the distance to the front-runners over the course of the race.

Putting together a quick video about the team, and endurance racing in general, the Honda TT Legends squad knows that it has a challenge ahead of them. Acknowledging that last season was a “development year,” for 2012 the team hopes to be on the podium at every race. A race bike with lights, the Honda TT Legends mechanics have had to take the race-spec Honda CBR1000RR, and “tune it down to 200 [hp]” in order to meet the reliability requirements for such a long race.

We can’t imagine what it is like riding a bike that only makes 200 hp around a tiny French track for 24 hours must be like, but McGuinness et al seem quite pleased with the machine thus far. Featuring ABS brakes on the CBR, we especially like McGuinness’s thoughts about the technology, and attitude towards “the lads in the pub” and what they have to say about ABS on sport bikes. Better living through technology, the Honda TT Legends squad is going to be a menace in the rain with the ABS-equipped CBR1000RR.

2012 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 Debuts at Bol d’Or Practice

03/27/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With 33 years of history surrounding the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), the Japanese manufacturer has one of the winningest legacies in the FIM World Endurance Championship (WEC). Set to start again with the 24-hour-long Bol d’Or race at Magny-Cours on April 14th-15th, WEC teams were out at the French track this week, with many debuting their 2012 squads. Winning nine of the last ten runnings of the Bol d’Or, SERT is of course this year’s favorite to win again.

A spectacle in its own right, the World Endurance Championship and its rounds like the Bol d’Or are more of a novelty for motorcyclists on this side of the pond, and provide often only the rare glimpse of race-trim bikes with headlights. As such, we get out first proper look at SERT’s Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000, which will be ridden by Fabien Foret, Vincent Philippe, and Anthony Delhalle — three Frenchmen with no intention of losing at their home race.

Video Highlights from the Bol d’Or Endurance Race

04/22/2011 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

If you missed one of the twenty-four hours of the Bol d’Or endurance race held at Magny-Cours this year, don’t fret because the FIM has your back with this short highlight video. The famous French race is the first stop on the 2011 FIM World Endurance Championship, and once again the top podium spot has gone to Suzuki. The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) completed 814 laps with Vincent Philippe, Freddy Foray, and Anthony Delhalle at the helm of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 race bike.

Endurance races are a special bread of motorsport, with strategy and consistency playing a huge factor in the final outcome. Throw in constantly changing track conditions, the absence of the sun, and rider fatigue, and you’ve got a sport that tests man just as much as machine. As a side note, it is also a little strange to see a race bike with headlights, which just further adds to the mystique of this historic event. Check it out, along with photos and results, after the jump.