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.

motoDNA: Emergency Braking Techniques

05/19/2014 @ 6:10 pm, by Mark McVeigh8 COMMENTS

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Nothing causes as much confusion or trepidation in riders as emergency braking. How hard can I brake? Will the front wheel lock? Will I go over the handlebars? How far can I lean over on the brakes?

As a Motorcycle Instructor I am continually amazed at how many of our students, who have generally had some training and are licensed, come to us with inadequate braking skills. It’s super important to understand and regularly practice emergency braking on your bike. Normally I recommend a quiet car park with a slight up-hill.

To understand braking we must first understand grip. The main contributor to grip is the weight or load on each tire. The ratio between the maximum possible grip and the vertical load is called the coefficient of friction (μ). To understand this, slide an eraser across your kitchen table. Now try the same thing pushing down hard on the eraser.

This same thing happens when you brake on a motorcycle. The bike pitches forward transferring weight onto the front wheel, increasing front tire grip. More so with sports bikes, tall with short wheelbase compared to cruisers, which are long and low.

motoDNA: Getting a Grip on the Mechanics of Trail Braking

03/07/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Mark McVeigh18 COMMENTS

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On the track, racers are either on the throttle or on the brakes – no free wheeling – this wastes time. Trail braking is a technique which racers use to slow the bike as quickly as possible from one speed (on the straight) to another (corner apex speed).

In applying this technique, a racer will approach a turn and at their braking marker, apply full braking force, normally with the bike being upright.

As the rider begins to turn in, they reduce brake pressure, easing off the brakes. Decreasing or “trailing” the brake lever force as the bike lean angle increases until they gets to the apex, the rider then releases the brake and applies the throttle.

Sounds easy enough in theory, but proper execution is complicated because it comes down to feel — and remember these guys are doing this seamlessly, every lap on the limit.

As Freddie Spencer once said, “fast riders have slow hands” so all this is done smoothly, progressively and powerfully.

PSA: Please Reconsider Using Your Rear Brake

12/06/2013 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

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There is a weird phenomenon as one gains experience on a motorcycle in regards to the usage of the rear brake. As novice riders, we are taught to use the rear brake in conjunction with the front brake, and in rider training courses like the one put on by the MSF, this is a skill that is practiced out on the range. Out on the road, it is not uncommon then to see the rear brake light of a new rider dance with light, as a foot covering the rear brake toggles the brake light switch on and off.

As we progress and gain some more experience as motorcyclists, the trend is to stop using the rear brake entirely — relying solely on the front brake for our stopping needs. Go to enough track days and eventually you will see a motorcycle fail a tech inspection because the rider thought the rear brake was so unnecessary as to remove it completely from the machine — for the weight savings, of course.

As a rider’s skill set on a motorcycle improves though, a new love affair is found with the rear brake. Talk to any professional motorcycle racer about their rear brake, and you will begin to realize there is a huge role that the rear brake plays in bike stability, which at times makes no sense to a layman — something exemplified by Casey Stoner’s frequent use of the rear brake while also hard on the throttle.

Not quite diving that deep, Scott Russell (of Mr. Daytona fame) and Nick Ienatsch (of FasterSafer.com) explain why you should fall in love again with your rear brake, as well as giving some tips on how to modify your bike to get the most out of braking with both the front and rear tires. Enjoy!

Video: Got Brakes?

06/12/2012 @ 2:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Whether your Sunday mornings are spent watching the AMA, BSB, WSBK, or MotoGP Championships (bonus points if nodded for each one of those), the image of watching a motorcycle lift its rear-wheel off the ground under heavy braking is surely a common occurrence to you. For amateur racers, the experience can be a bit unnerving at first, and even the professionals sometimes miscalculate the available traction, braking distance, and entry speed associated with such a maneuverer.

Such was the case with one Brazilian Superbike racer, who found himself on the wrong side of an endo, and headed into slower traffic at a corner’s entry point. With his rear-wheel lifted well off the ground, our protagonist makes perhaps the worst decision for the situation: he grabs more front brake. The rest writes itself, and we again thank the proliferation of on-board cameras in modern motorcycle racing for bringing us another tasty clip. Video after the jump.

The Top 10 Late-Brakers at Mugello

07/05/2011 @ 4:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brembo has released a list containing the Top 10 late-brakers at the Italian GP in Mugello. Taken from teams’ telemetry from the Qualifying Practice, Brembo compiled the list based off who was applying the most braking force coming off the front straight-away, and into Turn 1. Of note, the list was based off only teams who use Brembo brakes, which means LCR Honda and San Carlos Gresini Honda were left off the list (they use Nissin), we therefore don’t have data for Toni Elias, Hiroshi Aoyama, and Marco Simoncelli.

The San Donato bend at Mugello sees riders slow from 203 mph coming down the long straightaway to 75 mph into the apex of the first turn. One of the first tracks on the MotoGP calendar, Mugello recently repaved its course, meaning the Italian track has become especially smooth and grippy, and under the weekend’s sun, it was warm and ready for MotoGP action. Make your guesses now as to whom was the King of the Brake Lever, and check your answers after the jump.

2011 Benelli TnT 1130 “Century Racer”

10/29/2010 @ 5:45 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Founded in 1911, Benelli is celebrating its 100th year anniversary at EICMA this year with special “Century Racer” versions of its Tornado Naked Tre (TnT), the company’s naked three-cylinder street bike. The Benelli TnT 1130 “Century Racer” (a Benelli TnT 899 “Century Racer” is also being made available) features a desaturated green color scheme that honors Renzo Pasolini, and will be on display at the show in Milan. Along with the Century Racers, Benelli will have an exhibit that traces the company’s motorcycling history throughout its years. More details about the company’s 2011 model line after the jump.