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.

Victory Empulse TT — A Rebadged Brammo Empulse R

07/28/2015 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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When Polaris acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and left the startup to be its electric drivetrain guru, much was talked about what would come to the electric motorcycle manufacturer. So, when a Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike showed up at the Isle of Man TT in Victory Motorcycles livery — let’s not forget the Brammo employees in Victory t-shirts — a bit of Polaris’ game was tipped.

Therefore it is perhaps without surprise that today we bring you the Victory Empulse TT, which is basically a rebadged Brammo Empulse R street bike.

There are some improvements to the Victory Empulse TT over the Brammo Empulse, namely a larger battery pack (+10% for 10.4 kWh nominal), a narrower rear tire (180 is now a 160), a new seat, and most importantly, a rubber cush drive for the rear wheel.

We won’t waste words hyping a motorcycle that has effectively already been on the market for several years, but we will point out two things: 1) Brammo Victory has improved upon an already competent design, and 2) the addition of the cush drive could change our luke-warm opinion of the Empulse R.

Recall: Brammo Empulse & Empulse R

02/11/2015 @ 4:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Brammo is recalling certain Brammo Empulse and Empulse R motorcycles from the 2013 and 2014 model year lineup. Recalling a total of 149 units, the affected models were made between November 19, 2012 and July 8, 2014.

At issue is the Empulse’s gearbox, as the transmission breather tube may blow onto the rear fender and tire. Should this occur, oil could contact the rear tire, and cause of loss of traction, increasing the likelihood of a crash.

Brammo Offers Guaranteed Trade-in Program

08/28/2013 @ 2:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Here’s some EV news for yah: Brammo has announced a guaranteed trade-in program for its electric motorcycle offerings, which basically says that if you buy a new Brammo motorcycle between now and the end of September 2013, the Ashland, Oregon company will guarantee that bike’s trade-in price (for another Brammo motorcycle of course) to be at the original MSRP for the next 12 months.

Recall: Brammo Empulse R

05/29/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Brammo is recalling certain units of its new electric street bike, the Brammo Empulse R. Specifically affecting units made between February 22, 2013, through March 29, 2013 (five units in total), the recall comes about after a test unit showed that some machines had a high current cable attached to the motor controller incorrectly, which could cause an electrical short.

Gas vs. Electric: AFM Homologates the Brammo Empulse

03/05/2013 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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While the FIM & TTXGP have put aside their differences, when it comes to managing an all-electric motorcycle racing championship, other established racing organizations are starting to warm-up to the idea of electric motorcycles lining up on their previously petrol-only starting grids.

We already saw Chip Yates take on the dino-fueled entries in WERA’s Heavyweight Twins class, with a substantial amount of success, and now more EV racers will get a chance to take a charge (ahem) at the competition, as the American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) has allowed the various iterations of the Brammo Empulse to race in its racing classes.

Brammo Raises $13 Million in Series C Funding Round

07/12/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo announced today that it has raised another $13 million, in a Series C funding round that was lead by Polaris Industries. Hoping to secure a total of $45 million over the course of the entire round of funding, the investment by Polaris is the second one that American company has made into the Ashland-based electric motorcycle company.

Polaris first invested in Brammo back in October, as the Minnesota-based company was rumored to be taking a close look at a number of electric motorcycle firms for a strategic partnership. Ultimately settling on Brammo, Polaris was a part of the Oregonian company’s $28 million Series B funding round, and is said to have lead this current Series C tranche.

2012 Brammo Empulse R – Was It Worth the Wait?

05/09/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Launching last night in downtown Los Angeles, the 2012 Brammo Empulse R & 2013 Brammo Empulse broke their cover and officially debuted. Right off the bat from the designations, you can see that Brammo intends for the Empulse R to be a 2012 model, with the base model Emuplse coming out next year (more on that further down). As we expected, the Brammo Empulse R got quite the price bump after its 22-month marination, and will be $18,995 MSRP. Meanwhile when the Brammo Empulse becomes available next year, it will have a slightly more palatable $16,995 price tag.

Featuring a six-speed gearbox the Brammo Empulse R comes with a 54hp motor, 10.2 kWh battery pack (9.31 kWh nominal), and a bevy of brand-name components like Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks, a Sachs rear shock, and a few carbon pieces (read the full technical specifications here). Getting a revised look, the basic Empulse design is still there with some subtle changes (some for the better, some of the worse, in our humble opinion). Touting 56 highway miles and 120 city miles, the Empulse is going to suffer from the same range-limiting use that other electric bikes on the market are facing, though Brammo has thought to include J1772 Level 2 capability on the bike, which should make for some more rapid charges away from the mothership. We like that.

Sticker Shock: Brammo Empulse R Priced at $20,000?

05/03/2012 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A Bothan spy just dropped off a note in the A&R inbox saying that the soon-to-be-released and recently-spotted Brammo Empulse R is to come with quite the price tag. Said to be priced just shy of $20,000, the R-spec Empulse would be commanding a $6,000 premium over the $14,000 MSRP that was quoted when the Brammo Empulse first hit the newswires 22 months ago. Considering the $13,995 price tag offered by the Zero S ZF9, the $20,000 figure being bantered about sounds very high to our ears, at least initially.

Spy Photos: Brammo Empulse R Caught in the Wild

05/01/2012 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Next week we will get to see the Brammo Empulse R officially and publicly unveiled in Los Angeles, but the eagle-eyed lens of Brenda Priddy & Co. and the pages of AutoMoto have caught the electric motorcycle during a movie shoot for its upcoming launch. With an “R” emblazoned on the side, you can be sure this Empulse R and not the base model Empulse we have looked at for the past 22 months, though the two bikes seem to share a bit of similarity.

2012 Brammo Empulse R Technical Specifications Revealed

04/18/2012 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Right on schedule, Brammo has released the technical specifications of the Brammo Empulse & Brammo Empulse R electric street bikes. Featuring a 54hp water-cooled Permanent Magnet AC (PMAC) motor, the Empulse will come with a 10 kWh (9.3 kWh nominal) battery pack, and of course the Oregonian company’s six-speed gearbox. With fully-adjustable Marzoochi front forks, a fully-adjustable Sachs rear shock, Brembo brakes, & Marchesini wheels, Brammo has included some nice kit on the Empulse, though the company hasn’t tipped off to what the “R” designation will mean for consumers.

Our best guess is the Brammo Empulse will be a naked version that is very similar to the Empulse prototype we’ve seen from day one, with some cosmetic updates of course, while the Brammo Empulse R will be a fully-faired sport bike that strikes a similar line to the Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike.

Asphalt & Rubber‘s Bothan spies report that the gearbox works incredibly well, allowing the Empulse to operate just like a standard street bike with shifting and gearing control. There’s still some debate as to whether electrics need trasmissions, let alone close-ratio six-speed transmissions, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.

Still not releasing any images of the new Empulse and Empulse R, Brammo will be taking the wraps off its latest bike on May 8th at an event to be held in Los Angeles. The unveiling will also be live-streamed on the web as well. Click after the jump for the full technical specifications of the 2012 Brammo Empulse R.