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.

Pierre Terblanche Leaves Piaggio for Norton

01/13/2011 @ 9:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

While Norton Motorcycles finds itself currently in the middle of a relaunch period, having recently resurrected the brand at its Donington Park headquarters, being widely rumored to contend in MotoGP for the 2012 season, and just a month ago announcing that it would return to the North American motorcycle market, more changes seem in store for the historic British company. Announced today was the surprise move that sees famed South African motorcycle designer Pierre Terblanche moving from Piaggio, where he was working on revamping the Moto Guzzi line, to Norton Motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson Brand Drops 24% in Value – Threatens to Fall Off The Interbrand 100

09/19/2010 @ 4:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Interbrand, the leader in brand consultancy, ranks the Top 100 brands each year according to their brand value, with brands like Google, Coca-Cola, and McDonalds usually taking the top honors. Interbrand’s method looks at the ongoing investment and management of the brand as a business asset, and then assigns a dollar value to that asset.

In motorcycling no brand is worth more than the Bar & Shield of Harley-Davidson, and the Milwaukee-based company is an Interbrand 100 regular. Dropping nearly 24% of its brand value this year (the most out of all the Interbrand 100 companies), Harley-Davidson fell from 76th on 2009 rankings to 98th in 2010, losing over a billion dollars in brand value in the process.

Help Name That KTM 125

06/22/2010 @ 2:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

KTM is looking for some help in naming its 125 Race and 125 Stunt bikes that were debuted at the 2009 EICMA show. When we saw these bikes launched in Milan, we couldn’t help but want one…even if they’re targeted towards kids. Knowing that the Austrian company’s relatively bland naming nomenclature isn’t likely to resonate with the kids of today, KTM is looking for some insight on how to capture this younger audience, and if they pick your entry you can claim a 125 Race or Stunt bike for your very own.

Hello Kitty Oil – Yes, You Read That

06/22/2010 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Branding can be a tricky trade, especially when it comes to putting your mark on someone else’s product. The optimal goal is to find partnerships where both products benefit from being associated with each other. For Agip, the Italian gasoline and oil company, the obvious perfect partnership is one with Hello Kitty, the cute white cat that does $1 billion in business each year. After all, who doesn’t like their 11 year-old Japanese girls mixed with three liters of motor lubricant? Oh yes, we went there.

Let’s Hype This Bitch! – 60 Day Wait for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200

05/24/2010 @ 2:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Ducati has reported that the first 500 initial pre-orders for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 have been filled, and there is now a 60 day waiting period for the new sport-tourer. Citing a strong reception to the Multistrada’s “four-bikes-in-one” capability, Ducati sees an additional 500 units to be sold in the coming months. This last statement seems sort of like a no-brainer, after-all another 500 bikes will be sold eventually, right?

Actually, the entire statement is sort of strange when you consider what 500 pre-sold orders really entails in a markets like the United States & Canada. With a plethora of dealers in these countries, the reality is that this statement amounts to dealerships pre-selling their initial inventory, which consisted of one or two motorcycles. Yes, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is sold-out for the next two month, but when you ship only 500 units to the entire North American market, you can almost guarantee being sold out on a bike during its release, right?

Volkswagen Motorcycle Could be NSU Comeback?

04/15/2010 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

This rumor just doesn’t want to die (maybe there’s some truth in it then?), but talk continues about a possible Volkswagen motorcycle. This time the speculation centers around NSU an old german brand that VW bought back in the 1960’s. Known for its wankel-style rotary motors, NSU was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in 1955, but sadly went out of business in 1969 when the failing brand (primarily due to its automobile division) was acquired by Volkswagen, never to be seen again or so it would seem.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 Video Recap

04/14/2010 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

How important is the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 to the Italian company? Consider this, despite releasing a bevy of new and revised motorcycles for the 2010 model year, only the Multistrada 1200 has seen the Bologna company bend over backwards to market its sport-tourer with a bevy of videos. Part of this is due to the extra pocket change seen in the adventure segment of motorcycling, but an even more important reason for Ducati’s aggressive media push is the need for the Italian brand to stand for something more than just expensive sport bikes.

Before there were Hypermotards and Multistrada 1200’s, Ducati still saw the lion’s share of its sales come from the Monster line, despite the company being better known for its Superbike line. Unlike some other companies, Ducati was fortunate enough to realize that you can’t play in only one market segment, and began looking for new ways to expand it’s product lineup…thus the Multistrada 1200 was born. In an effort to keep up with all the marketing around the beak-nosed bike, we’ve compiled all of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 videos we could find, so sit back, grab a beverage, and enjoy them after the jump.

How to Save Harley-Davidson – Step 2: Shift Your Product Lineup into New Segments

04/07/2010 @ 5:54 am, by Jensen Beeler66 COMMENTS

35 motorcycles, 7 model lines, 4 chassis, 3 motor families, & 1 market segment, that’s Harley-Davidson’s product line by the numbers. Where many large production motorcycle companies might have 30 or so motorcycles that span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets, Harley-Davidson has put all of its eggs in the heavy cruiser market. This singular pursuit of one market segment has not only been the cause for Harley’s success, but also a significant contributing factor to the company’s recent downfall, which has led to a recently rumored leveraged buyout.

As the old idiom goes, one should not put all their eggs in one basket, which is exactly the faux pas being committed here by Harley-Davidson in its product offering. Businesses, especially public ones, should always have an eye on sustained long-term growth, and a key element to that goal is a well-diversified position in their appropriate industry. Taking this lens and applying it to Harley-Davidson, one can immediately see a portfolio that has been extensively mismanaged by focusing on only one segment of the total motorcycle industry: the heavy cruiser market.

What this has effectively created is a motorcycle company that looks like Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Baskin Robins: 31 flavors, but they’re all Rocky Road.

Ducati: We’ll Put Our Logo on Anything

03/18/2010 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati owns probably the most valuable brand name in motorcycling, and like many brands Ducati finds ways to monetize this asset by licensing it out to other companies. One great marriage and example of this is the Ducati branded apparel available from Puma, which sees both brands benefitting from a racing/apparel association. One not so great example of this concept however is the Toshiba Satellite U500 Ducati Edition laptop, which sees the vanilla of portable computers get stamped with the mark of Corse Rosa.

How to Save Harley-Davidson – Step 1: Redefine and Reposition The Way You Market Your Brand

03/08/2010 @ 6:50 am, by Jensen Beeler112 COMMENTS

Blasphemy, heresy, stupidity, sacrilege, un-American, and downright irreverence. Go ahead, get all those words out of your system. I’ll wait.

The default opinion of marketers, analysts, and the general population is that Harley-Davidson has one of the strongest brands in the United States, this being confirmed by the fact that every business student in America has studied Harley’s marketing efforts if they’ve ever taken a brand management course. So why would I start a three-part series on how to fix Harley-Davidson by arguing to change one of the most revered marketing houses in the motorcycle industry?

Giving credit where credit is due, Harley-Davidson, or I should say its admirers in business school academia, wrote the book on demand generation marketing geared towards the baby-boomer generation. However, in defending this market position, Harley-Davidson has painted itself into a corner by only engaging a very small segment of the population with its product. Unless they redefine and reposition their company image and who it resonates with, Harley-Davidson is going to watch the continued erosion of its footing in the motorcycle industry, and also the continued deterioration of its only industry leading quality: its brand.