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.

John Hopkins to Wild Card at WSBK Silverstone Round

07/21/2011 @ 10:17 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Announcing its plans back in March to skip Donington Park for Britain’s other track, Samsung Crescent Suzuki has confirmed that the team, along with Anglo-American rider John Hopkins (and teammate Jon Kirkham), will be attending the upcoming World Superbike round at Silverstone as wild card team entry. While Kirkham will be making his WSBK debut, this will be Hopper’s first time on a World Superbike-spec machine since his 2009 campaign with Stiggy Honda.

Ian Hutchinson Will Miss 2011 Isle of Man TT

05/11/2011 @ 7:18 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

By last year’s account, Ian Hutchinson is the king of the Isle of Man TT, winning an historic five TT races in 2010. Unfortunately however, the English rider will have to sit out the 2011 IoMTT, as Shaun Muir Racing has confirmed that Hutchinson has not fully recovered from the injuries he sustained from during an incident in a BSB Supersport race, which was held at Silverstone in September 2010. From that incident, the 31 year-old Hutchinson has suffered from a compound fracture of the tibia and fibia, and has had 16 surgeries and skin grafts to treat his injuries.

Moving to the Shaun Muir Racing team, Hutchinson had hoped to defend his five TT wins in this year’s event, but instead will only be able to participate in the Arai Parade Lap with Mick Doohan, Nicky Hayden. and Cal Crutchlow. Hutchinson is now expecting a return to motorcycle racing later in the BSB Supersport season, due largely to his vigorous rehabilitation efforts.

John Hopkins Takes First Race Win in 11 Years

05/03/2011 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

It was the first time that an American has won a British Superbike race, and his victory in Race 2 at Oulton Park was John Hopkins’s first race win in 11 years, making the event doubly special for the Anglo-American and his fans. Taking a second place finish in Race 1, Hopkins’s result this weekend was equally impressive as the Oulton track was another venue that the former MotoGP rider had to learn as he went.

Proving to be in top form on the Crescent Suzuki GSX-1000R, Hopper is now fourth in the British Superbike Championship. With a format a bit different than what us Americans are used to, moving into the the top six “Title Fighters” group of riders is tremendously important to winning the overall Championship. In BSB, only the riders who are in the top six in the points standings qualify to compete for the “British Superbike Champion” title, which occurs over the final three rounds of the season.

A Behind the Scenes Look of Alpinestars HQ with Jon Kirham and Crescent Suzuki

04/28/2011 @ 7:07 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Where does Crescent Suzuki’s Jon Kirkham go when he needs custom racing leathers made for his British Superbike Championship bid? Why Alpinestars of course. Testing in Spain before the 2011 season began, Kirkham stopped by the Alpinestars HQ in Italy to get fitted for his new racing suit, and the Crescent Suzuki team brought along its cameras to share the experience with everyone else.

You don’t have to follow the BSB series to appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a custom leather suit, and getting an inside look at one of the top brand’s operation is certainly enlightening. The process is more involved than just taking a stock suit and putting logos on it. Instead each piece is custom cut to the rider’s measurements, and hand sewn to make a completely unique garment for Kirkham.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that if he bins it during practice or a race, a new custom suit can be made from scratch in just eight hours. Check the video out after the jump.

John Hopkins to Ride for Rizla Suzuki Starting in Jerez

03/19/2011 @ 9:48 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

John Hopkins has seemingly been unable to get out to Qatar in time to fill-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista, instead Rizla Suzuki will go without a rider for the Qatar GP. Despite that setback, Hopper will pick-up with the Suzuki squad at the Spanish GP, racing once again on the GSV-R at Jerez. Out of all the riders in the MotoGP paddock, Hopkins has had the most success with the Suzuki MotoGP bike, finishing fourth in the 2007 MotoGP Championship.

Hopkins to Wildcard in World Superbikes at Silverstone

03/03/2011 @ 8:59 am, by Victoria Reid9 COMMENTS

Despite newly announced title sponsor Samsung, British Superbike squad Crescent Racing will not enter John Hopkins as a wildcard entry for the Donington Park round of World Superbike racing as previously expected. Instead, both the American rider and his new teammate, reigning BST Champion Jon Kirkham, will be entered for the British WSBK round at Silverstone later in the season.

Originally, the team had announced that Hopkins would race at Donington, but with a rider new to the team testing today at Cartagena, it seems as though Crescent Suzuki has decided to wait to join the WSBK fray. They will continue their testing March 8th at Guadix, Spain in advance of the BSB opener at Brands Hatch on April 25th.

Official: Hopper to British Superbikes

01/19/2011 @ 9:37 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Truly official now, John Hopkins has signed-on with the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team for the 2011 season. Hopper’s first duty on the BSB team will be to test at the upcoming sessions at the Spanish tracks of Cartagena and Guadix. Crescent Suzuki also says that Hopkins will ride as a wildcard entry at the World Superbike round at Donington Park in March, which precedes the season BSB opener at Brands Hatch in April.

“I am really looking forward to BSB and working with Crescent again, it will obviously be a different crew but I know they are a great group of guys and that will be a good foundation to start the season. It is going to be a huge challenge for me, I know there are new tracks to learn, but I am not too concerned,” said Hopkins

Hopper to BSB Reportedly A Done Deal – Still Not Official

01/10/2011 @ 7:07 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Hopper to BSB Reportedly A Done Deal – Still Not Official

Confirming earlier rumors (x2), reports are coming out of the Crescent Racing’s British Superbike team that Anglo-American John Hopkins will be riding for the Suzuki-based team in the upcoming 2011 season. While no signatures have reportedly been made, Crescent Racing Team Manager Jack Valentine is calling Hopper’s ride for the now non-factory Suzuki team (Relentless by TAS has been tapped by Suzuki to be its “factory team” for 2011 in BSB) a “done deal,” as Hopkins has already begun training for his new assignment, and is eager to get back to racing.

The British Superbike series seems like a last hope bid for Hopkins, who is coming off a controversial season with Team Hammer’s M4 Suzuki squad. Team owner John Ulrich blasted Hopkins on the WERA message board late last year, all but accusing the American-born rider of lying to him about his physical health before the start of the 2010 season.

Crescent Suzuki Confirms Talking to Hopper

12/10/2010 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Being the fine British blokes that they are, MCN was able to get ahold of Crescent Suzuki Boss Jack Valentine, and ask him about the validity to the rumors suggesting that the British Superbike team is pursuing John Hopkins as a possible rider for the 2011 season. Confirming that the rumors were true, but that nothing has been agreed to yet, Valentine told MCN that “Crescent are in discussions with former MotoGP star John Hopkins, who is now fully fit again and finished on the podium in the last two rounds of the AMA series.”

Ulrich Says Hopper ‘Misled’ About His Fitness for 2010

12/09/2010 @ 7:15 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

John Ulrich, the man behind both Team Hammer and publication Roadracing World, seems to be content on airing his dirty laundry about rider John Hopkins on the WERA board this week. In his postings, Ulrich accuses Hopkins of keeping secret his hand’s deteriorated condition, and misrepresenting his physical fitness and readiness for the 2010 season. This issue has lead to Ulrich saying he won’t work with Hopkins ever again, despite Ulrich discovering the Anglo-American rider at a young age, and essentially jump-starting his motorcycle racing career.

If true, these acts and omissions could amount to fraud and misrepresentation on Hopkins’ part, and our sources tell us Monster Energy Drink is less than enthralled about Ulrich failing to take proper due diligence before signing the rider.