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.

Broventure 2014 – Day Four: No Bad Days

09/11/2014 @ 6:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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One of my favorite phrases has to be “no bad day” — as it encapsulates everything about a motorcycle. There are no bad days on a motorcycle. There can be bad weather, there can be breakdowns, and even crashes, but never a bad day. My second favorite phrase is “if you’re not having fun on a motorcycle, you’re doing it wrong.”

This ties into the prior idea. If you’re on a motorcycle, you’re exploring new roads, you’re hanging out with good friends, you’re living this short existence we call life. Even when the unthinkable happens on two-wheels, the moment right before was spent in sheer bliss. Since we all have to punch out at some point, that seems like a pretty good deal on an inevitably losing hand.

I feel like this is a mantra that goes well with the adventure-touring segment. Breaking free of our nine-to-five lives, getting outdoors, and seeing where the road goes once the sidewalk ends. That’s at least what the marketing materials from OEMs tell us; and of course, the adventure is what you make of it.

Broventure 2014 – Day Three: 50/50

09/09/2014 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The third day of a trip begins the true measure of the adventure. You see, on the first day, you’re excited to be on the open road, and ambition mixed with some adrenaline fuels you. The second day, there remains enough of a connection to back home, that you haven’t truly left it behind yet. But by the third day, the miles being to take their toll, and a trip truly begins to gel. The Broventure is no different.

Despite being one of our shorter days, 210 miles in total, the 50/50 mix of off-road riding made it one of our hardest. We were truly off the beaten path, judging our route not by its direction or duration, but by the conditions on the various “roads” we were riding. They ranged from packed gravel, to loose rock, to rough dirt, and ended with a proper baptism of off-road fire.

Expansive views, sheer drops, and thirsty miles dominated Day Three, but you wouldn’t know it by our demeanor. Tired yes, but Oregon, Washington, and Idaho gave us plenty for our effort. The Bros are gelling too…and where perhaps Colin and Pete were resistant to the eyeroll-worthy “Broventure” mantle, they’ve embraced the spirit…or maybe that’s just the heat and dehydration talking.

Broventure 2014 – Day Two: An Embarrassment of Riches

09/08/2014 @ 12:20 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Day Two of the 2014 Broventure sees us riding from The Dalles, and ending up in Northeast Oregon, near the town of Joseph. It’s our first proper day of riding as a group of five, and our route is a solid 380 miles in length, approximately 60 miles of which is off-road fire trails. This all means there has been plenty of miles through which to get to know my fellow companions.

I’m not sure what contribution my presence brings to the ride, other than some sort of written/photographic record, but the rest of the group is very dynamic. Ronnie likes to pop wheelies on his Triumph Street Triple, usually down elevated freeway on-ramps — he’s also putting us to shame with his Dunlop DOT race tires on the gravel roads.

Quentin is easily distracted by cats, even when negotiating with locals over a five-gallon can of gasoline — I worry about him. Pete is our rock, and if I can be a bit self-centered, I’m grateful for every mile that his eight-gallon BMW R1200GSA is near me…as I’ll be the first one stranded on the side of the road, looking for a gas tank to siphon.

Colin is the glue the binds us, as he’s probably the only one of us who actually knows where we’re going. He’s planned an amazing route for our trip, which has us connecting an epic series of remote roads. He’s also even reluctantly accepted the “Broventure” title that these pages carry, or so he says.

Broventure 2014 – Day One: Getting Out of Dodge

09/06/2014 @ 11:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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For the next four days, I’ll be on the road, riding and writing another Broventure for you all to enjoy. The plan is for our trip to take us through Oregon, Washington, and Idaho — through some of the best mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve been following the Asphalt & Rubber social media accounts, you may have seen that I’ve been putting together a slightly modded Ducati Hypermotard SP for this trip (skid plate, radiator guard, heated grips, luggage rack, and Pirelli Scorpion tires), as our route includes both twisty asphalt roads and mild/moderate off-road trails.

I’ve always been a fan of the new Hypermotard, and I’ve been curious to see how it goes as a smaller ADV option to the more “purpose-built” Ducati Multistrada 1200. I have no delusions however about the bike’s small fuel tank and fairly uncomfortable seat — sometimes you have to roll a hard six.

Speaking of the magic number, six of us in total will be going on the trip, half of the group I haven’t met before; but all of us seem to be connected in multiple ways, and everyone shares the same passion for bikes and getting out of Dodge, and onto the open road.

Broventure Update Day Eight – All Good Things…

09/17/2013 @ 1:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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All good things must come to an end, and so too must this Broventure. Our travels have forged our buttocks into iron, impervious now to the long days in the saddle; our minds have been steeled against the lonely nature of navigating the back roads of America; and our road beards prevent us from stopping within 500 feet of an elementary school — talking to members of the opposite sex has been proven to be difficult as well.

Our bodies show that we have gone to Moab and back, and along the way we took in many of the breath-taking sights that the Southwest has to offer. We traded in our track leathers for some ADV gear, and tipped our toe into the off-roading waters — there is a reason this site is called Asphalt & Rubber, but this whole dirt thing is starting to look appealing as well.

Broventure Update – Day Seven: Unusual Perspectives

09/16/2013 @ 10:16 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The days are winding down now, with today being our last real day of this Broventure (tomorrow we make the long arduous trek from Las Vegas back to Santa Barbara). Our agenda is simple: go see the Grand Canyon and stop at the Hoover Dam.

It’s raining this morning, naturally, and a weather front is coming in behind us. This wouldn’t be much of an issue, except we have to back-track our way from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It would seem that we cannot escape the rain.

Broventure Update – Day Six: The Long Goodbye

09/13/2013 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The trails and trials of Moab are behind us now, and all that remains is the long ride home, back to California. For as much “what if” planning that went into our preparation for this trip, we are surprisingly unscathed by our off-roading and touring adventures thus far.

I mean, Tim probably has a hairline fracture or severely torn ligament in his right wrist — a reward for an epic bike-before-body save on the Super Ténéré — but he continues to get punches on his Man Card by soldiering on with little complaint. Overall, our spirits are good.

Getting some greatly deserved slumber, we awoke to see that the rain has not left us from the previous day. It is coming down in waves, and making the process of getting out of our sleeping bags and tents a very undesirable prospect.

We have roughly 500 miles of riding planned for the day, as we plan to back-track out of Moab to get onto SR-95 South — our last great riding route of the trip. The excursion is a bit out of our way home, but all reports suggest it to be another epic ride, and for bonus points it will bring us close to the Grand Canyon, another sight Tim and I were hoping to see on this Broventure.

But before we can do that, we must first say goodbye to Moab, with its pantheon of geological wonder, and the trails and road that we navigated to see them.

Broventure Update – Day Five: The Road Less Traveled By

09/11/2013 @ 9:51 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” finishes with the iconic lines that “two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This phrase has become the embodiment of the idea that the road less-often taken brings us greater reward, and in many ways that is the impetus behind trips like ours to Moab — we are searching for something, adventure maybe, beyond where the roadway ends.

With those words in mind, we strapped our boots on in the morning, geared up for a full day of riding on the trails that lead down the Colorado River and into Canyonlands National Park. Tim and I were a combination of excited and nervous for the day’s ride — after all, we had just ridden 1,000+ miles for this very day. Our first order of business was to take Kane Creek Road, to Hurrah Pass, and onto the Chicken Corners Trail.

Broventure Update – Day Four: No Halfway Measures

09/10/2013 @ 10:08 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Tim and I are sportbikers through and through, having cut our riding teeth on the canyon roads that are just inland of Santa Barbara, CA. So while the main goal for this trip is to get our feet dirty on the off-road trails of Moab, we both have been looking forward to today’s stretch of our route.

Our course promises not only to have corner-after-corner of fast and clean sweepers, but also some epic views as we summit and decend the mountains, and cut our way through the rock desert. Utah did not disappoint in this regard as we left Bryce Canyon National Park and headed to Moab, Utah along SR-12, SR-24, and SR-191. The fourth day of our eight day trip, it was hard to believe that by the end of the day we would have halfway completed our trip.

Broventure Update – Day Three: The Same, But Different

09/08/2013 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Waking up at the campsite in Zion is like waking up in any national park, really. If you rise early enough, you are treated to warm colors laying like patchwork along the scenic terrain. But, you have to savor the spectacle quickly, as it will soon be ruined by the hum of generators firing up, headlights on high-beam casting shadows across your tent, and the booming voices of other tourists who were born without courtesy.

Camping, well…let’s be honest, car-camping in a national park is really an exercise in enjoying nature at its lowest common denominator, and such was our stay in Zion. Immensely gorgeous, but Tim and I have no illusions to the fact that we are short on “adventure” on this adventure-touring trip, as we break-down our tents in our pre-assigned and marked campsite, clean our dishes with the running tap water, and take care of pre-ride business with the established restroom facilities. The park itself though? Gorgeous in the morning light.