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.

beIN Sports to Continue Televising WSBK thru 2015

05/19/2014 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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World Superbike fans may, or may not, be pleased to hear that beIN Sports will continue televising WSBK for the American market, through the 2015 season.

As was the case previously, beIN Sports will continue as the sole-television provider for the American and Canadian television markets, while the beIN Sports online streaming service will operate alongside World Superbike’s own internet property.

Honda NM4 Coming to the USA – 670cc & $10,999

04/01/2014 @ 9:45 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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This is either the most awesome April Fools joke from an OEM ever, or the Honda NM4 is coming to America. Announced two weeks ago at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, the NM4, or “Vultus” as it’s being called in Europe, features a 670cc two-cylinder engine for the US market (the machine seems to get a 745cc parallel-twin lump in other markets), and includes Honda’s dual-clutch transmission.

Why the NM4 gets a capacity reduction for the American market is not clear to us, though the entire launch of the Honda NM4 has been a confusing one, as the motorcycle was debuted as a concept bike in Japan, and shortly thereafter announced as a production model for Europe (now for the USA & Canada as well). Effective communications aside, considering the favorable comments we got last month about the NM4/Vultus, Honda has a popular motorbike on its hands here.

Expect the 2015 Honda NM4 to hit the United States in June with a $10,999 MSRP price tag. You can get it in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Pre-production photos are after the jump, along with the technical specifications for the American market.

Honda Interceptor Returns to North American Shores

02/04/2014 @ 4:48 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

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Good news folks, the legendary Honda VFR 800 is returning to US and Canadian shores after a nearly five-year hiatus. If you were disappointed when Honda didn’t confirm the VFR 800 for North America back in November at EICMA, take heart, it’s on its way.

Since 1998, the Honda VFR 800 has combined the seductive power delivery of a V4 with subdued styling, comfy ergos, all-day practicality and bulletproof Honda reliability.

Sure, it doesn’t have the sex appeal of a Ducati 1199 Panigale or the rough-and-tumble attitude of a KTM 1190 Adventure, but what it does have is probably the best blend of comfort, performance and practicality for riders who consider a motorcycle to be their primarily form of transportation.

Yamaha Super Ténéré Gets Electronic Suspension in Canada

01/10/2014 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Canada has some interesting developments for the 2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré, namely that the venerable adventure bike will be getting electronically adjustable suspension, courtesy of KYB, for the new year. Accordingly, the newly equipped bike will be called the Yamaha Super Ténéré ES, and like its non-ES sibling, will feature some improvements for the 2014 model year.

The Yamaha Super Ténéré will now come standard with cruise control, and will feature an all new LCD display. LED signals have also been added, along with an aluminum handlebar and risers. However, we think the upgrade that most enthusisasts will be happy to see is that Yamaha has coaxed some more power and torque from the Super Ténéré, by making changes to the EFI and exhaust system.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Sales Record for 2012

01/17/2013 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Ducati North America is reporting that 2012 was its best all-time retails sales year, with the Italian brand selling 10,883 units last year. This figure means that roughly a quarter of all Ducati motorcycles sold in 2012 were sold in North America, again solidifying the market’s #1 importance to the Bologna Brand.

For an added bonus, Ducati North America is also reporting 10 consecutive quarters of increased sales, with 2012 as whole growing 21% compared to 2011. With every sales region in the US growing in volume, the United States saw 21% growth overall, with Canada (25%) and Mexico (7%) adding to the cause as well. On the non-bike side of things, Ducati North America’s line of apparel and performance parts saw 42% in growth.

Hell Freezes Over as the KTM 690 Duke Comes to the USA

12/07/2012 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

The following news from KTM USA today might shock you, but the KTM 690 Duke is headed to America’s favorite democracy in 2013. That’s right, the previously available everywhere but here model is coming to North America (both the US and Canada), much to the surprise of A&R…and just about everyone else. KTM isn’t talking dollars yet, though it says that the KTM 690 Duke will be competitively priced in its North American markets.

Assuming the US model is the same as the European version, we can expect that 90% of the bike is completely brand new from the previous iteration of the 690. Accordingly, at the heart of the 2013 KTM 690 Duke is a 690cc LC4 single-cylinder thumper that puts out a crushing 67hp and 51 lbs•ft of torque, while the whole motorcycle package weighs only 330 lbs (without fuel) at the curb.

Harley-Davidson Museum Opens Exhibit for Japanese Tsunami Motorcycle

10/25/2012 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Thousands of miles from its home in Japan, a Harley-Davidson FXSTB Softail Night Train was found washed up along the coast in British Columbia. Earlier this year, the motorcycle had floated all the way across the Pacific Ocean in a container that had once been part of a box truck.

The truck had broken apart after it had been washed out to sea during the tsunami that followed the Tōhoku earthquake, and the arrival of the Harley-Davidson, along with countless other pieces of debris, was a stark reminder to the devastation that had occurred along the Japanese coast just a year prior, in 2011.

Bearing a license plate from the Miyagi Prefecture in Japan, many feared that the motorcycle’s owner had perished in the earthquake or tidal wave, and that the Harley-Davidson would serve as yet another story of loss from the tragic event.

However, through the works of numerous parties, including Harley-Davidson and the Japanese consulate in Canada, the bike was identified as belonging to Ikuo Yokoyama. Found to be living in temporary housing in the Miyagi Prefecture, Yokoyama-san seemed set to be reunited with his Harley-Davidson, until something unexpected happened — the Japanese man refused to have the motorcycle returned to him.

2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 – For Europe…& America Too?

09/04/2012 @ 7:16 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Confirming what we already knew, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 broke cover today, and is Team Green’s newest small-displacement sport bike in its motorcycle lineup. 296cc’s of twin-cylinder fury, Kawasaki the Ninja 300 boasts 40hp, twin-butterfly valves, fuel injection, a slipper clutch, a 140mm rear tire, and has optional ABS. A part of a larger movement within Kawasaki, the Ninja 300 exemplifies the “no replacement for displacement” school of thought, and will sell along-side the recently updated (and virtually visually identical) Kawasaki Ninja 250R in more than a few markets.

While we know that the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 is set to debut for our European readers, the big question mark will be whether the small sport bike will come to the North American markets. A spreadsheet from the EPA seems to suggest that will be the case, though it points to a carbureted Kawasaki Ninja 205R and fuel-injected Kawasaki Ninja 400R coming to the US as well, making for one impacted learner-bike market. Meanwhile, reports from Canada confirm that their 250R will also be of the carbureted variety.

The news confirms out suspicion that the Ninja 250R will remain the under-powered, and standard-styled, carbureted learner-bike it has always been in North America, while the Ninja 300 becomes the peppy small-displacement sport bike that we haven’t realized that we will lust over later this fall. Presumably then, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 will go head-to-head with the CBR250R and upcoming KTM Moto3-inspired street bike, among other models.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Monthly Sales Record

06/04/2012 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

What happens when you release the most anticipated, and we’d argue the most important, superbike in the company’s history? Well you have a record month of sales, of course. It should be unsurprising then that Ducati North America posted a 49% sales growth last month, making May 2012 the company’s best month ever sales-wise. Ducati North America pushed 1,782 units in May, for a total of 4,844 units sold in January thru May (up 19% over 2011, and 98% over 2010).

Motorcycle from Japanese Tsunami Washes Up in Canada

04/30/2012 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Just a little over a year later, debris from the Sendai earthquake and its subsequent tsunami is starting to make its way across the Pacific Ocean, with the first bit major piece of fallout to hit Canadian soil just now being reported. Though the effects to the motorcycle industry were only a small portion of the overall devastation, for our purposes it seems fitting that the first sizable item to wash ashore is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Landing in the Haida Gwaii islands of British Columbia, the Harley-Davidson Softail was discovered by Peter Mark, who was riding his ATV along the coast of the isolated beach.