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.

Yamaha OR2T Concept – Four Wheels of Leaning Fury

11/06/2015 @ 6:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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We have been talking a lot lately about the Yamaha MWT-9, the three-wheel leaning FZ-09 concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show; and we have also talked a bit about the Yamaha “Sports Ride” concept, a sport car that Yamaha was also showing off in Tokyo.

So hoping to leave no stone unturned, Yamaha has created something that takes from the highlights of both of those concepts – the Japanese call it the Yamaha OR2T, a four-wheel leaning motorcycle…thing.

The Yamaha OR2T is about as close to the Yamaha Tesseract, which debuted in 2007, that we have seen in the living flesh; and honestly, it looks pretty damn awesome.

If Yamaha Made a Sports Car, It Would Look Like This

10/28/2015 @ 2:41 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Motor Corporation is known better for its powersports offerings, but what if the tuning fork brand followed Suzuki and Honda down the rabbit hole of also making a automobiles?

Yamaha might just be considering such a path, releasing what it calls the Sports Ride concept at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

The two-seater concept is very sporty, and Yamaha is quoting a 750kg weight…that’s roughly 1,600 lbs. While we are well into Lotus territory, there is no information at this time as to what could be powering the Sports Ride concept (if it even exists outside of computer renderings).

We Would Smog the German Right Out of this Ducati-Powered Concept Car by Jakusa Design

09/24/2015 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We’re really enjoying the work of Tamás Jakus, better known as Jakusa Design. If that name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, we’re sure his recent work on the zeffed-out Triumph Tiger 800 will surely strike you as familiar. This time, Jakus has imagined a Ducati-powered car.

That concept is already in our headspace, thanks to the engineers at Volkswagen making the Volkswagen XL Sport, but Jakus’ version is far more appealing to us.

Extruding the distinctive intake of the Panigale across the trellis frame of an Aeriel Atom type oversized go-kart – complete with pigeon-toed three spoke wheels, just like the superbike – there are enough Ducati design elements to link the car to the brand to make the exercise convincing.

Leave your thoughts and your best Volkswagen emissions jokes in the comments section.

Here is the Awesome Honda Project 2&4

09/09/2015 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

HONDA PROJECT 2&4 POWERED BY RC213V TO DEBUT AT FRANKFURT: A COM

We already teased you with the Honda Project 2&4 two weeks ago, and now Honda has seen fit to release its RC213V-powered über-kart for our viewing pleasure. Sure it has four wheels, but the 2&4 is a pretty impressive machine.

At its heart is the 999cc MotoGP engine, in 212hp trim and revving to 13,000 rpm. That V4 engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (naturally), with the total vehicle package weighing 892 lbs.

Honda says that the Project 2&4 is based off the Honda RA272, circa 1965, though the design is obviously more avant-garde than the Formula One race car.

Honda Project 2&4 – A Honda RC213V-Powered Car

08/27/2015 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show is just around the corner, and while the event is typically a four-wheeled affair, Honda is cooking up something that piques our two-wheeled interest here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Calling it the Honda Project 2&4, the concept is simple: a futuristic and sporty car that is powered by Honda’s championship-winning, 1000cc, 90°, V4, RC213V MotoGP engine. See, it’s piquing your interest too.

Volkswagen XL Sport – A Ducati Superleggera Powered Car

10/01/2014 @ 6:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Volkswagen-XL-Sport-Ducati-1199-Superleggera-powered-car-09

Whoa, hold on…don’t worry, you’re still at the right site. Yes this is a car, and yes this is a site dedicated to motorcycles, but it will all make sense in a minute…or however long it takes you to read the headline of this story. Don’t worry…scroll up…we’ll wait.

Anyways, one of the perks for Audi AG’s acquisition of Ducati is that parent company Volkswagen can play around with interesting concepts that involve the compact, yet powerful, engines that come out of Borgo Panigale. One of those flights of fancy has manifested itself into a real-life concept, the Volkswagen XL Sport.

Harley-Davidson Powered Prius Found on eBay

04/04/2014 @ 11:28 am, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

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The guys and gals over at Autoblog never cease to disappoint when it comes to finding some of the most outrageous automotive concoctions on the internet, and today is no exception.

Someone had the audacity/genius, to completely rip out the guts of a 2008 Toyota Prius, and stuff in a Harley Davidson motor from 1986.

While some will be cringing in terror and anger after seeing the Captain Planet mobile so horribly butchered, remember that the “Toyohog”, as the team calls it, was built to compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons, and maybe win the “Albert Gore Jr. Carbon Neutral Cup”, one of the many LeMons season prizes.

Did Nissan Just Make the Ultimate Motorcycle Engine?

01/28/2014 @ 7:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Nissan Motor Company is better known for its four-wheeled vehicle pursuits, so it might surprise you to see its name mentioned here on Asphalt & Rubber. To front load the answer to your most pressing question, no the Japanese marque is not getting into the two-wheeled universe.

However, Nissan has been doing some interesting work, ever since it took over the DeltaWing project. In a nutshell, the Nissan DeltaWing was a failed IndyCar replacement race car project that aimed to push the boundaries of light, aerodynamical, and efficient vehicle design.

It found new legs in the endurance racing arena though, and participated in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans — however it didn’t finish the iconic race, when a competitor crashed into it 75 laps into the race.

Nissan and the DeltaWing team have since parted ways collaboratively, but the Japanese car maker has clearly learned something from the process. Returning to Le Mans for the 2014 season, Nissan will field a very similar design, which it has dubbed the Nissan ZEOD RC.

A hybrid race car (Nissan hopes to complete its first lap at Le Mans solely on electric battery power), what tickles our fancy most is the 1.5 liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, which weighs a featherlight 88 pounds. Twenty inches tall, eight inches wide, the Nissan DIG-T R engine is small, though mighty. How does 400hp grab you?

Brain Teaser: The BMW i3 Electric Car Will Have an Optional Gas-Powered Motorcycle Engine in It

01/23/2013 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Electric vehicles are finding a bit more traction in the four-wheeled world than in the two-wheeled market (see what I did there?), and as such we are starting to see more plug-in electric cars from established OEMs hitting the streets already or within a model year or two of being ready for public consumption.

One of the largest global OEMs, BMW is not keen to miss out on the next movement in people-moving, and thus  has been teasing its BMW i3 project for some time now. A plug-in electric with roughly a 100 mile range, BMW’s tests with the Mini E project show that most automobile drivers travel less than 100 miles in a day, but still a significant number of would-be buyers are put off by the low-range figures and daunting uncertainty about charging.

Following in the footpaths of cars like the Chevy Volt, the BMW has announced that the i3 will have an optional gas engine in it as well, serving as an electric generator to recharge the BMW i3’s battery pack. With BMW tipping that the engine will “come from the BMW family” and be in the 600cc range, we don’t have to rack our brains long to realize that BMW will be cross-polinating its electric car program with a motorcycle engine from BMW Motorrad.

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.