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.

MotoGP: Circuit of Wales Under Threat as Welsh Government Refuses to Underwrite Project

04/07/2016 @ 7:51 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The Circuit of Wales was dealt a significant setback on Wednesday, after the Welsh Economy Minister refused to offer a 100% guarantee for the £357 million development project.

Without the guarantee, the future of the project is now uncertain, with doubts over the willingness of Aviva, a British insurance company, to continue with backing for the project.

After a long period of preparation, which included a Public Enquiry on the transfer of public lands, work was set to start on the circuit, set just outside Ebbw Vale in South Wales. Work had already started to get the site of the circuit ready to start construction.

The final piece of the puzzle had been secured several weeks ago, in the form of financial backing from Aviva. However, the Heads of The Valley Development Company had asked the Welsh Government to underwrite 100% of the investment in the project, with reports in the regional newspaper South Wales Argus suggesting that such demands had come from Aviva.

April Fools: Spec Winglets to be Mandatory in MotoGP

04/01/2016 @ 5:25 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Winglets are to be made compulsory in MotoGP from 2017, we can exclusively reveal, using a spec design to be implemented much along the lines of the current unified software introduced this year in the premier class.

The decision was taken in response to concerns over costs spiraling out of control should all of the factories become engaged in a winglet war.

The marginal gains to be had from increased spending on CFD computer modeling and wind tunnel work were a red flag for Dorna, who have spent the last seven seasons since the start of the Global Financial Crisis tweaking the rules to reduce costs and raise grid numbers.

With the grid now healthy, and set to rise to 24 in 2017, Dorna and the FIM feared all their hard work could be undone, and teams would once again be forced out of racing by rising costs.

Private Funding Appears for the Circuit of Wales, Will Begin Hosting MotoGP in 2018

02/08/2016 @ 4:50 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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The Circuit of Wales is edging ever closer to becoming a reality. BBC Wales is reporting that UK insurance giant Aviva will be backing the Circuit of Wales project, and providing funds to allow building work on the track near Ebbw Vale in South Wales to start.

Construction will take some time, however, and Silverstone will continue to host the British round of MotoGP for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the race only moving to the Circuit of Wales from 2018 onwards.

The news that Aviva is to provide financial backing for the Circuit of Wales still leaves many questions unanswered. It is not clear from the reports by BBC Wales exactly how much money Aviva will be putting into the track.

The circuit needs £300 million in private investment, on top of roughly £30 million in public funding in the form of loans. Whether Aviva will be providing the full £300 million for the Circuit of Wales, or sufficient seed money for building work to start is unclear.

MotoGP: Circuit of Wales Clears Final Planning Hurdle

11/19/2015 @ 11:54 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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The proposed Circuit of Wales has cleared the final planning hurdle left standing between it and the start of construction.

After an eight-day public inquiry, the decision was taken to approve the deregistering of common land needed for construction of the site. That clears the way for construction work to start once financing is in place.

The request to deregister common land was approved on the basis of extra land – 320 hectares, or some 800 acres – being provided to replace the deregistered land.

The Planning Inspector charged with examining the proposal judged that the overall effect of the land swap would benefit the nature conservation efforts in the area.

Preview of the British GP: The Ryanair Round, Silverstone’s Peculiar Challenges, & The Silly Season Latest

08/28/2015 @ 7:34 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The Irish budget airline Ryanair gained something of a reputation for being, shall we say, creative with the names of the airports it flies to.

Fancy a trip to Sweden? They will fly you to Stockholm Skavsta, a mere 100 km from the city of Stockholm. The same trick is played out time and time again: Paris Beauvais? Beauvais is a charming French city, and well worth a visit, but it is very long way from the French capital. Munich West (Memmingen)? 112 km west of the Bavarian capital.

So perhaps we should call this British GP the Ryanair MotoGP round. Officially, it is being run by the Circuit of Wales, located in Ebbw Vale, South Wales.

Yet the race is to be run around the Silverstone circuit, nearly 200 km further East. Close, it is not. How did it end up at Silverstone? Thereby hangs a long and convoluted tail.

Deciphering the 2016 MotoGP Calendar

08/24/2015 @ 1:25 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP’s schedule for 2016 slotted into place.

Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.

Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on April 4th, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into.

The upside to F1’s late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.

Weekly Racing News Digest #5

03/11/2015 @ 10:28 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It has been a relatively quiet week in the world of motorcycle racing, with much of the focus on preparations for 2015 rather than actual on-track action. The past week has seen riders spending more time on stage than on track, as many teams have presented their 2015 racing programs.

This is but the calm before the storm, however: from Saturday, there is another bumper period of world championship action, with MotoGP testing at Qatar from 14th-16th March, Moto2 hitting Jerez from 17th-19th, followed by the second round of World Superbikes at the Chang circuit in Thailand from 20th-22nd.

There have been some bikes from other series circulating in the past week, however. The British BSB series has been testing in Spain, the MXGP championship has raced in Thailand, two weeks ahead of the World Superbike series’ first visit to the country, and in the US, Florida is gearing up for the Daytona 200.

Circuit of Wales Says It Has £120 Million of Conditional Funding in Place

03/09/2015 @ 12:39 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the Circuit of Wales is exactly where the funding for the project is due to come from.

The ambitious project to build a circuit in the Blaenau Gwent region of South Wales will need some £325 million to complete it entirely, with around £200 million to come from private investors, the rest to come from public funds.

Though the Circuit of Wales has had plenty of headlines, there has been little word of any private investors putting any actual money into the project. That seems set to change.

Michael Carrick, Chief Executive of the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, the company behind the Circuit of Wales project, told the BBC that they have already raised £120 million in private investment, leaving £80 million still to find for development to go ahead.

Silverstone Confirmed To Host British GP in 2015 & 2016

02/12/2015 @ 11:51 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Within a day of the announcement that the British round of MotoGP would not be held at Donington Park comes confirmation that the race will be held at Silverstone.

The ending of the relationship between Donington and the Circuit of Wales meant that a replacement venue had to be found at short notice, and with only Silverstone currently capable of hosting a MotoGP round, the deal was quickly arranged.

Silverstone to Host British GP after Donington Dust-Up?

02/10/2015 @ 12:50 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The British round of MotoGP will not this year take place at Donington Park. In a shock statement, Donington Park announced it was breaking off its partnership with the Circuit of Wales to host the British GP.

In the statement, Donington claimed that it had not received the funding promised to it by the Circuit of Wales, which was needed to perform the upgrades required for MotoGP.

With no money forthcoming, Donington had no choice but to break the contract, leaving the British round of MotoGP without a home, at least temporarily.

Reports on the Motorcycle News website suggest that Silverstone will host the British race instead, with senior staff from the circuit having spoken to Dorna in Barcelona last week.