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.

Espargaro’s €600,000 Decision, Hayden Closing on Aspar

09/14/2013 @ 5:06 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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Though the factory seats in MotoGP are all filled, the prime seats on the non-factory entries are still open. Top favorites among the riders are the NGM Forward team, with the leased and FTR-kitted Yamaha M1s, and the Aspar team, which will be running factory-backed Aprilias, though not as an official factory team.

These four are the most competitive of the non-factory bikes, and any rider dreaming at a shot of a return to a factory ride, with Suzuki in 2015 perhaps, will want to be on board one of these bikes. At the moment, there are two lynchpins around which all of the rest of the choices revolve.

MotoGP Silly Season Update: Forward’s Privateer Yamaha M1s, Hayden’s Future, & Honda’s Production Racers

08/20/2013 @ 3:00 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 – barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment – battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes – the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries – are all taken, the privateer machines – using Dorna spec-ECU software and extra fuel – are still mostly up for grabs.

The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda’s production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are a heavily modified version of Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike.

Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.

The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec-ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams.

Given just how good the 2013 M1 is – Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums – it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.

MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing

08/06/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

MotoGP: Yamaha Up’s the Ante with Non-MSMA Race Bike

07/19/2013 @ 8:17 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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When Yamaha announced they would be leasing their M1 engines to ex-CRT teams for 2014, the first wave of reaction was overwhelmingly positive. With 24 liters of fuel allowed, and 12 engines instead of 5, the Yamaha engine package looked like being the best thing on offer to the so-called non-MSMA teams, as CRT is to be called from next year.

Then doubt set in. Looking at the Yamaha M1 package, what you’d want from Yamaha was the chassis rather than the motor. The engine is the least powerful of the MotoGP prototypes, but its chassis was by far the best of the bunch. Both the Honda and the Yamaha non-MSMA packages appeared to be offering the worst part of each bike: Honda offering their chassis (good, but not great) and a dumbed-down version of their superlative engine.

Yamaha offering a full-fat engine (the weakest of the bunch), for teams to have someone build a chassis around without Yamaha’s 20+ years of experience building Deltabox frames. Perhaps the Yamaha M1 lease package – a lot of money, just for some engines – was not the bargain it at first appeared.

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season

05/21/2013 @ 11:06 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

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As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.

If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.

So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.

After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.

Colin Edwards Explains How to Ride COTA

03/19/2013 @ 3:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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We don’t know how many regular track day enthusiasts will get to ride the new Circuit of the Americas race course in Austin, Texas — what with its $50,000 rental fee and all — but, for lucky journalists like us, who will be riding COTA for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R press launch, or motorcycle racers whose series makes a stop at the purpose-built grand prix circuit, you may want to jot down the few notes that MotoGP racer Colin Edwards has on the facility’s 20 turns.

Getting a chance to scope out the new race track built in his backyard, the Texas Tornado takes a ride with Jonathan Green (of WSBK commentary fame), and walks us through his favorite sections, as well as giving away a few tips on how to ride America’s new racing venue. Pretty interesting stuff (we’ll surely use his advice in a couple days), though the wind isn’t doing anyone any favors with the audio quality. Check it out after the jump.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 2: Weather Throws a Wrench

02/04/2013 @ 4:52 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The second day of the special CRT test at Sepang, laid on to allow the teams using the brand new Magneti Marelli spec-ECU, was as beset by problems as the first day. If technical problems and a lack of parts had been the bane of day 1, it was the weather which dogged the teams, though technical problems persisted.

Heavy rain in the morning meant that only Danilo Petrucci went to put in a few laps before running into an electrical issue with a coil left the engine running on two cylinders. The rain stopped in the afternoon, but the track remained wet, leaving the riders present to do only a few laps.

Petrucci ended the day fastest – though his best time of 2’23.546 is fairly meaningless at a track where the race lap record is 2’02, and the pole record 2’00 – but frustrated at having not been able to get much work done. The electrical problems left him stranded in the pits in the morning, while teammate Lukas Pesek took the only Magneti Marelli ECU the team currently has at their disposal in the afternoon.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 1: CRTs Meet Magneti Marelli

02/03/2013 @ 12:18 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The first day of the extra two-day test for the CRT teams laid on to allow the teams using the new Magneti Marelli spec-ECU has been almost entirely wasted. A lack of parts and above all, a lack of data with the new system meant that the day was spent mostly in the garage, with very few laps turned out on the track.

Only CAME Ioda’s Danilo Petrucci got in any serious track time, the Italian posting a total of 27 laps. All of those laps were set without any assistance from the electronics, however: with no data, the team had no base set up to work from, and Petrucci was lapping without any electronic aid.

“It’s really hard to ride a bike without any electronic controls,” Petrucci posted on Twitter afterwards, a fact that is borne out by his times. Petrucci’s fastest lap was a 2’06.841, two seconds slower than his best time from the race weekend at Sepang, and four seconds behind the best CRT time set back in October of last year.

Edwards with NGM Forward & Abraham To Aprilia for 2013

09/14/2012 @ 9:08 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

With the available seats at the teams with factory prototypes all now full with the exception of the final satellite Honda – most likely a toss-up between Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda, though rumors persist of Marc VDS Racing taking the Honda RC213V from Gresini and fielding Redding in their own team – attention has now turned to the CRT grid, and the available seats being filled there.

At Misano, two teams announced their plans for 2013. On Thursday, the NGM Forward squad announced they had persuaded Colin Edwards to stay for another season, meaning that the Texan will remain in MotoGP for another year. The team is to finish the 2012 season on the Suter BMW, before making a decision on which bike to use for 2013. The team had been considering a switch to the Aprilia ART machine, but promises of an expanded testing program and more development have kept Forward on board for the rest of the season.

The Cardion AB team will be using the Aprilia ART, however. Today, the team officially confirmed that they would not be continuing with Ducati and would be switching to an Aprilia ART machine. The team will work in partnership with Aprilia and the Aspar team to help develop the Aprilia, in preparation for the new rules in 2014, which will see a rev limit and spec ECU imposed. Karel Abraham will remain the rider for the team.

MotoGP: IODA to Suter, Salom Replaces Silva, & Edwards’ Bike Choice Uncertain for Misano

09/06/2012 @ 10:40 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

The Misano round of MotoGP in just over a week will see a host of changes at the CRT end of pit lane, as teams reevaluate ahead of the final part of the season. Perhaps the least surprising swap is that of the IODA Racing team, who are dropping their own IODA racing machine – an Aprilia powerplant housed in a steel trellis frame built by the team themselves – in favor of the Suter BMW bike currently being raced by NGM Forward’s Colin Edwards.

Danilo Petrucci’s biggest complaint all year has been a lack of top speed, sometimes as much as 50 km/h to the factory MotoGP bikes and close to 30 km/h to the other CRT machines, so the Italian will be hoping that the much more powerful BMW unit will give him a power boost. Petrucci and IODA tested the BMW at the Vairano circuit just south of Milan in Italy, but the persistent rain meant that Petrucci and Dominique Aegerter got little time on the bike.