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 04Gen Scooter Concept Debuts in Vietnam

04/07/2016 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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For many readers, it might be hard to get excited about a story that covers a scooter design, but hang with us for a second. Yamaha is at the 2016 Vietnam Motorcycle Show right now – the first first motorcycle show event held in Vietnam – showing off its latest creation, in Ho Chi Minh City.

Regular A&R readers will know how massively important the Southeast Asian market is to the big manufacturers, especially the Japanese brands, but the Yamaha 04Gen scooter concept debuting in Vietnam today is important for Western riders as well.

Samsung Smart Windshield Brings a HUD Near You

03/24/2016 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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It’s 2016, and I’m not sure why we all aren’t zipping around on motorcycles that have integrated heads-up displays (HUD).

The technology has been around for decades, the components and software are available and easy to implement, and with our connected digital lifestyles, the concept just seems like a no-brainer.

Yet, here we are, with our boring “Motorcycle 1.0” motorbikes.

Samsung hopes to change that though, showing off its “Smart Windshield” concept. The idea is straightforward: Samsung’s Smart Windshield connects to your smartphone via a special app, and it displays navigation, call, text, and email information on your windshield, through a special projection system.

New Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept Puts the BMW R1200GS Adventure on Notice

03/22/2016 @ 4:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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The Honda Africa Twin is on the short list for being one of the top bikes released in 2016, with Big Red finally getting serious about the adventure-touring market.

To drive that point home further though, Honda has released another variation of the Africa Twin, which it calls the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept.

The premise with the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept is pretty simply, and it borrows heavily from what others in the ADV space have done: if the Africa Twin is Honda’s answer to the BMW R1200GS, then the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept is Honda’s answer to the BMW R1200GS Adventure.

A more stoutly built platform with a larger bias for off-road riding, the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept is meant to be taken through the most rugged ADV terrain, whatever that may be.

Honda, Give Us the CRF250 Rally Already

03/14/2016 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler60 COMMENTS

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For the second year in a row, Honda will be showing its CRF250 Rally concept at the prestigious Tokyo Motorcycle Show – further tempting us with its small-displacement adventure bike.

Honda announced the re-showing of the CRF250 Rally concept today, along with a slew of other machines and concepts it plans on displaying at the Tokyo show.

This announcement only seems to confirm the internet speculation, which widely pegs the model to debut for the 2017 model year. Its continued arrival at trade and enthusiasts only fuels that fire.

Goodyear Eagle-360 Spherical Tire Concept Debuts

03/03/2016 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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Goodyear is touting its 117 years of tire-making experience at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, but it is the years ahead that are concerning the American tire brand right now.

Debuting its Eagle-360 spherical tire concept, Goodyear envisions a future where your current tires looks practically two-dimensional in their thinking, and where the contact patch that connects us to the roadway will evolve into a three-dimensional form.

The concept is likely little more than an attempt at grabbing headlines and pretending relevancy, as there is virtually no current demand from automanufacturers for a spherical tire solution.

That notion is compounded by Goodyear’s attempt to link the Eagle-360 to the rise of autonmous vehicles, as if the two things have anything to do with each other. Still, there is something intriguing here.

Turbocharged Can-Am Spyder F3 Concept

02/18/2016 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Despite what the DMV says, you might not consider the Can-Am Spyder to be a motorcycle, but the three-wheeler is part of a growing segment of on-road fun machines that have a pretty strong overlap with two-wheeled buyers.

It is not necessarily our cup of tea, but we wouldn’t mind swinging a leg over BRP’s latest creation, a turbocharged Can-Am Spyder F3 concept, which just debuted at the Daytona International Speedway.

The venue comes from Can-Am’s involvement as a title sponsor in the series, so naturally the Canadian brand wanted to spice things up with a special concept.

As such, the turbocharged 1,330 three-cylinder Rotax engine puts out 150hp (considerably more than the stock 113hp figure), and is aided in its breathing by its custom Akrapovič three-into-three exhaust system.

The Motul Onirika 2853 Concept Is Not Your Typical MV

01/22/2016 @ 4:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Another tasty item from the 2016 Motor Bike Expo in Verona, the Motul Onirika 2853 concept builds upon a different Italian sport bike, the MV Agusta Brutale 800.

Commissioned by the Italian arm of the French lubricant manufacturer Motul, the Motul Onirika 2853 was designed and built by Luca Pozzato at Officine GPDesign.

The name “Onirika 2853” takes some deciphering, as it refers to dreaming or imagining of what the Motul brand will look like a millennia after the company’s founding (1853). At least, that’s how Motul explains it…we will have to take their word for it.

Ducati draXter Concept Debuts in Verona

01/22/2016 @ 4:33 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Ducati is at this year’s Motor Bike Expo in Verona, and it has a bevy of concepts and customs it wants to show the world. The Italian brand’s trio of Sixty2 Scrambler concepts didn’t really spark our engine, but the Ducati draXter Concept is certainly of note and worthy of further scrutiny.

The Ducati XDiavel was Bologna’s big reveal at EICMA this year, and while the cruiser model wasn’t our cup of tea, we might have to change our tune with this decked-out version of the machine.

Ducati says that the draXter model interprets the XDiavel from a “sports” point-of-view, and the modifications made to the machine certainly do a good job of connoting a bike that leaps from the line.

Ducati 1199 Panigale Café Racer Concept by AD Koncept

12/10/2015 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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I think in 2016, we will find that the whole post-authentic motorcycle movement officially jumped that shark right about at this point in time. The 2015 EICMA show was inundated with café racers and scramblers from manufacturers that wanted to cash in on the budding trend.

Now with Deus ex Machina up for sale and no Honda CB350 left behind, the industry feels ready for the next moto du jour – though not before we give it one last go, of course.

A Panigale-Powerd Ducati Monster Looks Really Good

12/07/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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I’m not a fan of the Monster line from Ducati. There, I said it. There is just something about the Monster models over the years that has failed to strike me as appealing, though I must say the latest crop of liquid-cooled Monsters has certainly been a step forward for me, visually.

I’m more of a fan of the Ducati Streetfigther lineup, and I still hope that Ducati has a new Streetfighter design somewhere on its design boards. Ideally, such a machine would have a Superquadro engine at its heart, and accordingly make big horsepower numbers that rip our eyeballs from our sockets.

The fate of the Streetfighter line remains to be seen though, and with each passing model year I expect to see the Streetfighter 848 finally leave the Italian company’s lineup. It would seem the Streetfighter is kaput as of the 2016 model year. -JB

As such, the Monster line could be Ducati’s only naked bike model, any year now. So, if time is really against us, and if the Monster really is to be the only naked bike from Ducati, I hope the future iterations take a lesson from this concept.