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.

Brammo Gets Investment from TEAM Industries – Forms Strategic Partnership for Design and Production

07/08/2014 @ 4:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The folks in Talent, Oregon have some exciting news today, as electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo has announced a strategic partnership with TEAM Industries, a leading drivetrain technology firm. The partnership with TEAM brings a variety of advantages to Brammo’s production and design process, and it also sees TEAM becoming an investor in the electric vehicle startup.

TEAM’s ability to develop and produce, locally in the United States, will help Brammo not only develop its future products more effectively, but also help lower the cost of its current offering. Talking to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher, he called TEAM Industries “American manufacturing at its finest,” and highlighted TEAM’s commitment to creating jobs throughout Minnesota, and its ability to work on a wide variety of manufacturing stages

Aside from the capital infusion, which is the lifeblood of any startup company, Brammo seems to be getting a wide array of benefits by working with TEAM.

Brammo Eyes IPO for 2014/2015?

11/11/2013 @ 8:58 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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It has long been rumored that Brammo, Inc. CEO Craig Bramscher envisions his company heading to Wall Street for an initial public offering one day, but now we are getting our first public words from Bramscher about how he hopes that his Oregonian company can go public in the next year or so.

Quoting remarks made at the Portland Business Journal Power Breakfast, the Sustainable Business Oregon is reporting that Bramscher is targeting late-2014 to mid-2015 for an IPO, with the figure of a $150 million being banded about as a fundraising goal from the public stock offering.

Brammo Raises $13 Million in Series C Funding Round

07/12/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo announced today that it has raised another $13 million, in a Series C funding round that was lead by Polaris Industries. Hoping to secure a total of $45 million over the course of the entire round of funding, the investment by Polaris is the second one that American company has made into the Ashland-based electric motorcycle company.

Polaris first invested in Brammo back in October, as the Minnesota-based company was rumored to be taking a close look at a number of electric motorcycle firms for a strategic partnership. Ultimately settling on Brammo, Polaris was a part of the Oregonian company’s $28 million Series B funding round, and is said to have lead this current Series C tranche.

2012 Brammo Empulse R – Was It Worth the Wait?

05/09/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Launching last night in downtown Los Angeles, the 2012 Brammo Empulse R & 2013 Brammo Empulse broke their cover and officially debuted. Right off the bat from the designations, you can see that Brammo intends for the Empulse R to be a 2012 model, with the base model Emuplse coming out next year (more on that further down). As we expected, the Brammo Empulse R got quite the price bump after its 22-month marination, and will be $18,995 MSRP. Meanwhile when the Brammo Empulse becomes available next year, it will have a slightly more palatable $16,995 price tag.

Featuring a six-speed gearbox the Brammo Empulse R comes with a 54hp motor, 10.2 kWh battery pack (9.31 kWh nominal), and a bevy of brand-name components like Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks, a Sachs rear shock, and a few carbon pieces (read the full technical specifications here). Getting a revised look, the basic Empulse design is still there with some subtle changes (some for the better, some of the worse, in our humble opinion). Touting 56 highway miles and 120 city miles, the Empulse is going to suffer from the same range-limiting use that other electric bikes on the market are facing, though Brammo has thought to include J1772 Level 2 capability on the bike, which should make for some more rapid charges away from the mothership. We like that.

Brammo Acquires Electric Dirt Bike Park Company Quantyaparx – Aptly Renames it BrammoParx

09/21/2011 @ 11:56 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo has announced its acquisition of Quantyaparx, an electric dirt bike park concept that used to feature rival Quantya’s electric motorcycles. Renaming the venture to suit the company’s brand, BrammoParx will continue with the business model of providing a unique park-riding environment, which will now rent and Brammo’s upcoming dirt bike line comprised of the Brammo Engage & Brammo Encite. Currently available in Germany, Austria, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, Brammo hopes to franchise more locations in the coming months, including some in the United States.

Spy Shots: Brammo Empulse RR Testing at Thunderhill

01/28/2011 @ 4:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Yesterday was a sunny day in the San Francisco/Bay Area, with weather in the mid-60’s. Just recently getting my bike back from a tune-up, I was itching for a ride and decided to pack things up early for the day, and go for a quick jaunt up to Thunderhill Raceway to gatecrash Brammo’s latest testing session with the Empulse RR electric race bike (close-up shots from Laguna Seca last year here).

Using my best ear-to-ear smile at the front gate, I rode into the paddock to see Brammo’s Director of Product Development Brian Wismann shaking his head upon my arrival, and muttering something about someone posting the session’s schedule online. Always a good-sport, Wismann graciously allowed me to stick around for the remaining day’s sessions, while Brammo’s CEO Craig Bramscher definitively removed me from his Christmas card list (you’ll still get a card from me though Craig).

Brammo Raises $12.4 Million in Series B Funds

09/22/2010 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Brammo Inc. filed the appropriate forms with the SEC yesterday stating that it has raised $12.4 million in Series B funds, in what is still an open round of financing. Brammo hopes to raise a total of $30 million in the Series B offering, with the use of funds likely going towards expanding Brammo’s reach into the Asian and European markets, as well as building out the company’s product line into other target segments.

Also in the Form D filing with the SEC we get a glimpse of the people behind the company’s management, which includes a presence from Brammo’s initial investors Best Buy & the clean-tech venture capital group Chrysalix, as well as Brammo’s CFO Bruce Gilpin. New to the ranks is David Kurtz from Alpine Inc., an oil and gas exploration and development firm that is leading the Series B round with another firm that is so far unknown.

Brammo Taps Flextronics for Global Production and Assembly Strategic Partnership

09/15/2010 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s hard to make strategic business partnership announcements sound sexy. Between all the hyperbole about how two companies are going to shift the industry paradigm and synergize the supply chain matrix, the average consumer’s eyes glaze over, and drool starts seeping out from the corners of their mouths. So bear with us on this one, because the announcement (or is the term Brammouncement?) of Brammo and Flextronics is an important one not only for the Ashland based company, but also for the electric motorcycle industry as a whole.

Some of the biggest problems facing any startup in the motorcycle industry are distribution and assembly. With the demand for electric motorcycles being a global issue, electric motorcycle startups, which are based primarily in the United States, have to not only grow their businesses domestically, but perhaps more importantly they need to foster a presence abroad in foreign markets.

With Europe and Asia easily out-pacing the demand in the US for electric transportation, an issue of contention for cash-strapped startups like Brammo has been how to grow globally and effectively with their limited budgets. The solution in this case for Brammo, is partnering with Flextronics, and using their scalable global production facilities.

Up-Close with the Brammo Empulse RR

07/27/2010 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Although it didn’t take part in the e-Power electric race at Laguna Seca, the Brammo Empulse RR was on display in the Brammo pit area during the weekend, and we got a chance to lay our hands on the bike for the first time. Based off the Brammo Empulse street bike, the Empulse RR comes packed with 12.5 kWh of battery power (same as the MotoCzysz E1pc), which according to Brammo makes it the best bike in the paddock in terms of power-to-weight ratios.

Coming together in just eight weeks, the Brammo Empulse RR still has some kinks to iron out, as the bike apparently cooked off its liquid-cooled motor during testing. While the Brammo team figures out its foray into liquid-cooled electric motors (the Brammo Enertia uses an air-cooled motor), the rest of the Empulse RR package looks very promising.

Brammo TTR-based Sportbike Coming

07/09/2010 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber took a lot of flak last month when we speculated about Brammo working on an electric sportbike. Armed with more than a hunch at the time, we have been told from multiple sources that Brammo is set to debut a TTR-based electric sportbike. For added measure, we’ve also been told that Brammo intends to race the bike, which we’d expect will have various configurations, at the e-Power Championship round at Laguna Seca later this month.