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.

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.

A Lap Around Indy with the GP Tech CRT Bike

08/18/2012 @ 8:16 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

For the Indianapolis GP, race fans will delighted to see two American wild card entries on the grid, as both Attack Performance and GP Tech will likely be racing CRT bikes come Sunday afternoon. We have already gotten a chance to see Attack’s bike, as Steve Rapp piloted it around Laguna Seca for MotoGP’s first stop on American soil this season. Unfortunately for Rapp & Attack, they failed to qualify for the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, missing the cut-off by just under seven-tenths of a second.

Meanwhile GP Tech, a veteran to wild cards at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has stepped up to the big show this year, with Aaron Yates on board the team’s Suzuki-powered CRT bike. Getting a chance to try the road course at Indy during the AMA tire test, GP Tech put some cameras on its roided-out GSX-R, and today brings us a lap of IMS from the perspective of a CRT. With both Attack and GP Tech expected to qualify later today, Sunday’s race fans should have a couple more familiar names to follow during the race. Check the lap out after the jump.

Thursday Summary at Laguna Seca: Silly Season Reopened, & Edwards Entertains

07/27/2012 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday — on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision “until I’m ready to talk about the future.” To carry that off, and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you, is quite an achievement.

Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes – well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy, and a few broader issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down – had plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement.

Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try and slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited space for available rides.

Honda Building “Production Racer” Variant of the RC213V

06/20/2012 @ 3:34 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

Honda is working on a simplified version of its RC213V MotoGP machine to sell to teams as a CRT bike. Working together with Thomas Baujard, journalist for the French magazine Moto Journal, we have learned that work on the V4 machine is already underway, though a production date for the bike is not yet known.

HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed to Baujard at Silverstone that work was ongoing on the project, though Nakamoto did not like it being referred to as a CRT bike. “Not a CRT bike,” Nakamoto told Baujard, “it is a production racer!” When asked later about the engine layout, Nakamoto confirmed that the bike was a V4 rather than an inline four. “It is a replica of this bike,” Nakamoto told me, pointing to the Repsol Honda garage, “But cheaper. It is easier to use an existing design.”

Bimota/BMW Concepts by Oberdan Bezzi

06/19/2012 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We follow Oberdan Bezzi’s work pretty closely here at Asphalt & Rubber, if for no other reason than we like the Italian designer’s ability to fantasize about the endless possibilities available in the two-wheel world — and after, who here doesn’t like to daydream about exotic motorcycles? Lately it seems Bezzi’s imagination has gone to a world where Bimota uses more than Ducati’s v-twin lumps in its exclusive street bikes, with his most recent sketches envisioning a BMW/Bimota collaboration.

Inking the Bimota BB-2 superbike, and it’s naked sibling the Bimota BB-3 “Paura”, the usual Bezzi lines and style are present in the designs. Oberdan’s thought-process on the Bimota BB-3 seems to be well-timed though, as the Bavarian company has recently been caught testing a naked version of the well-selling BMW S1000RR at its facility. Set to be a true Germans streetfighter, BMW could very well succeed in a motorcycle segment that the Japanese have historically struggled with here in the US.

MotoGP: Casey Stoner Will Retire at the End of 2012 Season

05/17/2012 @ 10:07 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

In a shocking turn of events, Casey Stoner announced at the Thursday press conference for the French GP that he would be retiring at the end of the 2012 MotoGP season. The news is a turn of events, as the Australian denied such rumors at Estoril, saying he would quit motorcycle racing when he no longer enjoyed it, though not any time soon.

Citing his disappointed with the direction MotoGP is currently headed, Stoner main critique with premier-class motorcycle racing has been the introduction of the CRT rules, which use production-based motors in prototype chassis, and have been notably slower than the full-prototype machines.

Stoner first voiced the idea of his retirement over the CRT issue back in Valencia of last year, when the newly crowned World Champion stated that if the future of the MotoGP Championship was in the CRT formula, then it was a future he did not want to be a part of. Today’s announcement seems to make good on that statement.

MotoGP: GP Tech Racing a Suzuki CRT Wild Card at Indy GP

05/15/2012 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The folks at GP Tech are no strangers to running wild card entries at Indy, as the American motorcycle parts seller fielded one-off wild card rides in the Moto2 Championship at both the 2010 and 2011 Indianapolis GP’s. Using FTR-built bikes, GP Tech raced with Jason DiSalvo in 2010, were the American rider finished a very respectable 9th place, while in 2011 Jake Gagne rode to a forgettable 31st spot.

Stepping up to the big-boy leagues, GP Tech has been granted a wild card entry for the 2012 Indianapolis GP, and will run a Suzuki GSX-R1000 motor in a billet aluminum frame that is being prepared by BCL Motorsports. GP Tech has also tapped Vesrah Suzuki/MCJ Motorsports to help with the project, which should give us some clues as to whom the unnamed rider will be for the Grand Prix race.

Photo of the Week: Here’s to the Unsung Heroes of MotoGP

05/14/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

This, race fans, is Danilo Petrucci, one of the brave souls trying his luck on the future of MotoGP hardware, in his case the doggedly underpowered Came IodaRacing Project machine. Not on a (relatively) zippy Aprilia ART, or a Honda-powered FTR, Petrucci qualifies on the same grid as Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, and brings to this gunfight a knife that packs a whopping 185 bhp, compared to the factory prototype engines that are rumored to be around 260 bhp.

As I photograph a race, I see a much different version of the event than TV viewers. I watch the recorded TV broadcast later, and can tell you that there is a lot going on with the Claiming Rule Team bikes that doesn’t make in onto TV. I’m generally moving the entire time (when I haven’t stopped to photograph a turn obviously), so I see the entire field go past, lap after lap. Since Qatar I’ve noticed that most of the CRT talk has centered around the machines, and that no one I’ve seen has talked much about what the CRT riders are going through.

Though we currently have in the sub-set of MotoGP bikes a group of machines that are less expensive to run and correspondingly less impressive in the performance category, the fellows riding them are not similarly handicapped when it comes to racing spirit. They aren’t trying half as hard because they have no chance to win. Much of the time it seems just the opposite; because they don’t want to be six seconds a lap slower, they are trying that much harder merely to get within four seconds of the fastest times.

MotoGP: Avintia Blusens Switches to Carbon Frame

04/25/2012 @ 11:32 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

We will have to update our CRT spotter’s guide, as BQR’s Avintia Blusens team has dropped its aluminum Suter frame in favor of Inmotec’s carbon/aluminum chassis for rider Spanish Ivan Silva. Making at least Silva’s side of the garage an all-Spanish affair for the team, BQR has reportedly been working with Inmotec since the pre-season, but opted for the British-designed FTR chassis for the start of the MotoGP Championship.