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.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

Motus Expands Its Dealership Network

04/25/2016 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Motus Motorcycles continues to grow its dealership presence, especially with the announcement that the American motorcycle outfit has added eight new dealerships to its dealer network.

That addition brings Motus’ total to 22 dealers in the United States with more on the way, the company says.

That’s good news for riders interested in a unique American-built motorcycle, especially those that are familiar with tinkering on push-rod muscle cars.

MV Agusta USA Back in Business in California

05/28/2014 @ 4:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Good news for Italian motorcycle fans in California, as MV Agusta license to operate within California has been reinstated. The Italian motorcycle brand saw its license to do business in California revoked earlier this month, after the company failed to renew its license with the Golden State, which had expired in July of last year.

MV Agusta USA had said that the license revocation was due to a paperwork issue, and sources have told Asphalt & Rubber that the American office had confused federal filings as being sufficient for California as well.

Thankfully with help from MV Agusta’s lawyers in Italy, MV Agusta USA was able to rectify the situation in a rapid manner, with dealers in California only being unable to sell new machines for a total of 12 days.

MV Agusta No Longer Allowed to Sell Bikes in California

05/17/2014 @ 9:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Tough news today for MV Agusta dealers and potential buyers, as the Italian motorcycle brand is no longer allowed to sell motorcycles in the State of California.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles publishes a list of vehicle makers that are no longer licensed to conduct business within the Golden State’s borders, and as you can imagine, the names are usually those of fly-by-night or foreign entities with less-than-reputable backgrounds.

In its most recent release, sent to dealers and registration services, the California DMV named MV Agsuta USA as one of the companies whose license to operate in California is no longer valid, which means 2014 model year machines can no longer be sold in California (we’re not sure how this affects 2013 and earlier machines that remain unsold at dealerships).

Who Has the Best Dealer Network in the USA? Ducati

05/05/2014 @ 12:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) has become the motorcycle industry’s gold standard on dealer assessment, especially between brands. Scoring on the PSI is done by a combination of industry sales, as well as mystery shopper experiences, which Pied Piper itself conducts.

Tallying scores for their 2014 report now, Pied Piper has announced that Ducati has come out on top in the Prospect Satisfaction Index rankings, followed by Harley-Davidson (2nd) and Can-Am (3rd). Overall though, motorcycles dealers across all brands improved on their scores from 2012, with 12 of the 17 measured brands getting higher scores than last year.

BRD Motorcycles Raises $1 Million, Adds Tesla Founder to Advisory, & Announces First Dealership

10/10/2013 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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If you lookup the word “hustle” in the dictionary, you might see a portrait of the BRD Motorcycles crew. We haven’t heard much from the San Francisco startup in the past year or so, well nothing official at least, but today the BRD crew has a plethora of milestones to announce.

First up is the addition of $1 million in funding, which was lead by the strategic investment firm Third Shore Group (TSG). The added funds will help keep the BRD’s lights on, and help the EV company bring its RedShift electric motorcycle series into production. As a part of the funding agreement, BRD will also receive human resources from TSG, in addition to opening a satellite facility just outside of Detroit, in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Suzuki to Cut 10% to 20% of Its Motorcycle Dealerships

03/21/2013 @ 6:06 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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When news came that American Suzuki Motor Corporation was to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the news was pitched that it would benefit the company’s motorcycle interests, as Suzuki would no longer be tied-down with its ailing automotive division in the USA, and instead would be left to focus on its powersports offerings.

While that general statement may remain true, Powersports Business has learned that the Japanese OEM plans on closing 100 to 200 of its roughly 930 powersports dealerships. This would mean a roughly 10% to 20% reduction in Suzuki dealerships nationwide — a decision that has more than a few dealers feeling a bitter taste in their mouths.

Erik Buell Racing Gets Flooring Financing From GE Capital

12/07/2012 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing is well on its way, after announcing today that the American sport bike company has secured inventory financing from GE Capital. An important step in setting up a strong dealer network, GE’s commitment to Erik Buell Racing means that EBR dealers will be able to purchase their inventory on credit (the standard industry practice) from a top-tier financial institution.

GE Capital has become the go-to financier in the motorcycle and powersports industry, and the group has been making some very competitive offers to up-start motorcycle companies in the recent years. For EBR, getting GE Capital on-board with the fledgling company is a crucial step in building out the company’s dealer network, and putting bikes on the showroom floor.

Indiana Considering Selling Motorcycles on Sundays

01/17/2012 @ 2:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Indiana is on the verge of redeeming itself in the eyes of Asphalt & Rubber, as the Hoosier State is all set to vote on allowing motorcycle dealers to sell bikes on the Lord’s day (that’s Sunday for you heathens). Indiana State Senate Bill 192, which is sponsored by State Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), would end Indiana’s ban on “buying, selling or trading motorcycles on Sundays.” The bill is a part of a larger national movement to do away with one of the motorcycle industries more puritanical customs of trade.

Brammo Building a Dealer Network – Hires Jim Marcolina from Harley-Davidson

06/08/2011 @ 9:23 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It seems like only two months ago that I wrote that the “Great Distribution Experiment is Over“, and that electric motorcycle companies Brammo and Zero Motorcycles need to get on-board with established motorcycle distribution methods. As I mentioned in what I’m sure many found to be a snooze fest of an article, there are of course drawbacks and flaws to the dealership model, but for early-stage cash-strapped companies like the ones in the E2V market, this is a battle of the middleman is best to be fought another day.

I have to apologize to my regular readers, as I’m sure the relevancy of such an article to your daily “eat, sleep, ride” lifestyle was dubious at best, but from time-to-time the words on this site are meant for a select group, but better aired publicly (even if it does land me in a heap of trouble from time-to-time). As such, it’s refreshing to see then that Zero has recently announced its signing of several key dealerships, and now we get word that Brammo has hired Jim Marcolina away from Harley-Davidson, to build the Ashland, Oregon company’s dealer development team. So…umm…group hug?