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.

KTM RC16 Will Make Its Public Debut at the Austrian GP

02/04/2016 @ 9:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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In addition to working on a secret Moto2 project, KTM will also be entering into the MotoGP Championship for the 2017 season. The Austrian brand has been busy developing the KTM RC16 race bike platform, with the help of a bevy of test riders.

Initial feedback has been positive, with the RC16 looking very competent – though, it should be noted that everyone saying that is on KTM’s payroll. Still, we expect big things from the project as it develops more this year.

2015 Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP Race Bike Gallery

03/05/2015 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Aprilia Racing officially debuted its MotoGP team today, giving us our first glimpse of Marco Melandri and Alvaro Bautista in the team’s racing livery. It is also our first glimpse of the Aprilia RS-GP race bike all kitted-out, which should be a treat for the tech-heads in the crowd.

The RS-GP is an evolution of the Aprilia ART project, now with pneumatic valves, an 81mm bore, and evolved electronics. There is a lot of ahead for Aprilia Racing, Gresini Racing, and their riders.

The first check box is developing the chassis, finding one that gives both riders the confidence they need to push the RS-GP to its limits. Aprilia is said to have an all-new bike in the works for the 2016 season, but the development of that machine will take cues from what Aprilia Racing learns this year with the RS-GP.

2015 Honda RC213V Livery Mega Gallery

02/02/2015 @ 10:13 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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HRC unveiled its factory MotoGP team this weekend in Bali, Indonesia — giving us our first glimpse of the Repsol Honda livery for the 2015 season.

Both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were in attendance, which is no surprise considering how important the Indonesian market is for Honda.

The Indonesian unveil also helps the two GP riders to have only a short hop now to Malaysia, to start the MotoGP season with the first official test a Sepang International Circuit.

As for the 2015-spec RC213V, things remain mostly the same to the layman’s eye. Red Bull’s sponsoring and support of both Pedrosa and Marquez, as well as the Repsol Honda team, is more prominent, and displayed on the belly pan fairing of the bike.

We’ll let you play spot the differences in the photos after the jump, they are super-sized high-resolution shots, so they might take a minute to load. Enjoy!

2015 Erik Buell Racing 1190SX Debuts

06/11/2014 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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While hosting a press rider for the Erik Buell Racing 1190RX at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, EBR unveiled its next street bike, the 2015 Erik Buell Racing 1190SX. Since Asphalt & Rubber, the premier sport bike motorcycle blog, was apparently not invited to the event, we’re a little light on details for our million monthly readers.

However, we do know that the 1190SX is the naked version of the 1190RX, sharing many of the same chassis components. What we don’t know is what Erik Buell Racing has done inside the motor, as motorcycle manufacturers are often prone to detune their streetfighters, to help differentiate them from their superbike counterparts.

Erik Buell strikes us as the kind of man that would be resistant to that trend, if for no other reason than to try something else in the market, cue ZTL brakes, fuel-in-frame chassis designs, and underslung exhaust worshiping. More details as we get them on the 1190SX, but until then, here’s the first photo of the 2015 Erik Buell Racing 1190SX streetfighter.

Ronax 500 – Your Modern 500cc Two-Stroke Track Bike

06/08/2014 @ 4:05 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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After teasing us what looked like a direct knock-off of Valentino Rossi’s NSR500 two-stroke GP bike, complete with vague #46 references, the German project has finally taken the wraps off its Ronax 500 GP street bike.

Making 160hp (@ 11,500 rpm) from its nearly square (54.5 x 54 bore and stroke) 500cc V4 engine, the Ronax 500 also boasts two counter-rotating crankshafts inside its all-aluminum engine block.

Fuel-injected for more rideability, Ronax has programmed the Ronax 500 with a sport and rain ignition map. Upgrading the class GP bike design with modern components, an electric starter and four carbon/kevlar mufflers are part of the Ronax 500’s highlights, while carbon fiber fairings, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes complete the package.

Ducati Monster 821 – A Midsummer Dream from Bologna

05/28/2014 @ 2:14 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Once we saw the unveiling of the Ducati Monster 1200 at EICMA last year, we knew it was only a matter of time before Bologna wedged its new 821cc liquid-cooled motor into a mid-size Monster machine.

That feeling was fueled further by spy photos the 821cc Monster making their way onto the internet, and now we have confirmation of the mid-sized Monster, as Borgo Panigale has officially launched its Ducati Monster 821.

Borrowing the 821cc Testastretta 11° engine (112hp and 65.9 lbs•ft) found on the newly revised Ducati Hypermotard, and its cousin the Ducati Hyperstrada, the Monster 821 continues Ducati’s trend to repurpose powerplants for multiple product families.

The Ducati Monster 821 also continues Bologna’s new trend of building its lower-spec midrange motorcycles with double-sided swingarms, to help further stratify and differentiate its models.

Yamaha YZF-R25 Debuts in Indonesia

05/19/2014 @ 11:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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The wait is finally over, as the Yamaha YZF-R25 has been revealed to the world, at a press launch in Indonesia. Based aroun a fuel-injected 249cc parallel-twin engine, which makes 35.5hp and 16.7 lbs•ft of torque, the YZF-R25 is Yamaha’s response to the newly revived 250cc sport bike category, which Honda and Kawasaki have been dominating, as of late.

Built in Indonesia, and being released into that market in July of this year, Yamaha sees 12,000 units being sold worldwide in the next 12 months for the R25 — a number we suspect will grow as more markets added.

Bultaco Rapitan Unveiled – Spanish for “Whoa!”

05/18/2014 @ 1:38 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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As promised, here is the first glimpse of Bultaco’s revival as an electric motorcycle company, and the Spanish brand calls it the Bultaco Rapitan. Really a spin-out project by LGN TECH Design S.L., the new Bultaco is the work product of José Germán Pérez, Raúl Pérez, Juan Manuel Vinós, Gerald Pöllmann, and Jorge Bonilla.

Underneath the Rapitan’s edgy exterior (note the Hossack front-end) resides an electrical powertrain system that the Bultaco gents say they developed themselves. Good for 53hp and 92 lbs•ft of torque, the Bultaco Rapitan isn’t going to blow away the competition with power, but should make for a decent and unique riding experience.

The Spanish firm isn’t saying how much battery is on-board, but claims 125 miles of city riding, and 68 miles of highway riding at 75 mph — which we would guessimate at 10+ kWh, but we all know how accurate these range claims are, right?

Tipping the scales at 416 lbs (189kg), the Bultaco Rapitan isn’t the lightest street-naked on the market, but it certainly isn’t the heaviest either. With 92 lbs•ft of torque, we suspect this should make for a peppy ride, and if the avant garde styling is to your liking (it suits our tastes just fine), then we hope the final production model won’t stray too far.

Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 Debuts at Quail Lodge

05/18/2014 @ 12:58 am, by Bryan Delohery13 COMMENTS

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As we reported here just a few days ago, Lightning Motorcycles announced its release of the new LS-218 electric superbike, along with plans to preview it at this year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering.

While the photos then were rough, we got a general idea of what the Lightning LS-218 was supposed to look like at its California debut. Taking the wraps off at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, Lightning showed up to the gathering this weekend with what they are calling a nearly finished version of the LS-218.

The first thing that stands out about this bike, as many onlookers noted, was that it looks very much like its petrol-powered cousins, thanks to the gorgeous design by Glynn Kerr. The bright blue metallic paint, contrasted by the brass colored Öhlins dampers and big Brembo brakes, really make for an eye-catching piece of machinery.

What’s more, Lightning claims that this street-legal version of their race bike produces in excess of 200hp and 168lb-ft of torque, but is it enough to live up to the claims?

Bultaco Lives Again – Will Debut Electric Motorcycle

05/16/2014 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bultaco Lives Again – Will Debut Electric Motorcycle

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Reviving old brands for an electric future is becoming the new vogue, as we have already seen the restart of marquees like Voxan and Saroléa in the two-wheeled space.

Well, add a third name to the list (does that officially make this a trend?), as Bultaco has been restarted once again by investors, who wish to see the Spanish motorcycle brand enter the 21st century.

Missing in action for the past 30 years (not including a failed restart in 1998, which lead to the Sherco brand), it is hard to tell what to make of this news; though the continued emergence of new players in the EV arena only further hints towards where the motorcycle industry is headed.