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.

WSBK: More than Close Racing in Race 1 at Donington Park

03/27/2011 @ 10:53 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off on WSBK: More than Close Racing in Race 1 at Donington Park

Carlos Checa started the race on pole during a cold and dreary morning, after a tension-filled Superp0le at Donington Park. He was joined on the front row by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz, with an especially surprising quick time from Sykes bringing the Kawasaki to the front of the field. Eugene Laverty might have been near the front, but for a nasty crash through Craner that tore up his bike.

Four Brits started their first home race of the World Superbike season in the first two rows, though James Toseland did not participate at Donington, having suffered a fractured wrist after a testing crash. Chris Vermeulen also sat out the race, as was expected after skipping Phillip Island and the final qualifying practice in England.

Though Checa won pole in a dramatic fashion on Saturday, with a record lap on the revised circuit, the higher drama was between Biaggi and nearly everyone else. He and Melandri traded quickest times through the early qualifying practices, but it was Saturday that added to the Max Biaggi YouTube collection. He and Michel Fabrizio came together in a practice, with the reigning champion continuing on but Fabrizio and Alstare Suzuki left with bits of bike strewn across the circuit.

Then Biaggi balked Melandri during Superpole 2, leading the WSBK rookie to purposefully throw Biaggi off his own fast lap. Melandri was knocked out in Superpole 2, and Biaggi was off to complain to the younger Italian after the session. In the garage, he confronted a calm Melandri, leading to what has been called a slap, but would more likely be a tap of admonition on the cheek (see the incident in this video). Both riders were called to race direction, reprimanded, and Biaggi was fined €3,000.

Biaggi to Melandri: “What Did the Hand Say to the Face?”

03/26/2011 @ 11:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Slap! And that’s what happened when Max Biaggi stopped by Marco Melandri’s pit box after qualifying, after the two riders traded moments stuffing each other during the Superpole sessions. While out on his fastest lap in Superpole 2, Marco Melandri came onto the slower lapping Max Biaggi, and according to Melandri, Biaggi blocked his fellow Italians fast lap.

Subsequently, Melandri returned the favor on Biaggi’s fast lap attempt, while Biaggi would go on to do the same to Noriyuki Haga (and others reportedly) as well. After Superpole concluded however, it was Melandri that got The Emperor’s wroth in the paddock, as the reigning World Superbike Champion stopped by the Yamaha pit, and gave Melandri a couple of light slaps on the face during a worded exchange. Video after the jump.

WSBK: Checa Breaks Lap Record at Donington Superpole

03/26/2011 @ 10:01 am, by Victoria Reid6 COMMENTS

Carlos Checa won his second straight pole of the World Superbike season Saturday at Donington Park, setting a new circuit record in the process (1:28.099), and he will be joined by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz on the front row. The testing last week at Aragon must have done wonders for the factory Kawasaki team as Sykes posted his fastest lap on a race tire, not a qualifier. Dropping back during qualifying, early weekend frontrunners Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri qualified only sixth and ninth, respectively. Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty crashed in Superpole 1, destroying his Yamaha, but continued on a backup bike to qualify thirteenth.

Vermeulen May Not Race at Donington Park

03/25/2011 @ 8:33 am, by Victoria Reid8 COMMENTS

The saga of rehabilitating Chris Vermeulen’s knee continues this weekend at the second round of the World Superbike season. The Australian will participate in the practice and qualifying sessions beginning Friday at Donington Park, but he may sit out the races on Sunday.

This news comes after Vermeulen missed the season opener and winter testing at Phillip Island because his knee has not recovered as quickly as planned, and it was hoped that skipping his home race would allow Vermeulen time to recover enough to race the rest of this season, but it seems the Australian and his factory Kawasaki team are taking this weekend one session at a time.

The former MotoGP rider spent some time testing at Motorland Aragon in Spain last week (where compatriot James Toseland fractured his wrist, forcing him to sit out this WSBK weekend) and just yesterday spent some more time on the seat riding around Cadwell Park. After this most recent outing, Vermeulen tweeted, “was great to get back on the bike but still work to do on my knee to be race fit.”

Toseland Out for Donington & Assen After Testing Crash

03/20/2011 @ 7:10 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off on Toseland Out for Donington & Assen After Testing Crash

James Toseland will miss at least the next two World Superbike rounds after crashing during private testing on Friday at Motorland Aragon. The former WSBK champion crashed on Friday in a highside at Turn 10, landing heavily on his head and right wrist. Initially Spanish doctors gave Toseland the go-ahead to race this coming weekend at Donington Park, after examining hi,m and finding only a small fracture in the wrist.

“But when I got back to the hotel, the pain in my right wrist was unbelievable and, considering that I had a race coming up in a week’s time, I sent the scan on to a specialist I know in Manchester,” said Toseland. “They took a new X-ray from a different position in Manchester and found that I had badly displaced bones in my wrist. At that point, things were getting critical as there was no blood flow in the wrist, meaning that the bone could die if I wasn’t operated on immediately.”

Hopkins to Wildcard in World Superbikes at Silverstone

03/03/2011 @ 8:59 am, by Victoria Reid9 COMMENTS

Despite newly announced title sponsor Samsung, British Superbike squad Crescent Racing will not enter John Hopkins as a wildcard entry for the Donington Park round of World Superbike racing as previously expected. Instead, both the American rider and his new teammate, reigning BST Champion Jon Kirkham, will be entered for the British WSBK round at Silverstone later in the season.

Originally, the team had announced that Hopkins would race at Donington, but with a rider new to the team testing today at Cartagena, it seems as though Crescent Suzuki has decided to wait to join the WSBK fray. They will continue their testing March 8th at Guadix, Spain in advance of the BSB opener at Brands Hatch on April 25th.

Donington Park Green Lit by the FIM for WSBK this Month

03/02/2011 @ 11:02 am, by Victoria ReidComments Off on Donington Park Green Lit by the FIM for WSBK this Month

Donington Park has passed the final FIM safety checks, and been fully approved to host the second round of the World Superbike Championship at the end of this month, the first time the circuit has held a major event since 2009. The  inspection occurred while much of the racing press watched the season-opening races at Phillip Island, though Donington has been part of the official WSBK calendar since late last year.

The fame British track has been embroiled in a bit of drama over the past two years, having been taken over by Simon Gillett and partners, who hoped Donington would take the place of Silverstone as the British Grand Prix on the Formula1 calendar. When Gillett’s company fell apart, as did the F1 venture, Donington was left with its extensive redevelopment only partially completed. Kevin Wheatcroft stepped in as chairman to restore the shambles his father’s circuit had been left in, and worked to gain Britain its second WSBK race of the season, with the traditional round held at Silverstone in July.

World Superbike Riders Forming Safety Commission

02/25/2011 @ 10:13 am, by Victoria Reid4 COMMENTS

World Superbike riders have begun establishing a safety commission to have a stronger voice in providing safer conditions for racers in the series. Though other top-tier racing series have long had a body specifically to promote the safety of riders and drivers, it seems that the timing of the race at Donington Park this season has moved the riders to join forces. They met first during the official test in Portimao a month ago and met again this week during the testing at Phillip Island.

Official: Hopper to British Superbikes

01/19/2011 @ 9:37 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Truly official now, John Hopkins has signed-on with the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team for the 2011 season. Hopper’s first duty on the BSB team will be to test at the upcoming sessions at the Spanish tracks of Cartagena and Guadix. Crescent Suzuki also says that Hopkins will ride as a wildcard entry at the World Superbike round at Donington Park in March, which precedes the season BSB opener at Brands Hatch in April.

“I am really looking forward to BSB and working with Crescent again, it will obviously be a different crew but I know they are a great group of guys and that will be a good foundation to start the season. It is going to be a huge challenge for me, I know there are new tracks to learn, but I am not too concerned,” said Hopkins

Donington Park Returns to the 2011 WSBK Calendar

11/16/2010 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Good news for British motorcycle racing fans, as Donington Park has secured a spot on the 2011 World Superbike calendar. But the real good news for the Brits is that WSBK will come to both Donington and Silverstone next year, giving the sometimes rainy island a double-helping of production-based international motorcycle racing.

The announcement signals the rescue of the British track from what seemed like certain death, after planned renovations fell through and the track was unable to secure a Formula 1 bid, leaving the Donington Park leasees without a dime to spend, and without a track circuit to run (construction had begun to make the track conform to Formula 1 standards).