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.

Here’s a Dyno Graph of the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

05/14/2014 @ 11:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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If you were one of the early birds to put a deposit down on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, chances are that your $60,000 worth of titanium and magnesium, dripping in carbon fiber we might add, is sitting at your local Ducati dealer right this very second. We don’t know how you’re maintaining your composure under these circumstances…just breathe.

And soon, we all will be reading all about the Superleggera’s stellar attributes, as the chosen few of motorcycling’s journalistic ranks are headed to Mugello to put Claudio Domenicali’s homage to engineering through its paces. That’s not in our cards just yet, so we will have to keep ourselves warm at night with some cold hard numbers. Dyno graph numbers.

The good folks at RSRacecraft have stuck a Ducati 1199 Superleggera on the shop’s Dynojet 250i chassis dyno, breaking in a Moto Corsa customer’s machine at their request, and the impressive results are above.

Ducati Recalls 2,000 Panigale Models for Handlebar Switch

05/06/2014 @ 1:33 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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On April 2nd, Ducati North America announced they would be recalling 2,083 of their 1199 Panigale and Panigale S models due to a malfunctioning handlebar switch. The recall affects 1,515 motorcycles manufactured in 2012 and an additional 568 manufactured in 2013.

According to Ducati, “the left handlebar switch may not get power from its connection at the dashboard, preventing the horn, headlight high beam, instrument panel display and right turn signals from functioning.”

Ducati 1199 Superleggera Enters Production

03/29/2014 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Word from Italy is that Ducati has begun production on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera superbike, the Italian firm’s “Super Light” version of the Panigale. Crafted from copious amounts of magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber, the Superleggera might be one of the few motorcycles that looks better naked without its fairings, rather than all buttoned up and ready for the race track.

Make no mistake, the Superleggera is an exercise of engineering prowess (it sports the highest power-to-weight ratio of any production motorcycle in history), so it makes sense then that the Superleggera is said to be the pet project of former Ducati engineer, and current Ducati CEO, Claudio Domenicali.

Creating a video to celebrate the commencement of Ducati’s production run on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, it is no mistake then that Domenicali features heavily in it — this is one proud papa. Only 500 lucky Ducatisti will be able to share in that pride of ownership, as the Superleggera production will be extremely limited. What follows might be the closest you will ever get to one.

Honda’s Forgotten “Frameless” Chassis Design Patent

03/27/2014 @ 5:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Before Ducati’s monocoque chassis design was all the rage in superbike design, the folks at Honda were busy toying with the same idea.

Outlining a patent in 2006 for a motorcycle whose engine would be fully utilized as a part of the chassis, Honda’s design, which differs in minutiae, predates Ducati’s patent by almost a year and a half.

A noticeable departure from Honda’s MotoGP design, one can argue whether Honda’s monocoque chassis was destined for the next iteration of the CBR1000RR or the next generation VFR at the time of its conception.

Ducati VR|46 Concept by Steven Galpin

03/14/2014 @ 5:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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One of the more compelling designs we have seen grace our pixels lately, today’s concept sketch is by young automotive designer Steven Galpin, and harkens back to when MotoGP racer Valentino Rossi was still a part of Ducati Corse’s GP program.

Imagining a special edition version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale, a bike whose “frameless” monocoque chassis is based off the Ducati Desmosedici race bike, Galpin has smoothed out the lines of the Italian superbike, creating something entirely different, though clearly related to the Panigale.

A quick glance at Galpin’s drawings, and you may be wondering where the Ducati’s underslung exhaust has gone (it’s a noticeable hole on the bike’s clean lines). We suggest you train your eye onto the concept’s swingarm, as an integrated exhaust has been added to the single-sided swingarm.

Galpin’s work is intriguing, and should satiate some of the issues that people have had with the Panigale’s busy bodywork; however, the Ducati VR|46 brings its own criticisms as well (we’re not so sure about its 2018 delivery date either). Overall though, we like what Galpin has done here — sometimes less is more. Thanks for the tip Nik!

Ducati Elite II Café Racer by Moto Puro

03/05/2014 @ 3:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1199 Panigale is perhaps the pinnacle of technology for sport bikes from Bologna, Italy. With 195 horses of fury, and a positively anorexic dry weight of 367 lbs, the spec-sheet racing for the Panigale is intriguing, if getting around a race track the absolutely fastest way possible is your primary goal.

But what if you enjoy the finer things in your Ducati life as well? In that case, the brains at Moto Puro might have just the thing for your Desmo addiction: the Ducati Elite II.

To build the Elite II, the Dutch builders of Moto Puro took a Ducati 1199 Panigale S, and stripped the machine down to its Superquadro engine and electrical components. From there, those crazy Dutchmen built a café racer style motorcycle, complete with tubeless wire-laced wheels on single-sided swingarm.

Pierobon Ducati 1199 Panigale Streetfighter by Krax Moto

02/17/2014 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Do you remember the Pierobon frame kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale that we showed you back in November? If you’re a loyal reader, you should — it was one of our most popular articles that month.

An answer for those who think that the Panigale’s “frameless” chassis is affected by the same woes as the MotoGP project, Pierobon’s steel-trellis frame replaces the load-bearing headtube/airbox design from Ducati.

While we wait to hear back from the folks at Pieroban about how their creation goes around the race track, the clever Photoshoppers at Krax-Moto have takien the Italian fabricator’s photos, and used them to ink a very impressive streetfighter / café racer concept.

A little headlight here, and little leather seat there — it’s really surprising how little need to be tweaked to make the design work. If the Pierobon folks are sharp, they’ll include Krax Moto’s changes in a kit for customers. Would you take this over a Ducati Monster 1200 S? We would.

Ducati 1199 Panigale Streetfighter by Hertrampf

12/16/2013 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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As soon as Bologna debuted the Ducati 1199 Panigale, the speculation was rife on if/when the Italian brand would bring streetfighter and supersport-class machines to market. We have already seen the Ducati 899 Panigale, which isn’t quite race-legal, though packs the superbike’s design philosophies into a more affordable package with a smaller engine displacement.

As for the Streetfighter, the debut of the Ducati Monster 1200 seems to confirm suspicions that Ducati has no plans to continue with a performance-based street naked. With the demise of the Streetfighter 1098, one can only wonder how much longer the Streetfighter 848 will remain in Ducati’s lineup. Surely when the smaller displacements of the Monster line move to water-cooled engine, the we will see the removal of the 848, much to our chagrin.

This still leaves us with some “what if’s” though, as some believe the monocoque “frameless” chassis design of the Panigale makes a streetfighter variant all but impossible. We would have to say that when the fairingless photos of the Ducati 1199 Superleggera that came out this year, our eyes searched for ways to tailor the Panigale’s naked body into some sort of Streetfighter, though it looks like some Germans have gone a step further.

Pierobon Trellis Frame Kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale

11/04/2013 @ 1:08 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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We already teased you with Pierobon’s newest creation, a trellis frame kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale, and now we have the full details of this Italian firm’s work…along with some tasty photos.

Pierobon says it wanted to build a chassis kit was to build a bolt-on frame that would replace Ducati’s “frameless” design, with a steel trellis creation.

The project’s main goal was to add no further weight to the svelte Panigale, but also to bring the chassis stiffness into spec with the parameters Pierobon has shown on its previous machines (Pierobon X60R & Pierobon F042).

Using 28mm diameter steel tubing for the trellis work, Pierobon says it design meets the project’s weight criteria, and computer analysis suggests that torsional stiffness is right on point as well with the Bologna firm’s goals. Now Pieorbon just waits to go riding on the track.

Pierobon’s Trellis Frame for the Ducati 1199 Panigale – Ducatisti Purists, Your Prayers Have Been Answered

10/17/2013 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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We have featured the work of Peirobon on Asphalt & Rubber before, as the boutique firm from Bologna makes some intriguing air-cooled Ducati-powered sport bikes for discerning buyers, among other things.

Pierobon is also one of the companies we are looking forward to seeing at this year’s EICMA show, as the firm has something special this year for its booth display: a trellis frame kit for the Ducati 1199 Panigale.