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.

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

first-year-ducati-superbike-model-sales-graph-3

Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Monthly Sales Record

06/04/2012 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

What happens when you release the most anticipated, and we’d argue the most important, superbike in the company’s history? Well you have a record month of sales, of course. It should be unsurprising then that Ducati North America posted a 49% sales growth last month, making May 2012 the company’s best month ever sales-wise. Ducati North America pushed 1,782 units in May, for a total of 4,844 units sold in January thru May (up 19% over 2011, and 98% over 2010).

Call Your Mother Because Here is the Ultimate Ducati 1199 Panigale Photo Gallery

02/17/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Ducati has been hogging the news the past few weeks, thanks in large part to the debut of the most important motorcycle the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has ever released. With Ducati up for sale and being valued at €1 billion, the Ducati 1199 Panigale sets the record straight that Bologna has not strayed from its sport bike and racing heritage with the release of bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and Diavel. With Ducati hosting the Panigale’s international press launch in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit (click here to let Ducati know that you wish A&R had been invited to this launch), the initial reports from the assembled press is that all the concerns about Ducati, its frameless chassis design, and its future can be laid to rest.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment…and we’ve got over 160 images of the Ducati 1199 Panigale waiting for you after the jump.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

XXX: Ducati 1199 Panigale Naked

12/27/2011 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale represents a huge step in motorcycle design, mostly due to its frameless chassis or monocoque design. Using the engine as an integral component to the Panigale’s chassis, Ducati’s hallmark achievement was building an integrated headstock/airbox off the front cylinder. With the seat and subframe built off the rear cylinder, and the swingarm bolting directly to the motor, the Ducati 1199 Panigale was able to not only shed 22 lbs of its predecessor’s design, but also continues the Italian company’s new design trend of having components that take on multiple functional roles.

Being sure to keep the fairings on the Ducati 1199 Panigale fastened at all times, we have very little insight as to what Ducati’s new chassis looks like underneath its clothing, and after hounding Bologna for the past few weeks over the issue, these four renders of the Panigale’s frame are the best we can muster for our readers. The black background makes the black frame components hard to see, but the CAD drawings do provide at least some insight as to how the 1199 comes together. If the Panigale goes as well on the track as it does on the spec sheet, you very well could be looking at the future of production motorcycle chassis design.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Panigale in Superstock Trim

11/12/2011 @ 4:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

The Ducati 1199 Panigale is surely going to be the bike of 2012. Not because the flagship Ducati packs a 195hp Superquadro motor into a wet 414 lbs bulk (thought that certainly helps in the sport bike genre), but because the Panigale brings so many revolutionary technical and design aspects to the business of production motorcycles. Electronically adjustable suspension, LED headlights, GPS assisted DDA+ data acquisition, traction control, ABS, engine braking control…the Ducati 1199 Panigle’s feature-set is like reading the wish list of any superbike enthusiast. However what makes the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale truly special is its revolutionary monocoque frame.

The gamble has bit the Italian company in the ass in MotoGP, but on the production-side of the equation, the Ducati 1199 Panigale could very well prove the gamble was worth taking. We here at Asphalt & Rubber have been reserving our judgment on Ducati’s new frame design until we can get the Panigale in our hands and on a track, but when that day finally comes, we really hope what we get to swing a leg over is a Ducati 1199 Panigale in Superstock trim with Ducati Performance pieces.

If you’re a track day enthusiast with some Italian leanings, you may not want to click past this point — at the very least, take precautions by hiding your wallet. With all the two-wheeld porno after the jump, get ready to be uncomfortable while sitting down. And just remember, “baseball, baseball, baseball.”