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.

2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

FJR1300A USA 2016

The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

Could Ducati’s New Model Be an Updated 899 Panigale?

08/05/2015 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Ducati-899-Panigale-sketch

When it comes to Ducati’s new model rumors, the only thing we know for certain is that in roughly two months’ time, the Bologna Brand will to debut, at a track in Spain, a new motorcycle.

Early speculation pegged that new model as a 1299-based Streetfighter – a model that we concluded we were unlikely to see in Spain, if for no other reason than it us a very “un-Ducati” way of launching an entirely new model motorcycle.

Taking a longer look at Ducati’s lineup, and having a few other rumors float our way, a more likely supposition would be an update/addition to the Ducati 899 Panigale, likely something along the lines of an “S” model.

The logic here is simple: 1) it isn’t crazy to see the two-year-old 899 Panigale get a refresh, 2) the model certainly fits the bill for an on-track debut, and the real kicker, 3) there is a $4,300 gap to bridge between the 899 ($14,995) and base model 1299 ($19,295).

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

02/25/2015 @ 1:02 pm, by Mark McVeigh27 COMMENTS

2015-Yamaha-YZF-R1-Sydney-Motorsport-Park-Eastern-Creek

When the R1 was first launched it became an instant icon. A tri-axis engine with a GP style chassis was cutting edge technology back in 1998.

The bike has evolved through the years with fuel injection, a crossplane crank, and electronic systems amongst the hundreds of development upgrades.

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.

A team of 50 design engineers worked closely with Yamaha’s MotoGP team and test riders from divisions in Japan, Europe, and the US, including Valentino Rossi and US rider Josh Hayes, to come up with perhaps the most technologically advanced electronics package on a motorcycle ever made available to the riding public.

Many of the senior engineers were in attendance at Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek in Australia for the R1 world launch, providing excellent technical support for the test riders and a unique insight into the challenges they each faced creating the new R1.

The 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time.

The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle.

Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about. 

Recall: BMW R1200RT Equipped with Dynamic ESA

07/02/2014 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

2014-bmw-r1200rt

After advising owners of the 2014 BMW R1200RT to stop riding their motorcycles if they were equipped with the company’s Dynamic ESA suspension, BMW Motorrad has now begun an official recall with the NHTSA for the faulty rear shock piston rod on the R1200RT.

In its NHTSA filing, BMW of North America says that the piston rod within the rear shock absorber can break without warning, which can cause a loss of stability that in-turn could result in a crash. The issue only affects motorcycles manufactured between November 27th, 2013, to May 5th, 2014, for a total of 950 potentially affected machines in the USA.

BMW Motorrad USA Offering Money, Loaners, and Buyback Options to R1200RT Owners for Suspension Woes

06/23/2014 @ 11:50 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

2014-bmw-r1200rt

A reports by BMW Motorcycle Magazine has described what BMW Motorrad USA is offering owners who were affected by the “Do Not Ride” order regarding the BMW R1200RT.

For those that don’t remember BMW Motorrad issued a worldwide statement regarding the 2014 BMW R1200RT, saying that models of the touring bike that were equipped with the Dynamic ESA suspension should not be ridden, as a BMW supplier alerted the German brand that the rear suspension had a defect, which could cause catastrophic failure.

BMW Motorrad hasn’t intimated when a solution could be coming for the affected R1200RT owners, though rumors are a date in August or September. To compensate American riders for this downtime, BMW Motorrad USA has put together three options for RT owners.

Updated 2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré Coming to the USA

03/10/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Bryan Delohery3 COMMENTS

2014-Yamaha-Super-Tenere-ES-01

After months of speculation and rumors that the United States might not get the newest version of Yamaha’s best-selling adventure bike, the company has announced that the 2014 Super Ténéré will be available stateside.

Yamaha is offering the 1,199cc parallel twin in two different trim levels, the Super Ténéré and the Super Ténéré ES. Notable improvements to the 2014 models include an updated multi-function display, traction contro,l and a redesigned windscreen that is now adjustable.

The most impressive improvement comes to the Super Ténéré ES however, which receives adjustable electronic suspension.

Yamaha Super Ténéré Gets Electronic Suspension in Canada

01/10/2014 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2014-Yamaha-Super-Tenere-ES-01

Yamaha Canada has some interesting developments for the 2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré, namely that the venerable adventure bike will be getting electronically adjustable suspension, courtesy of KYB, for the new year. Accordingly, the newly equipped bike will be called the Yamaha Super Ténéré ES, and like its non-ES sibling, will feature some improvements for the 2014 model year.

The Yamaha Super Ténéré will now come standard with cruise control, and will feature an all new LCD display. LED signals have also been added, along with an aluminum handlebar and risers. However, we think the upgrade that most enthusisasts will be happy to see is that Yamaha has coaxed some more power and torque from the Super Ténéré, by making changes to the EFI and exhaust system.

2013 MV Agusta F4 Gets Traction Control, Öhlins Electronic Suspension, Ride-by-Wire, & More

11/10/2012 @ 1:02 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

MV Agusta is teasing its 2013 MV Agusta F4 line ahead of the upcoming EICMA show next week, and the company from Varese, Italy has massaged in some extra goodness into its premier superbike. Not giving us the full monty, MV Agusta is willing to admit that the F4 will come in three flavors: the MV Agusta F4, MV Agusta F4 R, & MV Agusta F4 RR.

For 2013, the key feature updates include upgraded Brembo M50 monobloc brakes, Öhlins electronically controlled suspension, ride-by-wire throttle control, and the MV Agusta MVICS electronics package with eight-way adjustable traction control.

We don’t have word on the F4’s key performance specs, but in its teaser video MV Agusta lets it slip that at least some versions of the 2014 MV Agusta F4 will have titanium con-rods and a redesigned crankshaft (by the way, did you see the new running lights in the photo above?).

Thus, expect the F4 to get a power boost that puts it properly in the 200+ hp realm (many media outlets fail to realize that the current F4 Corsacorta motor makes 201 CV, which equals 198hp). One of the most beautiful motorcycles you could hope to own, MV Agusta may be getting a bit derivitive with the F4’s design, but the company lives up its “Motorcycle Art” tagline, as always.

We have got a bunch of screen captures and a teaser video for you after the jump. Stay tuned next week for the 2013 MV Agusta F4’s official launch, where we’ll bring you all the photos and technical spec available.

Spotted: 2013 BMW S1000RR HP4 – 20 lbs Lighter w/ BMW’s Dynamic Damping Control (Semi-Active Suspension)

07/20/2012 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

After tweaking the BMW S1000RR for the 2012 model year, it is likely that the liter-bike King will remain relatively unchanged for another year. Though according to SoyMotero, BMW is set to milk the current iteration for bit more value with a more premium model. Teasing out the 2013 BMW S1000RR HP4, zie Germans have finally gotten around to doing some “High Performance” treatment to their only true sport bike. Leaving things relatively unchanged underneath the fairings, the Bavarians have some big changes for the BMW S1000RR HP4, part of which is 20 lbs in less mass.

The big weight savings seem to come from the exhaust system and the addition of forged aluminum wheels. Other changes include revised bodywork, a solo seat, launch control, updated traction control, and wait for it…BMW’s Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), which as far as we know is the first application of computer-controlled active electronic suspension in the motorcycle market. No prices yet, though we would expect a hefty price tag to be announced when the BMW S1000RR HP4 officially breaks cover later this year during the Intermot or EICMA shows.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Tricolore

11/15/2011 @ 7:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The pinnacle of Ducati’s Superbike offering for 2012 is the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Tricolore. Incorporating the key features from the Ducati 1199 Panigale S, like its traction control (DTC), electronic quick-shifter (DQS), forged Marchesini wheels, and Öhlins-made Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) front forks and rear TTX shock, the Tricolore package adds anti-locking brakes and the GPS-assisted DDA+ Ducati Data Acquisition system as standard items to Tricolore’s technical list.

Add in bounty of carbon fiber, and a stunning three-color paint scheme (hence the name), and you’ve got a stellar motorcycle that should please all of a rider’s senses. Helping celebrate Italy’s 150 year anniversary of unification, the Tricolore is Ducati’s ultimate expression of Italian design and engineering. Up-close the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Tricolore instantly makes the plain Rosso Corsa-clad Panigale look pedestrian and commonplace, which is a shame. However, if this is the new Corse paint scheme for future bikes, we could get used to that.