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.

April Fools: Honda Patents Three-Stroke Engine Design

04/01/2016 @ 8:16 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

honda-three-stroke-engine

Fresh from the office of the USPTO, we have confirmation that Honda has just received the patent for the first ever three-stroke motorcycle engine.

As you would expect, the unconventional engine design incorporates the power-to-displacement efficiencies of a two-stroke smoker, with fuel-to-power efficiencies of a four-stroke motor.

For many in the space, the three-stroke engine has been the Holy Grail of engine designs, with many OEMs rumored to have been working on a three-stroke engine.

Still, it is surprising to see the engineers at Honda claim the prize, as the Japanese brand up until recently has been heavily committed to its four-stroke technology.

Obviously, the engine technology can obviously be applied to any internal combustion application, however what makes this news especially A&R worthy is that Honda’s patent specifically states the engine’s purpose in two-wheeled vehicles, watercraft, lawnmowers, and generators.

KTM Drops Hint of “Revolutionary” New Engine Platform

03/31/2016 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Aside from Husqvarna bringing the Vitpilen & Svartpilen concepts into production, another gem to come from KTM’s investor report for 2015 is that the Austrian company is working on what it calls a revolutionary two-cylinder engine design.

KTM is surely referencing the parallel-twin project that has been spotted a few times by spy photographers (shown above, and featured after the jump), which is rumored to feature an 800cc lump.

We are not too sure what is so revolutionary about a parallel-twin power plant – my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host Quentin loves to go on rants about how much he hates the engine design – but what is interesting is to hear that KTM plans on using the engine as a platform for multiple models.

New MV Agusta Brutale 675 Coming in Q2 2016

01/25/2016 @ 11:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Confirmed at the launch of the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 in Spain, MV Agusta will bring the smaller sibling to its three-cylinder Brutale line in the second quarter of 2016.

Like the new Brutale 800, we can expect the updated Brutale 675 to be fully Euro4 compliant. We would also expect the 675cc to have the same mechanical and styling changes that are found on its 800cc sibling, namely a revised chassis geometry, updated MVICS 2.0 electronics (traction control, ABS, & quickshifter), and visual changes to the headlight, exhaust, and body.

Is Honda Preparing a Major Engine Upgrade for 2016?

01/16/2016 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far.

The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda’s electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010.

Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner.

Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016. Where Ducati, and to a lesser extent Yamaha have managed to integrate the less complex spec software into their engines, Honda have yet to get a handle on it.

That has made assessing the engine character even more difficult for Pedrosa and Márquez, the Repsol Honda riders finding it hard to pinpoint aggressive and abrupt throttle response on the engine character, the cruder software, or the interaction between the two.

It is a problem that Honda is now acknowledging publicly. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto admitted to the Spanish sports daily Marca that they were having trouble making their engine less aggressive.

Suzuki Shows Off a New Turbocharged Engine in Tokyo

10/29/2015 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Suzuki-EX7-Recursion-turbcharged-intercooled-engine

Suzuki is making it no small secret that it plans to get in on the forced induction game in the two-wheeled space. The Japanese manufacturer first teased us with the turbocharged Recursion concept back in 2013, at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Since then there have been rumors that the Suzuki Recursion will go into production, and just a few months ago we spotted Suzuki trademarking the Recursion name in the US and European Union.

Now at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, Suzuki has a turbocharged engine on display, though little to say about it.

Rumors: Ducati 1299 Streetfighter & New Engine Coming?

07/18/2015 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Panigale-no-fairings-01

If you believe everything you read on the internet, then surely you know that Ducati is allegedly getting ready to release a Panigale-based Streetfighter in the next few months. Another potent rumor making the rounds is that Ducati is working on a totally new v-twin engine, which will meet Euro 4 emission standards.

The first rumor got its start from Visordown, which says that it has received an invitation for press launch in September that will consist of “a track test for a road bike.”

The British publication deduces that the new model must be a sport-oriented machine to warrant the track time for journalists, and the only model in Ducati’s lineup that’s long-in-the-tooth that fits the bill is the Streetfighter 848, and the recently discontinued Streetfighter 1098.

The second rumor comes from Moto-Station, with the French site getting word from a source that Ducati has an all-new Euro 4 compliant engine that it will debut at EICMA this November. They go on to speculate that the engine could have Ducati Variable Timing (DVT), and would fit a sport-touring bike.

Let’s examine these two rumors a bit further, in turn.

Ducati Announces DVT — Desmodromic Variable Timing

10/15/2014 @ 8:17 am, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

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As was teased, Ducati is unveiling its “DVT” technology today, which stands for Desmodromic Variable Timing, and to showcase that technology (borrowed from Volkswagen), Ducati has produced the first motorcycle engine with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts.

Adapted to the now-called Ducati Testastretta DVT engine, which we reported will debut first on the new Ducati Multistrada for 2015, Ducati’s new v-twin powerplant can change the intake and exhaust timing independently, and throughout the rev range.

This means that the Ducati Testastretta DVT engine can be optimized for peak power at high rpms, while maintaing rideability and smoothness at lower rpms — not to mention keeping with emission and noise regulations throughout the rev range.

Listen to the Sound of the New Supercharged Kawasaki H2

09/03/2014 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

kawasaki-supercharged-engine

Continuing to build the buzz around its newest sport bike, Kawasaki has sent us a sound clip of the new H2 motorcycle, which the company will debut at the upcoming INTERMOT show.

Team Green has been pretty tight-lipped about the Kawasaki H2, though there have been plenty of clues sprinkled around for us to suss out that it will be a sport bike with a supercharged inline-four engine.

Listening to the provided sound clip seems to confirm our notion that Kawasaki’s new supercharger system is at work.

Honda V4 Superbike Engine Outed in Patent Photos

03/12/2014 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

honda-v4-engine-patent-drawing

Honda’s road-going V4 superbike project has seemingly stalled, for the umptenth time in the past decade. While the bike has been rumored for years, the project just a year and a half ago was confirmed by Honda CEO Takanobu Ito.

Since that confirmation, the project’s delivery time has been pushed back, thought the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has committed itself to building the MotoGP-inspired road bike.

With reports speculating on a possible price tag well into the six-figure range, the rumormill is on the rev limiter regarding this superbike, so if there is one thing we actually know about the machine, it is that we don’t actually know much about it.

A 1,000cc displacement is of course expected, along with a four-cylinder v-angle cylinder configuration. If we can presume a setup similar to what is found on the Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, then make that a 90° cylinder head arrangement.

If we had really been on the ball though, we likely could have told you all this, six months ahead of Ito’s confirmation, as patent documents discovered by Spanish magazine SoloMoto shows the V4 superbike engine in line-drawing form, from as early as March 2012.

Did Nissan Just Make the Ultimate Motorcycle Engine?

01/28/2014 @ 7:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Nissan Motor Company is better known for its four-wheeled vehicle pursuits, so it might surprise you to see its name mentioned here on Asphalt & Rubber. To front load the answer to your most pressing question, no the Japanese marque is not getting into the two-wheeled universe.

However, Nissan has been doing some interesting work, ever since it took over the DeltaWing project. In a nutshell, the Nissan DeltaWing was a failed IndyCar replacement race car project that aimed to push the boundaries of light, aerodynamical, and efficient vehicle design.

It found new legs in the endurance racing arena though, and participated in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans — however it didn’t finish the iconic race, when a competitor crashed into it 75 laps into the race.

Nissan and the DeltaWing team have since parted ways collaboratively, but the Japanese car maker has clearly learned something from the process. Returning to Le Mans for the 2014 season, Nissan will field a very similar design, which it has dubbed the Nissan ZEOD RC.

A hybrid race car (Nissan hopes to complete its first lap at Le Mans solely on electric battery power), what tickles our fancy most is the 1.5 liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, which weighs a featherlight 88 pounds. Twenty inches tall, eight inches wide, the Nissan DIG-T R engine is small, though mighty. How does 400hp grab you?