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: Big Changes for Team Hero EBR in 2015

12/03/2014 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

2014-Team-Hero-EBR-1190RX

Despite an abysmal year in the World Superbike Championship last season, Team Hero EBR will return to the WSBK paddock for 2015. The team’s return is perhaps in name only, as major changes have been made to EBR’s WSBK presence, which will continue to be based out of Italy.

Most notable is Team Hero EBR’s new riders — Larry Pegram and Niccolo Canepa — with Pegram having double-duties, as he will act as the Team Manager in charge of the Pegram Racing crew, which will take over running the Team Hero EBR program.

Erik Buell Racing 1190RX to Debut at AIMExpo

09/20/2013 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

erik-buell-racing-1190rx-teaser

Heavily teased, we now know that Erik Buell Racing will debut its EBR 1190RX sport bike in mid-October, at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. Tipped to be a more affordable version of the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS, the 1190RX has been spotted with a seat for a pillion, has an uber-aggressive headlight, and will likely come without its premium suspension, wheels, and braking components.

“This is the culmination of decades of dedication, innovation and teamwork,” said EBR Founder Erik Buell. “We have been working to create a pure rider’s machine and a true world brand. From the heartland and the heart of America, these are extraordinary motorcycles that discerning riders everywhere will be passionate to own.”

Hero MotoCorp Buys 49.2% Stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 Million

07/01/2013 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

erik-buell-racing-america

A plethora of Indian Financial publications are reporting that Hero MotoCorp has bought a 49.2% stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 million. Hero MotoCorp is India’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, and for a year now has partnered with Erik Buell Racing for technical development, as well as sponsoring the American company’s AMA Pro Road Racing team for the past two seasons.

Today’s news confirms numerous rumors we have heard about the Hero investing in EBR. Acquiring only 49.2% of Erik Buell Racing, Hero has only a minority stake in EBR, and while we cannot confirm the information, we would imagine that the odd 49.2% ownership was done to keep Erik Buell as the majority shareholder in his company.

27 Years of Buell Motorcycles

03/04/2013 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

buell-motorcycles-poster-crop

If the American motorcycle brand was still in business, this year would have been the Buell Motorcycle Company’s 30th birthday. Treated more like a line on the cash flow sheet to its parent company Harley-Davidson than a true self-supporting motorcycle brand, Buell motorcycles suffered from not being “Harley enough” for the Bar & Shield devout, and conversely wasn’t adopted by the non-believers because of its extensive compromises with the Milwaukee brand.

Still, in its 27 years, Buell Motorcycles managed to build a cult following of riders, though the numbers in its ranks were never enough to make the brand truly profitable. With Harley-Davidson facing dire straights during the recent economic depression, the company circled the wagons around its core assets, and closed the doors to Buell Motorcycles in the process.

The ethos of the brand continues with Erik Buell Racing though, which soon after its creation released the EBR 1190RS superbike — a race-ready motorcycle that isn’t too dissimilar from the Buell 1125R sport bike. We still don’t know what the future holds for Erik Buell’s new company, though a bevy of models are on his company’s product road map. We think if you polled a few former Buell owners, they would want to see this poster (full-size after the jump) updated.

Erik Buell Racing Raises $20 Million from Foreign Investors – Plans to Build $20,000 Motorcycle

07/20/2012 @ 11:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

It has just been announced that Erik Buell Racing has received $20 million in funding from foreign investors. A part of the federal government’s EB-5 program, the deal was brokered by FirstPathway Partners, a company that specializes in facilitating the funding of companies through wealthy individuals that are abroad. The announcement is a boon for EBR, as the company has struggled for financing since it began operations after the closing of Buell Motorcycles by Harley-Davidson.

The $20 million in funding will go towards building more affordable models, says the Milwaukee-based company. In turn, this news means that Erik Buell Racing will need to bring on more staff, and expand its facility for production at a greater volume (54,000 square feet says Buell). Erik Buell Racing hopes to start selling $20,000 street bikes once it gets its business in order for larger volume, with the expectation being that those models will be similar to the EBR 1190RS, though without such high-spec components.

Beeler’s Law

04/01/2012 @ 9:49 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

“As an online discussion about motorcycles grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Erik Buell or Buell Motorcycles entering the conversation approaches a value of one.” — Beeler’s Law

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing?

03/05/2012 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Two weeks and two separate rumors about Hero MotoCorp’s acquisition warpath. Last week the Indian motorcycle manufacturer was said to be eyeing a minority equity stake in Erik Buell Racing. Having already hired the American sport bike maker to help innovate on some of Hero’s upcoming small displacement machines, the two companies sweetened the deal with Hero becoming the title sponsor to EBR’s AMA Pro Superbike racing effort.

This week the spotlight shines on Ducati Motor Holding, which has quietly been for sale for almost a year now. Originally wooing an acquisition from Mercedes-Benz, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has been linked to a variety of other companies, as well as a public offering on an Asian stock index. With our sources telling us that Ducati has been trimming the fat from its books in order to make its earnings more attractive, Hero MotoCorp is the latest potential buyer to enter the fray and to talk to bankers about a Ducati acquisition.

Video: EBR Nation Part 3 – “Made in America”

08/10/2011 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing has another installment of its “EBR Nation” video set, with part three of the YouTube series focusing on EBR’s “Made in America” credential. Unlike the previous videos (Part 1 & Part 2), it’s hard to get behind this one, as Buell and his crew go back to the well with their “it’s made in America, so you should buy it” philosophy/sales pitch. The short clip starts out well enough, with Buell saying “over the last few years there was a feeling that the dream of America is getting away from us.” Whether you believe that is actually true or not, there certainly has been a movement expressing this very idea after watching the credit market collapse, and seeing someone like Buell trying to make something out of the ashes of the recession is a bit inspiring.

What isn’t inspiring is the same reused tagline that because something is built in the USA it is somehow automatically better that the competition. This sort of continued thinking its precisely what put Buell out of business the first time around, and like the reused action shots for this video (you may have seen many of these quick-cuts in Parts 1 & 2, and a couple are even used twice in Part 3), you get tired of hearing and seeing the same thing over and over again with no result.

The whole idea behind Erik Buell Racing was that it was a company that could flourish from outside Harley-Davidson’s thumb, and the whole purpose of the EBR 1190RS was that it was supposed to be an American superbike that we could appreciate on the merits. The fact that all of this is being done by Americans, in America, is all the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Rant over. The video is after the jump.

Video: EBR Nation Part 2 – “Fingertips”

07/27/2011 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Erik Buell Racing has the second part to its strobed-out EBR Nation video series (previously titled “The Making of the EBR 1190RS”), and we see the videos go from previously a more narrative take to a more promotional role (that’s marketing for yah). Like the Prologue, “Fingertips” has Geoff May talking about the bike, with a few sound bites from Erik Buell himself sprinkled in for good measure.

One of May’s more interesting comments is that the EBR 1190RS handles so well, that you’d have to go down to bikes half its displacement to find similar handling characteristics. Worthy praise for sure, though it’s probably a bit too soon on the heels of the Daytona Sportbike fiasco under Harley-Davidson’s reign.

There’s unfortunately little information to learn from the segment, which is a shame considering how few riders will actually get to experience the 100 hand-made 2012 Erik Buell Racing 1190RS motorcycles that will be produced (assuming EBR hits its production goals). Hopefully when Buell tips his hand more on the RX, SX, and AX models it’ll mean more attainable motorcycles for riders with mortal-sized wallets. Made for the true Buelltisti, you’ll get your East Troy fix after the jump.

The Making of the EBR 1190RS: Part 1 (Prologue)

07/19/2011 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

After unveiling the $40,000 Erik Buell Racing 1190RS street bike to the public last year, and recently taking the EBR 1190RS to Mid-Ohio for its AMA Pro Superbike racing debut, the guys at EBR are ready to show some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into America’s newest sport bike.

In what looks to be a several part video series, we’re given the prologue of the making of the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS, complete with sounds from Buell’s own record label, Rat Pak Records, and some seizure inducing footage (we actually like the production work, but worry about our epileptic readers watching this video…no, really).

So far we have little to go on as to where this “EBR Nation” series is headed, but there is one Geoff May talking some hyperbole about the EBR 1190RS (the latest AMA paddock scuttle-butt says that he will not be with the Erik Buell Racing team next year), and it closes with a fitting message from Erik Buell himself. Check it out after the jump, and check back here for more of these videos as we get them.