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.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

04/20/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Yamaha-Tracer-700-studio-06

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.

Using a similar chassis and the same motor as the MT-07 (that’s the FZ-07 for us Yanks), the Yamaha Tracer 700 adds a longer swingarm (+50mm), larger fuel tank (+3 liters), revised suspension settings, manually adjustable windscreen, a new seat and headlight, as well luggage options.

Euro4 Claims Its First Victim – No Two-Stroke 125cc Enduros from KTM & Husqvarna for 2017

02/25/2016 @ 1:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

2016-Husqvarna-TE-250

It looks like Europe’s new Euro4 emissions standard has claimed its first victim (if you don’t count the exhaust pipe on the Ducati 959 Panigale), as neither KTM nor Husqvarna will be producing their 125cc two-stroke enduro models for 2017, and the foreseeable future afterwards.

The move is a euros and cents decision, and a slightly complicated one at that, but it boils down to the fact that making the small-displacement smokers meet the more stringent Euro4 emissions requirements was financially prohibitive.

Yamaha MT-10 Specs & Pricing Finally Revealed

02/23/2016 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

2016-Yamaha-MT-10-01

The Yamaha MT-10 was probably the big reveal of the 2015 EICMA show, with the 1,000cc streetfighter putting the two-wheeled establishment on notice with its radical design.

The kicker though to the MT-10’s debut however was the utter lack of technical specifications when Yamaha unwrapped the street bike. Thankfully, that’s now changed.

Ducati 959 Panigale Comes with a Shotgun Exhaust*

11/16/2015 @ 7:47 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

2016-Ducati-959-Panigale-29

We knew from CARB filings to expect a Ducati 959 Panigale at the EICMA show, with Ducati’s “middleweight” getting a displacement boost that puts its well into superbike territory. And now that the show Milan is finally upon us, we have all the details of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale.

As expected, the Ducati 959 Panigale gets a 955cc displacement increase on its now Euro4 compliant engine, via a longer stroke. This means that the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale makes 155hp of peak power, and 79 lbs•ft of peak torque.

Suspension is done by Showa and is fully adjustable, while the double-sided swingarm remains. However, we predict it is the bike’s titanium shotgun exhaust that we think most Ducatisti will be talking about.

Finally, Here is the Husqvarna 701 Enduro

10/27/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

2016-Husqvarna-701-Enduro-38

We already blew the cover on the Husqvarna 701 Enduro last month, but now the Swedish brand is officially showing the big enduro to the general public. As expected, the 701 Enduro will be the off-road compliment to the 701 Supermoto, with the two machines sharing the same 690cc single-cylinder platform.

This means that the Husqvarna 701 Enduro will make 67hp, have dual-spark ignition, and use a SOHC setup. The 701 machines also have ride-by-wire with selectable engine maps, ABS as standard, as is the ATSC slipper clutch.

For bonus points though, it is possible to get the Husqvarna 701 Enduro compliant for A2 licensed riders, which should help some less experienced riders get onto this big bike when it debuts in Europe (yes, it’s coming to the USA and Canada too).

“Choose Your Own Adventure” with the Honda Africa Twin

10/20/2015 @ 4:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

honda-africa-twin-choose-your-own-adventure

If you are a Gen-X male, you probably remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books. If you don’t happen to fit this demographic, and don’t have a clue what I am talking about, don’t worry the idea is pretty simple – let me break it down for you.

Each book contained an adventure for the reader, and every dozen pages or so, the story would give a choice on how to continue. Each choice you had to make also had a certain page in the book that you would skip to, in order to continue the story on the path you desired. If you were like me, you almost always failed or died in your task. There is probably a life lesson in there…somewhere.

What does this have to do with motorcycles you may ask? Ah well, Honda has for us the modern-day version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, using YouTube in a very similar manner. What are they promoting, you may ask? The Honda Africa Twin adventure bike, naturally.

The story found in the YouTube might not be of the same page-turning qualities as the original namesake, but we doubt you can take a wrong turn in Honda’s variable story line. Check it out, after the jump…and yes, for those keeping score, this is yet another video from Honda on the Africa Twin. Sweet merciful Jesus.

Another Africa Twin Cometh from Honda?

10/14/2015 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2016 Honda Africa Twin

Honda Motorcycles Europe has a peculiar video on its YouTube channel, which teases that “the adventure continues” starting this Friday, October 16th. The video is peculiar, because we have already seen the Honda Africa Twin, which debuted at last year’s trade shows.

The video itself doesn’t give away much, other than two riders making their way through some backcountry on a pair of Honda Africa Twin motorcycles.

Best guess seems to be that we’ll see a model variant or two from Honda, most likely including a “touring” model. More radical guesses would be a smaller displacement machine to accompany the 1,000cc adventure-touring beast.

While the latter makes a great deal of sense from a segment point-of-view, there is nothing to suggest such a thing, so we are thinking it’s more likely the prior. We won’t have to wait long to find out though.

2016 Husqvarna FS 450 – Less Weight, More Swede

09/18/2015 @ 12:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

2016-Husqvarna-FS-450-supermoto-05

The Husqvarna brand will continue with its FS 450 offering for the 2016 model year, though you would be wrong to confuse the 2016 bike with its predecessor.

Trimming the fat off the 2015 model, it is clear that Husqvarna looked for ways to make the FS 450 even lighter than before, for 2016, and the Swedish brand look successful in that endeavor, with a 232 lbs machine (sans fuel).

To hit that target weight and other benchmarks, the 2016 Husqvarna FS 450 needed a new chromium molybdenum steel frame, a potent 63hp, 450cc, SOHC, engine, and a bucket of weight-saving items.

Our press release says the new FS 450 will be out in dealers in September of this year, but we take that to surely mean European showrooms, not American. We hope this bike will come the USA though, as it sounds like two wheels of hoon for sumo enthusiasts, and a lighter option than the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto.

Suzuki Trademarks “Recursion” in the USA and Europe

09/16/2015 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Suzuki-Recursion-Turbo-Concept-08

Could Suzuki’s turbocharged Recursion concept bike be coming to market? There have been rumors already, but that news just got a lot more solid because of Suzuki’s trademark filings this week.

Registering the name “Recursion” in both the US and European markets, for use with motorcycles, the Japanese brand seems set to debut the new model in the coming months.

The question of course then turns to how closely the production machine will be to the concept machine, which features a 588cc intercooled and turbocharged two-cylinder engine. Very closely, we hope.

Yamaha USA Sales Up 28% for First-Half 2015

08/18/2015 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

yamaha-motor-logo-red

Yamaha Motor USA is seeing a resurgence in its motorcycle market, with Yamaha posting a healthy 28% sales increase in the North American market, for the first-half of 2015.

The sales boost comes due to the release of the Yamaha YZF-R1, and likely aided by the Yamaha FJ-09, and Yamaha FZ-07 – all of which debuted to rave reviews from the moto-press.

Overall, Yamaha’s motorcycle business is seeing good growth, up another 14% in the European markets (boosted by the MT-09 Tracer), for a total increase of 7.6% in revenue (¥36.8 billion) across all markets.