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 Kawasaki Z800 ABS – Coming to 49 States of the USA

06/02/2015 @ 2:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Back in 2012, Kawasaki debuted the Z800 naked bike, as a 2013 model. Featuring an 806cc inline-four motor, the European Z800 comes in two flavors: the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja Z800 & the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja Z800e.

In Europe, the Kawasaki Ninja Z800 makes 111hp and 61 lbs•ft of torque, while the Kawasaki Ninja Z800e gets a bit more watered down with 94hp and 56 lbs•ft of torque, though it saves 6 lbs over its more burly counterpart.

Now making the Kawasaki Z800 ABS available in the American market, of course not to the USA’s largest state for motorcycle sales (California), the middleweight streetfighter is any early look at Kawasaki’s model lineup for next year.

Yamaha YZF-R1M Has Sold Out in Europe

04/03/2015 @ 3:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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It’s tough cookies if you want to order a Yamaha YZF-R1M in the European Union right now, as what is shaping out to be the superbike of 2015 has sold out in every European country.

This means only those riders who pre-ordered an R1M online, on Yamaha Europe’s registration system, will be able to get a 2015 model — perpetuating the saying from the translated French: “you snooze, you lose”.

To rub salt into the wounds, all European customers of the R1M will get to join Colin Edwards and other Yamaha racing staff at an upcoming Yamaha Racing Experience events in July. Schwing!

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

02/16/2015 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course.

This article is “Part 1” of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go.

Yamaha VMAX Carbon – Celebrating 30 Years of VMAX

02/06/2015 @ 1:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle.

The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber.

Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

KTM Sold 158,760 Motorcycles in 2014, A Record

01/23/2015 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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2014 is another banner year for KTM, as the Austrian brand set another all-time sales record, selling 158,760 to customers last year. That figure solidifies KTM’s position as the largest European brand, beating out BMW yet again, though Team Orange got a lot of help from its Indian operations with minority partner Bajaj.

This sales figure includes sales from Husqvarna, so a little cheating is going on, but Husky’s contribution to KTM’s 28.2% sales growth is marginal at best. With that boost in sales, KTM is also reporting a 20.7% increase in revenue (€864.6 million), taking home €75 million (EBIT).

Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

11/13/2014 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world.

Yamaha MT-125 – Europe Gets Another MT

05/07/2014 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Need a small-displacement naked bike for your urban commute? Yamaha has something for you then, as the tuning fork brand has announced the Yamaha MT-125 for the European market today. Based off the Yamaha YZF-R125 platform, the MT-125 is essentially the R125 stripped of its fairings.

Featuring the same steel delta box frame, and 124.7cc single-cylinder thumper as the Yamaha R125, the big changes to make the MT-125 are the obvious ones, namely the “MT” styling that we have seen on the Yamaha MT-09 (that’s the Yamaha FZ-09 to us Americans) and the Yamaha MT-07.

European Motorcycle Sales Show Signs of Life

04/03/2014 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Three points makes a trend, so refrain from the high-fives and ching-ching’s, but European bike sales are finally showing signs of life after seeing steady growth in January and February, compared to last year.

With motorcycle sales up 14.8%, and combined motorcycle and moped sales up 8.6%, two-wheelers in Europe seem to be headed in the right direction.

Unified Toll System in the Works for the Europe Union

01/23/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Bryan Delohery10 COMMENTS

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Since the inception of the European Union in 1993, politicians in the EU have been spouting off about the advantages of a “unified Europe,” claiming that it would bring all of its member states under one economic system with one currency, allowing them to act cooperatively for the “greater good.”

Of the many advantages touted to be included in the EU was the ability to travel freely between member states with no passports, unfortunately one crucial system that was not unified was the toll system.

Because the member states of the EU have been left to implement their own system to collect toll fares, this has left traveling between countries difficult and often expensive, which is why EU is planning to implement the European Electronic Toll Service.

Erik Buell Racing Establishes European Operations

01/14/2014 @ 9:35 pm, by Aakash Desai2 COMMENTS

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Erik Buell Racing has its sights set on the other side of the Atlantic. To expand brand awareness and distribution on the continent, they have opened up an office in Alkmaar, Netherlands. The move is also aimed at promoting their participation in the 2014 FIM World Superbike Championship with riders, Geoff May and Aaron Yates.

With Hero MotoCorp holding a near 50% stake in EBR, it also seems like a move for Hero to expand its marketing and distribution of it’s own products to the European market.

With Hero intending to bring its bikes to the North American market in 2014, an expansion in the European market, if successful, could solidify its brand recognition in the Western world, especially amongst younger riders or commuters looking for a cheaper pair of wheels to get around.