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.

KTM E-Speed Available in 2015 – KTM Freeride E in 2014

04/23/2013 @ 10:52 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Debuting the KTM E-Speed at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Austrian company seemed to find a renewed interest in electric two-wheelers, which was interesting development since recently KTM CEO Stefan Pierer had dismissed the viability of electric motorcycles, and told Italian journalists that the KTM was scrapping its plans to build an electric dirt bike, the KTM Freeride E.

Taking an about-face from that statement, zie Austrians have green-lit the electric scooter for production, and say that both the KTM E-Speed and KTM Freeride E will be available in European KTM dealerships within the next two years: the Freeride E by 2014 and the E-Speed by 2015.

KTM CEO Says It’s Too Soon for Electrics

03/06/2013 @ 3:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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The first OEM to show a near-production electric motorcycle to consumers, KTM touted at the 2011 EICMA show that as an industry leader in the dirt bike sector, it could ill-afford to stand idly by while other companies explored the development of electric two-wheelers.

Then unveiling the KTM Freeride E concept, KTM said it would trial the machine with a select number of European consumers, before rolling out the electric dirt bike to the masses later in 2013.

With nary an update since then, it would seem that the Austrian company is rethinking its position on electric motorcycles. Talking to Italy’s Motorciclismo, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke of the safety and cost concerns surrounding electrics, and concluded that the timing is still too soon for EV’s to replace petrol-powered machines in the two-wheeled sector.

Video: KTM Freeride E in Action

06/18/2012 @ 9:17 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The KTM Freeride E is quite the buzz in the electric world, as it is the first proper electric motorcycle to be announced by an OEM. As it did with its street-bike debut with the RC8, KTM is set to test the market’s waters first with a limited production run of 100 units in 2012, likely to pre-select KTM owners/dealers. Assuming a favorable review, the Austrian brand would then presumably ramp-up production of its €10,000 electric dirt bike.

With 30hp peak & 10hp continuous, the KTM Freeride E boasts four-stroke 125cc specs, albeit on the heavy side with a 204 lbs curb weight. Running time is said to have a 20 minute ride time in the hands of a professional, the KTM Freeride E is rated to last 45 minutes in the hands of an amateur…whatever that means. While the world at large will likely have to wait another year before it can truly asses the KTM Freeride E, we do have at least our first glimpse in the bike’s performance.

KTM SMX-E Imagined by Piers SP

01/23/2012 @ 12:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As we already know, the KTM Freeride E will be out in 2012 in limited numbers, as the Austrian brand tests the waters on the electric dirt bike market. Building an electric not because they believe in the technology’s immediate relevancy, but because they believe in its future and want to continue being a market leader, KTM is the first big motorcycle OEM to bring an electric motorcycle to market. Giving Zero Motorcycles (and soon Brammo & BRD) a run for its money, the KTM Freeride E is a modest design with its 30hp (peak) PERM motor and 2.1 kWh battery pack.

As a dyed-in-the-wool street biker, I was a bit disappointed that KTM was only bringing the Freeride E out as a dirt bike, with no supermoto variation available. Thankfully I was not alone in that sentiment, as Kiska Senior Pixel Pusher Piers SP also longed for an electric Austrian backing-it-in machine. The difference of course is that as a blogger, I have no concept of creating something of my own (that’s moto-journo humor right there folks), while Piers SP is a zen voodoo digital samurai (truth). Needless to say, photoshopping ensued.

KTM Freeride E – OEMs Enter the Electric Motorcycle Fray

11/08/2011 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The writing has been on the wall for sometime now, as the entire electric motorcycle community has been waiting for a major OEM to debut its own electric motorcycle. Answering that call, KTM unveiled at EICMA today the new 2012 KTM Freeride E. Saying that as the leading off-road motorcycle manufacturer (KTM accounts for about 50% of the worldwide dirt bike market), the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer could not afford to sit idly by while other companies innovated in its space.

Built along the Freeride’s ride anywhere mantra, the KTM Freeride E comes with 2.1kWh of battery power on-board, and is powered by a permanent magnet synchronous motor. With a rated output of 10hp, KTM says the electric motor is good for 30hp peak, with a maximum of 300 Volts going through the system. Helped by its small battery size, the Freeride E weighs only 204 lbs and can be recharged off a 220V socket in 90 minutes. As for range, KTM has an interesting rating system for the electric Freeride, quoting a 20 minute ride time in the hands of a professional, while the KTM Freeride E is rated to last 45 minutes in the hands of an amateur.

LEAKED: KTM 2012-2014 Product Road Map

08/01/2011 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

The guys at HFL have gotten their hands on what looks like a cameraphone photo of KTM North America’s product road map for the next three model years (actually, it now looks like they just lifted the photo from BARF without giving them credit as having the story first). Showing the bikes that will hit American shores in 2012, 2013, and 2014, we get a glimpse of what new models will grace the showrooms of KTM dealers, as well as which models will be receiving facelifts and revisions. The presentation slide really speaks for itself, but perhaps the most interesting item on the list is what sounds like a 350cc version of the company’s Moto3 race bike (shown above?).

KTM Freeride Coming 2012 – Cheaper than €10,000

07/08/2011 @ 2:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

As we reported back in March, KTM’s electric dirt bike is coming closer and closer to being ready for consumers, and now information has come out that it will be a 2012 model from the Austrian company. This information is in-line with a November EICMA debut that we’ve been hearing, but perhaps the most tantalizing news we’ve heard is the bike’s sub-€10,000 price tag in the EU. This would put the KTM Freeride (oh man, we hope that name gets changed) directly in competition with Swiss electric dirt bike manufacturer Quantya and American electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero Motorcycles, both of whom are in the sub-€10,000 category with their dirt bike offerings.

KTM Freeride Concept Gets Closer to Being Ready

03/23/2011 @ 7:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When will the first true electric motorcycle from an large OEM hit dealer floors? Pretty soon by what we’re hearing come out of Austria lately. KTM’s Freeride is fairly straight-forward in concept, as it takes the tried and true KTM off-road package, and puts an electrical drive train inside it (easy enough, right?). Designed with help from Austrian firm Kiska, the KTM Freeride looks like a dirt bike, smells like a dirt bike…well, you get the idea.

While KTM Freeride concept has reportedly been more than peppy during testing, it’s big drawback during development has always been its battery life. That’s apparently about to change, as KTM’s lastest version has reportedly more power on-board (there’s been tremendous amounts of progress in battery density in just the past six months), and is set to come out later this year (we’d assume an EICMA launch in November).