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.

Dainese Responds to Alpinestars Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/29/2015 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.

First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.

Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.

You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.

Alpinestars & Dainese Head to Court Over Airbag Systems

12/17/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain.

Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level.

The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.

BMW Q2 2014 Sales Up 5.1% – Another Record Quarter

08/05/2014 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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BMW Motorrad’s second-quarter sales results are in, and the German brand has not only another record quarter to report, but also an all-time six-month top-sales record as well.

Selling 42,259 units in Q2 2014, BMW Motorrad sales are up 5.1%, with revenue up 11.2% to €528 million (€55 million EBIT). This sales volume represents an all-time second-quarter high for BMW motorcycles sales.

The news also makes the first half of 2014 the best six-month period, in the 90 years of BMW Motorrad’s history, of BMW motorcycle sales, with revenue up 9.8% to €1 billion, and unit sales up 9.3% to 70,978 units.

MotoGP: Qualifying Results from Sachsenring

07/12/2014 @ 6:09 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on MotoGP: Qualifying Results from Sachsenring

Video: Horex VR6 Gets Up and Running

06/22/2012 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

After seeing the production schedule of the Horex VR6 pushed back several times now (let’s not even mention the DOA-status of the supercharged version of the bike), it looks like the revival of the German brand is nearly ready for primetime, as Horex has released a video of the VR6 scooting about (sans its triple-pipe exhaust). The aptly named Horex VR6 features a 15° VR-shaped six-cylinder motor, which with its 1,218cc displacement produces a stout 161 bhp.

Built with classic roadster styling, Horex has been tight-lipped on the bike’s pricing, though we expect that it will be well north of $20,000 when it reaches American shores. While we’ve already heard the supercharged Horex testing on the company’s engine dyno, this is the first we’re heard from the naturally aspirated model. Check it out after the jump, and let us know if you think it was worth the wait.

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.6% YTD, But Where?

03/07/2012 @ 1:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad released yet another glowing sales report, as the German brand continues to build steam and market share in an otherwise luke warm and uncertain marketplace. Boasting a 1.8% worldwide sales increase in February and a 5.6% year-to-date (YTD) sales increase, BMW Motorrad has sold 12,078 motorcycles worldwide thus far in 2012. While the gains are modest at best, the news that BMW has found a way to grow despite the economy is something we have talked about ad nauseam. As such, I almost skipped this press release all together for our coverage, but then I saw a quote from Hendrik von Kuenheim, BMW Motorrad’s General Director.

Horex VR6 Roadster to Begin Production

02/14/2012 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

In the past when a new motorcycle entry has come to market, we are bombarded with a bevy of media releases about the company’s two-wheeled offering. Usually this also means that Twitter gets lit up like a Roman candle, and Facebook turns into a digital burlesque show where each piece of the bike is slowly revealed and teased in front of us. Such is not the case with Horex however, as the revived German motorcycle brand is being very…well, German about its VR6 roadster.

Set to being production on the non-supercharged Horex VR6 in the coming weeks, the jewel of the German company, its six-cylinder narrow-angled VR motor, will be built in Augsburg, Germany. Initially making only a few bikes a day, Horex’s assembly line will feature the “one man, one bike” approach, where a single-worker will work on the same motorcycle throughout the company’s four-stage build process (read: more Ferdinand Porsche, less Henry Ford). Each bike built by Horex is made to order, though we are not sure how any pre-orders have been made with the company, let alone what the price tag could look like.

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

Horex VR6 Begins Road Testing

03/11/2011 @ 12:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

While here in The United States of America the buzz is all about the new Motus MST sport-tourer and the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS sportbike, in Germany the talk of the town is the new Horex VR6 street bike, which began its road testing today. Horex released a photo of the supercharged 200+hp 1,200cc machine testing on a closed circuit, with Hennes Fischer, the man in charge of the VR6’s development, stating that “in this phase of the test series we mainly wanted to determine whether the current suspension configuration, basic geometry and engine tuning are correctly matched. It’s a big step from computer calculations and engine tuning on the dynamometer to a perfectly functioning bike.”

Save the ‘Ring

12/27/2010 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

No, we’re not encouraging you to step away from any planned New Years Eve wedding proposals, but the Nürburgring Nordschleife does apparently need your help. Known throughout the motorsports community simply as the ‘Ring, the Nürburgring Nordschleife track plays host not only to car and motorcycle enthusiasts, but also serves as a formidable test track used by many OEMs when developing new vehicles (recently the track has also been a place for manufacturers to lay bragging rights for quickest lap times in sports cars).

It seems however that the ‘Ring, despite its popularity with track enthusiasts, is not the profitable endeavour that the German government thought it would be. Four years ago plans began to be implemented that would see other attractions added to the Nürburgring venue, which have reportedly done nothing to help boost the profitability of the track, and now in May of this year the ‘Ring was turned over to the same pair of businessmen responsible for that transformation, with the goal of boosting the track’s revenue, and that’s where the controversy starts.