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.

Jerez MotoGP Test Summary: Funny Front Tires, Wings, & A Chance to Test Properly

04/27/2016 @ 11:19 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The test on Monday at Jerez was probably the most important test of the year so far. A chance to test the day after a race, in similar conditions, and with ideas born of the data from the first four races of 2016 to try out.

There really was a lot to test: not just parts and setup, but also three new front tires from Michelin, as well as further work on the “safety” rear tire introduced after Argentina.

First out of the pits was Bradley Smith, determined to turn his tough start to the season around. Last on to the track was Valentino Rossi, rolling out of pit lane some time after 2pm.

Celebrations of his astounding victory at Sunday’s race must have been intense: the Italian was very hoarse when he spoke to us at the end of the day.

A major focus for all of the riders was on tires. Michelin had brought three new front tires to test, and the riders also had the remainder of their allocation from the weekend to use.

There was nothing new at the rear, but given how little experience they had with the construction introduced after Scott Redding’s rear tire delaminated in Argentina, there was much still to be learned.

Bradley Smith had described it as “a prototype”. The tire had done a handful of test laps, and then two races. It had created problems for everyone at Jerez on Sunday, and so much work was focused on finding more rear grip.

Grand Prix Commission Bans Winglets in Moto2 & Moto3

03/22/2016 @ 8:47 am, by David Emmett34 COMMENTS

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The War on Wings continues. At Qatar, the Grand Prix Commission agreed to ban winglets in the Moto2 and Moto3.

The aerodynamic devices are banned immediately in Moto2, while they will be banned in Moto3 from 2017 onward, as Mahindra have already fitted small winglets to their Moto3 machine to be used at some races this season.

However, the ban on winglets for 2017 should stop development of them immediately.

The ban has no effect on MotoGP, however. There are powerful moves to try to ban the winglets in MotoGP, but they face resistance from the manufacturers.

This is because one of the conditions under which the factories accepted the switch to the common software was that the technical regulations would remain stable for the coming five years, the usual time period for technical regulations to last.

However, the appearance of winglets and strakes on the MotoGP bikes has triggered fears of a spending war on aerodynamics between the factories.

MotoGP: Ducati Loses Concessions for 2016

06/28/2015 @ 2:46 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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Ducati are to lose their concessions for the 2016 MotoGP season. Meeting at Assen, the Grand Prix Commission decided to apply the system of concession points which was due to take effect from the 2016 season to the results of Ducati for this season.

This means that from next year, Ducati will race under the same rules as Honda and Yamaha, which means that they will have seven engines per season, with no development allowed during the season, and testing with factory riders restricted to official tests and a handful of private tests.

MotoGP in 2017 & Beyond – Towards a Brighter Future?

05/11/2015 @ 11:17 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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The MotoGP grid is looking in surprisingly good health in 2015. The series has come a long way in the five years since 2010, when there were just 17 full-time entries on the grid, and Suzuki was teetering on the brink of withdrawal.

Dorna’s CRT gambit has paid off: the much-maligned production-based bikes may not have been competitive, but they did spur the manufacturers into action to actually supply more competitive machinery to the private teams.

The CRT bikes became Open class bikes, and Dorna’s pet project of standardized electronics has been adopted into the MotoGP rules.

From 2016, there will be one class again (well, sort of, the concessions – engine development, unlimited testing, more engines – for factories without regular podiums are to remain in place), with everyone on the same electronics, the same fuel allowance, and the same tires. A bigger change is coming for 2017.

MotoGP: MSMA Proposes Introducing Concession Points Early, Removing Ducati Concessions for 2016

05/05/2015 @ 7:59 am, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

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Ducati could have their concessions removed a year early. The manufacturers’ association, MSMA, are proposing to introduce the concession point system, which was due to start in 2016, to apply from this year.

That would mean that Ducati would be forced to race in 2016 against Honda and Yamaha under the same regulations, including frozen engines, seven engines a year instead of nine, and testing limited to official tests.

The success of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 has shown up a gap in the regulations. The system of concessions allowed to manufacturers without a recent win has universally been hailed as a success, allowing Ducati to catch up with Yamaha and Honda, and Suzuki to already close the gap.

However, as the rules are due to change in 2016, the system of concessions will also change. Under the system which applies this year, a factory which has not had a dry win in the last three years gets extra fuel, a soft year, 12 engines instead of 5, freedom from the engine freeze, and freedom to test with factory riders.

From 2016, all of the teams will have 22 liters of fuel and will be using the same tires, and so there will be fewer concessions. Factories will get 9 engines instead of 7, not be subject to an engine freeze, and be allowed to test with factory riders.

The system for calculating when a factory loses concessions will also change. A new system of concession points will be introduced for 2016, awarding 3 points to a win, 2 points for a second and 1 point for a third.

2016 MotoGP Rules Clarified: 7 Engines, 22 Liters, 157kg, & Performance Balancing

04/04/2015 @ 12:25 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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The Grand Prix Commission have filled in the last question marks over the 2016 MotoGP regulations.

While the decision on the amount of fuel the bikes would be allowed to run had already been decided last year, the rules on a minimum weight, the number of engines to be used, and how and whether the concessions allowed to manufacturers without a win would be extended into 2016 and beyond.

All of these questions were settled at Qatar.

Trackside Tuesday: Pardon Me, Coming Through

03/03/2015 @ 2:29 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

Cal Crutchlow Losail grid 2014 Ducati Alpinestars Scott Jones

With the start of the 2015 MotoGP Season right around the corner, we have some more changes to the official regulations that govern MotoGP.

Some changes have been talked about for quite a while, such as that when a rider comes in to swap bikes during a flag-to-flag race, the waiting bike must be closer to the track than to the pit box; lower bodywork on the bikes must be designed to catch oil and other fluids that might leak (Moto2 and MotoGP bikes must be able to catch five liters of fluids, Moto3 bikes three and a half liters); and so on.

But some other items have been added to the rules that haven’t received much attention. Why am I thinking about all of this? Something just caught my eye that will directly affect my work as a photographer on the grid.

MotoGP Rules Updated: Fuel Limits, Concussion Tests, Etc

12/18/2014 @ 4:46 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, held on Tuesday in Madrid, made a number of minor changes to the rules for all three Grand Prix classes, as well as a couple of more significant revisions.

The biggest changes concerned the setting of the maximum fuel allocation from 2016 at 22 liters, and the adoption of the SCAT3 test for concussion for riders after a crash. But perhaps the most significant outcome of the meeting of the GPC is not what was decided, but what was not.

Of the various minor rule changes, a few are worthy of comment. The first is the reduction of the time penalty at the start for a rider exceeding the engine allocation in any given year.

From 2015, anyone using an extra engine will start the race from pit lane 5 seconds after the green light is displayed after the official start (once all riders on the grid have passed pit lane exit), rather than 10 seconds.

This will have little direct impact on the outcome of any races, but should make it easier for riders using an extra engine to get close to the backmarkers, and perhaps score a point or two.

MotoGP: Grand Prix Commission Agrees to Lower Bike Weight & Freeze Software Development for Factory Option

09/14/2014 @ 1:47 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The Grand Prix Commission met at Misano to agree a couple of steps on the long road towards creating a single, unified MotoGP class from 2016.

The four parties to the GPC agreed that the minimum weight in the MotoGP class would be reduced from 160kg to 158kg, and agreed to freeze development of the software for all Factory Option class bikes from 30th June 2015.

From that point on, work will switch to the spec, or unified software, ready for the start of 2016.

The Quartararo Rule – Moto3 Minimum Age Limit Changed

08/17/2014 @ 7:45 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Fabio-Quartararo

The minimum age limit for the Moto3 class is to be dropped for the winner of the Spanish CEV Moto3 championship. In a meeting at Brno, the Grand Prix Commission approved a proposal for the winner of the CEV Moto3 to be allowed to compete in the Moto3 world championship the season after winning the CEV.

The rule change will mean that Fabio Quartararo, the young Frenchman currently leading the CEV Moto3, will be allowed to start in Moto3 in 2015. The Frenchman is currently 15, and does not turn 16 until 20th April. If this rule had not been changed, then Quartararo would have been forced to miss the first two races of the 2015 season.