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.

Harley-Davidson Powered Prius Found on eBay

04/04/2014 @ 11:28 am, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

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The guys and gals over at Autoblog never cease to disappoint when it comes to finding some of the most outrageous automotive concoctions on the internet, and today is no exception.

Someone had the audacity/genius, to completely rip out the guts of a 2008 Toyota Prius, and stuff in a Harley Davidson motor from 1986.

While some will be cringing in terror and anger after seeing the Captain Planet mobile so horribly butchered, remember that the “Toyohog”, as the team calls it, was built to compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons, and maybe win the “Albert Gore Jr. Carbon Neutral Cup”, one of the many LeMons season prizes.

Pope’s Harley-Davidson Fetches $329,000 at Auction

02/09/2014 @ 5:58 pm, by Aakash Desai5 COMMENTS

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Ever heard of Guardian Bells? They are these little novelty bells that you affix to your motorcycle to ward off “Evil Road Spirits.” You know, because nothing terrifies demonic spirits more than a little tinkle from the back end of your v-twin.

Well whoever was the marketing “genius” behind the Guardian Bell has nothing on the hustle of Pope Francis. The current leader of the Catholic Church, and champion of the oppressed and downtrodden, recently sent his signed 2013 Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide to auction along with its companion leather jacket.

So what is a papal-blessed cruiser worth? The bike and jacket sold for roughly $329,000 at auction in Paris at the Bonhams auction house.

Harley-Davidson Sales Up 4.4% for 2013

01/31/2014 @ 5:47 pm, by Aakash Desai25 COMMENTS

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The brand that seems to polarize motorcyclists worldwide but is inextricably tied to the image of “the biker”, did quite well in 2013. Hot off the presses of Harley-Davidson’s Accounting and Finance department in Milwaukee is the 2013 sales report detailing their growth in worldwide new motorcycle sales.

For 2013, H-D sold 5.7% more bikes in the fourth quarter and 4.4% over the full-year compared to the previous year.  Full year net income was $734 million on consolidated revenue of $5.9 billion. Compared to 2012 when the net income was $623.9 million on consolidated revenue of $5.58 billion.

IronWorks Magazine Will Stop Publishing in March

01/15/2014 @ 2:40 pm, by Bryan Delohery2 COMMENTS

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An accomplished 24 year run comes to a close this March as IronWorks Magazine, a publication dedicated to Harley Davidson fans and custom motorcycle enthusiasts alike, prints its last issue.

IronWorks Magazine was started in 1989 by Dennis Stemp and his wife Marilyn, with the intention of producing a publication that would provide information about custom motorcycles that could not be found through other media, word of mouth or at the local shop.

The announcement came as publisher Hatton-Brown, which acquired the magazine in 1995, decided that the medium shift to digital publications combined with the costs for traditional print were not advantageous enough to continue.

Video: The Sound of the Festive Season

12/20/2013 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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One of the better holiday greetings we have seen come out of the motorcycle industry, Harley-Davidson sends us a Merry Christmas with this cleverly done video. We can’t imagine how many takes it took to get the potato remix of “O Holy Night ” just right, but they nailed it.

Iron Lung by Icon 1000

12/10/2013 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Oregon’s favorite motorcycle apparel brand has a custom motorcycle build for the holidays, the Icon 1000 “Iron Lung” Sportster. An homage to the bikes that Harley-Davidson used to build in the 1970’s, you know when the Bar & Shield brand did real racing, and was fairly good at it too.

Based around a 1991 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 engine, the Iron Lung sees its lump bored out to 1,200cc, with a Supertrapp exhaust helping things breathe a bit better as well. The front-end has been lowered and widened with wide-glide forks and custom triple clamp. Similarly, the rear features a custom subframe with Progressive 970 shocks.

To make Iron Lung work visually, Icon widened the fairings, which gives the machine a bulldog like stance: low and wide. Fitted with the company’s own variety of Portlandian hipster chic, the Iron Lung sports paint by Garage 31 and a custom seat by New Church Moto — two local outfits in Portland, Oregon.

The design isn’t really our usual fare here at Asphalt & Rubber, but you have to appreciate the honesty in Icon’s retelling of the Iron Lung’s performance assessment:

“Once completed, we headed down to an oval in Southern Oregon and kicked ‘er in the guts to be featured along side of our Spring 2014 ICON 1000 apparel collection – coming soon. Her handling was as questionable as the grandstand snacks, but she bore the brunt of torture with aplomb. It wouldn’t be an ICON 1000 bike without a true trial by fire. In Iron Lung’s case this was literal as she burst into flame after her initial shakedown run just a few weeks prior.”

We find that worryingly appealing. Party on boys and girls.

Harley-Davidson Issues Clutch Recalls for 2014 Bikes

12/09/2013 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson is recalling many of its 2014 models for issues with their clutch systems. Issuing two recalls, the first one affects the FLHRSE, FLHTCU, FLHTK, FLHTKSE, FLHTP, FLHX, and FLHXS models, and centers around the clutch master cylinder possibly allowing air into the clutch system.

Harley-Davidson says that these motorcycles may also have been assembled with an incorrect clutch release plate. Either condition could cause the clutch not to disengage.

Harley-Davidson Street 500 & Street 750 – The First Truly “New” Motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in 13 Years

11/04/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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News of “smaller-displacement” Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been percolating for quite some time now, especially after the Bar & Shield brand began taking emerging markets more seriously.

With countries like India viewing 500cc bikes as “big” and Harley-Davidson’s smallest offering tipping the scales at 883cc, something had to give in the company’s strategy, and it looks like it just did.

Announcing two new bikes, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and Harley-Davidson Street 750, the Milwaukee brand is finally ready to go abroad, and its launching its intent to do so this week in Milan, at the EICMA show.

Harley-Davidson Q3 Sales Up 20% in the US, 15% Abroad

10/30/2013 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Signs of life are finally coming back to the motorcycle industry, as Harley-Davidson has shown strong gains in the third fiscal quarter of 2013. Posting an increase in sales of 15.5% worldwide, Harley-Davidson grew 20.1% in the United States the last three months, due mainly to its “Project Rushmore” line of water-cooled motorcycles.

“Rider response to the 2014 motorcycles we introduced August 18 was extremely positive. In fact, initial retail sales of the new Project Rushmore motorcycles sparked the largest year-over-year new model year sales increase in two decades,” explained Harley-Davdison CEO Keith Wandell in the company’s investor communique.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Enters the Motorcycle Rental Business

10/30/2013 @ 3:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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I’m actually surprised it has taken this long for a national player to enter into the motorcycle rental business, but this week Enterprise Rent-A-Car announced that it was launching its own motorcycle rental business, Motorcycle Rental by Enterprise.

For now, the business is limited to one location in Las Vegas, and Motorcycle Rental by Enterprise offers only a small selection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Presumably if the Las Vegas experiment is a success, Enterprise could expand the concept to other locations.