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.

MotoGP: Aoyama in for Hernandez at Valencia…And After?

11/04/2012 @ 2:22 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Aoyama in for Hernandez at Valencia…And After?

Yonny Hernandez looks set to miss the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, as the Colombian continues his recovery from injury. Hernandez suffered a dislocated collarbone in a crash during the race at Motegi, an injury which forced him to miss both the Malaysian and the Australian rounds of MotoGP.

The place of Hernandez in the BQR Avintia team is to be taken at Valencia by Hiroshi Aoyama. The last ever 250 World Champion suffered a difficult 2012 season in World Superbikes with the Ten Kate Honda squad, Aoyama never getting comfortable with the Pirelli tires used in WSBK.

Aoyama has been looking to return to MotoGP since the latter part of this season, the Japanese rider spotted in serious talks with a number of teams at the Aragon round of MotoGP at the end of September. Aoyama now looks set to take the place of Hernandez in the BQR Avintia team permanently in the 2013 season, according to Spanish website Motocuatro.com.

Honda WSBK Switches to 2013 Livery for Magny-Cours

10/04/2012 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

We’re not sure who is behind the liveries for Honda Europe’s racing department, but they do a damn fine job of creating simple, understated, and gorgeous race graphics. Channeling some more of that Honda RC30 goodness, HRC is also the second team to adopt the faux-headlights that World Superbike will mandate for bikes in the 2013 season.

While the graphics might be different for 2013, the machine certainly isn’t. Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will have their work cutout for them next season, especially since we hear that the WSBK-spec Honda CBR1000RR is a bit of handful, as Hiroshi Aoyama can attest to (his bike is pictured above).

With Rea said to have opted to stay in WSBK, instead of a move into MotoGP, the Ulsterman has really been the only rider that can decipher the CBR’s code, and after seeing his performance at Misano and Aragon, we think that’s more of testament to Rea’s skill, than a fluke match between man and machine.

Hopefully things will get better in 2014, when Honda’s V4-powered homologation special hits the streets.

SBK Classic Corners: Turn 12 at Phillip Island

08/14/2012 @ 1:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Our apologies for being a bit late to getting with the program, as we should have started HRC’s SBK Classic Corners webisodes much earlier than this. While we play a bit of catch-up with the World Superbike team’s short videos series that focuses on the famous corners of the WSBK calendar, we treat you to the first circuit up in our queue, which is also the first race of the season: Phillip Island.

It doesn’t matter what you call Turn 12 at famous Australian track (e.g. Swan Corner if you abide by the marketing), because whatever name you use, the corner is one of the most important turns on the circuit, as the long left-hand sweeper is your entry onto the Phillip Island’s massively long front straight that seemingly drops into the Bass Strait, until you cross the start/finish line.

I have been fortunate enough to ride a track day at Phillip Island, and I can say that the circuit is easily my favorite course to ride with a motorcycle as it has a bit of elevation, gorgeous surroundings, and a good mix of technical turns and flowing bends. One of the Top 3 fastest corners on the track, Turn 12 is certainly harrowing to enter full-tilt as your tires are fading. Of course, you don’t want to hear me talk about it, so we’ve got Johnny Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama after the jump.

San Carlo Honda Gresini Will Race in Valencia

11/01/2011 @ 9:00 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Immediately following the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli, Fausto Gresini of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team was quoted saying that he wasn’t sure if his team could finish the Championship in Valencia without Simoncelli. With an outpouring of fans at Simoncelli’s funeral, and words of encouragement from around the world, the Italian team has decided that it will honor Marco’s memory and race in Spain this weekend.

While the #58 bike will sit in the pit box in memorial, Hiroshi Aoyama will ride the lone Honda RC212V for the Gresini team at the Valencian GP. Gresini’s Moto2 riders Michele Pirro and Yuki Takahashi will also race, as the trio will try to honor their teammate’s memory.

Honda Gresini to Attend Valencian GP – Racing Uncertain

10/26/2011 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

While it is still not clear whether the San Carlo Honda Gresini team will race with Hiroshi Aoyama in the upcoming Valencian GP, the Gresini Racing team has confirmed it will at least travel to the final MotoGP round. The Gresini Racing team has confirmed that many members of the San Carlo Honda Gresini MotoGP team will be present at the spanish track, and that the customary team pit box will be setup with Marco Simoncelli’s #58 Honda RC212V on display to tribute the fallen rider.

Hiroshi Aoyama to World Superbike with Castrol Honda

10/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumored to be headed to World Superbike, or at least a CRT bike in MotoGP, Hiroshi Aoyama’s 2012 season plans have finally been unveiled. Signing with the the Castrol Honda team, the former-250GP Champion will leave the MotoGP paddock to race next season in World Superbike, alongside new teammate Johnny Rea. The move means the displacement of Ruben Xaus from the Ten Kate Honda squad, which is hardly a surprise considering the Spaniard’s horrid season(s).

The announcement also adds further speculation regarding whether San Carlo Gresini Honda will run a solitary bike for next year, at he team has already confirmed a factory RC213V with Maro Simoncelli on-board. Honda has reportedly intervened on Gresini’s plans to run a second bike under the CRT structure, which makes for something interesting to chew on, as the CRT rules were created as a direct reaction to the major manufacturers’ influence over how MotoGP was run and headed, with Honda headlining that now failing initiative.

Earthquake 60km from Fukushima Kicks Off Japanese GP

09/29/2011 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

MotoGP action has finally hit Japanese shores, as riders and teams made their usual Thursday preparations and announcements at Motegi for the Japanese GP. With the near rider boycott of the event, many eyes have been on the teams that have imported food and water, let alone the sighting of the occasional Geiger counter at the Twin Ring Circuit. Perpetuating an air of concern over the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake 60km (37 miles) SSE from the crippled nuclear power plant sent a reminder of the region’s seismic volatility. With no damage reportedly caused at Fukushima, and the Japanese GP unaffected by the event, the physical impact is of course non-existent for MotoGP, but the psychological factor certainly remains in the paddock.

Unrelated to the earthquake, Casey Stoner was absent from the Thursday pre-race press conference, as the Australian’s flight was late in arriving into Japan. As such, Jorge Lorenzo filled-in at the center seat, normally reserved for the MotoGP Championship points leader, and made light of the situation.”Where is Casey?” asked a playful Jorge Lorenzo. “Am I leading the Championship now?” he said with a smile. 44 points behind the Repsol Honda rider, Lorenzo acknowledged that his Championship bid was essentially over, though seemed still determined to carry the flag for Yamaha in the final four races of the 2011 season.

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

09/19/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

Make no doubts about it, Honda is set to make a statement at the rescheduled Japanese GP on October 2nd. After much hemming and hawing over whom would and would not race at Motegi, virtually every rider in the MotoGP paddock has been confirmed to be in attendance at Japan early next month, including Casey Stoner (according to Honda at least).

Whether it is because the riders have begun to believe the bevy of reports that Motegi and the Fukushima nuclear plant are safe, or the fact that the Twin Ring Circuit has already played host to several high-profile events, or even if it is the simple reality that Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha have enormously long memories regarding issues of pride and honor, the fact of the matter is that not only will the MotoGP grid be as full as possible (there are question marks regarding Loris Capirossi’s shoulder), but Honda will field two more riders for the Japanese GP.

Video: Hiroshi Aoyama at 300 km/h

08/26/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

For Hiroshi Aoyama, the perfect lap is unattainable, as motorcycle racers are always looking for a little bit more speed, and thus a better lap. That being said, the Japanese rider has perhaps an unhealthy relationship with velocity, saying that while going 300 km/h is scary, he “likes that feeling.”

With more super slow-mo footage from Catalunya, Red Bull again brings us some 1000 fps video, just in time to promote Sunday’s Indianapolis GP. For those movie continuity buffs, you can tell this video was made earlier in the year, as Aoyama talks about Indy’s four different kind of asphalt types, which have now been paved over for one consistent tarmac throughout the infield. Watch the high-speed camera footage after the jump.

Official: Pedrosa Out for Assen – Aoyama in at Repsol Honda

06/22/2011 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Official: Pedrosa Out for Assen – Aoyama in at Repsol Honda

HRC has officially announced now that Dani Pedrosa will miss the Dutch round of the MotoGP Championship. Breaking his collarbone back at the French GP, Pedrosa’s place on the disabled list was extended when it was discovered that bone fragments were still lurking in his shoulder. Pedrosa underwent yet another surgery to repair his collarbone, but his return to racing has been an uncertainty lately, as some in the assembled MotoGP press have suggested the Spaniard will sit out the rest of the season.

Whatever the status may be on Pedrosa’s return, the Ductch TT marks the third race absence for the Repsol Honda rider, and accordingly the team is obliged to replace him. Moving up San Carlos Gresini Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama, the Japanese rider will swing a leg over the third Honda factory team bike, while Marco Simoncelli rounds out the group on the fourth factory bike that’s still nestled in the Gresini garage.