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.

Honda’s V4 Homologation Special Confirmed But Delayed

10/07/2013 @ 4:19 am, by David Emmett42 COMMENTS

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That the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is getting a little long in the tooth has been obvious for several years now. And that Honda is planning a very special V4 sportsbike to take the Fireblade’s place on the World Superbike grid has also been broadly mooted for the past couple of years.

The existence of the V4 1000 was first publicly acknowledged by Honda president Takanobu Ito, who spoke openly about the bike at the end of 2012.

Since then, there have been constant rumors that the new Honda superbike was to be introduced at EICMA in Milan this coming November. So persistent had the rumors become that Honda Italia last week was forced to issue a denial, sending out a press release to the Italian media insisting that the bike will not be introduced at the EICMA this November.

Honda CEO Confirms V4 Sport Bike Project is Underway

09/20/2012 @ 10:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

It has been a long time coming with this announcement, but Honda has finally officially announced that work has begun on what is presumed to be a V4 sport bike. In the same vein as the Honda RC30 that was introduced back in 1987, Honda has apparently seen the light, and according to the company’s own words, the company has started “with a goal to create a new history.”

Announcing the new model in his end-of-the-fiscal year speech, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito was terse with his words in describing the new Honda sport bike, but referencing the RC30 project, along with heavy rumors that we have been hearing about a V4 street bike project in the works that was being based of Honda’s MotoGP program — this almost assures that the bike referenced is a V4 superbike based loosely on the RC213V race bike.

Up-Close with McGuinness’s Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR

06/06/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The bike that carried John McGuinness to his 18th career Isle of Man TT win, the very same Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR could be the King of the Mountain’s stead to an even 20 wins this TT fortnight. Making 200+ bhp, the factory-backed Honda CBR1000RR has to contend with some of the most gruel miles in racing, and has the scars to prove it. Pitted and potted with rocks and pebbles from the course, McGuinness’s ride on the CBR is an equally tumultuous affair.

Splitting his time equally between head shakes and wheelies, it is no small feat in keeping a TT bike on-line at the famous road course. Only able to complete two laps before needing to be refueled, the Honda TT Legends race team has not only optimized the Honda CBR1000RR for the 37.733 mile Snaefell Mountain Course, but also for the single and double pitstops it will have in the Senior TT and Junior TT races, respectively.

Looking at the bikes of the other teams, what is most striking about McGuinness’s ride, aside from its drool-worthy livery homage to the Honda RC30, is how stock the bike appears. Sure, there is a heavily massaged and tuned motor underneath that bodywork, and the bike’s top-shelf brakes, wheels, and quick-shifter are readily apparent, but for a bike that any racer would kill to ride, the Honda TT Legends CBR is rather unassuming, as is its portly rider. Maybe that is how they like it.

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night

05/29/2012 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Monday night marked the first practice session for the returning riders to the Isle of Man TT, and John McGuinness got things started off on the right foot. While most riders at the TT spent the evening shaking off the cobwebs, sorting out new bikes, and generally getting a feel for thing, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner McGuinness went out onto the Mountain Course, dropped a 128.267 mph lap on his third lap of the day, and promptly called it a night.

With the Top 15 riders were lapping in the lower 120’s, McGuinness was the talk of the Isle today, and sent a clear message to his competitors with his lap: the Lancastrian means business this fortnight. Feeling very comfortable on his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR, McGuinness’s time is sure to get into the heads of his TT rivals, as they go out again this evening for the second practice session for the solo classes. McGuinness is the holder of the outright fastest race lap around the Mountain Course, with a 131.578 mph average course speed.

Honda TT Legends’ CBR1000RR is Sex on Two Wheels

02/29/2012 @ 12:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

When it comes to motorcycles that pitch more tents than a Boy Scout Jamboree, the Honda CBR1000RR probably isn’t at the top of your list. That’s not a slight to the venerable CBR, but Honda has always been more of a “function over form” type of brand. That being said, I never thought I would see that when Honda would give up its technological dominance in production sport bikes, but for 2012 the Honda CBR1000RR will have to fight the battle of being low-tech offering in war where electronics are the new horsepower.

While the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR is likely not to come out the victor in sport bike sales figures this year, the Japanese company has a very good chance of dominating at the Isle of Man TT in a few months. Of course it helps when you have “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness at the helm of your TT bike, but we’ve got hand it to the Japanese brand, as the TT Legends scheme that McGuinness and Simon Andrews will race at the IOMTT and Northwest 200 makes us forget all about the fact that the Fireblade comes sans an sort of electrical aids. Get your computer desktop ready, jumbo resolution photos await you after the jump.

Watch Jonathan Rea’s Record WSBK Superpole at Portimao from a Mechanic’s Point of View

12/19/2011 @ 6:16 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Watch Jonathan Rea’s Record WSBK Superpole at Portimao from a Mechanic’s Point of View

Taking the pole position at the final World Superbike round at Portimao, Jonathan Rea not only put his Castrol Honda on the front of the grid, but also broke set the fastest lap ever for a motorcycle at the Portuguese track. Fortuitously, the factory Honda WSBK team fitted one of its mechanics with a GoPro camera to capture the Superpole from the team’s point-of-view. At 6’10” tall (2.1 meters), the view provided by Daniel Postmus is not only one that few get to witness in side the team garage, but also comes from an altitude slightly higher than many are accustomed.

Lagging all season, the Castrol Honda team found some momentum in the latter races of the season, more specifically when the team was allowed to outfit its WSBK-spec Honda CBR1000RR with ride-by-wire throttle control. Hopefully the team can keep that momentum going forward, as it will have to contend with another season on an only mildly updated racing platform, the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR. Video after the jump.

MotoGP: Michele Pirro to Gresini on a FTR Honda CRT Bike

12/06/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Michele Pirro finished his 2011 Moto2 season on a high note, winning the final round at Valencia for the Gresini Racing team. Coming on the heels of MotoGP’s final tribute to Marco Simoncelli, the victory was an especially emotional one for the young Italian rider and his team. Finishing seventh in the Moto2 Championship standings, Pirro’s hard work has earned him a promotion into MotoGP, where the rookie rider will campaign a CRT bike with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team.

Gresini has confirmed that the team will use an FTR chassis, which will be custom-built to use a Honda CBR1000RR motor. This brings the total number of confirmed CRT entries up to five, with several more CRT entries still expected to commit to the 2012 MotoGP Championship. This news means we should see at least 20 bikes on the grid for the MotoGP opener at Qatar, though the question remains: how competitive will they be?

Officially Official: 2012 Honda CBR1000RR / Fireblade

09/24/2011 @ 1:42 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Breaking cover over a month ago, the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR is now officially official according to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer. Confirming the fears of some Fireblade enthusiasts, the new Honda CBR1000RR gets only some basic tweaks for 2012, namely revised suspension (including Big Piston Forks), new 12-spoke wheel design, and smoother fuel-injection mapping. This news puts to rest claims that the 2012 Honda Fireblade would be receiving ride-by-wire throttle control for the next model year, despite the fact that World Superbike has changed its rules to allow the Castrol Honda team to use the technology starting at Imola (which is already showing some positive results for the struggling squad).

LEAKED: 2012 Honda CBR1000RR

08/18/2011 @ 6:27 am, by Jensen Beeler63 COMMENTS

These images appear to be the first shots of the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR, and judging from our initial analysis, it looks like Honda is putting out only a cosmetically different version of the Fireblade for next year (*sigh*). Showing off the HRC tri-color paint scheme (that surely won’t be coming to the United States), the majority of the new Blade looks quite familiar. Obviously the wheels, headlights, and air intake ducts have clearly been worked over, and we see some big-piston forks on the front suspension, but otherwise the mechanical bits and and the rear of the motorcycle look like the current model (jump in the comments if you see something new).

Considering that the current-spec CBR1000RR has been around since 2008, we imagine CBR fans are going to be disappointed by this updated, though mechanically identical Fireblade (we can’t see inside the motor casings obviously). Though there have been rumors that the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR would receive a dual-clutch transmission (we suppose it technically still could, since these photos don’t exclude that option), or that the 2012 Fireblade would use a V4 motor inspired from the RC212V, it appears we’ll have to wait at least another year for the Japanese brand to truly re-work its opus of a superbike.

Maybe if we are really lucky, these shots from one of Honda’s international offices (that’s the only hint we’ll give other publications looking to copy this story) are of the Fireblade only going to that market (yes, we’re having a hard believing Honda hasn’t brought a new CBR to the table as well). Scrutineer all 29 photos of the new CBR1000RR, and a video of its dash startup screen after the jump. Thanks for the tip John, Tony, Djefri, and Asaph!

Did Castrol Honda Just Out the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR?

08/08/2011 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

UPDATE: The 2012 Honda CBR1000RR has been leaked ahead of schedule by Honda Honk Kong.

Castrol Honda boss, Ronald ten Kate, may have just outed Honda’s latest iteration of its street-going superbikes, as the Dutch manager was quoted on his aniticipation of the new model, and what it would mean for his relatively uncompetitive World Superbike team. First talking about the team’s status and position in the World Superbike Championship, ten Kate talked about the morale boost of having Jonathan Rea back from his injuries. Ten Kate also stated that his team has put the 2011 season behind them, and is instead focusing on the 2012 season.

Also helping boost morale is what Honda has in store for next season. Stating that the Ten Kate Honda squad was looking forward to the arrival of the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR, it would appear that ten Kate himself has let slip that Honda would be bringing out a a whole new machine for next year, and in conjunction with that statement, a new Honda CBR1000RR would also have to be in the pipe.