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.

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 19 – WSBK at Phillip Island

03/10/2016 @ 11:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The first race of the 2016 World Superbike season is in the bag, and the second round of racing is coming to us from Thailand later this week. This gives the Paddock Pass Podcast crew plenty to talk about from the World Superbike paddock.

Episode 19 has the extra treat of an interview with Ronald Ten Kate, the man behind Ten Kate Racing, which is running Honda’s factory WSBK effort.

He and David talk about the team’s progress in the off-season, how things are shaping up in the garage with Nicky Hayden and Michael van der Mark, and what is ahead on the road.

If you are a World Superbike fan, you won’t want to miss this excellent show from the Paddock Pass Podcast boys. David event gets the intro right…almost.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

The Big Fat MotoGP Silly Season Primer, Part 1

03/08/2016 @ 12:47 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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The 2016 MotoGP season hasn’t even got underway yet, and there is already so much to talk about. New bikes, new tires, new electronics: viewed from this point in the season, the championship is both wide open and highly unpredictable.

Testing has given us a guide, but it was clear from the three preseason tests that much will change throughout 2016, with the balance of power changing from track to track, and as Michelin bring different tires to different circuits.

All of this will also play in to what is likely to become the biggest talking point of the 2016. At the end of this year, the contracts of all but two of the 21 MotoGP riders are up, with only the riders Jack Miller and Maverick Viñales having deals which extend through 2017.

Even Viñales and Miller are not certain to stay where they are, with Viñales having an option to leave, and Miller so far failing to impress HRC. With KTM coming in to MotoGP in 2017, there could be up to 22 seats available.

That has and will generate a veritable tsunami of speculation and rumor surrounding who will be riding where in 2017. There are so many unknowns that anything is possible, from a total overhaul and general shuffling to just minor tweaking, with most of the protagonists staying where they are.

The most likely scenario, of course, lies somewhere in the middle, with a few big names moving around, and plenty of shuffling among the satellite squads.

Opinion: More Knee-Jerk Rule Changes Come to MotoGP in Response to the Sepang Clash

03/03/2016 @ 5:49 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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Farewell, MotoGP penalty point system, we barely knew you. In a press release issued today (and rather bizarrely, leaked to a Spanish journalist two days ago) the FIM announced that the Grand Prix Commission had decided to modify the penalty point system.

From now on, the only penalty to be imposed will happen once a rider accrues a total of ten points, at which point they will be disqualified for one race. The penalties for four (starting from the back of the grid) and seven points (starting from pit lane) have been dropped.

At a stroke, the penalty point system has been emasculated.

Phillip Island WSBK Notes: World Superbike Turns a Corner

02/28/2016 @ 9:39 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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We are racing at last. The first round of World Superbikes at Phillip Island means we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The long, dark winter is over, and motorcycles are circulating in earnest once again.

What to make of the first weekend of World Superbikes in the new format? Those who worried that spreading the racing over two days would hurt attendance and ruin the series have not seen their fears realized. Attendance at Phillip Island was around 75% of the MotoGP attendance there, really strong figures for the track.

Some caveats apply, of course: firstly, the Phillip Island MotoGP round is one of the most poorly attended on the calendar, though last year numbers improved.

Secondly, the combination of Australian Superbikes with World Superbikes meant there was a full program of racing, and plenty for fans to see.

The real test of the new format will come at tracks like Donington and Jerez, where attendance has been dismal. If they can get more people through the gate there, the Saturday-Sunday format will be more of a success.

WSBK: Race Results from Phillip Island – Race 2

02/28/2016 @ 8:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

KTM Claims Honda Exceeded Moto3 Rev Limit

02/24/2016 @ 4:01 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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Were Honda exceeding the Moto3 rev limit in 2015? This is the accusation made by KTM Sports Director Pit Beirer in a story on the German-language website Speedweek.

Beirer alleges that KTM came across the issue when talking to riders who switched from Honda to KTM this year, who were complaining of how abruptly the KTM hit the rev limiter.

Beirer further claims that KTM were able to look at the data of the Honda Moto3 machine held by a former Honda mechanic. In that data, he alleges, the Honda ran flat out to the 13,500 RPM rev limit, then gradually tailed off to 13,600 RPM.

These claims, if they are true, would be a massive breach of the Moto3 regulations. Though Beirer does not mention Danny Kent by name, the insinuation was that this may have been a factor in a Moto3 title that ended up being decided by just six points.

We spoke to Peter Bom, crew chief to Danny Kent both this year and last, during his successful Moto3 championship campaign, and a key factor in the Englishman’s title. Bom denied the allegations, and explained that the claims can only be based on Beirer misinterpreting the facts.

The difference between the Honda and KTM Moto3 rev limiter strategies was marked, Honda having invested a large amount of time and money in optimizing both gear change and rev limiter strategies, making the bike as smooth as possible and as easy to ride.

Phillip Island WSBK Test Tuesday Summary: Rea Answers

02/23/2016 @ 1:59 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Jonathan Rea leads the field after an incident-packed second day of testing for the World Superbike class at Phillip Island. Warmer weather and intense testing saw several riders take some serious tumbles, with a couple of riders suffering significant injury.

Fabio Menghi fell and fractured a hip in the morning, while Josh Hook crashed in the afternoon and dislocated his shoulder, and fracturing his greater tubercle (top of the bone in the upper arm). The crashes and subsequent clean-up meant that much of the afternoon session was lost, as marshals tried to clear the track.

The second day of testing did throw up the intriguing prospect of a nicely mixed field. Rea topped the morning session on the Kawasaki, while Sylvain Guintoli was quickest in the afternoon, on the Pata Yamaha. The top four overall times were set on four different bikes, less than a quarter of a second separating them.

Phillip Island WSBK Test Monday Summary: Sykes Leads

02/22/2016 @ 1:46 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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With the World Superbike season almost upon us, the WSBK grid is at Phillip Island for two days of testing, ahead of the first event of the year which starts this weekend.

Rain disrupted practice for WSBK, just as it had for MotoGP last week, though the consequences were less severe. The rain and track conditions saw a few people fall – some, such as Karel Abraham, quite hard – but everyone will be fit to start testing again tomorrow.

With the start of the season so close, most of the work being done was on set up for the weekend, and it was once again the Kawasakis who came out on top, especially during the afternoon session.

Tom Sykes ended up on top of the timesheets, much to the delight of the Kawasaki man, who has historically not fared well at the circuit.

Phillip Island MotoGP Test Wednesday Summary: A Sodden Southern Summer

02/17/2016 @ 8:23 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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“Go to Phillip Island to test,” they said. “It will be summer, conditions will be perfect.” What they didn’t say was that this was summer in Phillip Island, a season which can include all four of the other seasons of the year.

Sure, it was warmer than in October, but rain kept blowing in off the Bass Strait, drenching the track, then the winds drying the track out, before another shower drenched the track.

“Honestly, it was a waste of a day for everyone,” was Cal Crutchlow’s assessment of the day. “The last two corners were dry at the end but the first four corners were soaking wet and the rest were somewhere in between.”

Dani Pedrosa was in broad agreement. “I think it’s quite rare to have full wet conditions in this track, because it dries up so quick. We had most of the day, half the track dry, half the track wet, and spraying all the time, and drying again all the time.”

Going by the number of laps posted by each rider – between twenty and thirty, where eighty or ninety might be more normal – the first day of the second MotoGP test at Phillip Island could indeed be regarded as wasted.

Phillip Island MotoGP Test Preview – What Is There To Learn Down Under?

02/16/2016 @ 3:56 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Phillip Island is arguably the greatest race track for motorcycles in the world. It is a circuit where every racer wants to race, where every trackday rider wants to cut some laps, where every race fan wants to visit. There are a million reasons to visit Phillip Island, all of them good.

Testing in preparation for a MotoGP season is not one of them, however. Phillip Island has a long history of riders winning based on bravery and ability, rather than equipment.

In October, Maverick Viñales finished in sixth on the massively underpowered Suzuki GSX-RR, just a second behind Dani Pedrosa, who had won a week previously at Motegi and would win a week later at Sepang.

Between the two of them, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi have won twelve of the last fourteen races on a variety of Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis.

Testing at Phillip Island does not teach you as much about the motorcycle underneath the rider as it does about the rider on top of the motorcycle, and the testicular fortitude they are able to display at the circuit.

Viñales described testing at the track as being about checking to see if he had “the cojones” around the circuit. With a new, more powerful GSX-RR at his disposal, there was one useful aspect of testing at the Island: “I need to use more cojones if I have more power,” he quipped.