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.

Politics & Corruption: Why There Isn’t a Race in Indonesia

02/13/2015 @ 6:47 pm, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

money-trap

If anyone needed any further proof that Indonesia is important to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the fact the Repsol Honda team chose Bali as the location to launch their 2015 MotoGP project should remove any doubt.

In front of a crowd consisting of Indonesian media, regional sales teams, Honda dealers, and just a single journalist from the European media (and a very smart one at that), Repsol Honda unveiled their 2015 livery, and Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa met fans and engaged in a couple of photo-ops.

A few days later, in Malaysia, Yamaha presented their 2015 racing program in front of a mass meeting of their Southeast Asian network, dealers, and business partners flown in from Indonesia and neighboring countries.

The Movistar Yamaha team had already been launched in Madrid – the Movistar TV millions ensured the location of that launch – but Yamaha took the time to introduce the three teams racing Yamahas in MotoGP, as well as present their activities in Asia.

Frankly, the presence of the Movistar Yamaha, Tech 3 and Forward Yamaha teams were more of a crowd pleaser than actually imparting any new information.

But if Indonesia is so important to the manufacturers, and to MotoGP, why is there not a race there? Over the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, I had a few conversations with people on the subject.

On the record, the story was always the same: we need a suitable track, and as soon as one exists we will be happy to go there. Off the record, however, they were much less optimistic.

KTM Sold 158,760 Motorcycles in 2014, A Record

01/23/2015 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

KTM-Freeride-E-electric-dirtbike-E-SX-E-XC-36

2014 is another banner year for KTM, as the Austrian brand set another all-time sales record, selling 158,760 to customers last year. That figure solidifies KTM’s position as the largest European brand, beating out BMW yet again, though Team Orange got a lot of help from its Indian operations with minority partner Bajaj.

This sales figure includes sales from Husqvarna, so a little cheating is going on, but Husky’s contribution to KTM’s 28.2% sales growth is marginal at best. With that boost in sales, KTM is also reporting a 20.7% increase in revenue (€864.6 million), taking home €75 million (EBIT).

Pierre Terblanche Leaves Confederate for Royal Enfield

11/14/2014 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

pierre_terblanche

It’s been 18 months since we reported Pierre Terblanche moving from Norton to Confederate Motorcycles, and now the South African is on the move again. Terblanche’s travels take him this time to India, where he has landed a position at Royal Enfield.

The Indian company is in the middle of a growth spurt, having recently acquired 50 acres of land to host their factory expansion. It’s not clear what sort of projects Terblanche will be working on while at Royal Enfield, but we can get an idea from the designer’s latest work, the Confederate X132 Hellcat Speedster.

Mahindra Building a Plant in Michigan for Electric Scooters

05/22/2014 @ 5:07 pm, by Aakash Desai5 COMMENTS

Mahindra-GenZe-electric-scooter-04

Two wheeler division of Indian heavy industry conglomerate, Mahindra, plans on building $3000, 30-mph electric scooters for the North American market right in good ‘ol Michigan.

The scooter, called GenZe, will feature a luggage compartment, under-seat phone and laptop chargers, an LCD display that is essentially a smartphone instrument panel, and a potentially innovative seat that supports you in a sitting and standing position.

The GenZe website is actually pretty attractive, and Mahindra’s PR firm/team goes through great lengths to tell us why the GenZe is the solution for the ills of failing urban transportation infrastructure. Noticeably absent are any real specifications about the thing—like range, power, weight, etc.

Small-Displacement BMW Motorcycles Debuting in 2015

05/08/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

tvs-draken-concept

I had to check the date on when we last talked about BMW and TVS partnering up to build small-displacement motorcycles together, and it looks like it was almost exactly a year ago. In that timeframe, the two companies have been quietly working, but rumors have started to heat-up as to when we could see a sub-500cc BMW motorcycle.

A cynic’s response might be that BMW doesn’t want to be perceived as late to the small-displacement party, especially since its sub-500cc machines won’t be ready until Q3/Q4 of 2015.

With Honda, Kawasaki, and KTM already debuting their 250cc & 300cc  models, and Yamaha & Triumph set to debut 250cc machines shortly, it seems the only manufacturer without a small-displacement offering either available or in the works is Ducati.

KTM Posts 26.8% Sales Increase for Q1 2014

04/17/2014 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

2014-KTM-450-Rally-production-racer-04

KTM continues to have successful quarterly sales reports, as the Austrian company has announced that its Q1 2014 sales are up 26.8% over last year’s figures. Moving a total of 32,994 KTM-branded vehicles worldwide, the Austrian brand was assisted in that figure by Bajaj, which sold 2,748 KTM 200 Duke & KTM 390 Duke motorcycles in India.

For that bump in sales, KTM reports that quarterly revenue was up 20% over Q1 2013, for a total of €196.9 million. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) came to a total of €14.6 million, up a whopping 254% over last year.

Honda CX-01 Concept Revealed in India

02/07/2014 @ 3:29 pm, by Aakash Desai101 COMMENTS

Honda-CX-01-Concept

They say that in the future, most of the human race will be brown-skinned as racial-mixing will have run its course. That is, assuming climate change doesn’t induce a worldwide weather catastrophe or Russia doesn’t decide to sell some of its nuclear weapons cache to Christian extremists.

Similarly so, as time moves on, motorcycle manufacturers are picking their new conceptual product ideas out of the metaphorical melting pot. Dual-sports and crossovers like the Honda NC700X point to a design paradigm that favors a jack-of-all trades mentality towards practicality over specialization.

The Honda CX-01, a conceptual prototype revealed at 2014 Indian Auto Expo, represents Honda’s vision for a youth-targeted crossover motorcycle.

Triumph Expands Its Lineup in India – Hopes to Sell 1,000 “Super-Premium” Motorcycles in 2014

02/07/2014 @ 11:37 am, by Aakash Desai1 COMMENT

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As the West gradually loses its grip on world economic and political power, it’s only natural that global industries refocus their efforts to market and develop products for the new guards of the economic order.

As this decade nears middle age, we are seeing more and more motorcycle companies seeking a foothold in South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian markets.

The reasons are simple: larger, more populous markets with higher percentages of prospective riders that are rapidly gaining economic and social standing means more people to sell to.

Thus as two-wheelers become more of a commodity of choice as well as commodity of necessity, it opens up opportunities for heretofore unattainable brands to begin marketing to newly affluent demographics.

KTM Considering 500cc & 800cc Motorcycles in India?

02/05/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Aakash Desai11 COMMENTS

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Capital goes where capital flows, and it seems that India is turning out to be both a huge market expansion and production opportunity for many manufacturers.

As such Stefan Pierer, KTM’s President and CEO, says the Austrian company is considering manufacturing a 500cc and 800c parallel twin motorcycle on the subcontinent sometime in the next three years.

Terra Motors & Zero Motorcycles – A Cautionary Tale

01/31/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

terra-motors-kiwami

It must be hard to be a legitimate motorcycle manufacturer, because the market seems to be flooded with ripoff artists in every corner. Every year at the EICMA show, we see the Italy’s Guardia di Finanza haul out scooters and motorcycles that the trade regulator deems are too close to those of Italian brands.

Now granted, we suspect there is more to that story than meets the eye (if you were an Italian OEM, wouldn’t you want to keep out the budget-priced scooters from your market?), and some of these confiscated designs truly don’t seem infringing to my eye, but I digress.

With the case of the Terra Motors Kiwami though, what it seems we have here is that the Japanese brand has repurposed a Zero S electric street bike from California’s Zero Motorcycles for its own purposes.

We had a couple people in the industry email us about this gem of a story, wondering if Zero had licensed its design, or even sold an excess of inventory. to the Japanese company,  which plans on selling the Kiwami in the Indian market. However, before we could do some digging though, our good colleague Domenick Yoney at AutoBlog Green got the scoop on what is up.