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.

Flammini Talks about the Future of World Superbike

10/09/2012 @ 10:52 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

After the bombshell announcement that Bridgepoint was putting Dorna in charge of both the MotoGP and World Superbike series, the media were keen to get a reaction from either of the Flammini brothers, the two men who had helped to grow the series into the success it is today, and who currently run WSBK. After an initial deafening silence, Paolo Flammini finally made an appearance at Magny-Cours on Sunday morning, to explain his, and Infront’s, point of view. Our friends at the Italian website InfoMotoGP.com were present to record the press conference on video.

Flammini did not say much – indeed, he started his speech with the words “I don’t have much to add to what is written in the press release,” – but what he did say helped clarify the situation a little. Starting off with an understatement – “This step represents a very big moment in the history of World Superbikes”, Flammini told the assembled media – the Italian was at pains to make clear that World Superbikes would face few changes for 2013. “Many people are worried for the 2013 season, but nothing special will happen,” he said, emphasizing that his aim was to keep stability in the series.

Infront, Dorna, & Bridgepoint: Where The Coup Came From, And What Next For World Superbikes?

10/07/2012 @ 10:33 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

Sunday was a big day for World Superbikes at Magny-Cours. Not just because the 2012 title was settled in what was a fascinating showdown, helped in no small part by the weather, but perhaps most of all because on Sunday morning at 9am local time, Infront Motor Sports CEO spoke to the media for the first time since the announcement that Bridgepoint, the private equity firm which owns both Infront and MotoGP rights owners Dorna, has decided to bring both series under a single umbrella, and that umbrella is to be Dorna.

That news has sent a shockwave through the motorcycle racing world. The World Superbike paddock is hardest hit of all: the mood there is somber, with everyone from Infront staff to team mechanics fearing the outcome of what amounts to a coup by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. Optimists are few, especially as Ezpeleta is one of the most reviled characters among denizens of the WSBK paddock, because of what he represents: the perceived arrogance of the Grand Prix paddock, and a culture which is anathema to everything which World Superbikes stand for. MotoGP is truly the Beatles to WSBK’s Rolling Stones.

MotoGP And World Superbike To Be “Brought Together”

10/02/2012 @ 11:26 am, by David Emmett26 COMMENTS

Bridgepoint has announced today that it has brought MotoGP and World Superbike, the two motorcycle racing series it owns, under a single umbrella organization. The reorganization will see Dorna Sports become the parent organization for both series, though Infront will operate as an independent entity and continue to organize World Superbike under its own banner. Infront has also been named as “marketing advisor and global advisor” for both MotoGP and WSBK.

The implications of this announcement are huge, but not immediately clear. The logic behind the move is impeccable: the two series are spending too much of their time competing against each other instead of working together to promote the sport of motorcycle racing. By combining their marketing efforts, the hope is that both series will be made stronger.

Laguna Seca Returns to the World Superbike Calendar

09/21/2012 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Infront Motor Sports and the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have agreed to a three-year contract, which sees World Superike racing returning to the coastal California circuit. The American round for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 WSBK seasons, Laguna Seca replaces Miller Motorsports Park, with this announcement, as the sole-destination for the premier production motorcycle racing class.

Returning back to Laguna Seca after an eight-year hiatus, Infront cites that Seca’s vital location near the motorcycle industry, as well as its rising attendance as the main reasons for the switch from Miller. However, we think US fans will agree though that Miller provided an excellent venue for WSBK, and that the World Superbike Championship could benefit from having more than one American-based round, especially considering how many stops on its calendar are still in Europe.

WSBK: Effenbert Sponsorship on the Rocks Says Liberty Racing – Blames Teams & Riders, Not Infront

05/11/2012 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The hoopla surrounding the Effenbert Liberty Racing team and last weekend’s World Superbike race at Monza continues, though the Czech-based racing squad is present and accounted for at Donington Park this race-weekend. Traveling without its hospitality suite, the largest in the WSBK paddock, Liberty Racing is essentially sans its title sponsor this weekend, and the teams says Effenbert may withdraw its participation in World Superbike after the events at Monza, though the team is committed to completing the 2012 World Superbike Championship.

Saying that its ire in the press was improperly casted towards Infront Motorsport, the team in another statement has clarified that it blames a small number teams and riders, who helped shape the cancellation of Race 1 at Monza, and the shortened distance of Race 2. With Effenbert Liberty Racing rider Sylvain Guintoli on the pole position in Italy, the team is understandably upset about not being able to capitalize on the weekend, especially after securing two podiums at Assen, one of which was a race win. The broken English press release after the jump, while Liberty rider Jakub Smrz currently sits on WSBK’s provisional pole.

WSBK Heads to Indonesia for 2013 – India Next on the List

02/22/2012 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

It seems sometimes that the title “World Sueprbike” is a bit of a misnomer, as the premier production motorcycle racing championship is hardly a worldly affair at all. With fourteen races on the 2012 World Superbike Championship calendar, WSBK will leave Europe a grand total of two times: once for the season-opener at Phillip Island, and once for the American round at Miller Motorsports Park. Holding the other twelve races on the European continent, World Superbike is really stretching its legs this year by holding a race outside of Moscow, Russia.

Progress will apparently be made to rectify this situation though, as starting in 2013 World Superbike will head to Indonesia with a five year contract (races to be held 2013-2017). Set to either end the 2013 calendar with a race at the Sentul International Circuit, or lump the race at the beginning of the season with Phillip Island, the announcement ends s 15 year draught of WSBK racing in Indonesia. Infront and the FIM clearly must be recognizing that the Southeast Asian country is a hot bed for the motorcycle industry (Jakarta is A&R‘s single-largest city of readership).

In Mother Russia, World Superbikes Ride You! (in 2012)

05/21/2011 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

In the developing markets land grab that is occurring in motorcycle racing, it looks like World Superbike has beat out MotoGP, and is the first to strike in the Russian market, as Paolo Flammini, CEO of Infront Motor Sports (media rights holder for World Superbike) and Alexander Yakhnich, CEO of Yakhnich Motorsport announced that a partnership agreement between the two companies had been reached.

As a part of this contract, Yakhnich Motorsport will become the organizer of an FIM Superbike World Championship round in Russia, and unsurprisingly will have the TV rights to the event. Infront and Yakhnich hope to host a round in Russia by 2012, though further details of the event have not been outlined. Russia has several circuits that could host the World Superbike round, though none are FIM homologated.

World Superbike Looking for 2013-2015 Tire Supplier

03/31/2011 @ 10:36 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

There’s a growing rumor (if not fact) that Pirelli won’t be supplying the World Superbike Championship with tires after the 2012 season, and a piece of that puzzle has come forth today as Infront Motor Sports (IMS) has announced that it will be accepting bids from tire manufacturers to exclusively supply the World Superbike & World Supersport Championships, the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup, and the Superstock 600 European Championship for the 2013-2015 racing seasons.

WSBK Increases TV Viewers by 33% in 2010

01/14/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Victoria Reid8 COMMENTS

WSBK’s worldwide television audience grew by 33% from the 2009 to 2010 season. According to Infront, the “championship reached a cumulative audience of 498 million” for the 2010 season, meaning each WSBK race garnered around 40 million viewers. While still a considerably smaller number than MotoGP, which claims around 300 million viewers for each race, this is the sort of jump in audience that makes sponsorship dollars appear more easily. The official WSBK website had “a 30% increase of unique visitors compared to 2009,”with a total of four million individual visitors in 2010.

World Superbike Starts Its Own Rookie Series

12/08/2010 @ 11:42 am, by Victoria Reid5 COMMENTS

The FIM and Infront Motorsports announced Wednesday the launch of its own European Junior Cup, a support series racing alongside the World Superbike series, for fourteen to seventeen year old riders. According to a press release from the FIM, “riders will compete on identical race prepared Kawasaki Ninja 250R motorcycles,” racing in the time between the two WSBK races at Assen, Monza, Aragon, Silverstone, Nurburgring, and Mangy-Cours.

Riders selected to compete will also attend a training camp before the season begins in Guadix, Spain. Riders will be eligible if they “have held a competition license for at least one year in either road racing, motocross, enduro, supermoto, trials or minimoto.”