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.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

04/27/2016 @ 5:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

haptic-motorcycle-technology

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. I am talking here about haptic feedback.

What the Motorcycle Industry Can Learn from Video Games

03/28/2016 @ 2:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

excitebike

For many, video games might just seem like a good way to waste an hour. But you should take note, as video games are roughly a $100 billion industry worldwide.

With that much money on the line, the gaming industry has had to evolve much more rapidly than our two-wheeled world, with video game companies not only looking for the latest trends and technologies, but also needing to be keenly more aware of their consumers’ traits and desires.

Because of this, the video game industry has made some interesting progress on understanding its users, and catering to their wants and needs.

One of these frameworks has always struck me as being highly salient to the motorcycle industry (among others), and since I finally bought my first gaming console a few weeks ago, the idea has come back to me as something we should talk about here on Asphalt & Rubber.

BMW Brings Laser Headlight Technology to Motorcycles

01/05/2016 @ 1:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

BMW-Motorrad-Laser-Headlight-11

Today is “pass off old news as new news” day in the motorcycle industry. In addition to re-discovering that Dainese is working on a space suit design (circa 2014), another story from 2011 is getting some play: BMW’s laser headlight technology.

The rehashing of this story comes about as BMW Motorrad is at the Consumer Electronics Shows (CES) today, showing its laser headlight technology now on a motorcycle. Cue your Austin Powers jokes, now.

Laser-powered headlights are already available on BMW cars, with the 7 Series and i8 electric car featuring the technology. Thus, the logical progression was to add the frickin’ laser beams to BMW Motorrad’s flagship model, the BMW K1600GTL, which is showing at CES.

Is The Honda RC213V-S Really Your Dream Bike?

08/13/2015 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler92 COMMENTS

Honda-RC213V-S-up-close-Jensen-Beeler-15

Roughly four years ago, I wrote a story called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” that implored the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to build elements into their brand that went beyond the tangible and into the intangible — I was basically asking these brands to create what motorcyclists call soul.

From that story, I got a number of insightful emails from employees at these Japanese brands, who shared my frustration with the soulless machines their employers were creating. Despite those emails, when the Honda RC213V-S debuted, I was struck by how extensively that message had fallen on deaf ears.

The day of the RC213V-S’s launch, I asked my Facebook followers if the Japanese brand had “just pulled a Honda” on its release Honda RC213V-S – debuting a machine that ticked all the right objective boxes, but failed the most subjective of all tests: my lustful desire to own it.

Could Golf Balls Be the Answer to Helmet Noise?

06/25/2015 @ 4:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

golf-ball-mowed-green

Helmets are a rather stagnant segment of the motorcycle industry, with even the more “innovative” designs being evolutions to the basic principles of crash helmets, rather a revolutions.

Helmets like 6D and Bell’s Moto-9 Carbon Flex use two different variable techniques to lessen hard and soft impact types.

Companies like Skully and Reevu aim to add more visual features to helmets, while major brands like AGV, Arai, and Shoei are ever improving their designs for better customer fit, whether it be through additional helmet models, or rethinking how the helmet fits to the rider’s head.

All of these improvements are good for us motorcyclists, of course, yet they are all based on the same basic principles of a hard protective shell, lined with some sort of impact absorbing material.

In fact, the only truly revolutionary helmet design we have seen, comes from the bicycle sector, and involves advanced airbag technology. In 50 years, we’ll be wearing these helmets (or not wearing them, as the case may be). But until then, the basic design continues to evolve.

Skully Helmets Pushes Back Delivery to December 2015

05/21/2015 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

SKULLY-logo-vaporware

Helmet startup Skully Helmets, the San Francisco based company that is building a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display system, has quietly pushed back its delivery to customers to December 2015.

Initial hopes from the company were to have product in the hands of consumers by the end of 2014, with that date being solidified to May 2015 once the company started its Indiegogo-powered pre-order campaign.

Anyone in the industry could have told you that was pie-in-the-sky forecasting though, as finished models were not even available at the start of the campaign, let alone other factors like certification, production, and distribution.

Do You Have “Keyless” Ignition on Your Bike? Is It Safe?

05/05/2015 @ 10:18 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

faraday-ball

Technology on motorcycles is a double-edged sword, it bring us new features to amazing machines, like the Yamaha YZF-R1 and its slide control, but it can also, as seen by this tale.

Taking a cue from the car world, some motorcycle manufacturers have taken to supplying motorcycle owners with wireless key systems, where you only need to have the key on your person in order to start a motorcycle (note: I am not talking about the key systems where you press a button to start or unlock a vehicle).

The process to make this work is simple, as the key fob has an RFID implanted inside it, and when it comes into proximity of the motorcycle, a reader grabs the signal from the key, which has a special code that unlocks the bike and allows it start and be operated.

It’s a complex process that saves you five seconds in looking for your key. That’s called progress.

The problem of course is that thieves are becoming increasingly savvy to these changes in technology, and if OEMs aren’t careful, they can open-up consumers to a world of trouble.

In the case of wireless keys, a new work-around has been made that boosts the signal of the RFID reader, and thus makes it easier for a thief to hijack your ride.

Google Wants Broader Autonomous Vehicle Law – Are You Ready for Riderless Motorcycles?

08/14/2014 @ 11:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

terminator-3-salvation-motorcycle

No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.

Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.

“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”

In the Future, You’ll Wear Leathers That Are Grown in a Vat

06/27/2014 @ 8:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

tasty-cow

A lot of things will change in the future. Cars will drive themselves. Motorcyclists won’t wear helmets (as we know them), and your leather jacket will be grown in a vat…at least, that’s what a new company named Modern Meadow hopes. Having just received $10 million in Series A funding, the New York-based company hopes to change the way we interact with our beloved bovines.

Getting its roots from the bio-technology sector’s research into “bioprinting” organs in a petri dish, Modern Meadow is looking for consumer-level applications to this still young technology, which right now focus on creating grown-in-the-laboratory beef and leather.

Obviously the FDA has a few things to say about creating food products from bioprinting, so Modern Meadow’s first foray will be into creating real leather with stem cells.

When Did Apple’s Siri Turn into My Mother?

06/17/2014 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

apple-siri-motorcycle-question-response-crop

Not too long ago I had to replace the clutch on my track bike, as I had a track day rapidly approaching that weekend. Driving around to get the parts I needed, I turned to Siri on my iPhone for help in finding a nearby Yamaha dealer, as I knew that the clutch plates would need to be ordered that day (with only a couple hours left in the work day) and overnighted to me, if I was to get my R1 ready in time.

A couple verbal commands later (along with a couple chuckles over how Siri pronounces “Yamaha”), and something funny happened. Siri decided to give me a little life advice on my two-wheeled inclinations, with a “now, you be careful on that thing” comment.