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.

How To Watch The Superprestigio Race Tomorrow

12/12/2014 @ 10:51 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Saturday night is the last chance to see the stars of motorcycle racing turning a wheel in anger.

On 13th December, the cream of both the MotoGP and AMA flat track paddocks meet for the second running of the Superprestigio, an indoor invitation dirt track race, at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona.

The setting is a classic location: the Palau Sant Jordi is part of the former Olympic park, set atop Montjuic, scene of many legendary motorcycle races of the past.

For those who could not make it to Barcelona themselves, they need not despair. The event is to be broadcast in several countries around the globe, as well as streamed live online.

Is This How Much the Kawasaki Ninja H2R Will Cost? Nope.

10/14/2014 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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It has certainly been interesting to see the buzz around the Kawasaki Ninja H2 these past few weeks, especially as everyone tries to cash in on the supercharged hype-machine that Kawasaki has been running.

First we saw Motorcycle.com just create a story out of thin air, to help its owner VerticalScope promote a new web property. That was…uhh…the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen while in this industry, not to mention just sloppy journalism. Now lately we have seen a supposed dealer invoice for the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R, with a price tag just north of $60,000.

Many publications have latched onto that price point — which isn’t the craziest conclusion to come to, considering that the H2R is Kawasaki’s halo-bike project, and will likely cost a pretty penny — though with just a quick glance, we can see that the alleged paperwork has clearly been a work of Photoshop, and not inside information.

That Was Not the 2015 BMW S1000RR & Here’s Why

08/28/2014 @ 5:52 pm, by Iwan van der Valk11 COMMENTS

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A couple days ago we ran a story that purported to show the front section of the 2015 BMW S1000RR in a CAD rendering. We already know from spy photos that the S1000RR is getting an update, and we are curious to see if BMW will introduce a symmertrical headlight, like it seems to be doing with the S1000XR sport-tourer.

The story was bogus, and as many of our readers pointed out in the comments, the photo in question was a rendering of the original S1000RR, circa 2009. I asked our good friend Iwan at Oliepeil, who has written several times here at A&R already, to elaborate on why this bogus story was run because it’s an important topic when it comes to digital publishing.

I don’t pretend to boast that Asphalt & Rubber is immune from the follies of online journalism, though we might be the most transparent. Any reader online, reading any subject matter, should consider their sources and apply critical thinking to what they read. If you’re ever looking for ours, they’re at the bottom of ever story, usually with a link. – Jensen

Maybe you’re asking yourself how all those websites and magazines are able to bring motorcycle news to you every day. Let us explain how that works, with an example.

Our amazingly handsome and hyper-intelligent Dutch friends at Oliepeil.nl, the best motorcycle website in the world, have quite a reputation of serving up scoops, for which they often upset the worldwide motorcycle industry complex, every now and then. We are also known for our pratical jokes.

So the site I run, Oliepeil, put up a photo of the 2011 BMW S1000RR on our website, with a hint and a link to a spyshot of the rumoured 2015-version of that bike here on Asphalt & Rubber. We didn’t use a real photo, but a rendering that we “borrowed” from a website that sells 3D CAD models. What happened afterwards shows how news is being made in 2014.

How to Watch the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race

07/25/2014 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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UPDATE: Sorry folks, look like race day coverage is live-timing only.

I was trying to think this week how to frame how important the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race is for Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. It’s certainly more prestigious than any single MotoGP or WSBK round, and I would hazard that it is as big of a deal to the Japanese as the Isle of Man TT is to the Manx.

A race known for seeing factory teams staked with the top riders from around the world, this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours sees some of Japan’s finest joined by the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Jonathan Rea, Randy de Puniet, Josh Brookes, and Josh Waters. It can be hard to follow the race in Japan though, but we’ve got you covered for this year’s event.

The Suzuka Circuit puts up a live stream of the racing sessions on Ustream, and the link is right here. There is also an official Twitter feed in English which you should follow. We have embedded the Ustream into this post as well…because the internet is awesome.

Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

The 5 Most Dangerous Motorcycles in America?

07/17/2014 @ 8:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler59 COMMENTS

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Contrary to what the AMA or motorcycling gentry may believe, not all motorcycles are created equal. Due to a combination of marketing, riding styles, and environment, the following five types of motorcycles are the country’s most dangerous.

While the NHTSA doesn’t track motorcycle accidents and crashes based on the type of motorcycle being ridden (among other things), the cultural factors that surround motorcycle injuries and fatalities paint a stark picture, which we’ve shared with you here.

No TV or Live Stream for AMA Pro Racing at Laguna Seca

07/09/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Near the start of the 2013 AMA Pro Road Racing season, DMG had yet to announce a TV package for America’s premier motorcycle road racing series.

The issue was of great concern to riders and teams, who had made sponsorship commitments, with TV exposure being an integral piece of consideration involved in those contracts. Luckily at the last-minute, a TV package was announced, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Fast-forward to the 2013 Laguna Seca round, and it became apparent that not all of the AMA Pro Road Racing events would be on TV, namely the AMA’s stop at Laguna Seca, which was being held with the now Dorna-control Superbike World Championship. Again the news was a shock, and sent the AMA Pro Racing paddock into a fervor.

Thanfully again a remedy was found at the last minute — albeit, an imperfect one — with a free online live stream being offered to two-wheel racing fans.

Moving into the 2014 season, once again it was revealed that AMA Pro Road Racing would see a downgrade in its exposure levels, as no TV contract would be produced for the season. Instead, the 2014 races would be broadcast solely on the FansChoice.tv website for free.

Laguna Seca has once again proved to be the stickler though, as DMG announced this week that the only AMA round west of The Rockies would not even be shown on the company’s streaming website. The reactions are predictable.

“Racing Motorcycle” Emoji Finally Coming to a Smartphone Near You – A Headline We Never Thought We’d Write

06/17/2014 @ 1:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Continuing today’s theme on fairly useless cellphone knowledge for motorcyclists, the good people at The Unicode Consortium (the people who run the industry standard on computer text and symbols) have released a new batch of emojis.

We understand if you may not know what an emoji is, but you’ve likely encountered one if you text message or use social media like Facebook or Twitter — think of it as a sophisticated smilie that is built into your operating system’s language code (a smilie being a group of punctuation that is meant to look like a picture, which is meant to convey emotion).

Popularized by teenagers, emjois saw explosive use after text and instant messaging applications gave access to them. Surprisingly though, there has been no motorcycle emoji for motorcyclists to use…until now.

When Did Apple’s Siri Turn into My Mother?

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

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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.

The Easiest Way to Follow the Isle of Man TT on Twitter

06/03/2014 @ 1:19 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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It’s better late than never, so we thought we would share one of the ways we are keeping up with all that’s going on with the 2014 Isle of Man TT, and that’s our custom Isle of Man TT Twitter list.

To save you the trouble of hunting down all the teams and riders on the interwebs though, we’ve made a public list of the Isle of Man TT personalities that you should follow to keep up-to-date on the TT’s happenings.

Riders, teams, photographers, and local Manx news — all in one stream. Click that link, and hit “Subscribe” on the left-hand side…it’s that easy. Enjoy!