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.

James Hillier Talks About Taking a Lap Around the Isle of Man TT Course Aboard the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

08/21/2015 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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What is it like to ride a supercharged 300hp hyperbike around the Isle of Man TT? Somewhat terrifying, and that’s coming from a guy who does it for a living: James Hillier.

As you might know, Hillier rode a Kawasaki Ninja H2R around the Isle of Man TT road course as part of an exhibition lap during this last TT fortnight, much to the delight of fans lining the Manx hedgerows.

Now we can relive that experience, since Kawasaki put together a short video on James’ impressions riding the supercharged carbon fiber beast, complete with on-board footage. Enjoy!

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/12/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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If there is one event everyone gets excited about at the Isle of Man TT, it’s the Senior TT. Often called “the blue-ribbon event” at the Isle of Man, the Senior TT is not a race for the elderly, like the name suggests, but instead it features the biggest, meanest, machines on the road course.

Most of the PokerStars Senior TT grid is filled with bikes from the Superbike TT, as the classes have a great deal of overlap, but the Senior TT usually has one or two special machines, who fall outside of the Superbike rules — the Norton SG4 is one of those machines.

All the TT riders want to win the Senior TT, and it fittingly is the final race of the Isle of Man TT, which only adds to excitement.

With Friday being drama-filled at the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT was no different.

IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Race Results

06/12/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Race Results

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The final day of racing at the Isle of Man TT is usually set by two extremes: the “beginner class” Lightweight TT and the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.

The rules for the Bennetts Lightweight TT are pretty simple, bikes with two-cylinders, no bigger than 650cc, and the riders must perform at least one pit stop during the three-lap race.

This means that pit stop strategy is king for the Lightweight riders, and the shuffling of positions adds a bit of drama to the usually tight racing already found on the course.

The man to beat in the Lightweight TT class is Ryan Farquhar, one of the top privateer riders at the TT (if not, the top privateer). Farquhar is responsible for tuning and building many of the top Kawasaki race bikes on the Lightweight TT grid as well, though other brands and builders have started to find competitiveness in the class.

Not to spoil the results for the Senior TT, but Friday would see records drop at the Isle of Man, and we start that trend off first in the Bennetts Lightweight TT.

Hillier Sets 206 MPH Sulby Record on a Kawasaki H2R

06/11/2015 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Sulby Straight is the fastest part of the Isle of Man TT course, and when the conditions are right, it’s not uncommon for the big Superbike and Senior TT bikes to break the 200 mph mark on the nearly mile-long stretch.

It is, however, a bit uncommon for riders to reach the 200 mph mark during the TT’s parade laps, but don’t tell that to James Hillier. “Parading” the supercharged Kawasaki H2R around the Mountain Course, Hillier set an outright top speed record down the Sulby Straight, with an official speed of 206 mph.

IOMTT: RL360 Superstock TT Race Results

06/09/2015 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Superstock TT is an interesting part of the Isle of Man TT. As the name implies, it features liter-class machines, but in a near-stock level of trim. That being said, the speeds attained by the Superstock machines touches near to the highly tuned Superbike machines, with 130+ mph laps being a reality.

The Superstock machines only compete once in the TT fortnight though, whereas there are two Supersport races, and the Superbikes basically get two goes of things, with the Superbike and Senior TT having a staggering overlap in machinery.

With all the weather, the sole chance to run the RL360 Superstock TT was pushed to Tuesday, and was the only race to run today. But, it certainly did its part in providing TT fans with some entertainment.

IOMTT: RST Superbike TT Race Results

06/07/2015 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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After a multitude of delays and interruptions by the weather, Sunday finally played host to the first race day of the Isle of Man TT.

As is the custom, the RST Superbike TT, or Junior TT as some call it, started things off — who doesn’t like seeing the fastest bikes on the Mountain Course right at the start of things, right?

Ahead of any TT, there is a ton of speculation. John McGuinness said the lack of practice played to his advantage, with the Honda CBR1000RR being a proven package here at the Isle of Man. Bruce Anstey was the first rider to do a 130 mph lap in practice, thus being the quickest to pace.

Michael Dunlop made a surprise switch from his Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1, back to the BMW S1000RR he rode to great success last year — will that move prove to be prudent? And then of course, there’s Guy Martin, who has said before the fortnight that this is his last TT ever.

After a three-minute delay on the starting grid, the riders were finally off for the first race of the 2015 Isle of Man TT. Continue reading for a full race report.

Video: Kawasaki at the Isle of Man TT

07/24/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Kawasaki had a good outing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, scoring a win in the Sidecar class (Dave Molyneux), a podium in the Superstock class (Dean Harrison), and a clean sweep of the Lightweight TT (Dean Harrison, James Hillier, and James Cowton).

Team Green’s results may not displace the dominance by Honda at the Isle of Man, though Big Red’s TT reign is certainly under fire, as BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are all looking for a piece of the Manx pie.

Recapping its fortnight at the Isle of Man TT, Kawasaki has put together a nice video about its riders. We have roughly a year to wait until the next TT, so we will have to rely on videos like these to manage our appetite until then.

IOMTT: Bikenation Lightweight TT Race Results

06/06/2014 @ 4:05 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Friday’s Isle of Man TT racing started off with the Bike Nation Lightweight TT, where the field is comprised of two-cylinder four-stroke machines that cannot have more than 650cc in engine capacity — as such, the field is dominated by Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport bikes.

A race fit for grooming the future talent of the Isle of Man TT, the Lightweight TT sees the big name stars in its ranks as well, though the field is comprised mostly of greener riders. One man noticeably absent from the Lightweight TT grid was Michael Dunlop, who decided to sit out the race and focus on the day’s later race, the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.

Michael Dunlop Enters Lightweight TT Race – Looking for Six Race Wins at 2014 Isle of Man TT

04/05/2014 @ 5:11 pm, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

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After an impressive four victories at the 2013 Isle of Man TT, Michael Dunlop has announced his entry into the Lightweight TT race for 2014, and thus a bid to win six solo races in 2014.

Although Dunlop has admittedly not been concerned with the Lightweight TT in the past, when you’re on a mission to take six podiums in one week, you take wins wherever you can get them.

Having already tied Phillip McCallen’s 1996 mark of four wins, Dunlop is seeking to dethrone Ian Hutchinson from his five-win campaign of 2010.

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/07/2013 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The blue ribbon event of the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT is typically the most-welcomed race at the end of the TT fortnight, but after seeing the 2012 race cancelled (for the first time ever outside of World War I & II), on the account of rain, the 2013 PokerStars Senior TT has an amazing amount of build-up.

As if the running of the fastest machines on the Mountain Course wasn’t enough, there was the prospect that Michael Dunlop could sweep the five main solo-classes, a feat only ever done once before, by Ian Hutchinson.

As the flag dropped, and we held our breaths to see if John McGuinness would get his first race win this TT fortnight, if Micky D could make the clean sweep, or if another competitor would rise to the challenge (Guy Martin, anyone?), tragedy struck: a red flag on the first lap.

Jonathan Howarth went off at Bray Hill, and though he was hurt, but ok, the accident injured 10 spectators, one critically. Having already waited two years to see the return of the Senior TT, fans at the Isle of Man would have to wait a little longer it would seem.

In a statement by the ACU that was published right after the incident, “ten spectators and the rider were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from slight to serious but not life threatening. Four of the spectators have been discharged, five of the injured have been kept in hospital and one remains under observation in the emergency department.”

A racing event fraught with tragedy and real-world danger, we all breathed a sigh of relief a dodging another tragic outcome at this year’s TT. Moving onward thanfully, the 2013 Senior TT resumed three hours later, click past the jump for its race results.