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.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

04/25/2016 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Honda-Grom-racing-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.

In fact, the Honda Grom has been so successful, now Kawasaki has its own version of the pocket-sized machine coming to the US, and we doubt that they are the last manufacturer to do so.

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 Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

04/18/2016 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

earthquake-seismograph

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).

Mugen Shinden Go Debuts in Japan with More Power

03/25/2016 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Mugen-Shinden-Go-01

The Mugen Shinden Go has officially dropped in Japan, showing us the Japanese outfit’s fifth evolution of the Isle of Man TT electric superbike.

As we reported earlier, the Shinden Go comes with obvious changes to the fairing design, though likely there are further enhancements underneath its skin.

To our eye, the Shinden Go looks to have smaller frontal cross-section than bikes of the past, and there are noticeable changes to the race bike’s carbon fiber chassis, which now looks to be of a monocoque design. The carbon fiber swingarm design has also been changed.

Additionally, Mugen says that the rear suspension is a “cross link rocker” design, which has been developed specifically for the Shinden Go.

Of course, the biggest change people will be talking about is the 10kW power increase, which brings the Mugen Shinden Go’s peak horsepower figure up to 161hp. Weight remains at 550 lbs, with peak torque down to 154 lbs•ft (from 162.24 lbs•ft).

Mugen Shinden Go Caught Testing in Japan

03/21/2016 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

2016-Mugen-Shinden-Go-Isle-of-Man-TT-electric-superbike-Tsukuba-Circuit

The Isle of Man TT is still two months away, but Team Mugen is looking ready to make it a three-peat in the TT Zero electric race. Mugen’s 2016 bike is called the Shinden Go, and while “go” might be Japanese for “five” the name is very appropriate for the electric superbike.

Many expect Mugen to break the 120 mph lap barrier at the Isle of Man TT, especially since John McGuinness came extremely close to the mark last year, with a 119.279 mph lap.

Caught testing in Japan this month, here are our first glimpses of the Mugen Shinden Go, with test rider Hikaru Miyagi on-board at the Tsukuba Circuit (above) and Sodegaura Forest Raceway (photos after the jump).

Honda EV-Cub Entering Mass Production in Two Years

02/24/2016 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

EV-Cub Concept

It is not with great surprise that we learn today that the Honda EV-Cub is coming to market within the next two years. The news comes from Honda President & CEO Takahiro Hachigo, who said as much during his press conference today in Japan.

The Honda EV-Cub is of course the electric version of Honda’s uber-popular Honda Super Cub motorcycle, which is the best selling motorcycle of all time (roughly 87 million units were sold in 2014 since its inception in 1958).

The Honda Super Cub looks also to be getting an overhaul, with a new concept design making the rounds last year at the major trade shows.

For the Honda EV-Cub though, the electric scooter is part of a larger problem in urban transportation, especially in Asian countries where the rapid rise in the local economies is seeing more and more people on the roadways.

Mugen Confirms “Shinden Go” for 2016 Isle of Man TT

01/29/2016 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Mugen-Shinden-Go-logo

Development for properly fast electric racing motorcycles has fallen onto the shoulders of one brand: Team Mugen, and the Japanese firm has confirmed that it will continue to push boundaries at the Isle of Man TT this year.

Confirming this week that it would race the 2016 Isle of Man TT, in the SES TT Zero electric race, Mugen also announced the return of its two-rider team of John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

In addition to that news, Mugen formerly divulged the fifth edition of its electric superbike, called the Shinden Go  – in case you haven’t caught onto Mugen’s naming scheme, “go” is “five” in Japanese.

See How the Honda RC213V-S Is Painstakingly Built

01/12/2016 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2015-Honda-RC213V-S-prototype-02

Whatever your thoughts are on the Honda RC213V-S, you have to appreciate the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into the $184,000 MotoGP bike with lights.

With just over 200 units being made, Honda had little incentive to design the RC213V-S for mass production, opting instead to make each unit by hand, with a small team of highly skilled builders.

There is something about that process that gets lost in description, so we are fortunate that Honda Hong Kong released a video (after the jump) that shows the Honda RC213V-S build team hard at work.

A couple mech-geek things of note: at 1:32, the jig used to bring the chassis pieces together for welding; at 1:50, the one-off shaping of the sheet metal for the headstock; at 2:12, how virtually ever metal piece is hand-welded. There is plenty here to geek-out over, enjoy!

Alex De Angelis Stable & Cleared To Fly Home

10/19/2015 @ 10:33 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

alex-de-angelis-boxer

More good news on Alex De Angelis’ condition. On Saturday, the Ioda Racing team issued a press release announcing that De Angelis had been cleared to fly home by the doctors at the Dokkyo University Hospital.

After eight days in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, doctors are no longer listing him as being in critical condition. With De Angelis no longer critical, he will be able to fly home to San Marino, where he will receive further treatment in the State Hospital in the tiny mountain microstate.

MotoGP: Further Updates on Alex De Angelis’ Condition

10/15/2015 @ 11:38 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

alex-de-angelis-recovery

The Ioda Racing team have posted another update on Alex De Angelis’ condition after his horrific crash at Motegi. Overall, it is good news, though there is still plenty of reason for caution.

De Angelis’ condition is stable, though he still faces several threats to his health. The good news is that the intercranial hematoma has not grown, meaning it will probably be naturally absorbed by the body in the coming days. Doctors continue to monitor that situation.

De Angelis remains immobilized due to the spinal injuries he suffered. The fractured vertebrae mean he is being forced to lie still while they start to heal.

Sunday Summary at Motegi, Part 2: On Tire Wear, Moto2 And Moto3, & The Dangers of Racing

10/14/2015 @ 11:39 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

marc-marquez-motegi-repsol-honda-hrc

With the title chase so incredibly tight, it is inevitable that every MotoGP race from now until Valencia will result in journalists and writers – and I include myself in that group – spend most of their time writing about the clash between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

The outcome of that confrontation matters, as it will decide the 2015 MotoGP championship.

This is tough on the rest of the MotoGP field and the riders in other classes. They, too, are riding their hearts out, aiming for – and in Moto2 and Moto3 attaining – glory, yet they are ignored as the rest of the world gazes in wonder at a few names at the front of MotoGP.

They do not deserve such treatment, but life in general, and motorcycle racing in particular are neither fair nor just.

There were plenty of tales to tell at Motegi, however. The biggest, perhaps, is the tale of tires. To some extent, this has already been covered in already, as tire wear ended up determining the outcome of the race.