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.

Are You Ready for the Isle of Man TT?

02/13/2014 @ 11:52 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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We have a little over three months before the 2014 Isle of Man TT, but as you may have noticed on Asphalt & Rubber, the news is just heating up about this iconic road race.

Any TT is worth remembering, as each race is a very special event for those who witness them. That being said though, 2014 is shaping up to be an important year as the TT goes through a series of transitions.

With only six more TT race wins until he ties Joey Dunlop’s record, John McGuinness is the man to beat on race day, and Mr. McPint is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

McGuinness does have some staunch competition though, namely Michael Dunlop. The nephew to Joey, Michael won four races in the 2013 gathering, and for 2014 Isle of Man TT, the duo are already being pitted against each other.

Hondas rule the roost at the Isle of Man, but BMW’s racing platform with the S1000RR has steadily improved. With Dunlop being backed by BMW Motorrad this year, he will have some stout machinery at his disposal as he takes on McGuinness and Honda.

It should be a cracking race. To further whet your appetite, the IOMTT has put out a goosebump generating video, for your road racing pleasure. Enjoy.

TT Legends — Episode 5: The Isle of Man TT, Part 2

02/12/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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It’s Wednesday, so that means another installment of the “TT Legends” documentary. For Episode Five, we find the boys still at the Isle of Man TT, the namesake for the Honda TT Legends team.

2012 was a particularly eventful year for the TT, as Simon Andrews escaped with his life in a harrowing crash, the Senior TT was cancelled, for the first time ever on account of rain, and John McGuinness finally won a Superstock TT race.

As usual, the episode is a great watch, and this time around things focus pretty heavily on John McGuinness (we even get a glimpse of him on his electric superbike, the Mugen Shinden).

With 20 TT wins to his name now, McPint will be looking to make further progress on Joey Dunlop’s record during the 2014 outing. Standing in his way will be a bevy of powerhouse riders, including the recently announced Michael Dunlop, who will be racing with a factory-backed BMW S1000RR.

TT Legends — Episode 4: The Isle of Man TT, Part 1

02/05/2014 @ 6:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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We are now halfway through with the “TT Legends” documentary, with today’s fourth of eight installments featuring the venerable Isle of Man TT. Part one of two, Episode Four introduces one of the most iconic races in motorcycling.

Over 100 years old, every motorcycle enthusiast should make a pilgrimage to the Isle of Man — the only downside is that once you go, you will want to go again, and again, and again…

Raced on city streets, with speeds hitting over 200 mph down the Sulby Straight, it is easy to see why Honda Pro Racing’s factory road racing and endurance squad borrows its name from the TT.

Featuring some of the best IOMTT riders on its team, to keep things honest, the Isle of Man TT is really where the Honda TT Legends team shines. Enjoy!

TT Legends — Episode 3: The North West 200

01/29/2014 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We are back on track with the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary, which follows the racing shenanigans of the Honda TT Legends road and endurance racing squad. After finishing with the Bol d’Or endurance race in Episode Two, Episode Three finds the Honda riders at the North West 200, one of the great Irish road racing events.

Like the Isle of Man TT, the North West 200 is held on public roads, but unlike the TT, this is not a time trial format. Instead, NW200 riders leave the starting line together, and swap paint and positions throughout the course. One of the fastest road races, riders reach well over 200 mph on their machines at the Irish road race.

TT Legends — Episode 2: The Bol d’Or 24 Hour Race

01/27/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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We are a little late in bringing you this, the second installment, of the “TT Legends” documentary about the Honda TT Legends road racing and endurance team, so apologies for that.  But, we think you will enjoy this 22 minute reprieve from the non-two wheeled world, as like the first episode, this is a great look into one of the top teams in racing.

Focusing on the 2012 Bol d’Or 24 hour race at Magny-Cours, perhaps the most prestigious event on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, episode two should be a treat for any road racing fan. Le Mans starts, rain, French fans, and Mr. McPint — there is a little something for everyone in this episode.

TT Legends — Episode 1: Meet the TT Legends Team

01/15/2014 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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As we said last week, “TT Legends” the made-for-TV documentary about Honda’s road racing and world endurance racing is coming to YouTube, and the show’s first episode is up for your viewing pleasure. The video introduces the Honda TT Legends team, and has some great footage over its 22 minute duration.

Best of all, the personalities of John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald really shine through. For the next seven weeks, we should have some treats for you as we go through the series’ eight episodes. Grab a beverage, and enjoy!

“TT Legends” Documentary Coming to YouTube

01/09/2014 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Last year, the Honda TT Legends crew worked with Britain’s ITV4 television station to produce an eight-part documentary that followed the factory Honda road racing team.

Featuring the John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald, “TT Legends” follows the team through six races: the Bol d’Or, Le Mans 24 heurs, Suzuka 8-Hour, North West 200, Isle of Man TT, and Oscherselben 8hr. The series was a delight for British racing fans, though sadly wasn’t rebroadcasted for us Yanks — unless you employed less-than-legal means, that is.

Well that’s about to change, as Honda Pro Racing will be hosting the series on its YouTube channel, one episode each week, starting on January 12th. It’s a great series, and well worth keeping up with, if you have the time. We’ll bring you each installment here on Asphalt & Rubber, as they become available. Until then, whet your appetite on the trailer.

Conor Cummins in at Honda TT Legends

11/24/2013 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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With the news that Michael Dunlop failed to reach an agreement with Honda Europe, and likely would be sitting out the 2014 road racing season, Honda TT Legends has announced its signing of Conor Cummins in Dunlop’s stead. Accordingly, the well-regarded Manx rider will form a two-man team with Mr. Snaefell himself, John McGuinness.

Cummins and McGuinness will race for the Honda TT Legends team at the 2014 Isle of Man TT and North West 200 road racing events. Both McGuinness and Cummins will cover the Superbike and Senior races at the TT, while Cummins will race for the team in the Superstock class as well.

Ian Hutchinson Wins the 2013 Macau GP

11/16/2013 @ 11:23 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Defying the odds against him, Ian Hutchinson has won the 2013 Macau GP, beating fierce competitor Michael Rutter in the shortened race. Hutchinson took the lead from Rutter on the fourth lap of fifteen, though a crash on the eleventh lap by Dean Harrison brought the Macau GP to an early end.

Thankfully Harrison was unhurt by the crash, though his bike was in the middle of the course, and forced race officials to red flag the race. Despite the premature ending, there can be no question that it was Hutchinson’s day, as the man from Bingley had a solid two-second gap over Rutter.

Coming off an eighteen month recovery period, Hutchinson’s win reconfirms the young Yorkshireman as a true talent in road racing, with today’s Macau GP win adding another impressive entry on Hutchinson’s already illustrious resumé, which includes a clean sweep of the 2010 Isle of Man TT’s five solo-class races.

“It’s probably one of the most special wins I’ve ever had with what’s gone on in the last few years, but hopefully now I can move on to carrying on back where I left off three years ago,” said Hutchinson after the race.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans with Kevin Warren

09/24/2013 @ 4:06 pm, by Kevin Warren8 COMMENTS