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.

WSBK: Race Results for Race 2 at Aragon

04/15/2013 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 2 Times: Camier Fastest Amidst Another Crashfest

02/15/2013 @ 10:57 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Leon-Camier-Phillip-Island-Fixi-Crescent-Suzuki-test

The second day of the private test for the World Superbike teams at Phillip Island went very much as the first day did: with fast times, and a lot of crashes. The new surface was to blame for both: Leon Camier got half a second under the race lap record, but the on/off grip levels of the track saw him, and almost every one else, flung off their bikes at one point or another.

Camier ended the day fastest, the engine updates on his FIXI Crescent Suzuki improving the machine considerably, along with electronic updates for the bike. Sylvain Guintoli – the man Suzuki originally signed alongside Camier, but who jumped ship for the factory Aprilia ride – was 2nd, a tenth off the pace of Camier, proving that the Aprilia RSV4 still a potent weapon.

Johnny Rea put the Pata Honda into 3rd, with work continuing on ironing out the wrinkles with the HRC electronics, with both Rea and Haslam pleased with the progress made, though still aware of the task ahead. Marco Melandri was the fastest BMW man, though the Italian was wary of pushing too hard for fear of crashing, and adding further damage to his painful shoulder. Melandri did put in a long run on used tires, running a consistent string of laps around the 1’32 mark, a solid race pace.

2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 1 Times: Laverty Leads as New Surface Causes Crashfest

02/14/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Leon-Camier-Fixi-Crescent-Suzuki

While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up their test at Valencia, on the other side of the world, the World Superbike and World Supersport riders are beginning the final run in to the season opener in 10 days’ time.

They started today with the first of two days of private testing, the first chance the riders get to see the resurfaced Phillip Island track. The overall reaction to the new surface was very positive, though the lack of rubber on the track caused a spot of mayhem in the morning, with several riders crashing out.

Fastest man of the day was Eugene Laverty on the factory Aprilia, the Irishman circulating at lap record pace, but still a second off the pole record. Leon Camier put the Fixi Suzuki into 2nd spot, ahead of the Pata Hondas of Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam, while Marco Melandri ended the day in 5th. Carlos Checa did not ride, as the 2011 World Champion was suffering with a stomach bug.

Trackside Tuesday: Long Live World Superbike

09/25/2012 @ 8:11 pm, by Scott Jones22 COMMENTS

As the other motorcycling World Championship, World Superbike has its own amazing stories to tell, stories often very weird relative to what we are used to in MotoGP. When I went to shoot WSBK for the first time, some of my MotoGP buddies told me the same thing: don’t get spoiled, it’s a different world there. Indeed, one MotoGP veteran left Grand Prix to make his new home in WSBK and hired someone else to cover the Aliens on his behalf.

Instead of three riders on the grid fighting among themselves for the victory, WSBK saw six different winners in the first six races of the 2012 season. Instead of three manufacturers (well, two, really) fighting for wins in MotoGP, five stood atop the WSBK podium in those first six races. With one race weekend to go, nine riders have won races. Compared to MotoGP, talk about weird!

Instead of riders over 30-years-old being hounded by lightning-fast 20-somethings, riders seem to bloom around 40, enjoying second or even third winds in their careers. The lower level of technology allows rider experience to count against the raw physical talent of youth. The playing field is more even, the racing is less about having the latest parts that separate the factory teams from the satellite ones.

Tom Sykes is a motorbike racer who could be the next WSBK world champion, and a protagonist in a story remarkably different from the usual MotoGP fare. Sykes is 30.5 points behind Biaggi with one round, two races, and 50 points to go.

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola

09/05/2012 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Recovering from the injuries he sustained while testing for Kawasaki at Imola, we learned earlier this year that Joan Lascorz was lucky to escape with his life from the frightful event, though he will never walk again. Suffering from paralysis from his abdomen down, the well-liked Spaniard is still recuperating, but has released a press release (along with Kawasaki) about the event, the months after it, and Jumbo’s coming future.

Recounting the incident, Lascorz also gives an insightful description of his current state of mind, and his thoughts about his road to a new life. The full press release is after the jump. It’s okay if you get a bit misty-eyed while reading it. We certainly did.

How Do You Make a Superbike Look Like a Street Bike?

06/29/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With MotoGP adopting a CRT rule for the 2012 season, a provision that allows production motors to be used in a prototype chassis, the World Superbike Championship has been feeling its production-racing turf a bit infringed upon. Now whether or not the latest rule change from WSBK has anything to with what is going on between the two series is up for debate, but regardless for 2013 and onward, World Superbike teams will have to run faux-headlight decals on their race bikes — in some sort of attempt to link what is on the track to what is sitting on dealership showroom floors.

First to adopt the rule is the factory Kawasaki Racing Team, which has added the headlight decals to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R race bikes that are being ridden by Tom Sykes and Loris Baz this weekend at Aragon, Spain. In addition to the headlight sticker rule, teams will have to run 17″ wheels starting in 2013, which is being pitched as a cost-savings measure, but is more likely grounded in the idea of further making the illusion that what is raced in WSBK is somehow remotely linked to what motorcyclists purchase.

WSBK: Dry Conditions Prevail for Cold Qualifying at MMP

05/28/2012 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Encircled by the gorgeous Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, Miller Motorsports Park has some of the most dramatic backdrops out of all the World Superbike venues, though coupled with the track’s 4,000+ foot elevation, the weather can be wet and cold at times. Such words were probably an understatement for the conditions on Sunday, as frigid temperatures and rain prevailed in the day’s earlier sessions. Realizing that some Superpole qualifying was scheduled for later though, the weather gods appeased the American crowd, who had been braving the conditions, and quickly dried the track for World Superbike qualifying.

Down on power at the very fast track, the Ducatis of Smrz and Checa surprised everyone with their dominance on the time sheets. Of course, Tom Sykes could not be counted out from the qualifying fun, as the Englishman has taken four of the past five pole positions. One of only two stops on the WSBK calendar that is outside of Europe, American fans were treated on this Memorial Day weekend to some fine qualifying, which included some upsets. Results after the jump.

Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

05/06/2012 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

Hitting over 210 mph down the front straight at Monza, Tom Sykes became the fast two-wheeled man in World Superbike history. Setting the speed on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Sykes got a bit of help from Aprilia-man Max Biaggi, as the Brit slip-streamed behind the Italian part of the way down the track. Making the effort on rain tires, Sykes will have to start tomorrow’s races from the second grid position, unable to take advantage of the drying track on slicks, as pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli did.

“When I hit the new record top speed I could feel that the rpm was higher and I knew from the note of the engine that it was more than on previous laps,” said Sykes. “I could not have timed my run to get into Biaggi’s slipstream any better. I had a fantastic run out of Parabolica and I used Max’s draft all the way down the straight. If we had more time we could have come back in and gone with a slick rear or intermediate rear and made the difference, but it wasn’t to be.”

“We did a great last lap on wet tyres and starting from second on the grid is not too bad. It is a front row start and that is the main thing,” the Brit continued. “The competitive side of me for sure is disappointed not to keep the run of Superpole wins going but tomorrow is the one that counts. It’s great for Kawasaki and myself to be on the front row and it is a lot better starting slot for tomorrow. We have good pace in the dry and I do not think the wet will be an issue either. A dry race would be better for everybody.”

WSBK: “Wet” Superpole Qualifying at Assen

04/21/2012 @ 11:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With the rain playing a factor during the Qualifying Practice sessions, riders like Max Biaggi were caught out, and left high and dry during an otherwise water-filled build up to today’s Superpole qualifying. As the Roman Emperor watched from the sidelines, World Superbike Race Direction deemed the Superpole a wet session, reducing the qualifying event to two twenty-minute sessions, with only the top eight riders going onto the second round. With the track actually dry for Superpole 2, all eyes were on Tom Sykes, to see if the Kawasaki rider could make a hat trick out of his qualifying streak.

WSBK: Update on Joan Lascorz’s Condition

04/20/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With World Superbike in Assen this race weekend, the Kawasaki Racing Team has released an update on team rider Joan Lascorz, who broke his neck during a crash at a post-race test at Imola earlier this month. Though the press release is terse with information, it does say that Lascorz is conscious and remains in the ICU of the Hospital de la Valld’Hebron in Barcelona. Saying it could take months to know the full-extent of the Spanish rider’s injuries, no further update on his condition was given.

However, MCN is reporting that in an interview with Kawasaki Team Manager Guim Roda, Lascorz is said to have movement in his arms, but currently not in his legs. With inflammation still surrounding the injury to his C6 vertabra, the hope is that as the swelling subsides Lascorz will regain use of his legs, though nothing is certain at this point. With a lengthy road to recovery still ahead of him, everyone is being cautious about predicting the full-extent of the accident’s effects.

Everyone in the World Superbike and motorcycling community at large, including Asphalt & Rubber, is hoping for a full and speedy recovery of the well-liked Spanish racer. Carlos Checa perhaps said it best with his recent comment on Twitter: “Joan Lascorz is in another championship, a race that [he] is sure going to win and we will all be there to support you at all times. Take heart!” Press release from Kawasaki after the jump.