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.

KTM Signs Bradley Smith with Two-Year MotoGP Contract

03/20/2016 @ 12:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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The pieces are coming together for next year’s rider lineup in the MotoGP Championship. First, it was Valentino Rossi signing a two-year contract extension with Yamaha Racing, and now KTM has signed Bradley Smith to its factory team for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

The news itself isn’t surprising, as Smith was on virtually everyone’s short-list for the Austrian outfit, though the timing comes as a surprise so early in the season.

The announcement today is surely the result of KTM wanting to get ahead of the musical chairs game that is unfolding in the GP paddock for next season, and it benefits Smith as well, as he can focus on his racing season from the start of the season.

KTM RC16 Will Make Its Public Debut at the Austrian GP

02/04/2016 @ 9:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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In addition to working on a secret Moto2 project, KTM will also be entering into the MotoGP Championship for the 2017 season. The Austrian brand has been busy developing the KTM RC16 race bike platform, with the help of a bevy of test riders.

Initial feedback has been positive, with the RC16 looking very competent – though, it should be noted that everyone saying that is on KTM’s payroll. Still, we expect big things from the project as it develops more this year.

Q&A: Mika Kallio – On The KTM MotoGP RC16

12/17/2015 @ 1:37 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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There is a lot to look forward to in MotoGP during the next couple of seasons. New tires and new-spec electronics for 2016; and for 2017, the arrival of a new manufacturer, with KTM due to join the show.

The arrival of KTM has generated much excitement, the Austrian factory having succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations in every racing class they have entered, with the exception of MotoGP.

This time, they have taken the development of the bike completely in-house, a powerful V4 engine being housed in a trellis frame, the company’s trademark in racing.

The bike has already made its debut on track, with Alex Hofmann having given the bike a shakedown test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in October. A few weeks later, the bike got its first proper test in the hands of newly signed test rider Mika Kallio, the man who was Moto2 runner up in 2014.

Kallio was present in Barcelona for the Superprestigio event, where he had been scheduled to race. However, a crash on Friday morning saw the Finnish rider break his leg, which meant he could not actually participate in the event.

Kallio was present, however, and we got the chance to talk to him about the state of the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, his first impressions of the machine, and his hopes and expectations for testing in 2016 and racing in 2017.

270hp KTM RC16 Finishes First MotoGP Test at Valencia

11/30/2015 @ 8:58 am, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

Mika Kallio testing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike at Valencia

After its earlier roll out in Austria, KTM has completed its first proper test with the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike at Valencia. On Saturday and Sunday, test riders Alex Hofmann and Mika Kallio put the KTM RC16 through its paces on the Spanish track.

The test sees KTM stepping up the pace of development on the RC16. Alex Hofmann has been used as a development rider, to verify the bike is working correctly and is being developed in the right direction. New hire Mika Kallio has been brought in as the performance rider, the 33-year-old Finn freshly retired as a full-time racer, and therefore having the speed to push the limits of the bike.

Kallio also has more recent experience of MotoGP machines, having ridden for Pramac Ducati in 2010, and having tested the Suter CRT MotoGP machine in 2012. Kallio was known in his former teams for his attention to detail and ability to pinpoint areas that needed improvement.

XXX: Even More Photos of the KTM RC16

11/10/2015 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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This is our third story about the KTM RC16, in I don’t know how many weeks, but the Austrian brand just dropped off a bunch of high-resolution images of its MotoGP race bike in the company’s media gallery, and we feel obligated to share them with you because they’re just that good.

While the MotoGP paddock is in Valencia right now testing machines, electronics, and riders for the 2016 season, KTM is busy looking farther down the road with their plans to join the premier class in 2017.

The KTM factory team is being cagey about how many resources it is devoting to the MotoGP project, though we do know that KTM is building a dedicated facility for the MotoGP project in Mattighofen and hiring top-level talent right and left for the effort.

So far KTM’s hard work has brought out a machine that visually looks like a lot like the Honda RC213V, and smart speculation pegs the power plant between the fairings as being very similar as well: a 90° V4 with a “screamer” firing order.

KTM is of course using a steel trellis frame design and WP suspension, and numerous more subtle changes abound. Reportedly KTM is keen to hire MotoGP suspension gurus to help add to the knowledge already found at WP – could we see a new brand come into MotoGP to rival standard-bearer Öhlins?

While we ponder all that, there are 22 ultra high-resolution photos for you to ogle over, after the jump.

More Photos of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike Testing

11/06/2015 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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We got out first look at the KTM RC16 last week, the Austrian company’s MotoGP race bike that will debut in 2017, along with a customer version that will cost around €140,000.

The RC16 draws some serious inspiration from the Honda RC213V, with its whale-shark air intake design, underbraced swingarm, 90° V4 engine with a “screamer” piston firing order. There are of course obvious differences, with the KTM RC16 having  steel trellis frame, WP suspension pieces, and 17″ wheels.

Alex Hofmann took the reigns of the KTM RC16 at its three-day shakedown test at the Red Bull Ring, but soon development duties will be handed over to former-MotoGP rider Mika Kallio, with a second test that is scheduled for this year.

First Photos & Video of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Race Bike

10/30/2015 @ 10:59 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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The KTM RC16 has finally been spied testing, this time at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. For those who don’t remember, KTM is set to join the MotoGP paddock for the 2017 season, after announcing that it was working on a new V4 MotoGP platform that it will sell to the public for €140,000 (presumably slightly detuned).

The Austrian firm recently signed Mika Kallio as its test rider, though the photos here seem to be of Alex Hofmann. As a former MotoGP racer, Kallio’s input on the KTM RC16 will be of great benefit to the race team developers, although it appears there is already a muse for KTM’s inspiration.

Though there are substantial differences between the machines, a quick look of the KTM RC16 brings thoughts of the Honda RC213V – as much as we hate to make those kind of comparisons.

Mika Kallio Signs as a Test Rider for KTM’s MotoGP Project

10/22/2015 @ 1:37 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Mika Kallio is to be KTM’s test rider to help with the development of the company’s MotoGP bike. The 32-year-old Finnish rider is to make a return to the Austrian manufacturer and work to get the KTM RC16 ready for its debut season in MotoGP in 2017.

Kallio has a long association with the Austrian marque. He rode for them for four seasons both in 125s and 250s, finishing as runner up twice in the junior class, most controversially in 2005, when he lost out to Tom Luthi by five points after his erstwhile KTM teammate Gabor Talmasci stole the win from him at Qatar.

Track-Only KTM RC16 Expected to Cost €140,000

06/23/2015 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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The motorcycle world is still processing Honda’s decision to make a road-going version of its RC213V MotoGP race bike, and whether you think its price tag overwhelms, or its spec-sheet underwhelms, the Honda RC213V-S is a testament to the engineering that HRC is capable of producing for its racers.

KTM has a similar philosophy afoot. Though Stefan Pierer has made it clear that there will be no successor to the KTM 1190 RC8 R street bike, the company will be making a track-only customer version of its own MotoGP race bike: the KTM RC16.

Weekly Racing News Digest #6

04/08/2015 @ 9:31 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Racing season is now truly upon us. MotoGP kicked off ten days ago at Qatar, last weekend the British Superbike championship had their first race of the year at Donington Park, and this weekend sees a bumper crop of racing. MotoGP is at Austin, where MotoAmerica also kicks off its inaugural season since taking over the AMA series from the DMG.

World Superbikes heads to the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain, where they are joined by the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 classes. It is going to be a busy weekend.

Despite the bustle of action, the amount of real news emerging has been limited. Teams and riders are too busy racing, absorbing the lessons of the first races while preparing for the next races, to be plotting and scheming beyond that. Here’s a rundown of things you might have missed anyway.