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.

California Lane-Splitting Stalls before Senate Vote

07/08/2015 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Just last May, California seemed set to be the first state in the USA to codify a lane-splitting law. That effort seems to have stalled though, with Assembly Bill 51 being pulled by the bill’s authors, after the California State Senate didn’t seem to have the same support for the law that the State Assembly had shown.

This action doesn’t change much for Californian motorcyclists, who can still legally lane-split through traffic, though they do so under the state’s more nebulous “safe and prudent” catch-all driving provision.

The news, however, is a huge blow for lane-splitting advocates in the rest of the country, who hoped that California’s codification of its lane-splitting practice could be a model law for the rest of the United States.

UC Berkeley Study Shows Lane-Splitting to Be Safe

06/03/2015 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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The University of California Berkeley has finished its study of lane-splitting in California, and the results are encouraging for lane-splitting proponents.

Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013, including 997 in which the riders were splitting lanes at the time of the crash.

The big takeaway from this research is that when done reasonably, lane-splitting is just as safe as riding a motorcycle. As such, one of the more important insights found by Rice and his team was that motorcyclists can travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic with no statistical increase in crashing.

This study will be important for shaping the conversation about lane-splitting, not only in California, but throughout the entire United States. It’s no coincidence then that California’s current attempt to codify lane-splitting mirrors these findings from UC Berkeley.

California Close to Formalizing Legal Lane-Splitting, And What It Means for the Rest of the United States

05/29/2015 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Out of the 50 states in The Union, only California allows lane-splitting on public roads and highways. California’s position on lane-splitting has always been a bit nebulous though, falling only under the “safe and prudent” provision of the California Vehicle Code.

Several attempts to demystify California’s policy on lane-splitting have come and gone, including the very public kerfuffle with the California Highway Patrol’s riding “guidelines” for lane-splitting.

Most recent attempts to “legalize” lane-splitting have seen laws that were even more restrictive than the CHP’s frankly fair provisions, and created much ire in California’s vocal riding community.

On the table now though is Assembly Bill 51, which would actually grant more privileges than what the CHP deemed reasonable, and could set the tone for a larger national push of lane-splitting.

Oregon Kills Lane-Splitting Law in House Committee

05/25/2015 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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It’s bad news for Oregonian motorcyclists who were hoping to join the 21st century with the lane-filtering privileges that most of the world enjoys, as the Oregon House of Representatives has killed bill SB 694, in committee.

The bill, which had passed through the Senate Judiciary committee with an unanimous vote and the Oregon Senate with a two-thirds majority, was denied access to a general vote, by the bi-partisan Oregon House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.

SB 694 had faced strong opposition from the Oregon Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies because of perceived added danger to motorists if motorcycles were to filter through stopped traffic, and the opinions of the organizations carried weight with the House Committee, fueling its decision to kill the bill.

Oregon Just Got Closer to Legalizing Lane-Filtering*

04/23/2015 @ 8:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Motorcyclists living in the fine State of Oregon (this author included) have something to celebrate today, as the Oregon State Senate passed SB 694 (18 to 10, with two abstentions): proposal that would make lane-filtering or lane-sharing legal under certain conditions.

The bill now goes before the Oregon House of Representatives, where it will be first heard on April 27th. If voted on successfully in the House, Oregon will become only the second state to permit lane-filtering of some kind on public roads.

While today’s news is a boon for motorcyclists in Oregon, there are some serious caveats to the bill that has passed through the Senate, namely that it only permits lane-sharing during specific instances.

CHP Study Finds Lane-Splitting No More Dangerous Than Just Riding a Motorcycle*

10/23/2014 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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The topic of lane-splitting is heating up in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted guidelines for the legal practice to its website, and then was forced to remove them after a formal complaint that the posted recommendations constituted the CHP making legal regulations.

Now finishing a year-long study regarding the safety of motorcycles splitting lanes in The Golden State, the CHP has found that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general, provided a rider doesn’t exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 mph.

New South Wales Legalizes Motorcycling Filtering

02/28/2014 @ 2:27 pm, by Aakash Desai12 COMMENTS

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After a successful two-month trial conducted last year, Australia’s state of New South Wales (NSW) has recently decided to allow filtering on its roads beginning in July.

Regulators cite decreased incidences of rear-end collisions, decreased traffic congestion, and just plain common sense as justifications for the law change, and the new law will establish a 30 km/h threshold for motorists intending to split lanes.

California Highway Patrol Posts Guidelines for Lane-Splitting

02/15/2013 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Live outside the Golden State, and you realize that California is a special place, in virtually every sense of the word. As a sixth-generation inhabitant of the world’s ninth largest economy, regular readers of A&R will already have made note that I am somewhat militant about California, and one of the many reasons for this is the state’s pro-motorcycle culture.

Land of perpetual sunshine, abundant coastal and mountain roads, and the epicenter of the American motorcycle industry, California has another thing going for motorcyclists as well: you can lane-split here. You motorcyclists in the other 49 states of the Union don’t understand what you are missing with this simple act, and if there was one single law that the AMA/MIC should be pushing to pass in every state in order to help swell the ranks of motorcyclists on the road, it would be laws allowing lane-splitting (also known as lane-sharing, or lane-filtering).

What is driving in a safe and prudent manner though? A highly subjective and poorly defined bit of phrasing, the CHP and state legislature have done themselves a disservice in waiting so long to define exactly how they interpret this provision. After all, there is no provision in the CVC that outlaws steering a car with one’s feet, though one would think the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would certainly, and rightfully, ticket you back to the stone age for such an action.

Lane-splitting in California is no different, with no working definition on what was “safe and prudent” on a motorcycle, common practice and adoption have taken hold of the two-wheeled art of getting through traffic congestion. Thought originally to be a concession to the air-cooled machines of the time, lane-splitting catered well to motorcycle riders whose machines would quickly overheat while sitting in traffic.

Also a relic of a time when highway congestion of was considerably less of an issue than its current metropolitan pandemic, for lack of a better reason, California’s pro lane-splitting stance persists because the state has waited too long to act otherwise, and we are that much better for it.

However, what constitutes “safe and prudent” lane-splitting has always been a mystery box definition for motorcyclists, and when left to the subjective opinion of a CHP officer, the application of “the rules” can be varied, at best.