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.

Dainese Responds to Alpinestars Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/29/2015 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.

First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.

Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.

You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.

Alpinestars Issues Press Release Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/23/2015 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Last week we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over their respective airbag suit systems. In response to that story, and the subsequent retellings of that story on other sites, Alpinestars has issued a press release that further clarifies, corrects, and explains the situation between the two companies.

The first big takeaway from Alpinestars’ statement is that at issue in the patent infringement suit is actually the material of the airbag itself, i.e. the actual physical material used in the bladder that holds the air. This corrects the information A&R received that at issue was the algorithm used to detect a crash.

The second big takeaway from the Alpinestars press release is that German retailers were directly contacted by Dainese, and told to cease and desist from offering the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system.

This action resulted in some retailers pulling the product from their shelves, but Alpinestars says that no legal action has taken place in the German market, and that the company continues to offer the Tech-Air Street in Germany.

You can read Alpinestars full press release after the jump. Asphalt & Rubber will be sure to keep you apprised of further developments regarding this story, as it unfolds.

Alpinestars & Dainese Head to Court Over Airbag Systems

12/17/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain.

Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level.

The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.

How Harley-Davidson Got Sued Over ABS Brakes & Why You Can’t Buy an Airbag Leather Suit in the USA

06/30/2014 @ 9:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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I was reading DealerNews last week when I stumbled across a brief story about how Harley-Davidson was being sued by a couple, because the Bar & Shield brand did not offer the 2012 Electra Glide Classic with an anti-locking brake option.

The lawsuit comes about as a couple was riding two-up on their motorcycle in Texas, when a car suddenly cut in front of them. Locking up the wheels of the Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle fishtailed out of control, and flung the couple quite some distance. They are subsequently suing Harley-Davidson for $75,000 in damages.

I can already foresee the pro-business comments below this article, deriding these motorcyclists for a series events that amount to “their fault” for their medical and financial woes — after all, it was they who chose to buy a motorcycle without ABS, right?

Legal scholars, and those familiar with tort law and product liability in the United States though, will see the case quite differently. And barring specific details and circumstances, the conclusion to this lawsuit will almost certainly side with the complainants, not Harley-Davidson.

Kevin Schwantz and COTA Settle Their Differences

03/27/2014 @ 12:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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A very exuberant Kevin Schwantz has just left the following message on Twitter; “GREAT news to share about @circuitamericas!!!!!!” Great news indeed, as the 1993 500GP World Champion has reached an agreement with the Circuit of the Americas race track, which ultimately sees Schwantz becoming a track ambassador for COTA.

The agreement puts to rest over a year’s worth of media and legal positioning between the two parties, which arose from a business transaction that would have seen Kevin Schwantz as the promoter of the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.

Schwantz then sued COTA after the circuits administration cut Schwantz’s 3fourTexasMGP company out of the promotional deal for the MotoGP round, and dealt directly with Dorna instead. The result of the fallout lead to a fervor from loyal American road racing fans, some of whom boycotted the race last year.

That all seems to be behind them now though, as Schwantz and the Circuit of the Americas have come to agreement over the dispute, which sees Kevin Schwantz becoming the official ambassador to the Circuit of the Americas race track, where he will promote the MotoGP round, and we presume that some money will change hands in the process.

Kevin Schwantz’s Schwantz School on Hiatus for 2014

03/11/2014 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The Schwantz School will be on hiatus for the 2014 riding season, says the riding instruction school. The press release for the track school lists Kevin Schwantz’s “travel/racing schedule and other factors” as the reason for the school’s hiatus. Schwantz is slated to compete in the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race with the Yoshimura Suzuki Legends team in July.

The MotoGP Legend also is to be a “Guest of Honor” at the Classic Motorcycle Festival at Donington Park in August, and there is possibility Schwantz will be racing in England in September as well. As for the “other factors” mentioned, Schwantz is quoted as wanting to spend time in his recently remodeled home in Austin, Texas.

Momoto Sues Petronas for $83 Million over Petronas FP1

10/28/2013 @ 11:41 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The story that surrounds Petronas and its ill-fated Petronas FP1 World Superbike project is one full of intrigue, and was seemingly put to bed long ago when the Malaysian oil giant folded its motorcycle business and racing plans in 2006.

The story was brought back to life though when a bunker full of Petronas FP1 street bikes was discovered in the UK. The bikes have their own intriguing story of how the Malays did, or did not, “bend” the homologation rules for WSBK, and how the machines then found their way to be forgotten in a bunker in Essex.

With that discovery, new life was spurred into the Petronas FP1, whose fire-breathing three-cylinder engine and powder blue paint scheme has tantalized the fancy of collectors worldwide for some time now.

This gave birth to the Momoto MM1 project, an outfit that bought the 129 derelict Petronas bikes, and rebranded them for sale just last year. That venture has hit a snag though, as taxes and duties for a vast majority of the machines were apparently not paid, which resulted in the Malaysian government seizing all 129 motorcycles, which in-turn has lead to a recent lawsuit for RM260 million ($83 million USD).

MotoGP: Austin GP in Doubt as Schwantz Sues COTA

09/08/2012 @ 4:38 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

The chances of a MotoGP round taking place in Austin, Texas seem further away than ever. Yesterday, Kevin Schwantz filed suit against the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), claiming an attempt to fraudulently deprive the 1993 500cc World Champion of the rights to organize the MotoGP race that would be held at the circuit outside of Austin, Texas.

In the lawsuit, Schwantz accuses COTA of going behind his back to arrange a deal directly with Dorna to organize the Austin round of MotoGP, while Schwantz’ company, 3fourTexasMGP, has a ten-year contract to organize the race. In a statement issued tonight by the circuit press office, COTA denies that Schwantz holds any rights to organize the event.

Man Sues BMW for Causing Erection – No, Seriously

04/27/2012 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

After a four-hour ride on his motorcycle, one BMW owner realized that he had a problem. Namely, a problem with his erect penis, which after some waiting would not subside. Now while most of us would cheekily reply that such a state is the sign of a good motorcycle ride, this San Francisco Bay Area native is not laughing, and has filed suit in the Superior Court of San Francisco County (CGC-12-520316) against BMW Motorrad North American and Corbin-Pacific. Saying that the motorcycle and its dealer-installed custom motorcycle seat have caused priapism, the man is suing for lost wages, personal injury, medical expenses, product liability, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.