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.

MotoGP: Mugello Meeting Helped ‘Clear The Air’ Between Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha

06/10/2013 @ 4:04 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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The troubled waters through which Cal Crutchlow has found himself sailing with Yamaha have been calmed a little. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider and his manager Bob Moore held their first face-to-face meeting with Yamaha bosses Lin Jarvis and Masahiko Nakajima on the Sunday night after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, to discuss the options for extending their relationship for next year.

Also present at the meeting was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncharal, who has been very vocal in his desire to retain the British rider. Crutchlow’s results have been a real boon for the French team, and  his outspoken and impish personality have helped attract a large amount of media attention.

Poncharal has been mediating between Yamaha and Crutchlow, and is trying to secure an extension of Crutchlow’s contract with the team for 2014. He judged the meeting a positive step forward, with all parties involved getting a chance to express their views in person.

“It was good to clear the air,” Poncharal said of the meeting, something which was necessary after Crutchlow’s indignant and very public response to rumors that Yamaha were intending to put Pol Espargaro on Crutchlow’s seat in the Tech 3 garage.

Rumors of an imminent departure for the new factory Suzuki team continue to surround Crutchlow, despite Crutchlow’s continuing protestations that his first objective is to remain with Yamaha.

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Challenge, Crutchlow’s Ultimatum, & Sport as Soap Opera

05/30/2013 @ 7:24 pm, by David Emmett26 COMMENTS

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Mugello is a spectacular setting. Even when it absolutely pours down, so badly that a river starts running through the Mugello paddock, the setting remains spectacular. It makes navigating the paddock without a life vest fairly treacherous, but at least the view is stunning. The rain looks set to stay for the duration, though the forecast appears to be improving day by day, but the riders need not fear a lack of wet track time.

As always, the riders waxed eloquent on the circuit, almost universal in their praise. Most entertaining simile of the day was from Bradley Smith, who compared Mugello to a motocross track: all undulating surfaces, blind crests and banked corners. He is right, of course, but it is not the first comparison that springs to mind when describing a track as physically large and magnificent as Mugello.

MotoGP Silly Season: Quo Vadis, Cal Crutchlow?

05/28/2013 @ 2:23 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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With the recent leaked news of Suzuki’s MotoGP test and Honda’s press release discussing the test of their new Production Racer MotoGP machine, the first speculation of silly season is starting to appear.

With so many seats already tied up – all four Honda seats, three Yamaha seats, and one seat at Ducati – speculation is limited, though the imminent return of Suzuki to the fold opens up more seats for consideration.

One name is on everyone’s lips, however. Cal Crutchlow is the current hot ticket in MotoGP, and rightly so. The best of the riders available, and the only rider so far to get anywhere near the current four MotoGP aliens, with a podium at Le Mans to go with two fifth places and a fourth.

If there is one rider looking capable of breaking the hegemony on wins currently held by the front four, it is surely Cal Crutchlow. So where will Crutchlow be riding in 2014?

Lin Jarvis Explains Yamaha’s New Social Media Policy

03/29/2013 @ 5:12 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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There was much consternation ahead of the Jerez MotoGP test, when it emerged that the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team had imposed a new social media policy. Given that Yamaha has perhaps the strongest presence on social media of all MotoGP teams, fans feared that the access they had been given would be restricted.

Apart from riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha also has Alex Briggs, mechanic to Valentino Rossi, Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo, and Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager to Jorge Lorenzo on their payroll, all three popular figures on Twitter.

At the official launch of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, we spoke to Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis to ask about the policy, and try to clear up any confusion surrounding the situation. Our first question was naturally, did Yamaha indeed have a new social media policy?

Lin Jarvis: Sponsorship, Vision, & Races Outside of Europe

03/22/2013 @ 5:56 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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At the presentation of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, where the bike which Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will ride in the coming season was unveiled, it was clear that there was one thing missing from the bike: this season, as for the last two years, Yamaha’s MotoGP team will not have a title sponsor, but will campaign in corporate colors once again.

Though the news hardly came as a surprise – the colors being used throughout the winter testing period suggested that Yamaha would be racing without a title sponsor – we were interested to find out whether the current situation is sustainable.

To that end, we cornered Yamaha Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis, and put a few questions to him. Firstly, we asked, could Yamaha’s MotoGP team manage without a title sponsor, or was the expanded support from non-title sponsors sufficient? The answer to those questions was “yes and yes” Jarvis quipped.

MotoGP: Two Rounds in Malaysia?

12/05/2012 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

According to MCN, Yamaha Racing’s Lin Jarvis is keen for more rounds in the Asian market — he is so keen in fact, that Jarvis has even suggested that s second round be held in Malaysia. With southeast asia proving to be an important market for the big motorcycle OEMs, the idea of doubling up on Malaysia for the MotoGP calendar is certainly not the worst idea ever proposed to Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta.

For Yamaha Racing in particular, a second round in the southeast asian territory would dovetail nicely with the team’s already extensive connection to the region’s markets. While everyone in the paddock would seem to be in agreement on MotoGP’s needs to get out of Europe and into other markets, Jarvis’s request to Ezpeleta is still a tall order, as it is a tough proposition for the MotoGP Championship to double-dip not only a small country, but also the same venue.

MotoGP: Lin Jarvis Talks Valentino Rossi

08/24/2012 @ 11:39 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

After the news that Valentino Rossi was to make a return to Yamaha after two disastrous seasons at Ducati, Yamaha’s press officers were inundated with requests for interviews with Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis at Brno. To accommodate as many people as possible, Yamaha held a press conference to answer the questions that all of the assembled media wanted to put to them.

The subjects covered during the press conference were the motivation for signing Rossi after his two-year absence, whether Jorge Lorenzo had been consulted on the deal, and the pecking order inside the team. Jarvis also discussed the possibility of Jeremy Burgess and his crew joining Rossi at Yamaha, as well as commenting positively on Ben Spies’ performance over the past season.

Yamaha Boss Lin Jarvis Previews the 2012 MotoGP Season

02/01/2012 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

If you want to get a quick feel of how the 2012 MotoGP Championship is shaping up from a very knowledgeable person in the MotoGP paddock, then today’s video from Yamaha Racing’s Lin Jarvis is your best bet. Taking some time from his duties of running Yamaha’s MotoGP team, Jarvis talks about the tests underway in Sepang, Malaysia, and is generally optimistic about the season.

Of course sometimes what isn’t said is more important than what is said, and in this season preview you won’t hear a single word about the most important change to MotoGP: the claiming rule teams. Simple omission, or are the OEMs beginning their face-off with Dorna on the future of MotoGP?

MotoGP: Yamaha Loses Petronas Sponsorship

12/30/2011 @ 10:47 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Calling it the “natural conclusion” of their partnership, Yamaha’s MotoGP team and Malaysian oil giant Petronas have split ways after three years of racing sponsorship. Concluding a deal that is reportedly worth $8 million a year to the factory MotoGP team, Yamaha’s loss of Petronas will surely be felt in the team’s pocketbook, assuming of course that the Japanese manufacturer cannot replace the company with another on its sponsor roster.

After losing title sponsor Fiat for the 2011 season (due almost entirely to Yamaha’s inability to retain Valentino Rossi), Petronas and Yamaha Motor Kenkana Indonesia (Yamaha’s Indonesian arm) were left as the team’s main backers and official sponsors. Now with the loss of Petronas, many of the names on the side of the Yamaha YZR-M1 are those belonging to the tuning fork brand, leaving the financial burden for Yamaha’s MotoGP racing effort to come squarely out of one Yamaha coffer or another.

Surely to be taken as a sign of the decreased value of racing in MotoGP to race sponsors, this news has to be especially troubling for Yamaha, as it continues to lose its biggest sponsorship accounts, one after another. While it would appear that the Japanese manufacturer will have to foot another $8 million a year out its internal budget, the only silver lining to the situation could be the hope that the loss of Petronas is making way for a more lucrative sponsor. We wouldn’t hold our breath on that one though.

Rumor: Colin Edwards to World Superbike?

08/23/2011 @ 9:43 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Make no mistake about the fact that we are well into the 2011 Silly Season, a festive time where paddock gossip is rife with the movings and rumors of where riders and teams will land for the following season. With MotoGP set this weekend to make its second American appearance for the year, we are kicking off the rumormill reports properly with talk of where Colin Edwards will race in 2012. Rumored to be in World Superbike for 2012, the Texan Tornado has been linked to both a factory Ducati ride in WSBK and a factory seat at BMW Motorrad.

Speaking to Asphalt & Rubber and other journalists at a conference call hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday (a transcript of that is in the works), Edwards alluded to the fact that we wouldn’t hear about his future plans at Indy, and likely not at the San Marino GP as well. The Texan did clue the assembled press into the fact that he wasn’t ready to retire his racing spurs yet, and would likely be racing in some form or another for the 2012 season.