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.

Don’t Call It a Merger: RevZilla & Cycle Gear Come Together

02/10/2016 @ 12:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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The speculation about RevZilla and Cycle Gear can stop now, as the brands are finally talking about their plans together for the future.

In a letter posted to RevZilla’s in-house publication, Common Tread, RevZilla CEO Anthony Bucci announces that RevZilla will be acquired by a new holding company, which will also own Cycle Gear.

The holding company’s board of directors will include Bucci, and his fellow RevZilla founders Nick Auger and Matthew Kull, as well as the private equity firm J.W. Childs, which bought Cycle Gear back in 2015.

While Bucci’s letter to RevZilla customers states that the two brands will only be “sister companies” that will operate independently of each other, his FAQ on the subject leaves the door open for collaborations between the two brands, which would be the obvious benefit of their new ownership structure.

LVMH to Acquire the Deus Ex Machina Brand?

12/02/2015 @ 11:34 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Like the word “cool” itself, it is hard to describe what exactly Deus ex Machina is, especially to the uninitiated. The motorcycle/surf lifestyle brand is 10 years old now, and will go down in moto-history as being partially responsible for the “post-authentic” motorcycle movement.

The easiest explanations is that the Deus ex Machina brand is known both for its two-wheeled creations, and also its destination stores in Sydney, Bali, Japan, Los Angeles, and Milan.

In talks now with L-Capital, the private equity arm of LVMH (which is better known for its Louis Vuitton, Moët, and Hennessy brands), Deus ex Machina looks to be the second major exit for its founder and majority shareholder Dare Jennings, who sold his Mambo brand to Gazal Corporation back in 1990.

China Set to Buy Pirelli for €7.1 Billion

03/23/2015 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) is set to buy into tire-maker Pirelli, with what is currently a €7.1 billion deal. The move would put the 143-year-old Italian company in Chinese ownership, with ChemChina being the majority and controlling shareholder.

ChemChina had planned to offer €15/share to existing Pirelli stock owners, but that number may have to be lifted after a recent rally in the stock’s price. Once the deal concludes though, it is expected that ChemChina will take Pirelli private once the buyout is complete.

The impetus for the buyout is that Pirelli’s knowledge making tires would be a huge asset to ChemChina’s current tire production, not to mention that Pirelli’s free production inventory could be used to make other ChemChina products.

The deal would also give Pirelli a strong footing in the massive Chinese tire market, a significant leg-up in Asia for the Italian brand over its other European competitors.

Castiglioni Denies Fiat Buyout of MV Agusta Is in the Works

04/14/2014 @ 9:31 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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After reporting 22% growth in Q1 2014, Giovanni Castiglioni had some closing words about the rumors that Fiat could acquire MV Agusta — a popular rumor that has been swirling around in the press the last two months.

Denying outright that MV Agusta had, or was in, talks with the Fiat-Chrysler group about an acquisition (some reports linked even MV Agusta to being bought by Fiat-owned Ferrari), Castiglioni said the Italian company solely was focused on building growth, and building motorcycles.

Husqvarna Sold, But to Whom?

01/30/2013 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Brits over at MCN broke the news last night that Husqvarna was about to be acquired by KTM. Since M&A’s are a rarity in this industry, the news was certainly interesting, but given that the beleaguered Husqvarna brand has been such a pox on BMW Motorrad with its dwindling dirt bike sales, and that the German company has been embroiled in trying to transition the Italian-based Swedish brand into the on-road segment, now seems a peculiar time for the BMW Group to unload Husqvarna…or that anyone would even be interested in purchasing the company.

Polaris Acquires KLIM Technical Riding Gear

12/06/2012 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Polaris Industries continues to be the 800 lbs gorilla of corporate M&A in the motorcycle industry, and the American firm reinforced that fact today after it announced the acquisition of KLIM Technical Riding Gear. Known for its superb snow and off-road gear, KLIM is a strong apparel brand that matches up well with the core Polaris’s core business of ATVs and snowmobiles. While terms of the acquisition are not being discussed, KLIM is expected to clear $30 million in revenue in 2012.

In its statement, Polaris says that it will operate the KLIM brand in conjunction with the other existing Polaris apparel brands. Additionally, KLIM will continue operations at its Rigby location, and will retain the company’s current staff members. Planning to invest further in KLIM’s infrastructure, Polaris intends to establish the Rigby facility as its “new apparel Center of Excellence,” thus centralizing the company’s apparel manufacturing efforts.

Audi Bought 100% of Ducati’s Stock

04/19/2012 @ 2:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

With the Volkswagen Group’s Board of Directors meeting done, ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting which is also now complete, details of Audi’s acquisition of Ducati are starting to emerge.

Paying €860 million ($1.1 billion) for the Italian motorcycle company, perhaps the biggest shocker to come from Audi’s acquisition is not the price, but the unconfirmed reports that Audi AG has bought 100% of the Ducati’s stock, meaning Borgo Panigale will now come under complete German control.

This news means that Audi not only bought out the 70% ownership of Investindustrial, but also the 30% remainder that was held by private equity fund BS, the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan, and other minority shareholders.

Officially Official: Audi’s Board Approves Ducati Acquisition

04/18/2012 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

As expected from yesterday’s news, Audi’s Board of Directors has approved the German car company’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding. While the grumblings from Ducati owners have already emerged over the news breaking yesterday, in reality the move is a boon for Ducati, which will receive access to an almost limitless bank account, global business expertise, and advanced manufacturing techniques.

Selling 42,000 motorcycles last year, Ducati has typically struggled to sell more than 30,000 units annually, a figure which is highly regarded as the Italian company’s break-even point. Historically selling under that amount, Ducati has racked up considerable debt from its operation, hence why nearly a quarter of the company’s purchase price is going to its outstanding financial liabilities.

For Ducati owners and Ducati fans around the world, the acquisition by Audi and the Volkswagen Group should be met with more resounding praise, as it means an increased layer of stability has been added to the Italian brand. While the hyperbole has been flowing online, we imagine that the first motorcycles sales success to come from the company post-acquisition will silence any resistance to the company’s new German ownership.

As irrelevant as that metric actually is in business terms, the reality is that Audi’s influence over Ducati will take several years to be fully realized, as it takes a considerable amount of time for new products to come to market, and business plans to be implemented. Press releases from both Investindustrial and Audi are after the jump.

Audi Buys Ducati for $1.1 Billion

04/17/2012 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Audi’s Board of Directors has announced its approval of the acquisition of Ducati.

According to reports, Audi has finished its acquisition of Ducati Motor Holdings, to the tune of €860 million ($1.128 billion), and will announce the purchase tomorrow at is annual shareholders meeting. The deal reportedly sees Audi, through its parent company the Volkswagen Group, acquiring Ducati for roughly seven times what it earned in revenue last year, but Audi is also assuming all of Ducati’s debt, which has been rumored as high as €200 million, making the revenue multiple significantly smaller.

Audi Buying Only Part of Ducati? Daimler Bows Out

04/03/2012 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

More reports are starting to surface about Audi’s pending purchase of Ducati Motor Holding from Investindustrial. Said last month to have offered the private equity firm somewhere in the neighborhood of €750 million, Reuters is now reporting the figure to have been closer to the €870 million to €875 million range, which is closer to the original rumored offer of €850 million by the German automaker. What is most interesting in the report by Reuters is the notion that Audi is not making an offer to buy all of Investindustrial’s financial position in Ducati Motor Holding, which accounts for about 70% of the company.