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.

Marc Marquez Ends Contract with VR46 Racing Apparel

01/21/2016 @ 5:37 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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The feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez shows no signs of abating. As, it emerged today that Marquez has severed a number of links which tied him to the Italian,

This includes ending prematurely a contract for merchandise with Rossi’s VR46 Racing Apparel company, and ending his lease of accommodation in the GP Rooms portable hotel run by the Nieto family.

The news, broken by Speedweek and confirmed to us by sources with knowledge of the situation, is a reversal of reports from Valencia last year. Then, Spanish websites were reporting that Valentino Rossi had decided to terminate the contract, at the end of the second year of its three year term.

Those reports were denied, but now it appears that it is Marquez who has decided he does not want Rossi’s VR46 business selling his merchandise.

Is Honda Preparing a Major Engine Upgrade for 2016?

01/16/2016 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far.

The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda’s electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010.

Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner.

Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016. Where Ducati, and to a lesser extent Yamaha have managed to integrate the less complex spec software into their engines, Honda have yet to get a handle on it.

That has made assessing the engine character even more difficult for Pedrosa and Márquez, the Repsol Honda riders finding it hard to pinpoint aggressive and abrupt throttle response on the engine character, the cruder software, or the interaction between the two.

It is a problem that Honda is now acknowledging publicly. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto admitted to the Spanish sports daily Marca that they were having trouble making their engine less aggressive.

Racing News Round-Up: No, Ezpeleta Hasn’t Been Fired, Nakamoto Talks About the RC213V, and More

01/06/2016 @ 12:06 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The start of a new year, and though there is little going on in the world of motorcycle racing in the first week of January, there is still enough to fill our weekly news round up. Here’s what happened this week.

Rating the Riders: Marc Marquez

12/29/2015 @ 11:55 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda, 3rd, 242 points – Score: 8

This was Marc Márquez’s worst season in Grand Prix racing since 2009. From 2010 onwards, in 125s, Moto2, or MotoGP, Márquez has finished as either champion or runner-up.

Not only did Márquez finish outside the top two for the first time since finishing eighth in 2009, but this was also his worst championship points total since that year. You could say this was a very bad year for the Repsol Honda rider.

Yet it was also undoubtedly the year in which Márquez learned the most in his Grand Prix career. This was the year in which Márquez changed his approach, and gained a deeper understanding of how to win a championship, rather than just races.

Márquez crashed out six times in 2015, fully one third of the races. Four of those crashes were entirely on his own, and completely his own fault.

News Tidbits from MotoGP: Brno vs. Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, & Some Holiday Entertainment

12/23/2015 @ 11:08 am, by David EmmettComments Off on News Tidbits from MotoGP: Brno vs. Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, & Some Holiday Entertainment

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With Christmas nearly upon us, and very little happening in the world of motorcycle racing, time for a round up of recent news. Here’s what’s been going on in recent weeks, as well as some recommended reading and listening for over the holiday period.

Brno vs Indy – On or Off?

The news that the Indianapolis round of MotoGP had been dropped came as a huge disappointment to a lot of US fans.

Though few people were fans of the track layout – despite recent improvements which took the worst edges off the layout – the event as a whole was well liked, and, for a US MotoGP round, fairly well attended.

In recent weeks, rumors have been circulating that the event could make a return. Though just speculation at the moment, Indianapolis could be being groomed as a possible replacement for the Czech round of MotoGP at Brno.

Given the troubled recent history of the Brno round, and the excellent organization behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is a chance that behind the smoke, there is a fire powering the rumors.

Photos from the 2015 Superprestigio in Barcelona

12/14/2015 @ 12:01 am, by Steve English7 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is fortunate to publish this outstanding photos by friend and photographer/journalist Steve English. Most motorcycle racing fans will know Steve for his work in the MotoGP paddock, but thankfully his skills translate well on dirt ovals. We hop you enjoy his work and captions. -JB

Failure to prepare leads to failure. On Friday, Brad Baker made sure that everything was just right for him to succeed on Sunday. Having crashed heavily last year and broken his shoulder and elbow, the Washington native took a different approach to this year’s Superprestigio.

“Last year was tough and when I crashed I was just trying so hard. This year I took a different approach because the win is given on the last race and I was building all weekend towards it. Two serious surgeries in two years helps you realize that the most important race is the final. Last year I was going out to impress everyone and I crashed and missed the race. This year I was able to win both finals and it’s great after such an emotional year.”

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Double Pro Flat Track Grand National champion Jared Mees wasn’t able to make the magic happen in the Superfinal, but enjoyed the weekend and said afterwards that “I’m glad Brad won because it means that it’s another win for America!”

The flat track rivals both joked that this weekend was a very different challenge for them. “For me and Jared we’re usually on opposite sides and looking to beat each other so it was fun that we both approached this weekend thinking ‘If I don’t win I hope you do,'” was how Baker summed up their approach to the weekend.

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“Is that a penny at the apex?” Marc Marquez brought a tremendous style to MotoGP when he arrived three years ago and his flat track style is equally impressive.

Leaning so far off the bike to try and generate grip from the edge of the tire is a very different style to that employed by the full-time flat track racers, but on the 200m Barcelona track it worked well for the Spaniard.

Race Results from the 2015 Superprestigio Superfinal

12/13/2015 @ 9:51 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Brad Baker has won the third edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio, holding off a strong challenge from Marc Marquez to take his second victory in the event. Jared Mees, who got boxed in at the start, took a comfortable third.

Superprestigio: Day 1 Practice – Marc Marquez & Toni Elias Lead Jared Mees & Brad Baker

12/12/2015 @ 1:57 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The first sessions of practice for the Barcelona Superprestigio event took place on Friday evening, and the man behind the event is fastest, as might be expected.

Marc Marquez posted a lap of 11.797 during his second run on the track, ahead of Toni Elias, with an 11.8. Jared Mees and Brad Baker were the fastest of the Open riders, for off road and dirt track specialists, both posting times in the 11.9 bracket.

Headline times are not the full story, however, with Marquez’s times less consistent than the two Americans. Brad Baker was particularly impressive, posting a long strings of 11.9s, showing he has good race pace.

2015 Superprestigio Set for December 12th in Barcelona

12/03/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on December 12th in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona’s Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona.

Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s.

Friday Summary at the Jerez MotoGP Test: Redding Reveals Ducati Dominance, & Where Honda Is Going Wrong

11/28/2015 @ 5:20 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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So, testing is over and the winter test ban can start. Riders who intend to race in 2016 are banned from testing between December 1st, 2015 and January 31st 2016.

Engineers now have a long winter ahead of them to try to make sense of the data gathered at the test at Valencia and Jerez, or else send their test riders out in the chill of winter, as Aprilia intend to do at Jerez in a few weeks. Those engineers have an awful lot of work ahead of them.

The men and women at Ducati will be getting the most time off over the holiday period. It is clear from the first two tests that the Italian factory has hit the ground running with the new unified software, and have the systems working relatively well.

One Ducati engineer reckoned that they were already at about 50% of the potential of the software, far more than the 10% MotoGP’s Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli had estimated at Valencia.