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.

Lies, Damned Lies, & The MIC’s Electric Range Estimates

06/13/2012 @ 5:58 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Rewind a few years ago in the electric segment of the motorcycle industry, and you found a landscape where manufacturers published wildly inaccurate numbers relating to speed, range, and power. The situation of over-promising and under-delivering was so bad, virtually any figure quoted, whether it was made with the best or worst intentions, was immediately called into question. The issue of course stemmed from the fact that OEMs were unable to deliver motorcycles with specifications that were remotely acceptable to a savvy motorcycle market. 20 mile ranges? 15hp available continuously? 60 mph top speeds if you’re downhill, tucked in, have a tailwind, and add five to the speedo’s reading? Yup, those were the good old days.

As the industry matured, so did our expectations, and it looked like some sanity was going to come to fruition as the MIC began pooling interest on developing a standard to rate the various performance specifications of electric motorcycles. An industry group setup to look after the best interests of the OEMs and other business in the motorcycle industry, you only need to follow the cash to see whose best interests are really being served by this group.

So, it should not surprise us then that the latest “standard” from the MIC, which establishes criterion on how the highway mileage of an electric motorcycle should be rated, is doing a downright scandelous disservice to consumers and the industry itself, as the proposed standard massively overrates the highway range of electric motorcycles.

MIC Leaks Harley-Davidson’s Q1 Sales Figures

04/24/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

For a while now I have been trying to figure out what exactly the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) does, because while the MIC “exists to preserve, protect and promote motorcycling through government relations, communications and media relations…” the industry group does a pretty poor job of doing much of anything along the lines of its mission statement, if it does anything really at all. Showing signs of life though, the MIC is making headlines today after it disclosed Harley-Davidson’s Q1 2012 earnings, ahead of the publicly-traded company’s shareholder meeting. Nice.

The move caused a bit of a shuffle over in Milwaukee, as the Bar & Shield brand had to make an emergency filing with the SEC that it had in fact found a 25.5% sales gain in the first three months of the year (bravo to Harley, by the way). For those that aren’t as a familiar with the MIC, the nonprofit group is essentially comprised of representatives from the various motorcycle OEMs, aftermarket, and other industry businesses, and is the corporatation-focused counterpart to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), which supposedly has the best interests of motorcyclist at its heart.

MIC Forecasts Motorcycle Sales Decline for 2012

03/15/2012 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council’s Business Advisory & Forecast group has issued a report that predicts a sales decline in the US new motorcycle market for 2012. The news comes fresh on the heels of the 0.3% gain that the motorcycle industry’s leading brands experienced in 2011 in the American market, and is the first time that the MIC has forecasted future new motorcycle sales for the United States.

Adding some validity to the report is the fact that the MIC, in conjunction with the Institute for Trend Research, accurately predicted 2011’s modest sales growth. This news is interesting to note, as it goes counter to news about the recovering economy and the increased national average gasoline price, both of which have been linked to previous bumps in volume for motorcycle sales.

MIC Establishes Standard to Test Range on Electric Motorcycle – Self-Policing with a Prelude to OEM Entry

05/04/2011 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has taken it upon itself to establish a new standard on how to gauge the range of electric motorcycles. Since their entry into the market, we’ve seen some interesting performance claims from electric motorcycle manufacturers — some more misleading than others. Doing a little self-policing, the MIC has stepped in and established a universal standard that will attempt to quantify the real-world range of electric two-wheelers.

This news is important for two reasons, with the first being the obvious need of some sort of apples-to-apples comparison between the electric motorcycle brands, and the MIC’s desire to intervene on the nonsense occurring in this space before things get really out of hand.

The other major takeaway from this news is perhaps more subtle, as the MIC’s interest in regulating electrics is incredibly telling of what’s coming down the pipe from the major OEMs. A group comprised of executives from the largest US motorcycle brands, one has to wonder why this organization would be interested in regulating this budding segment in the motorcycle industry, that is unless it was setting the groundwork for OEM involvement in the E2V space…and boom goes the dynamite.

US Motorcycle Sales up 7% in Q1 2011

04/25/2011 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The Motorcycle Industry Council is reporting that US motorcycle sales are up 7% in Q1 of 2011, with 102,547 units being sold in the year’s first three months. Leading the charge were scooter sales, which were up nearly 50% to 6,246 units, while on-road units were up as well, pushing 70,879 units in Q1 (a 6.9% gain).

Despite the strong numbers from on-road and dual-sport models, off-road vehicles did not fare as well, with ATV sales down 16% and off-road motorcycle sales down 5.5% (47,702 & 18,725 units respectively), making 2011 still a mixed bag depending on what side of the industry you are on.

Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 16% in 2009

09/14/2010 @ 6:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle deaths in the United States dropped by 16% in 2009 compared to the number of deaths in 2008. With 4,462 deaths in 2009 and 5,312 deaths in 2008, this makes for the first time motorcycle death tolls have dropped in the past decade; however federal officials are reluctant to call this a victory in rider safety.

“While we are pleased that the number of motorcycling fatalities dropped dramatically in 2009, a one-year drop isn’t a trend. We need to determine why, and ensure that the decline continues,” said Ed Moreland, AMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations.

MIC Launches Electric Vehicle Task Force

06/29/2010 @ 4:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has formed a task force to study the issues surrounding electric motorcycles and other vehicle segments in the powersports industry. While the task force’s participants aren’t being named, almost all the major OEM manufacturers are involved, as well as most of the electric motorcycle producers. While the groups hasn’t finalized its priority list of issues, performance standards and consumer education seem to be top-billed action items for the task force, as group looks to create fair comparisons between the budding industry and entreached ICE market.

First Quarter 2010 Motorcycle Sales Down 21% – March 2010 Sales Down 5%

04/28/2010 @ 9:18 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council has released the latest figures on motorcycle and industry sales for the first quarter of 2010, and the figures show a 21% decrease in motorcycle sales compared to 2009, with the industry as a whole posting a 23% loss. These statistics paint a continued doom and gloom scenario for the motorcycle industry, but there is a silver lining in the March 2010 numbers, which show an increase in some segments, and a slowing decline in the rest. Check after the jump for a full breakdown.

Stay of Execution on Lead Containing Dirt Bikes for Kids

04/24/2009 @ 6:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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It looks like there will be a respite over the battle to keep childrens’ dirt bikes on the showroom floors as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and officials representing motorcycle manufacturers and dealers have come to an agreement that will temporarily lift the federal ban on children’s motor vehicles that contain lead. The Motorcycle Industry Council has released at statement of its own about the temporary measure, and while they are pleased with the announcement, they urge Congress to step in and make a more permanent solution for children riders. 

 

Q1 New Unit Motorcycle Sales Fall Nearly 30% – Lead Bike Ban All Hype?

04/23/2009 @ 3:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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First quarter numbers for the powersports industry  are coming in, and they don’t look good. New unit sales were down more than 30% compared to Q1 of 2008. This drop is attributed to both the economic slowdown, as well as the ban on youth-designed ATVs and motorcycles with lead paint. 

 

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