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.

Video: Ian Hutchinson Gives Michael Dunlop a Surprise

06/09/2015 @ 4:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The Isle of Man TT is a time trial event, meaning that riders are ultimately competing against the clock, not necessarily against the other riders on the course.

Usually when a rider has caught another rider on the course, it means one of them overcame an initial 10 second separation, and thus is considerably faster than the other.

The general protocol then is to let the faster rider through. This benefits the faster rider, who clearly has a superior pace to the slower rider. But, it also benefits the slower rider, who can get a tow from the faster rider, and benefit from their added confidence on the course.

As such, it’s rare to see riders get too close to each other on the Snaefell Mountain Course. Then again…this is motorcycle racing, and these are motorcycle racers…

IOMTT: RL360 Superstock TT Race Results

06/09/2015 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Superstock TT is an interesting part of the Isle of Man TT. As the name implies, it features liter-class machines, but in a near-stock level of trim. That being said, the speeds attained by the Superstock machines touches near to the highly tuned Superbike machines, with 130+ mph laps being a reality.

The Superstock machines only compete once in the TT fortnight though, whereas there are two Supersport races, and the Superbikes basically get two goes of things, with the Superbike and Senior TT having a staggering overlap in machinery.

With all the weather, the sole chance to run the RL360 Superstock TT was pushed to Tuesday, and was the only race to run today. But, it certainly did its part in providing TT fans with some entertainment.

IOMTT: RST Superbike TT Race Results

06/07/2015 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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After a multitude of delays and interruptions by the weather, Sunday finally played host to the first race day of the Isle of Man TT.

As is the custom, the RST Superbike TT, or Junior TT as some call it, started things off — who doesn’t like seeing the fastest bikes on the Mountain Course right at the start of things, right?

Ahead of any TT, there is a ton of speculation. John McGuinness said the lack of practice played to his advantage, with the Honda CBR1000RR being a proven package here at the Isle of Man. Bruce Anstey was the first rider to do a 130 mph lap in practice, thus being the quickest to pace.

Michael Dunlop made a surprise switch from his Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1, back to the BMW S1000RR he rode to great success last year — will that move prove to be prudent? And then of course, there’s Guy Martin, who has said before the fortnight that this is his last TT ever.

After a three-minute delay on the starting grid, the riders were finally off for the first race of the 2015 Isle of Man TT. Continue reading for a full race report.

IOMTT: Michael Dunlop Leaves Yamaha for BMW

06/04/2015 @ 6:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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The big news out of the Isle of Man TT today is that Michael Dunlop is dumping the Milwaukee Yamaha team, and its 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 race package, in favor for a BMW S1000RR in Stuart Hicken’s Buildbase BMW team.

The move comes after critical practice days were lost to bad weather on the Isle of Man, which in-turn caused Dunlop to feel that he could not tame the R1 in time for the 1,000cc bike races.

Victory Entering an Electric Race Bike at Isle of Man TT

05/12/2015 @ 1:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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It looks like we were only partially correct in our news that Brammo would be returning to the Isle of Man TT, as the brand’s sister company, Victory Motorcycles, will in fact be racing an electric entry — one that looks like a rebadged Brammo Empulse RR — in the TT Zero event at the historic road race.

According to its press release, Victory Motorcycles will field a two-rider team, comprised of William Dunlop and Lee Johnston (a photo of “General Lee” testing a Brammo superbike is what initially sparked this news).

While Victory is calling its racing platform a “Victory electric race prototype motorcycle” the chassis and fairings give way to a shape we recognize as the Brammo Empulse RR electric superbike.

Trackside Tuesday: A 2014 Photo Retrospective – Part 2

02/03/2015 @ 11:34 am, by Tony Goldsmith2 COMMENTS

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I’m going to start the 2nd and final part of my 2014 photo retrospective with the image above of Marc Marquez. Taken at Woodcote during Sunday mornings warm up for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Woodcote was one of the most exhilarating sections of track I shot last year. The sensation of speed as the riders came past, back wheel sliding, only feet away was indescribable.

IOMTT: Michael Dunlop Will Ride for Milwaukee Yamaha

01/15/2015 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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With the surprise move of BMW Motorrad working with TAS Racing and Guy Martin, the questions have been flying, yet again, about who Michael Dunlop will be racing with this upcoming Isle of Man TT.

The nephew of Joey Dunlop has come into his own now as a racer, taking many of the race victories in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and with a good ride underneath him, a sweep of the TT races is not outside the realm of possibilities.

Again we get a late answer, as we have news today that Michael Dunlop has signed with the Milwaukee Yamaha team for the 2015 Isle of Man TT.

Video Preview the 2015 Isle of Man TT

12/21/2014 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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We are six months away from the start of the 2015 Isle of Man TT, which for fans and media seems like an eternal amount of time, but for the organizers and competitors, the waiving of the green flag must surely seem like the event is rapidly approaching.

The off-season posturing is already in full-swing, with Michael Dunlop and BMW Motorrad seemingly parting ways, despite a very productive 2014 season. Instead Guy Martin will be on the German brand, perhaps giving him his best shot at a TT race win ever.

No one can count out John McGuinness, of course, as he looks to top Joey Dunlop’s outright TT race-win record. McPint is a contender in every class he enters, though his best hopes are surely in the electric class, where Team Mugen is the outfit to beat.

The electric bikes will be looking to lap 120 mph on the Isle this year, which is proper fast — no matter what standard you use — and puts those top competitors will be in supersport-pace territory.

Trackside Tuesday: A Manx Perspective on the Classic TT

09/02/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

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The dust has now settled on this year’s Classic TT. For those unfamiliar with the event, the Classic TT was born from the ashes of the old Manx Grand Prix. Run on the same Mountain Course as the TT, the Manx as it was affectionately known, featured racing on modern and classic machinery.

Originally created as the amateur rider’s TT,  TT legends such as Steve Hislop and Philip McCallen first cut their teeth at the Manx before moving on to the TT. Multiple World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty won at “The Manx” in the 1985.

As media interest in the old Manx Grand Prix format dwindled, the Manx government started looking at ways to improve its marketing appeal and increase visitor numbers.  Early proposals to cut the amount of modern classes were met with protests by some local fans, but a new format was eventually agreed and the Festival of Motorcycling was born.

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante

06/10/2014 @ 2:52 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

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Now the dust has begun to settle on this year’s Tourist Trophy, the obvious headlines are taking up most of the page space in the motorcycle press. Michael Dunlop’s quadruple wins, John McGuinness’ hand injury issues, Dave Molyneux’s 17th victory, and any potential speculation and hearsay that they believe print-worthy dominates the news.

After an interrupted week of practice, due to weather and on-course incidents, Michael Dunlop laid his intentions down for all to see by breaking McGuinness’ long-standing lap record on the first two laps of the race at 131.730mph and 131.810mph.

Riding the Superbike-spec BMW S1000RR that was deemed to be the unknown element in Dunlop’s fortnight-long campaign at the TT, Michael broke his rivals and silenced the doubters before he had even completed his first pit stop. These laps bettered the lap record that had stood since John McGuinness set the marker of 131.671 mph during the 2013 Senior race.

While much of the focus was on Michael’s cruise to victory over Guy Martin and Connor Cummins, Bruce Anstey was wrestling his way to the fastest-ever lap of the Mountain Course by bettering Dunlop’s freshly-set lap record by over three seconds.