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.

Redux: AMA Superbike vs. World Superbike at MMP

05/28/2012 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Last year we combined the QP2 times from World Superbike with the Qualifying times from AMA Superbike, to see how America’s finest motorcycle racers stack up on against the international championship of a similar name. Of course there are different regulations in each series (not to mention a variety of other factors), which vary a bit on how teams are allowed to modify their race bikes, so there isn’t an exact comparison between the two series, but it makes for something interesting to mull over with your morning coffee, and the results this year may surprise you.

WSBK: Dry Conditions Prevail for Cold Qualifying at MMP

05/28/2012 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Encircled by the gorgeous Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, Miller Motorsports Park has some of the most dramatic backdrops out of all the World Superbike venues, though coupled with the track’s 4,000+ foot elevation, the weather can be wet and cold at times. Such words were probably an understatement for the conditions on Sunday, as frigid temperatures and rain prevailed in the day’s earlier sessions. Realizing that some Superpole qualifying was scheduled for later though, the weather gods appeased the American crowd, who had been braving the conditions, and quickly dried the track for World Superbike qualifying.

Down on power at the very fast track, the Ducatis of Smrz and Checa surprised everyone with their dominance on the time sheets. Of course, Tom Sykes could not be counted out from the qualifying fun, as the Englishman has taken four of the past five pole positions. One of only two stops on the WSBK calendar that is outside of Europe, American fans were treated on this Memorial Day weekend to some fine qualifying, which included some upsets. Results after the jump.

WSBK: John Hopkins Will Return at Miller Motorsports Park

05/16/2012 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After breaking his right foot at the Monza World Superbike round, Fixi Crescent Suzuki rider John Hopkins will make his return to WSBK racing at his home round of Miller Motorsports Park. Hopper broke his right foot and damaged his left hip in a highside crash at Monza, and had to miss the last WSBK round at Donington Park because of the injury, though there was initially hope that Hopkins would be fit in time to race the British round (the home round for the Crescent Racing team).

With Hopper’s hip not healing in time for Donington, doctors back in the United States have given the Anglo-American the green light to race in the American round, which will be held over the Memorial Day weekend outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Hopkins will still need to take a series of painkilling injections to combat the discomfort in both his hip and foot, but is fully-committed to racing in front of his home crowd.

WSBK: Hopkins Breaks Foot – Will Miss Donington Park

05/09/2012 @ 5:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

If John Hopkins didn’t have his bad luck, the Anglo-American would have no luck at all. Crashing in the questionable conditions at Monza, the Crescent Fixi Suzuki rider injured himself at the Italian World Superbike round. Highsiding during the race, Hopper has broken his right foot and torn muscles in his left hip. Though the team hoped he would be able to ride at the British WSBK round at Donington Park, further tests and scans have shown his injuries to be far worse than originally thought.

Miller Motorsports Park Looks to Break 200 MPH Barrier

04/03/2012 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Miller Motorsports Park Looks to Break 200 MPH Barrier

There is not a lot of betting that goes on in Utah, but Miller Motorsports Park has a good feeling about its upcoming World Superbike round. The only American venue on the WSBK calendar, track officials are hoping to see the 200 mph barrier be broken on Miller’s long straightaway by the production race machines. Standing over 3,500 feet long, Miller’s front straight makes for some daunting first-corner entries, which will challenge WSBK and AMA Pro Racing riders alike during the BigM Weekend.

Final TTXGP Round to be Held at Miller Motorsports Park

08/04/2011 @ 2:16 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After AMA Pro Racing and Virginia International Raceway had their little hubbub over hosting one of the last road racing events on the AMA calendar, the news that the two parties had fallen-out meant that the TTXGP round scheduled to piggyback off the VIR round was by proxy also cancelled. With TTXGP’s New Hampshire round (yes, you read that right…New Hampshire) also cancelled because of worries over competitor attendance, TTXGP’s joint-round with the FIM e-Power Championship at Laguna Seca threatened to be the series’s final running of the 2011 season.

With rumors swirling at the US GP that TTXGP was hard at work securing a final round, we get word tonight that the final round will be held at the venerable Miller Motorsports Park on the weekend of September 3rd & 4th. With MMP hosting Bike Fest (a regional gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts) during that weekend, TTXGP will presumably become a part of the Fests’ festivities. That is of course if anyone actually shows up to the racing event.

Photo of the Week: Rolling Momentum

07/11/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

In 2009, I interviewed Marco Melandri after he’d done seven races on the Hayate Kawasaki, and was impressed by his earnest desperation to show he was still a viable GP rider in spite of the previous season’s debacle on the Ducati GP8. This was, after all, a rider who had finished second in the World Championship in 2005 and 4th & 5th in the following seasons. Since then I’ve always hoped for Melandri to find a good situation, one that allows his talents to shine.

That was not on the Gresini Honda last season, unfortunately, but it appears that he has finally found a position in WSBK where he can again fight for the title. After a win and a second place at Brno, Melandri is 53 points behind Carlos Checa and 30 behind MAx Biaggi, but with some serious momentum for the second half of the season. It’s great to see him at the front where he belongs.

Miller Motorsports Park by Jensen Beeler

06/01/2011 @ 7:36 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Nestled between two mountain ranges and in the high desert, Miller Motorsports Park provides one of the most striking and beautiful backdrops to any race course I’ve ever attended. The fact that both World Superbike and AMA Pro Racing race during the same weekend makes the BigM weekend, as the locals call it, increasingly special, and accordingly our access to the course and riders this past Memorial Day was especially gracious.

While I like to let our resident Nikon-hauler Scott Jones do the hard work behind the lens, every now and then my camera catches a photo in focus, so I thought I’d share some of those rare occasions during my first time in the World Superbike paddock. Enjoy them after the jump.

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose

05/31/2011 @ 12:19 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.

A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.

Monday at Miller Motorsports Park with Scott Jones

05/30/2011 @ 6:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS