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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 6 – Warrior

11/03/2015 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 6 – Warrior

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It took us a little longer than anticipated to get Episode 6 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast out the door, but we think it is worth the wait. To humble-brag, Quentin and I have a good conversation about the rumored Ducati Scrambler 400, and talk about how Bologna could finally enter the small-displacement motorcycle market (again).

We also cover the very intesting Yamaha PED2 & PES2 electric motorcycle concepts that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, and then segue into a conversation about the real demise of Mission Motors.

Of course, we can’t avoid talking about the happenings in the MotoGP Championship, though listeners should note that the show was recorded after the Malaysian press conference, but before the race. So we had no knowledge of the “Sepang Clash” at the time of this show.

Naturally talking about MotoGP leads us into finishing the show on the topic of professional wrestling. RIP Warrior.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Cheers!

Apple Causing Mission Motors to Close is Total Bullshit

10/20/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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I was surprised yesterday when I saw that respected news service Reuters was pushing a story about how Apple was the reason Mission Motors closed its doors.

That very premise couldn’t be farther from the truth, and is readily apparent to anyone who has followed the San Franciscan startup at even a casual distance for the past few years.

On its face, the story’s logic is akin to the idea that the Carpathia, the first ship to arrive at the wreckage of Titanic, should be accused of poaching the ill-fated ocean liner’s passengers, but digging deeper into the story shows how toothless our media has become, and its willingness to parrot stories that will grab headlines.

The premise of the of the assertions made by the Reuters article’s headline rests on statements made by one of Mission Motors’s former-CEOs, Derek Kaufman, who like our comedic parody of the Captain of the Titanic, blamed the iceberg for his misfortunes.

Mission Motorcycles Filing for Bankruptcy

09/11/2015 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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If you were one of the unlucky few who plopped down close to $125,000 in deposits for a Mission R or Mission RS electric motorcycle by Mission Motorcycles, we hate to inform you that you are certainly not going to receive the bike you hoped to purchase, and you are likely not going to see your deposit back either.

This is because Mission Motorcycles, commanded by Mark Seeger, is set to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would see the company’s few assets liquidated in order to repay creditors.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire to Cost $50,000? Not So Fast

12/09/2014 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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News is going around the internet that Harley-Davidson COO Matt Levatich has pegged the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric cruiser at costing roughly $50,000. The price tag comes from a piece by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was in attendance at this year’s Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s yearly meeting.

While no direct quote is given by the Journal Sentinel, Levatich is paraphrased and inferred to be saying that the LiveWire would go about half the range that consumers desired, at a price tag double what they were willing to pay — $50,000.

Many sites have latched onto that $50,000 price announcement, but Harley-Davidson quickly corrected the Journal Sentinel, saying that no personnel at Harley-Davidson has put a potential price on the LiveWire, if it were to go into mass production.

Though a bit of a SNAFU, a quick back-of-the-envelope analysis of that number should have revealed the inaccuracy of that figure.

Mission Motorcycles Becomes Mission Electric, Boats & Cars to Come, Mission R/RS Motos Delayed Until Q2/Q3 2015

09/04/2014 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Interesting things are afoot in the electric realm. Mission Motorcycles is about to expand beyond the two-wheels, as the company becomes officially called Mission Electric. The change comes about as Mission plans to expand into the automotive and marine segments, though the San Francisco company isn’t saying yet who it is partnering with in those spaces.

Mission says it will continue to offer consumer-side products, like its current crop of electric motorcycles, the Mission R and Mission RS. However, its business model will expand to offer business-side electric drivetrain components, which was previously the realm of Mission Motors.

From what our sources say, this move will mean that Mission Motorcycles and Mission Motors will once again become one entity — loyal readers will remember that Mission Motorcycles was spun out of Mission Motors two years ago.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

04/03/2014 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni.

You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mission Motors Providing Mugen with Electric Powertrain

04/02/2014 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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One of the more interesting details to come from the Mugen Shinden San electric superbike reveal is that a familiar name is helping power the Japanese motorcycle: Mission Motors.

One of the inaugural racing teams at the first Isle of Man TT electric race, Mission Motors has since focused its business model on providing OEMs with HEV/EV powertrains — you may remember its motorcycle project was spun into a new company, Mission Motorcycles.

Mission Motorcycles Debuts Its Mission R

06/03/2013 @ 4:53 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Fresh off the news that it would be making the highly touted Mission RS (previously known at the Mission Motors Mission R), Mission Motorcycles announces its own version of the Mission R, a $30,000 (base price) electric superbike that builds off the pedigree of its namesake.

Like the Mission RS, the Mission R features a 160 hp liquid-cooled three-phase AC motor as its power plant, which is mated to a single-speed gearbox with a gear reduction. Also featuring that same James Parker designed “Quad-Element” frame, the Mission R makes its differentiation from the Mission RS in the spec of its components.

Coming with Öhlins RT suspension rear and aft, Brembo M430 monobloc brakes, and Marchesini forged aluminum wheels, the component company names are of course the same, albeit not the WSBK/MotoGP-spec kit that comes on the RS. Available in 12 kWh, 15 kWh, and 17 kWh battery options, the lower-spec equipment (high-spec by any other metric) helps lower the price of the 12 kWh machine to a paltry $29,999 (after a $2,500 federal rebate), with the 15 kWh & 17 kWh machines presumably priced with larger price tag (Mission left that part out of the press release).

Mission Motorcycles Debuts the Mission RS – 160hp, 200 Mile Range, and a $58,999 Price Tag

05/31/2013 @ 4:33 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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As we suspected, the Mission R by Mission Motors lives, albeit in a new company and with a new name. Coming from Mission Motorcycles, the now-called Mission RS (race special) is the realization of what we consider to be the finest road-going electric motorcycle…and we should know, we’ve ridden them all.

Essentially the electric race bike that Steve Rapp piloted to Supersport class lap times at the Laguna Seca MotoGP/AMA/e-Power round in 2011, but with a headlight, taillight and mirrors, the Mission RS boasts some impressive figures.

Sport bike enthusiasts will enjoy the quoted 160hp horsepower, 120 lbs•ft of torque across the rev range, and 17 kWh battery pack, which Mission says is good for a 200 mile range (140 mile real world) and a 150 mph top speed. However, the $58,999 price tag may take some getting used to (insert sticker shock joke here, as well as corresponding eye roll).

Mission Motorcycles: The Mission R Lives??!

05/07/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Mission Motors tweeted out something interesting just a moment ago, a link to a new website for Mission Motorcycles. Teasing there a photo of the Mission R, it would seem that the electric superbike that does competitive AMA Supersport lap times at Laguna Seca, is finally set to come to production.

The stars have been aligning these past few months for such an occasion, with rumors that an old Mission Motors investor was back in the mix, and looking to bring the Mission R to production. You may recall that Mission Motors made a course correction away from the two-wheeled world, focusing instead on supplying the automotive world with electric-drive components.

That change of course saw the departure of two Mission Motors founders, and the heartbreak of two-wheeled enthusiasts, petrol and electric alike, who wished to see the Mission R come to market. With layoffs reported at the San Franciscan startup just six months ago, it would seem more changes are afoot for the EV company, but we think you will like the sound of this.