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.

Valentino Rossi Takes a NASCAR Test Drive

04/23/2013 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Any loyal Valentino Rossi fan knows that The Doctor is an avid four-wheel driver. Testing everything from Rally to Formula 1, many think that Rossi will go to the four-wheel world after his time in the two-wheeled world is done. Which series that could be is up for contention (we very much doubt it will be in the Australia V8 cars though), though the name NASCAR might have to be added to the list.

Fresh off Sunday’s Grand Prix of the Americas, Monster Energy gave Rossi a chance to lap with Kyle Busch’s 650hp Toyota race car at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Though Rossi started out slow, he ultimately set some impressive numbers (what would have been a Top 15 in the Nationwide Series practice at Charlotte). Of course, it helps when you have the one of the most successful NASCAR drivers in the series giving you track notes and talking in your ear over the radio.

This is Not Rossi’s New Yamaha MotoGP Livery

01/14/2013 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The great winter depression is nearly over for MotoGP fans, as tomorrow Ducati Corse will debut its 2013 team(s) for the premier class, and soon enough we will see similar events from Honda and Yamaha as well. In February, the boys with their bikes will be back on the track, as the pre-season tests at Sepang again give us our first glimpse at the teams’ progress over the off-season.

Of course, the anticipation doesn’t stop some. Take graphic designer and DeviantArtist Samuel from Italy, he spent the long-winter months photoshopping together what many Rossi fans have been speculating about: the nine-time World Champion’s new livery now that Monster is sponsoring the Yamaha Racing MotoGP team.

Official: Monster to Sponsor Yamaha Factory MotoGP Team

01/08/2013 @ 11:00 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Monster Energy has agreed to a two-year partnership deal with Yamaha Factory Racing, which will see the Monster brand act as sponsor to Yamaha’s MotoGP team. The announcement had been widely anticipated, and reported on here prior to Christmas, and extends Monster’s participation in MotoGP, where they go head-to-head with the other energy drink giant, Red Bull.

Though the deal between Yamaha and Monster will provide a useful influx of cash for the Japanese factory team (Spanish website Motocuatro.com put the total sponsorship deal at 4 million euros) Monster will not become title sponsor. Instead, the Monster logos will receive the same kind of prominence as Japanese oil sponsor ENEOS, appearing on the fairings of both bikes, as well as on the leathers of both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Monster To Sponsor Yamaha’s Factory MotoGP Team?

12/21/2012 @ 3:04 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

It is looking increasingly likely that energy drink company Monster is to take on a role as co-sponsor of Yamaha’s MotoGP team. Spanish website Motocuatro is reporting that Yamaha has bought Jorge Lorenzo out of his personal sponsorship by rival energy drink maker Rockstar and that both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi are to carry Monster sponsorship on their leathers and on the fairings of their Yamaha M1s for 2013 and 2014.

According to Motocuatro, the story started earlier this year, after Lorenzo renewed his contract with Rockstar, and Valentino Rossi announced he would be signing with Yamaha. Both Rockstar and Monster had been in talks with Yamaha to step up their sponsorship of their riders – both men have personal contracts with their respective energy drink brands – to increase exposure for the brand.

At first, Motocuatro reports, Monster showed an interest in moving up as co-sponsor on Rossi’s bike, gaining the same level of sticker coverage as ENEOS, the Japanese oil brand which also adorns the Yamaha’s fairings.

In response, Rockstar started negotiations with Yamaha to match Monster’s offer, meaning that both Lorenzo and Rossi would have equal levels of energy drink sponsorship on their bikes. Lorenzo would have Rockstar stickers, while Rossi would have Monster badges.

Where Will Rossi End Up Racing in 2013 and Beyond?

07/23/2012 @ 5:31 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP’s Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi’s future has filled the media, with multiple, and sometimes conflicting, stories appearing in the international press. So, that Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical.

After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi’s decision will determine not just where he lands, but also to a massive degree it will determine who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.

Rossi’s choice is fairly straightforward: he can elect to stay at Ducati and hope that Filippo Preziosi can soon provide him with a competitive bike; he can take up the offer he is believed to have from Yamaha to join the factory team; or he can accept a ride with a satellite Honda team aboard a full-factory RC213V.

During his daily briefing with the press at each race weekend, Rossi has suggested that his primary focus is to stay with Ducati and make the Desmosedici competitive. Yet all of the news stories in the past 10 days have been suggesting that Rossi is close to signing a deal with Yamaha, with the sponsors backing the deal varying depending on the source.

So what is the truth? Just where will Valentino Rossi end up next season? Is it possible to make any sense of the rumors and conjecture that surround the future of the nine-times World Champion? Let us examine each possibility, and see what we can piece together.

Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 2

07/14/2012 @ 1:01 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 2

Monster’s series on Valentino Rossi’s Mugello helmets continues (Part 1 here), with this second installment just teasing out the nine-time World Champion’s signature special Mugello helmet. The video is certainly less wordy than the first, and from what we can gather, Rossi will have a ring of flowers on his head for the Italian GP.

With MotoGP to take to the historic Italian track for FP3 and Qualifying in just a few hours, we shouldn’t have too long to wait to see the final product from Aldo Drudi. Until then, this video will have to suffice. Check it out after the jump.

Video: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmets, Part 1

07/12/2012 @ 10:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It looks like Monster Energy has a nice video series cooking with Valentino Rossi, just ahead of the nine-time World Champion racing in front of his home crowd this weekend at the Italian GP. Of course, Rossi is known for his special helmets at the Mugello round, and 2012 will be no different, as The Doctor once again has trusted Aldo Drudi to paint him a special AGV lid for the race.

Usually a surprise to race fans, the last few years we have been getting peeks of the Drudi’s work on Twitter, usually from Rossi’s mechanics Alex Briggs. But for this year, Monster and Rossi have teamed up to make a special multi-part promo video to promote the helmet, and the race.

Yeah sure it’s a promotional work for Monster (a personal sponsor of Rossi), but it is actually pretty interesting to hear Valentino, in his own words, explain the significance and meaning behind his and Drudi’s collaborations.

If this first part is any indication of what is to come, we should be in for a nice little web series this race-weekend, though no one is expecting a miracle from Rossi and the Ducati Corse team in their results. Check the video out after the jump.

Video: John McGuinness – A Legend in the Making

06/18/2012 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

John McGuinees, the King of the Mountain, could quit road racing today and go down in history as a legend of the sport. The thing is though, Mr. McPint is showing no signs of slowing down, and in reality McGuinness is at the top of his game — adding two more race wins from the 2012 Isle of Man TT to his impressive total. Nineteen wins to his name, McGuinness was favored to win his 20th in the Senior TT, after coming in second during the TT Zero competition.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt in the TT paddock that McGuinness will break the twenty-win barrier, a feat only ever accomplish by one other man: Joey Dunlop. But, fate has a cruel way of changing our expectations. Three wins in a TT fortnight is no easy matter, and no one wants to win more than John McGuinness himself. So, it goes to show you a bit about the man when you learn that McGuinness was instrumental in the canceling of the Senior TT, since his voice hold some of the most weight with the riders and Race Control — even though his own racing interests would have been served best by the race’s continuation in adverse conditions.

On that Saturday’s Senior TT, no one wanted to make more history than McGuinness — of course he wanted to do so in an entirely different way than what occurred. It will now be a long wait before he can lay claim to that twentieth IOMTT victory trophy, but John McGuinness isn’t too worried about that I suspect, and I reckon he has his eyes leveled firmly on the horizon, staring at what would seem to be an impossible an impossible number that starts with three.

Josh Hayes to Test Yamaha YZR-M1 at Valencia

10/04/2011 @ 8:23 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

AMA Pro Racing Champion Josh Hayes will get a chance to swing a leg over some MotoGP machinery later this year, as the American rider will get to ride with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad at the post-season test in Valencia. Taking place immediately after the final 2011 MotoGP round in Valencia, Hayes will ride Colin Edwards’ 800cc Yamaha YZR-M1, as the Texan Tornado will presumably be released from his Tech 3 duties so that he can begin testing his CRT bike at the first 2012 season test. The ride is joint-promotion by both Monster and Yamaha USA, and it also sees Josh Hayes’ better half, Melissa Paris, riding Bradley Smith’s Tech 3 Tech 3 Mistral 610 Moto2 race bike at the Spanish test.

Ducati Monster 659 – Australia’s New LAMS Learner

04/29/2011 @ 7:46 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

According to our friends at Ducati News Today, Ducati Australia has announced that it will begin offering a Ducati Monster 659, a Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) compliant motorcycle for learning motorcyclists. Something we reported on back in March, the Monster 659 is a repurposed Monster 696 that complies with Australia’s laws and restrictions regarding motorcycle purchases by new riders.

Though with this news the Monster 659 has been official announced, it still is not clear how Ducati arrived to its 659cc displacement for the Ducati Monster 659. Logic would dictate either a reduced bore size, or a shortened stroke, with the latter being our best guess, but Ducati Australia so far has been mums the word about it.