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.

US Female Motorcycle Ownership Reaches All-Time High

12/18/2015 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler89 COMMENTS

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More and more women are riding motorcycles, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s (MIC) latest motorcycle ownership survey. The data from the survey shows that out of the 9.2 million motorcycle owners in the United States of America, 14% of them are women. Booyah!

This figure is a stark contrast to the 8% ownership rate for women that was found in 1998, though it shows that the motorcycle industry still has a great deal of ground to cover when it comes to appealing to both sexes equally.

Encouraging though is the fact that 30 million people in the USA swung a leg over a motorcycle, with over a quarter of those people being female (some presumably as passengers), which shows that the sport and industry is at least reaching out beyond the gender lines.

Motorcycle Industry Council Buys the AIMExpo

09/15/2015 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Interesting news, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), the American trade group that is comprised of most of the motorcycle manufacturers, has acquired the motorcycle group of Marketplace Events LLC. What this really means is that the MIC has bought the AIMExpo, America’s largest trade, consumer, and media event.

We say this news is interesting, because you don’t usually see trade groups like the MIC in the mergers and acquisition realm, though the acquisition makes sense from a promotional point-of-view.

For those who don’t know, the MIC serves the interests of the motorcycle industry as a whole in the United States, and thus there is a lot to be gained by the MIC also controlling arguably the most important expo event for the American motorcycle industry.

This likely means that we will see more US models debuting at the AIMExpo, giving the show a status similar to the EICMA show in Italy and the INTERMOT show in Germany.

US Motorcycle Industry Up 3.8% in 2014

02/09/2015 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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The Motorcycle Industry Council has tallied the numbers from 2014, and is happy to report that the US motorcycle industry grew 3.8% last year. Participating motorcycle manufacturers reported that 483,526 two-wheelers were sold in 2014, with growth across all sectors except in scooter sales.

The off-road segment sold particularly well, seeing an almost 11% gain over 2013’s numbers, with 81,013 units going thru dealership doors. Dual-sport sales were up 3.6% with 34,497 units sold, while on-road sales were up a modest 3%, for 334,488 units sold.

US Motorcycle Sales Up 4.0% in Q2 2014

08/01/2014 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The US economy has been slow to recover, and so too has the US motorcycle market. With first-quarter sales down 0.3% this year though, it looked like the US motorcycle market was about to flatline.

Thankfully, that has not been the case in Q2 of 2014, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is proud to report that US motorcycle sales are up 4.0% in the second quarter of this year.

Selling 169,111 units in Q2 2014 (6,585 more than in 2013), motorcycles sales in the US so far this year are now up 2.6%, with 263,833 units sold so far in 2014.

Moto Bellwether: Q1 2014 Motorcycle Tire Sales Down 12.7%

06/02/2014 @ 5:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Tire sales for the first quarter of the year are down 12.7%. It’s certainly not great news, but why are we publishing this figure for you? Because tire sales are the best indicator of how active motorcyclists are during the riding season. With tire sales down 12.7% retailers and brands can expect similar downward trends in apparel, parts, and service items during the same time period.

You can account for the sales drop through a number of factors, though one has to certainly consider the unseasonably cold winter (Polar Vortex) that occurred in the United States — except for us Californians, who just had an extended autumn, despite a slew of new ski gear.

US Motorcycle Q1 2014 Sales Flatlined

05/01/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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How Is that rebounding economy treating you? If you work in the motorcycle industry, probably not so well according to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s latest sales report, which highlights sales from the first-quarter of 2014. Down 0.2% (or 118 units) from Q1 2013, the slight decline over last year’s numbers are primarily due to a 10.7% sales drop in scooter sales.

Dual-sport motorcycles were up 3.9% (7,644 units), with on-road bikes holding at 0.9% growth (65,301 units). Dirt bike sales were down 2.7% during the same three-month time period (16,597 units).

In total, 94,524 two-wheel vehicles were sold in the US (94,772 units were sold in Q1 2013) according to the MIC, which tracks Can-Am, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio Group, Victory, Suzuki, Triumph, and Yamaha.

US Motorcycles Sales Up 3% in 2013

02/04/2014 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on US Motorcycles Sales Up 3% in 2013

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The motorcycle industry continues to make steady progress on recovering from the recession, with the overall US two-wheeled market up 1.4% over last year’s sales figures. Taking scooters out of the equation, which were down a staggering 15.5% last year, proper motorcycles were up 3% overall in the United States.

Breaking that number down further, dual-sport machines were up 7.8%, off-highway bikes were up 5.7%, and on-highway motorcycles were up a modest 2%. The Motorcycle Industry Council says that 465,783 units were sold in 2013, up from the 459,298 sold last year.

US Motorcycles Sales Decline 5.2% for the First-Half of 2013

08/01/2013 @ 8:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Don’t call it a comeback, because even though the US motorcycle industry beat the Motorcycle Industry Council’s projections last year, sales so far for 2013 are looking less than stellar in the first-half of the year.

Down 5.2% from January to June, motorcycle sales were hit mostly by abysmal losses in the scooter segment (23.3%), and helped along by modest losses in the on-road segment (5.3%). Adding more to the misery, dual-sports suffered a 3.4% drop in the first half of the year, though surprisingly off-road bikes showed a gain, increasing 5.4% over Q1 & Q2.

452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

02/05/2013 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

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After first forecasting a sales decline for 2012, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has tallied the number of motorcycles sold in the United States last year, and once again discovered that the motorcycle industry is slowly, but surely recovering from the recession. With the US making a very slight 0.3% sales gain in 2011, A&R‘s home market has posted a 2.6% gain over the figures from 2011, with OEMs selling 452,386 motorcycles in 2012.

Though all the two-wheeled segments showed growth in the MIC’s figures, it was the dual-purpose and scooter market that posted the biggest gains, 7.4% and 7.7% respectively. For the street bike market, sales were up a modest 1.8%, despite a much larger gain made by Harley-Davidson, which dominates over half of the US on-road market by volume. Dirt bikes also posted a modest 2.1% growth, with 71,535 units sold in 2012.

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.