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.

Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

01/29/2016 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show.

Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

01/27/2016 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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There is a tongue-in-cheek joke amongst moto-journalists when it comes to new MV Agusta models: that each new machine is “the best motorcycle yet” from the Italian brand. The unspoken punchline of course is that each new model has such an incredibly low bar to surpass, that it is a relatively easy to be the next “best” motorcycle in the lineup, and thus it’s easy to lead a bike review with such a hyperbolic statement.

That joke has been slowly fading away though, and it is becoming more of an honest reality, as MV Agusta’s motorcycle lineup has evolved from a family of luridly appealing motorcycles that unfortunately are also deeply flawed, to a brand of machine that can boast the competence to match its striking beauty.

Nothing better proves this point than MV Agusta’s three-cylinder platform, which was mired by half-baked electronics and fueling at its debut in 2013, and now survives as a supersport/middleweight platform that should be on every rider’s short-list of must-ride motorcycles.

It is this trend that sees MV Agusta now updating its 800cc platform for 2016 (the 675cc machines will see an update soon enough), notably with Euro4 emission controls in full-effect.

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case.

The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines.

Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

A Panigale-Powerd Ducati Monster Looks Really Good

12/07/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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I’m not a fan of the Monster line from Ducati. There, I said it. There is just something about the Monster models over the years that has failed to strike me as appealing, though I must say the latest crop of liquid-cooled Monsters has certainly been a step forward for me, visually.

I’m more of a fan of the Ducati Streetfigther lineup, and I still hope that Ducati has a new Streetfighter design somewhere on its design boards. Ideally, such a machine would have a Superquadro engine at its heart, and accordingly make big horsepower numbers that rip our eyeballs from our sockets.

The fate of the Streetfighter line remains to be seen though, and with each passing model year I expect to see the Streetfighter 848 finally leave the Italian company’s lineup. It would seem the Streetfighter is kaput as of the 2016 model year. -JB

As such, the Monster line could be Ducati’s only naked bike model, any year now. So, if time is really against us, and if the Monster really is to be the only naked bike from Ducati, I hope the future iterations take a lesson from this concept.

2016 Honda CB500F Gets Much-Needed Facelift

11/16/2015 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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When the Honda CB500F first debuted, it was a welcomed addition to Honda’s lineup, as the Japanese brand was really filling out its 500cc/A2 offerings, but the bike itself was hardly something to get excited about, especially in the looks department.

That seems to have changed now, with the release of the 2016 Honda CB500F at the EIMCA show in Milan, as the street “standard” is looking a lot more aggressive and edgy with its new haircut.

LEAKED: 2016 Triumph Speed Triple R

10/27/2015 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Triumph is set to debut most of its 2016 line on October 28th, but that hasn’t stopped a French dealer from posting photos of the company’s lineup onto the internet. Since we’re not part of the party, and thus handcuffed by an embargo, we thought we would share the photos with you, dear readers.

First up is the 2016 Triumph Speed Triple R, which gets a modest face lift for the new model year. Beyond the reworking of the bodywork, with the most obvious changes done to the face of the machine, the revised Triumph Speed Triple R will be Euro 4 compliant, which means there is likely a reworking to the streetfighter’s three-cylinder engine.

Rumors have the Triumph Speed Triple R coming with 140hp out of the box, with the “R” model getting the obviously higher-spec suspension and wheels over the base model, per usual.

We will have to wait and see what other changes Triumph brings to this fantastic street bike. Hopefully they have updated the Speed Triple enough to keep it relevant in this increasingly competitive segment, but hopefully they have also retained what makes the Speed Triple such a joy to ride. More photos after the jump.

2016 Ducati Monster 1200 R Mega Gallery

09/14/2015 @ 11:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

Monster 1200 R

Just in case you didn’t know, the Ducati Monster 1200 R debuted today, and with 160hp, it’s officially Ducati’s most powerful naked bike…ever.

Ducati hopes that the changes to the motor and chassis will make the Monster 1200 R more skilled on the track – something that Monster 1200 S doesn’t really do well – and it shows from the photos.

Speaking of photos we have 74 mega-huge – yup, that’s a word now – photos ones for you to enjoy, after the jump of course.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Is this a worthy successor to the Ducati Streetfighter 1098? How does the Monster 1200 R stack-up to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R and Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR, in your mind?

Ducati Monster 1200 R – Powerfully Naked

09/14/2015 @ 10:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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As promised, the Ducati Monster 1200 R debuted today, making this new top-of-the-line Monster the most powerful naked bike ever from the Bologna brand.

Helping Ducati with that powerful claim is the use of the 160hp Testastretta 11° DS engine on the Monster 1200R, which is an interesting choice, as it’s not the DVT units found on the new Ducati Multistrada 1200.

Helping Testastretta motor are large oval throttle bodies, 58mm exhaust ports, and a compression ratio of 13:1. The Monster 1200 R is still EURO 4 homologated though, making the machine both powerful and friendly to the environment.

Other noticeable enhancements for the “R” model are the new tail and front section designs, along with revised chassis that includes higher-spec Öhlins suspension, fore and aft.

For good measure, the wheels are forged aluminum Marchesini units, which should help make the 456 lbs (curb) mass of the motorcycle move a little more easily.

Available in either “Ducati” Red or “Thrilling” Black, the 2016 Ducati Monster 1200 R will be available at dealers in early 2016, says Ducati North America.

KTM 690 Duke To Get Upgrades for 2016

09/09/2015 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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KTM is pulling the interesting move of only alerting certain outlets to the fact that the Austrian company will be bringing updates to the KTM 690 Duke for the 2016 model year. Regardless of that alienating choice, the facts remain, and we’re here to give you the details of their new models.

As such, expect to see the 2016 KTM 690 Duke to get a power boost, roughly to the tune of 73hp @ 8,500 rpm (up 1,000 rpm over the previous model), with peak torque also getting a boost of roughly 6%.

This increase in power comes about partly to internal changes, which include a larger bore and shorter stroke. These give that 690 Duke a very slight displacement increase of 3cc, for 693cc in total.

Ducati Monster 1200 R – The Most Powerful Monster Ever

09/08/2015 @ 5:15 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Ducati has just teased the first images of its most powerful naked bike ever, calling the machine the Ducati Monster 1200 R, which is set to officially debut on September 14th.

The Italian motorcycle company says that the Monster 1200 R has a “more powerful engine, a sportier chassis and an advanced design,” though fails to say in comparison to what – we presume the Monster 1200 S.

Spy Photos: KTM 800cc-Class Parallel-Twin Duke

08/26/2015 @ 2:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

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It looks like KTM is getting ready to add another Duke to its street bike line, as spy photos of the above machine have broken cover.

Said to be roughly 800cc in displacement, the new Duke would slot in well between the KTM 690 Duke and the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, which is a fairly obvious base to cover.

What is interesting about the KTM 800 Duke (our name, not KTM’s) though is that at the heart of the machine is a parallel-twin engine, which breaks from KTM’s general affinity for single-cylinder thumpers, and v-twin monsters.