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.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Aleix Espargaro – 7th

01/06/2015 @ 1:17 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, and Pol Espargaro.

7th – 126 points – Aleix Espargaro

After being the best CRT rider two years running, all Aleix Espargaro wanted was to get a chance to test himself against the best riders on the world on equal machinery.

In 2014, he came very close to doing just that. Riding the Forward Yamaha – basically a 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1 with bodywork, triple clamps, linkage, and other peripheral parts built by FTR – in the Open class put the elder Espargaro brother on a bike which was fast enough to scare factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo into demanding that Yamaha seriously consider switching to the Open class.

As the season progressed, it would become apparent that there were still serious performance differences between the Forward Yamaha and the factory bikes. Yet Aleix Espargaro still ended the year having impressed a lot of people, and earning himself a factory ride for 2015.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Espargaro generated a lot of excitement during preseason testing, consistently elbowing his way into the top five, and topping the Qatar test when the factory riders were absent.

Colin Edwards Announces Early Retirement, Will Wild Card Rest of Season as Alex de Angelis Takes His Seat

08/11/2014 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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It seems the rumors out of Indianapolis were true, as Colin Edwards’ role at the NGM Forward team has come to awkward end. Officially “retiring early” Edwards will continue to ride for the team by “doing some wild cards,” according to the team press release. The only round confirmed by the team is Silverstone, though Edwards says he will ride at Valencia as well.

“It has been a great weekend here at Indy with lots of support from the family, the friends and the team,” said Edwards. “I’m not 100% certain about how many races I will do till the end of the season but for sure I will be in Silverstone, weather [sic] I will be racing or not.”

“I have a big fans support there and I cannot miss this appointment. I am thinking about my future, the different possibilities. I’m happy and I look forward to the second part of my life,” concluded the Texas Tornado.

For Sale: Colin Edwards’ CRT MotoGP Race Bike

05/29/2014 @ 4:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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A failed experiment, it may have been, but one good thing to come from the Claiming Rule Team (CRT) regulations in MotoGP was the ability for private teams to own the GP machines they were racing, rather than be victim to the lease programs imposed by the factories.

As a result, from time-to-time we get to see these truly special motorbikes come on the market, and today is one such occasion. Listed for sale on eBay is the Forward Racing’s Kawasaki-FTR race bike that was campaigned by Colin Edwards during the 2013 MotoGP season.

For those who don’t know, the Kawasaki-FTR MotoGP bike uses an engine from a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, which has been built out by France’s venerable Akira tuning house, as well as a custom chassis that has been built by the UK’s FTR-Moto.

With a dry weight of 157 kg (346 lbs), and a peak horsepower figure of 245+ horsepower at the crank, this might be the ultimate Kawasaki on the market.

MotoGP Silly Season Update: Forward’s Privateer Yamaha M1s, Hayden’s Future, & Honda’s Production Racers

08/20/2013 @ 3:00 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 – barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment – battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes – the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries – are all taken, the privateer machines – using Dorna spec-ECU software and extra fuel – are still mostly up for grabs.

The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda’s production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are a heavily modified version of Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike.

Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.

The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec-ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams.

Given just how good the 2013 M1 is – Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums – it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.

MotoGP Engine Usage at the Halfway Mark: Yamaha Struggling, Honda Dominating, & Ducati Managing

08/06/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.

In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.

For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.

Edwards with NGM Forward & Abraham To Aprilia for 2013

09/14/2012 @ 9:08 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

With the available seats at the teams with factory prototypes all now full with the exception of the final satellite Honda – most likely a toss-up between Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda, though rumors persist of Marc VDS Racing taking the Honda RC213V from Gresini and fielding Redding in their own team – attention has now turned to the CRT grid, and the available seats being filled there.

At Misano, two teams announced their plans for 2013. On Thursday, the NGM Forward squad announced they had persuaded Colin Edwards to stay for another season, meaning that the Texan will remain in MotoGP for another year. The team is to finish the 2012 season on the Suter BMW, before making a decision on which bike to use for 2013. The team had been considering a switch to the Aprilia ART machine, but promises of an expanded testing program and more development have kept Forward on board for the rest of the season.

The Cardion AB team will be using the Aprilia ART, however. Today, the team officially confirmed that they would not be continuing with Ducati and would be switching to an Aprilia ART machine. The team will work in partnership with Aprilia and the Aspar team to help develop the Aprilia, in preparation for the new rules in 2014, which will see a rev limit and spec ECU imposed. Karel Abraham will remain the rider for the team.

Q&A with Colin Edwards & Nicky Hayden

08/13/2012 @ 3:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Late last week, Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a teleconference with MotoGP riders Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden, helping gear us up for this coming weekend’s Indianapolis GP. We couldn’t make the call, since I was busy freezing my ass off on some mountain in Colorado, but the good folks at IMS were kind enough to transcribe the interview, and share it with us.

With the teleconference taking place just before the announcement that Valentino Rossi would be leaving Ducati at the end of the season, and joining Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, Hayden had to field a couple questions regarding the 2012 MotoGP Silly Season and his teammate for next year.  Of course, Hayden also fielded questions about Audi’s Lamborghini’s acquisition of Ducati, and how that would affect Ducati Corse’s MotoGP efforts.

The interview sheds some good insight into what is happening with Colin Edwards at the NGM Forward Racing team, which has struggled with its BMW/Suter CRT package all season. Forward Racing is expected to make a switch to an Aprilia ART bike at Indy, which so far has been the most competent CRT package on the 2012 grid, and the topic the CRTs vs the Prototypes is one Edwards talks about at length. Perhaps most interesting is Edwards’ take on the American road racing landscape, and the geopolitical issues within the MotoGP paddock.

Continue after the jump for the full transcript of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference.

Thursday Summary at Sachsenring: Of Rider Changes, Rossi, Pedrosa, & Crutchlow

07/05/2012 @ 8:53 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Silly Season has hit full swing in Germany, not just for the MotoGP class but for the support classes as well. And while movements in MotoGP are mainly about what is happening next year, in Moto2 and Moto3 – and even among the CRT machines – there is some serious rider swapping going on for the rest of this season.

In MotoGP, the next two key movements just got a lot closer. Dani Pedrosa is now very close to staying with the Repsol Honda team, telling Spanish journalists that he would sign a new two-year contract with HRC either here in the Sachsenring or at Mugello at the latest. His priority had been to stay on a bike he felt he could win with, telling the Spanish newspaper ABC earlier this week that Honda and Yamaha had been his only realistic options. The Ducati, he said rather pointedly, was more something a rider might consider before their retirement.

MotoGP: Vermeulen in for Edwards at Le Mans

05/09/2012 @ 8:30 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Chris Vermeulen has been named as the replacement for Colin Edwards in the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team for the Le Mans round of MotoGP. Edwards broke his left collarbone in a crash during free practice at Estoril, and has decided after surgery to skip the French Grand Prix, and return at Barcelona in early June.

Vermeulen has been named as replacement for Edwards because of the Australian’s prior experience on a MotoGP bike. Vermeulen spent four years in MotoGP with the factory Suzuki team, and spent all that time using Bridgestone tires. Vermeulen also has form at Le Mans: he won his only Grand Prix at the circuit, albeit in the pouring rain in 2007. After losing his ride with Suzuki in MotoGP, Vermeulen returned to the World Superbike series to race with Kawasaki.

A series of bad crashes left the Australian struggling with a serious knee injury, and having problems racing. Just as it looked like Vermeulen may have returned to full fitness, he was left without a ride in WSBK. To return to MotoGP, on a bike still in the midst of development, places a rather heavy load on the shoulders of one who has not raced for nearly 10 months.

Colin Edwards Breaks Collarbone in Freak Crash At Estoril

05/05/2012 @ 3:24 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Colin Edwards has broken his left collarbone in a crash during qualifying for the Portuguese MotoGP round at Estoril on Saturday. The NGM Forward rider was knocked off his bike in the latter part of qualifying practice, as he cruised around off the racing line. Randy de Puniet lost the front of his Power Electronics Aprilia machine, which slid along the track and hit Edwards’ Suter BMW. Edwards fell heavily, suffering a mild concussion and injuring his collarbone in the fall. De Puniet was taken to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with bruising to his finger, and general soreness.