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.

Gone Riding: Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L

05/03/2016 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler50 COMMENTS

2016 Honda Africa Twin

Hello from the road, dear readers. I’m out in Moab, Utah for the next few days, testing the Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L adventure-touring motorcycle. We have a solid couple of days riding ahead of us, with Tuesday being an on-road day, and Wednesday seeing our feet get dirty with some off-road action.

Weather here in Moab has been fluctuating for the past few days, with rain, hail, and flurries being previously on the menu, but the forecast promises us some sunshine for our stay. Hopefully the weatherman right.

One of the most anticipated machines for the 2016 model year, the Honda Africa Twin is finally about to arrive in motorcycle dealerships (though, in limited numbers). We’ve been looking forward to swinging a leg over this off-road focused ADV machine for some time, to see if it lives up to the hype.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro Mega Gallery

03/29/2016 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro is perhaps the Italian model we look forward to riding the most this year, as it marks the first modern Ducati that earnestly is meant to go off-road.

Ducati has made some obvious changes to its Multistrada 1200 platform to make the Enduro model ready for the dirt, the most noticeable of which are the spoked wheels (with a 19-incher up front) and the beefier double-sided swingarm. The optionally equipped Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires, slimmer exhaust can, and crash bars help complete the transformation, as well.

With 158hp on tap from the 1198cc Testastretta DVT v-twin engine, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro should be quite potent on-road as well – something we are seeing more of in the ADV space.

It will be interesting to see how the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro stacks up against the KTM 1190 Adventure, which makes 10hp less than the Ducati, but also comes with KTM’s impeccable off-roading credentials.

The ADV market is heating up now, especially with the on-road focused “Adventure-Sport” machines that we have seen from European manufacturers, which are supplanting the sport-tourer markets.

The more off-road leaning selections are getting beefier as well though. Does this mean that we’ll see a 150hp+ ADV bike from BMW? Based off the S1000XR, perhaps?

The German manufacturer is obviously still dominating this sector with its R1200GS offering, but ADV riders certainly have more choices now than they did previously. The ADV market should be an interesting segment to watch.

In the meantime, we have over 100 high-resolution photos of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro available for your photonic consumption. Enjoy!

Recall: Husqvarna TR650 Terra and TR650 Strada

03/25/2016 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Remember the Husqvarna TR650 Terra and the Husqvarna TR650 Strada? The ill-fated dual-sport models, along with the Husqvarna Nuda 900, came out just before Husqvarna was sold by BMW Motorrad to KTM’s Stefan Pierer.

In the USA, those models are now the responsibility of KTM North America, and as such Team Orange is recalling 1,015 units of the Terra/Strada duo.

The recall centers around bikes built between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013, which stall for an reasons that are still being determined.

New Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept Puts the BMW R1200GS Adventure on Notice

03/22/2016 @ 4:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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The Honda Africa Twin is on the short list for being one of the top bikes released in 2016, with Big Red finally getting serious about the adventure-touring market.

To drive that point home further though, Honda has released another variation of the Africa Twin, which it calls the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept.

The premise with the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept is pretty simply, and it borrows heavily from what others in the ADV space have done: if the Africa Twin is Honda’s answer to the BMW R1200GS, then the Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept is Honda’s answer to the BMW R1200GS Adventure.

A more stoutly built platform with a larger bias for off-road riding, the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept is meant to be taken through the most rugged ADV terrain, whatever that may be.

Chilean Government Opts Out of Hosting 2017 Dakar Rally

03/21/2016 @ 1:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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For the second year in a row, Chile will not feature as part of the Dakar Rally, as the Chilean government has opted not to host the iconic rally raid.

The recent decision comes from the Chamber of Deputies of Chile (the lower house of Chile’s bicameral Congress), which failed to get the needed majority vote to continue hosting the race.

With 42 votes in favor of hosting the Dakar Rally again, 33 against, and 17 abstentions, the failed proposal was opposed mostly on environmental grounds, as many deputies thought that the environmental impact of the race on Chile’s terrain has been too great.

This news is an about-face for the Dakar Rally, as the ASO (the organizers of the Dakar Rally) seemed to have all but confirmed Chile and Argentina for competition back in January of this year.

Honda, Give Us the CRF250 Rally Already

03/14/2016 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler60 COMMENTS

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For the second year in a row, Honda will be showing its CRF250 Rally concept at the prestigious Tokyo Motorcycle Show – further tempting us with its small-displacement adventure bike.

Honda announced the re-showing of the CRF250 Rally concept today, along with a slew of other machines and concepts it plans on displaying at the Tokyo show.

This announcement only seems to confirm the internet speculation, which widely pegs the model to debut for the 2017 model year. Its continued arrival at trade and enthusiasts only fuels that fire.

Timbersled Snow Bikes Look Like Serious Fun

03/03/2016 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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I was surprised when I discovered that we haven’t spoken about Timbersled before now, and the company’s line of snow bike conversion kits. It’s a concept that’s been intriguing me for some time now.

That intrigue started when the Idaho-based company was acquired by Polaris last year – adding to the juggernaut that Scott Wine is creating in Medina, Minnesota – which is where I first saw Timbersled’s interesting take on motorized winter fun.

For those who don’t know, Timbersled’s concept is a pretty simple one: it allows dirt bike owners a fairly straight forward kit that enables them to create a snow bike for winter riding.

Armotia Due R – An Electric 2WD Supermoto

03/02/2016 @ 8:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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The electric side of the motorcycle industry is slowly showing life again, as we first got the flash in the pan, and now we are getting the sizzle. Some of that sizzle is coming from projects that have been in the works for quite some time, like the Alta Motors Redshift.

However, some of that sizzle is coming from new players, like Armotia. The Italian-based outfit has two interesting offerings to show us, the Armotia Due R and the Armotia Due X.

The Due R is Armotia’s electric supermoto, while the Due X is the company’s electric enduro model. Both bikes feature a two-wheel drive setup that makes 15hp, 5.1 kWh battery pack, and a smartphone dash.

2017 Gas Gas TXT Racing 300 Shows Proof of Life

02/29/2016 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Gas Gas has been saved from what seemed like certain death, and to give us a proof of life, the Spanish off-road company is showing off the 2017 Gas Gas TXT Racing 300 trials model.

Production on the 2017 Gas Gas TXT Racing 300 will start in March, with units arriving at dealers later in the year. And yes, the 2017 Gas Gas TXT Racing 300 will be coming to US soil, for all you two-stroke trials fans.

Visually and technically not much has changed for the 2017 model, but given how highly regarded the TXT Racing 300 is in the trials community, that’s perhaps not that surprising.

Warp 9 Racing Offers Tubeless Forged Supermoto Wheels

02/26/2016 @ 3:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Maybe it’s because my poor Yamaha YZF-R1 track bike gets left in the garage way more often that my Husqvarna SMR 511 does, but I’ve had supermotos on the brain lately. It’s easy to see why, supermoto racing is a cheap and fun way to get your doctor prescribed dosage of braaap.

So, it is a bit of a mystery why supermoto racing isn’t more popular in the USA. Thankfully we’ve got a series starting up in the Pacific Northwest this year, and it looks like with the AMA involved again that supermoto might get second coming on this side of the pond.

If you haven’t tried riding a supermoto yet, you should. It doesn’t take much, really just a dirt bike that you are willing to shod with 17″ wheels, which brings us to the story at hand, as one of the better places to get some cheap quality supermoto wheels has been Warp 9 Racing, a company based right here in the USA (Salt Lake City).

Warp 9’s spoked wheelsets might not be the lightest on the market, but they do offer great bang for the buck for racers and enthusiasts alike, and what has us really excited today is the debut of Warp 9 Racing’s new forged aluminum wheelsets for supermoto bikes.