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.

Hero RNT 150 Diesel Scooter Concept – Our Kind of Crazy

01/30/2014 @ 10:54 am, by Aakash Desai10 COMMENTS

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Coming from left field but hitting it squarely in the “awesome” section, Hero recently unveiled a 150cc diesel engine powered motorcycle called the “RNT”. The oil burner, with its square lines, flat surfaces and 1980’s Sci-fi aesthetics looks fantastically practical and more like a scooter than a motorcycle.

The RNT concept weighs about 300 lbs, has a top speed of 44mph, and a tank capacity of 1.5 gallons. At that weight, the Hero RNT 150 is quite pudgy compared to your typical 150cc scooter but the potential benefits of the increased efficiency and range of the Diesel might make up for that.

To top it all off, the concept features two wheel drive. It’ll be interesting to see if and how Hero goes forward with this concept.

Hero MotoCorp Buys 49.2% Stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 Million

07/01/2013 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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A plethora of Indian Financial publications are reporting that Hero MotoCorp has bought a 49.2% stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 million. Hero MotoCorp is India’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, and for a year now has partnered with Erik Buell Racing for technical development, as well as sponsoring the American company’s AMA Pro Road Racing team for the past two seasons.

Today’s news confirms numerous rumors we have heard about the Hero investing in EBR. Acquiring only 49.2% of Erik Buell Racing, Hero has only a minority stake in EBR, and while we cannot confirm the information, we would imagine that the odd 49.2% ownership was done to keep Erik Buell as the majority shareholder in his company.

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Africa and Latin America

11/28/2012 @ 3:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Hero may be losing ground to Honda in its smallest displacement categories in its home market of India, but the Indian brand is poised for good growth abroad. Already linked to a number of projects with Erik Buell Racing, Hero MotoCorp is said to be also eyeing the African and Latin American markets for its next international business moves.

Hoping to enter a few markets in Africa and Latin America by the end of the company’s fiscal year, Hero MotoCorp is cagey on specifics regarding its overall international plan. However, in September of this year, Hero’s CEO Pawan Munjal stated that the company would start assembly plants in Kenya and Nigeria, tipping those two countries as the starting points for the Indian company’s African market invasion.

As for Latin America, Colombian market is favored to be the first vector, with Munjal also tipping that Hero MotoCorp would establish an assembly operation in the South America country, and then presumably work its way farther north. The position also easily positions the Indian company for expansion south into lucrative markets like Brazil, Argentina, and Peru.

Hero Building a 250cc Sport Bike with Erik Buell Racing?

11/21/2012 @ 4:59 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

According to The Economic Times, India’s premier financial newspaper, Hero MotoCorp is working on a 250cc sport bike, in conjunction with Erik Buell Racing. You may recall that Hero and EBR have already agreed to a technical partnership, which also saw the Indian motorcycle manufacturer become Erik Buell Racing’s title sponsor in the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series.

After its break up with Honda in the Hero Honda relationship, Hero MotoCorp has been relying on other firms for its technical developments. The Economic Times suggests the same can be said for this 250cc sport bike, with EBR handling the development of the machine, while Hero handles the business end of things, namely the quarter-liter’s production and distribution.

Erik Buell Racing Raises $20 Million from Foreign Investors – Plans to Build $20,000 Motorcycle

07/20/2012 @ 11:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

It has just been announced that Erik Buell Racing has received $20 million in funding from foreign investors. A part of the federal government’s EB-5 program, the deal was brokered by FirstPathway Partners, a company that specializes in facilitating the funding of companies through wealthy individuals that are abroad. The announcement is a boon for EBR, as the company has struggled for financing since it began operations after the closing of Buell Motorcycles by Harley-Davidson.

The $20 million in funding will go towards building more affordable models, says the Milwaukee-based company. In turn, this news means that Erik Buell Racing will need to bring on more staff, and expand its facility for production at a greater volume (54,000 square feet says Buell). Erik Buell Racing hopes to start selling $20,000 street bikes once it gets its business in order for larger volume, with the expectation being that those models will be similar to the EBR 1190RS, though without such high-spec components.

Hero MotoCorp Partners with AVL for Engine Design – Ponders Global Domination

03/19/2012 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Seeing its 27-year-long joint-venture with Honda come to an end last year, Hero MotoCorp has been picking up technology partners with an intense pace. With its 2014 rapidly approaching, Hero already counts Erik Buell Racing as one of its technical partners (as well as a potential acquisition target), and now Hero has now announced that the Austrian engineering design firm AVL will help the Indian company with a new range of larger-dipslacement motorcycle motors.

The move towards larger displacement engines is surely a sign that Hero MotoCorp has its eye on the export market, as it already accounts one of every two motorcycles sold in India. Surely seeing the work that rival Bajaj has done with KTM and the Duke series of motorcycle, we can expect Hero to go after a similar position in Europe, with even larger models for the American market.

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing?

03/05/2012 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Two weeks and two separate rumors about Hero MotoCorp’s acquisition warpath. Last week the Indian motorcycle manufacturer was said to be eyeing a minority equity stake in Erik Buell Racing. Having already hired the American sport bike maker to help innovate on some of Hero’s upcoming small displacement machines, the two companies sweetened the deal with Hero becoming the title sponsor to EBR’s AMA Pro Superbike racing effort.

This week the spotlight shines on Ducati Motor Holding, which has quietly been for sale for almost a year now. Originally wooing an acquisition from Mercedes-Benz, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has been linked to a variety of other companies, as well as a public offering on an Asian stock index. With our sources telling us that Ducati has been trimming the fat from its books in order to make its earnings more attractive, Hero MotoCorp is the latest potential buyer to enter the fray and to talk to bankers about a Ducati acquisition.