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.

Don’t Call It a Merger: RevZilla & Cycle Gear Come Together

02/10/2016 @ 12:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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The speculation about RevZilla and Cycle Gear can stop now, as the brands are finally talking about their plans together for the future.

In a letter posted to RevZilla’s in-house publication, Common Tread, RevZilla CEO Anthony Bucci announces that RevZilla will be acquired by a new holding company, which will also own Cycle Gear.

The holding company’s board of directors will include Bucci, and his fellow RevZilla founders Nick Auger and Matthew Kull, as well as the private equity firm J.W. Childs, which bought Cycle Gear back in 2015.

While Bucci’s letter to RevZilla customers states that the two brands will only be “sister companies” that will operate independently of each other, his FAQ on the subject leaves the door open for collaborations between the two brands, which would be the obvious benefit of their new ownership structure.

Report: Cycle Gear to Acquire RevZilla?

02/08/2016 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler67 COMMENTS

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Respected newswire Reuters is reporting that Cycle Gear is close to finalizing the purchase of motorcycling e-commerce giant RevZilla. Citing a source “familiar with the matter” at hand, Reuters suggests that the deal could close in the next coming days, with the new venture worth between $400 million and $500 million.

If true, this acquisition would mark a titanic shift in the motorcycle retail space, with America’s largest brick and mortar chain combining with the industry’s most prominent online parts and apparel purveyor.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

11/04/2014 @ 5:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi.

Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself.

Red Bull To Leave F1 & Buy MotoGP – Dorna Ousted as Bridgepoint Cashes Out

04/01/2014 @ 8:16 am, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS

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Red Bull are poised to make two dramatic announcements over the next two weekends, we can exclusively reveal. At next weekend’s Bahrain F1 race, the Austrian energy drink firm will announce its withdrawal from the premier four-wheeled racing series at the end of 2014.

A week later, at the Austin MotoGP round for which it is the title sponsor, Red Bull is to announce that it is to purchase Bridgepoint Capital’s remaining stake in MotoGP, and take over the running of the series.

Sources in the private finance industry with knowledge of the situation say that Bridgepoint has been looking to rid itself of its motorcycle racing business for some time. The private equity firm had acquired 71% of Dorna in 2006, at the peak of MotoGP’s popularity, reputedly for £400 million.

Since then, they have seen the value of their investment drop, and have been looking to get their money back from the deal ever since. The sale of a 39% stake in Dorna to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment board was the first step in recouping their investment.

That deal was rumored to be worth €400 million, or just over 70% of their initial outlay. Sources with knowledge of the situation say that Red Bull is to acquire the remaining 32% of Dorna for around €300 million , but with full control over the series.

Dainese Confirms Rumors of Investor Talks

03/10/2014 @ 3:43 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Dainese Confirms Rumors of Investor Talks

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Speaking to the VeneziePost (subscription required in order to read the article), Dainese Founder Lino Dainese has confirmed the news we broke last month about the Italian apparel manufacturer being in talks for investment, or possible acquisition.

According to the report, Dainese says the company came close to inking a deal with an unnamed private equity group, but terminated the talks because the parties could not come to terms with their agreement.

Rumor: Dainese up for Sale?

12/20/2013 @ 5:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle industry gossip is at a fever pitch this week with speculation that Italian motorcycle apparel manufacturer Dainese is up for sale. Adding credence to that rumors, Asphalt & Rubber has received a number of tips about the possible sale of the company, with a private investment group cited as a possible buyer.

When we approached with this information, Dainese simply said that rumors were simply that, rumors. However it is worth noting that at the helm of the company for the past few months has been interim-CEO Federico Minoli, the same man that lead Ducati Motor Holding to being acquired by Texas Pacific Group, and later took the Italian motorcycle manufacturer public on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bridgepoint Sells 39% of Dorna to Canadian Pension Group

10/26/2012 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Bridgepoint Capital, the private equity firm which owns Dorna and Infront Sports and Media, has sold a 39% stake in Dorna to a Canadian pension fund, Canadian media are reporting. According to a report from Reuters, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board reportedly paid €400 million for the 39% stake in Dorna, and will join Bridgepoint and Dorna’s management – in the figure of Carmelo Ezpeleta – in running the company.

The sum paid for the 39% stake gives Bridgepoint a healthy profit. The UK-based private equity firm purchased Dorna from CVC back in 2006, when CVC purchased the rights to Formula One and were forced by the European Competition Commission to sell the rights to the MotoGP series first. Bridgepoint is said to have paid some £400 million (about €550 million) for the 71% stake held by CVC when they took over the company.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is buying into more than just MotoGP, however. With the consolidation of Infront Motor Sports under Dorna, CPPIB now has a stake in both MotoGP and World Superbikes. This sale also provides the rationale for Bridgepoint’s decision to bring both series under a single umbrella: not only does it add value to the package on offer to CPPIB, but it also eliminates competition between the two series, allowing both to grow without cannibalizing each others audience and potential sponsors.

This, rather than any power struggle between Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and Infront bosses Paolo and Maurizio Flammini, is the more important reason for combining the two series. Ezpeleta may have come out on top in that internal power struggle, but it was as a by-product of the proposed sale, rather than as a direct intent.

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus

08/17/2011 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

News comes to us from across the Bay this morning, as Mission Motors has announced that it has closed a $9 million Series B financing round led by Warbug Pincus. A global private equity firm with $30 billion in assets under management, Warbug Pincus invested $7.5 million in Mission Motors (with room up to an additional $41 million), while Infield Capital, one of Mission’s original investors, doubled-dipped back into the company, presumably with the remaining $1.5 million for the series.

The use of funds will go towards Mission Motors’s continued venture of supplying OEM customers with electric and hybrid drive train solutions — an exclusive endeavor the company has been undertaking for over a year now, but apparently something the less-informed motorcycle press is only now taking notice of today.

Rumor: Ducati Considering Selling Its Stock?

08/15/2011 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

According to the Dow Jones Newswire, Investindustrial, the private equity firm behind Ducati Motor Holding SpA, is considering putting the Italian motorcycle company’s stock up for sale in a private offering next year. Investindustrial bought the Texas Pacific Group’s 45% share in Ducati back in 2006, becoming the company’s largest single investor. Later in June 2008, the private equity firm lead by Carlo and Andrea Bonomi increased its stake in Ducati, controlling 84.6% of the company’s stock.

If today’s rumors are true, Investindustrial would be dumping some, if not all, of its shares in Ducati, likely into other investment groups. Though other motorcycles news sites are quick to call this an IPO, there is no indication at this time that Investindustrial plans on making the stock offering public (the Dow Jones Newswire in fact specifically says that the offering is private), meaning that Ducati’s stock will not be available to regular stock purchasers, but will instead be bid on by banks, investment groups, and other large corporations.

Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

03/17/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

Using strictly the Charlie Sheen sense of the word, Zero Motorcycles is WINNING right now. Announcing today that it closed another round of financing, Zero has $17 million of a $26 million round confirmed ($9 million still outstanding). The funding continues to be lead by the Invus investment group, who have been the major financial backbone at Zero Motorcycles. A funding round of that size can only mean one thing for a motorcycle company: going into mass production. Surely enough Zero states its intended use of the funds will go towards ramping up its US-based production plans.

Out of all the electric motorcycle vehicle players, Zero has been the most active in the funding department lately, closing round after round of capital investment. With those investments we’ve already seen changes at the Santa Cruz company, with the 2011 Zero Motorcycles line-up featuring upgrade motorcycles, as well as founder Neal Saiki departing the company.