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.

KTM 450 Rally Production Racer Now Available

02/21/2014 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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KTM has won the last 13 runnings of The Dakar, and to get that thirteenth win for 2014, the Austrians went back to the drawing board, designing and building an all-new 450cc rally racer.

With the previous KTM 450 Rally being essentially the 690cc machine, with a 450cc motor wedged into it, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike was able to make great strides over its venerable, though compromised, predecessor.

The proof in the pudding was Marc Coma claiming his fourth Dakar win, and soldifying KTM’s position against an increasingly more competitive field, which sees both Honda and Yamaha elevating their game.

With the factory team signing off on the design, the Austrians are is now making the KTM 450 Rally available to privateers, with the KTM 450 Rally Production Racer now available for purchase.

XXX: 2014 Honda RCV1000R

11/08/2013 @ 1:41 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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While the talk of the Valencian GP will be the on-track action between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo, the off-track chatter is about HRC’s open class race bike for private teams, the Honda RCV1000R. This is the machine that Nicky Hayden, Scott Redding, and Karel Abraham, with other riders expected to be added, hope will close the gap between factory and private teams.

Like its predecessor, the 2014 Honda RCV1000R uses a 999.5cc 90° V4 engine, and while there are many similarities between the two bikes, there are major differences as well. Specifically, the Honda RCV1000R uses conventional steel valve springs, instead of the Honda RC213V’s pneumatic valve springs; and a conventional gearbox, instead of the factory bike’s seamless gearbox design.

Still the RCV1000R is an impressive machine, and in the hands of Casey Stoner the bike lapped within 0.3 seconds as the RCV213V on the same tires. When shod with the CRT-spec Bridgestone rubber, Stoner was within 0.17 seconds of his factory bike lap time. What the will translate to on race day remains to be seen though.

Costing around €1,200,000 for the first season, and €500,000 for the upgrade package in the second season, teams are still paying quite a bit of coin for a GP bike, especially since HRC is barring them from making their own modifications to the engine. Still, the Honda RCV1000R is a much cheaper option to the satellite-spec RC213V. We just think it looks great — a bevy of high-resolution photos are after the jump.

Moar Photos of the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally

10/13/2013 @ 3:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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HRC is getting serious about this whole rally thing. After testing the waters last season, Big Red is ramping up a serious bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally. Already announcing its 2014 team of Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Javier Pizzolito, Paulo Goncalves, and Joan Barreda, HRC debuted its new machine, the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally, to the press.

Judging from the response the bike got in our comments section, we are betting a few marriages might be on the rocks because of this beauty, but that isn’t stopping us from posting some more photos of the Honda CRF450 Rally, and this time the come courtesy of Metzler tires.

Debuting the German tire company’s new unobtainium KAROO Extreme prototype tires, Honda and its riders are hoping Metzler will help make the difference in the Dakar, and will help HRC give KTM and Yamaha a race for their money, come January 5th in Argentina.

HRC Shows Off the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally Race Bike

10/08/2013 @ 7:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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HRC already showed us its 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally race bike earlier this year at Mugello, during the Italian GP. Announcing a five rider team, Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, age 34), Sam Sunderland (U.K., 24), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina, 33), Paulo Goncalves (Portugal, 34) and Joan Barreda (Spain, 29) will race for Big Red in the 2014 Dakar Rally and other rally events.

Improving on its 2013 design, which in-turn was based off the Honda CRF450X enduro, HRC says that the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally has improved engine output, aerodynamic performance, durability, and maintenance requirements. It will be campaign by the Team HRC factory team, and also be made available to other rally teams as a production racer.

MotoGP: Redding Signs Two-Year Deal with Gresini – Will Ride the 2014 Honda RCV1000R Production Racer

08/29/2013 @ 2:36 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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MotoGP’s worst-kept secret – the latest in a very, very long line of badly-kept secrets – is finally out. As had been widely reported, Gresini Honda finally confirmed that they have signed a two-year deal with Scott Redding to race in MotoGP.

Redding will race the now-named Honda RCV1000R production racer for the 2014 season, with the plan being that Redding will move up to ride the factory RC213V at Gresini the following year.

Takaaki Nakagami into MotoGP on a Production Honda?

08/22/2013 @ 12:45 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The number of riders moving up to MotoGP from Moto2 continues to grow. Pol Espargaro is confirmed at Tech 3, while Scott Redding is expected to announce a move at Silverstone, almost certainly to the Gresini team aboard a Honda production racer. And now, the championship-leading duo looks set to be joined next year by Takaaki Nakagami, the Japanese rider currently riding for the Italtrans Moto2 team.

According to respected Spanish magazine Motociclismo, Nakagami will move up with Tady Okada’s Honda Team Asia structure. Okada’s ties to Honda mean that Nakagami will be riding a Honda production racer, the same bike to be fielded by both the Cardion AB team for Karel Abraham, and at Gresini for Scott Redding.

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.

So Long World Superbike – Jonathan Rea Making a Move to MotoGP? On a Honda Production Racer?

08/13/2013 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Jonathan Rea may be the latest rider to move out from World Superbike Championship and into the elite ranks of the MotoGP paddock, as according to MCN the Northern Irish rider has confirmed that he is in talks via HRC to move into the premier class for next season.

Currently riding for Ten Kate’s factory-backed Pata Honda team in WSBK, Rea has been virtually the only rider in World Superbike able to ride the Honda CBR1000RR race bike with any success, as Honda struggles to make its race package more approachable for other riders, and more competitive against the competition.

Carrying a torch for Honda’s WSBK effort, it looks like Rea’s efforts will finally be rewarded, if all goes according to plan, with a bump into MotoGP being the ultimate prize — likely on a Honda Production Racer.

Video: Casey Stoner Rides the Honda RC213V at Motegi

08/08/2013 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Completing two days of testing for HRC, Casey Stoner was back in the saddle of a MotoGP machine this week (at Motegi, of all places). The former World Champion only did a handful of laps on Tuesday (six in total) before the rain came in to the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit; but on Wednesday, Mother Nature cooperated a bit. Getting to do 47 laps in total on the 2013 Honda RC213V race bike yesterday, Stoner tested some “small items” for his former employer.

Positive about the test and being back on a bike, Stoner reaffirmed his decision to stay out of MotoGP, and dashed the hopes of any fans that were hoping to see the Australian make a wild card run at Phillip Island. Much to the disappointment of the media, Stoner did not get a chance to swing a leg over Honda’s planned MotoGP Production Racer, though HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed that a future test of the machine by Stoner is in the works.

A private test, and thus free of Dorna’s video restrictions, the fine folk at HRC have put together a short video of Casey on-board the RC213V in Japan. A far cry from the great material we got from Honda’s private test at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin (at some points  in the video, we wonder if the videographer had some angry scarab beetles in their trousers), GP fans will surely still have an auralgasm as the RC213V goes by in anger.

MotoGP: FIM Confirms New Rules for Factory/Non-Factory Spec-Electronics, Engine, Fuel, & Entries for 2014

07/26/2013 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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We have already extensively reported the coming rule changes for the 2014 MotoGP Championship season (most recently the conclusion of the engine claiming rule), so the news today is really more about the FIM has giving its blessing to the new direction that Dorna is taking for the premier class.

Drawing a new distinction now as to how teams are classified as “factory” entries, and thus subject to differing fuel, engine, and entry requirements, the real crux of the equation revolves around whether a team uses the the spec-electronics software from Dorna, or decides to use its own software (note: all teams will be on a spec-ECU from 2014 forth).