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.

This is the Mugen Shinden (神電) TT Zero Electric Race Bike

03/02/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Added more information & technical specifications from Mugen’s press release.

This morning we learned that John McGuinness will be Mugen’s rider in the team’s bid to break the 100 mph barrier at the 2012 TT Zero. Heavily speculated to be a stealth project by Honda (無限 / Mugen was started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda), much speculation has been done over what sort of bike Mugen would be bringing to the Isle of Man TT, and now we have that answer.

Called Shinden (神電), meaning “God of Electricity” in Japanese, the machine may not have the same exquisite lines of the Honda RC-E electric superbike concept, but upon closer inspection, Mugen’s electric race bike seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Breaking cover at a press conference in Suzuka, the Mugen Shinden features a brushless three-phase 90 kW (120hp) DC motor, carbon fiber swingarm, and a carbon fiber twin-spar frame design.

John McGuinness to Ride Mugen/Honda in TT Zero

03/02/2012 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

When it was announced that Mugen would be racing at the Isle of Man TT in the TT Zero event, a bevy of speculation began to hit the newswires. Of course, the biggest topic of conversation was that Mugen’s entry was really a front for Honda to race its electric bike unofficially against the privateer efforts of teams like Lightning, Mission Motors, and MotoCzysz.

With the entire electric motorcycle racing community believing there to be a connection between Mugen’s entry and Honda’s recently debuted RC-E electric race bike concept, it seemed that an established motorcycle OEM would finally have some sort of presence in electric motorcycle racing this year.

Of course if Honda is involved with the TT Zero race, then surely the company would tap its main man, seventeen-time Isle of Man TT race winner and King of the Mountain, John McGuinness. McGuinness hasn’t been shy about his desire to get on an electric bike after watching MotoCzysz’s Michael Rutter and Mark Miller narrowly miss the 100 mph average speed mark at last year’s TT.

Confirming his entry in the TT Zero race during a video shot in what looks to be the Morecambe FC locker room (yeah, we have no idea), McGuinness also lets it slip that he will be in Japan next week testing the Mugen/Honda electric bike — boom goes the dynamite. Video is after the jump, skip to the nine minute mark.

More Photos of the Honda RC-E Concept

11/30/2011 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Judging from our internal metrics, you love the Honda RC-E concept…you really love it. And what’s not to love about the electric superbike concept? The stylish design doesn’t stray too far from the basic shapes and lines that we think of when we conjure up a motorcycle in our minds; and if we’re really honest with ourselves, we all expect Honda, with its engineering prowess, to knock a project like this out of the park.

We still don’t have any real details about the Honda RC-E concept, but it’s probably safe to steal a line from KTM, when the Austrian manufacturer debuted the KTM Freeride E, it said that as a market leader, it could not afford to let competitors and new-comers explore the electric space by themselves. Rumored to have one of Honda’s hybrid automobile motors housed inside, the overall electric drivetrain package looks to be quite bulky, making us wonder how much battery power is on-board (or would be on-board, assuming Honda has even installed batteries on the concept).

What does Honda plan to do with the RC-E exactly? Well that is anyone’s guess really. Is the bike purely an experiment and display of what’s been going on in the Honda labs? Is the RC-E concept a precursor to a soon-to-be realized production model? Will we see one at an electric racing event soon? Only time will tell.

Honda RC-E Concept to Debut at Tokyo Motor Show

11/10/2011 @ 8:55 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

The Tokyo Motor Show is next month, and Honda has something special for two-wheeled enthusiasts. Fresh on the heels of KTM debuting the first major OEM electric dirt bike, Honda has an electric concept of its own: the Honda RC-E. The japanese company is being fairly terse about the RC-E’s details, simply stating that the bike is “an EV version of a super sports bike that pursues the joy of riding. A powerful and smooth ride unique to an EV model is achieved with the 250cc-class compact body.”