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.

No New Suzuki GSX-R Motorcycles for 2016 Model Year

09/10/2015 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

2016-Suzuki-GSX-R1000-MotoGP-livery

Despite the wishful reports that have been circulating the media sphere lately, Suzuki is seemingly not poised to bring any new GSX-R sport bikes for the 2016 model year, as Suzuki Motor America has confirmed this year’s models will return for next season.

This news is undoubtedly a blow to fans of the Suzuki brand and GSX-R line, who have been keen to see Suzuki reclaim its sport biking crown. There is however a silver lining to this news…

Yamaha USA Sales Up 28% for First-Half 2015

08/18/2015 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

yamaha-motor-logo-red

Yamaha Motor USA is seeing a resurgence in its motorcycle market, with Yamaha posting a healthy 28% sales increase in the North American market, for the first-half of 2015.

The sales boost comes due to the release of the Yamaha YZF-R1, and likely aided by the Yamaha FJ-09, and Yamaha FZ-07 – all of which debuted to rave reviews from the moto-press.

Overall, Yamaha’s motorcycle business is seeing good growth, up another 14% in the European markets (boosted by the MT-09 Tracer), for a total increase of 7.6% in revenue (¥36.8 billion) across all markets.

These Are Not the Eagerly Awaited Suzuki GSX-R250 & All-New GSX-R1000…But They Should Be

07/28/2015 @ 1:37 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Young-Machine-Suzuki-GSX-R1000-R250-render

These images are very likely not of the hopefully-soon-to-be-released Suzuki GSX-R250 & GSX-R1000 sport bikes, as their purveyor, Japanese magazine Young Machine, has a fairly horrible track record with these sort of things…but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore them.

After all, here we see two very attractive offerings, which we hope the folks at Hamamatsu will take a long look at, as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 rendered here would be an attractive update to a name that was once the superbike to beat.

The rendering exercise from Young Machine also shows that a quarter-liter sport bike from Suzuki should be directly related to its liter-bike brethren, not only to strike the aspirational nerve of riders, but also to justify the added expense and limited return on the company’s superbike offering.

452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

02/05/2013 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

suzuki-dirt-bike-jump

After first forecasting a sales decline for 2012, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has tallied the number of motorcycles sold in the United States last year, and once again discovered that the motorcycle industry is slowly, but surely recovering from the recession. With the US making a very slight 0.3% sales gain in 2011, A&R‘s home market has posted a 2.6% gain over the figures from 2011, with OEMs selling 452,386 motorcycles in 2012.

Though all the two-wheeled segments showed growth in the MIC’s figures, it was the dual-purpose and scooter market that posted the biggest gains, 7.4% and 7.7% respectively. For the street bike market, sales were up a modest 1.8%, despite a much larger gain made by Harley-Davidson, which dominates over half of the US on-road market by volume. Dirt bikes also posted a modest 2.1% growth, with 71,535 units sold in 2012.

Rumor: New Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Coming in 2013?

06/27/2012 @ 6:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

If you believe the motorcycle rumor mill, the now long-in-the-tooth Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is set to get an update next model year. Now four years old, the ZX-6R has long shared a common thread with its 1,000cc brethren, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. With the ZX-10R now two-model-years-old though, the clock has been ticking as to when Kawasaki would give the ZX-6R a similar makeover. While still simply an internet rumor, there does seem to be some logic to the idea that we could see a new Kawasaki ZX-6R by the end of the year, though nothing can be for certain.

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.6% YTD, But Where?

03/07/2012 @ 1:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad released yet another glowing sales report, as the German brand continues to build steam and market share in an otherwise luke warm and uncertain marketplace. Boasting a 1.8% worldwide sales increase in February and a 5.6% year-to-date (YTD) sales increase, BMW Motorrad has sold 12,078 motorcycles worldwide thus far in 2012. While the gains are modest at best, the news that BMW has found a way to grow despite the economy is something we have talked about ad nauseam. As such, I almost skipped this press release all together for our coverage, but then I saw a quote from Hendrik von Kuenheim, BMW Motorrad’s General Director.

American Suzuki Expects 9.8% Sales Decrease for Fiscal Year

02/07/2012 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

You know when a company starts quoting sales figures “in the last nine months of the year…” that the numbers from the first three months that they are not mentioning have to be pretty bad. Such is the case with American Suzuki, though the company’s overall performance continues to flounder in the this economy. In Suzuki’s fiscal nine-month period (April 2011 to December 2011), sales to North American dealers were up 160%, as wholesale unit sales to dealers rose from 13,000 units (mostly ATVs)  in 2010 to 34,000 units in 2011.

However despite shipping more models to dealers, Suzuki’s sales in North America were actually down 11.5%, as the Japanese company sold only 31,000 units in the nine-month period, compared to the 35,000 units it sold during the same fiscal period last year. Because of this dip in consumer sales, Suzuki has revised its sales predictions for the end of its fiscal year in North America from 50,000 units to 46,000 units. American Suzuki sold 51,000 units to consumers in 2010, meaning that for the 2011 fiscal year, Suzuki is expecting a 9.8% retail sales decline compared to last year.

Suzuki Q2 2011 – Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters

08/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Sometimes when reading the posts made on other motorcycle sites, or the comments by readers across the web, I don’t think there is a full grasp as to how bad the recession was for the motorcycle industry. Granted company’s like Ducati, BMW, and Victory have shown remarkable growth in a down period, but their success, though due in-part to the failures of Harley-Davidson and the Japanese manufacturers, is limited on its bearing to the industry as a whole. This because, quite frankly, these companies comprise only a small portion of the industry’s sales, units, and revenue.

The fact that Harley-Davidson was so close to the brink that they dumped everything outside of its core business is but one sign that motorcycling was in trouble. Another sign would be that Suzuki reportedly didn’t import any new units for the 2010 model years, instead letting local inventories in the US handle the dwindling demand for the company’s motorcycles. The fact that the motorcycle industry as whole almost folded-up on itself like a tin can without anyone making a real fuss about it is perhaps a great signal as to how far various stakeholders heads are buried in the sand. So for our last attempt to put things into perspective, try this one on for size:

For the first time in nearly three years, Suzuki’s motorcycle division has posted a profit…or, the last time Suzuki made money selling motorcycles was Q2 2008 (the same timeframe that Bill Gates stepped down from his daily duties at Microsoft).

Harley-Davidson Posts First YTD Growth since 2006

07/19/2011 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson had some good news to report in its Q2 2011 financial report, as the Milwaukee company reports selling 53,599 units to customers in the US during the three-month period, and total of 83,396 units worldwide (120,642 units worldwide so far this year). These sales figures translate into a 5.6% sales increase worldwide, and an even more impressive 7.5% sales bump in the United States market.

While those increases might seem modest, CEO Keith Wandell’s restructuring efforts have clearly been paying off for the Bar & Shield brand as operating income was up 36.8% for Q2, while revenue was up only 18% to $1.34 billion. This is also the first year-over-year quarterly rise for unit sales that Harley-Davidson has seen since the Q4 2006. Read that last sentence again, but it’s sort of a big deal for Harley-Davidson.

BMW Sales up 2% in June 2011

07/11/2011 @ 9:13 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad continues to post improved sales in 2011, as the German manufactuer is showing a 2.1% increase for last month’s sales compared to June 2010. Selling 11,831 motorcycles in June of this year, BMW has sold 141,913 motorcycles in the first half of 2011, which means 6.3% more Bavarian motorcycles have been sold in Q1 & Q2 of 2011 compared to last year. BMW’s Boxer series is unsurprisingly leading sales for the company, fueled by the best selling big-displacement motorcycle in the world: the R1200GS.

BMW is reporting strong sales from the K1600 series as well though, with 1,255 units sold since its Spring 2011 debut. While BMW says that the new six-cylinder tourer is exceeding expectations, Husqvarna’s paltry 450 units sold last month is perhaps a bit of disappointment. Husky sales were down -57.3% for June, while year-to-date sales were down -24.2% with only 3,530 units sold in the first half of 2011.