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.

Trackside Tuesday: Patience is a Virtue

06/27/2012 @ 10:44 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.

Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.

Suzuki Back in MotoGP for the 2014 Season?

04/10/2012 @ 10:17 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

When Suzuki announced that they would be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2011 season, they were keen to emphasize that the withdrawal was only temporary, saying they were planning a return to MotoGP in 2014. Though many paddock regulars were sceptical about such a suggestion, Suzuki is sticking to its guns, it seems. In an interview with Italian website GPOne, Suzuki Racing’s technical director Shinichi Sahara reaffirmed that they were still working towards a 2014 return to MotoGP, based on the motorcycle the factory had been developing before the decision was made to pull out.

Suzuki Out of MotoGP for 2012 Season

11/15/2011 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

After watching factory rider Álvaro Bautista jump ship to Team San Carlo Honda Gresini, it looks like the shoe has finally dropped on Suzuki’s involvement in MotoGP for the 2012 season, as it is being reported that Rizla Suzuki team members were emailed Friday that the factory squad would not enter next year’s MotoGP Championship.

Suzuki had been handed an ultimatum by Dorna, demanding that the Japanese company make a decision on its 2012 involvement by Friday of last week. With nary an announcement coming forth, the signs in the tea leaves pointed to Rizla Suzuki’s departure from the series, which has been further confirmed today. Though Suzuki is said to be continuing its 1,000cc MotoGP testing program, reports peg the company’s return to GP racing as soon as 2014, if at all.

Álvaro Bautista Leaves Rizla Suzuki for Gresini Honda

11/09/2011 @ 2:21 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Álvaro Bautista has signed with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team for the 2012 MotoGP season. The Spaniard is not expect to have a factory support within the team.

Rizla Suzuki has announced today that rider Álvaro Bautista has left the factory Suzuki team for the 2012 season. It has not been announced where Bautista will race next next year, though best guesses would peg the Spaniard as headed to the LCR Honda squad. Certainly linked to this news, Randy de Puniet was given the opportunity to test the 2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R yesterday, and the Frenchman has already made some impressions.

Fourth fastest on yesterday’s time sheets, de Puniet has been keen to get out of the Pramac Ducati garage, and onto a more competitive package. With Bautista, de Puniet, and John Hopkins all playing musical chairs around LCR Honda and Rizla Suzuki, Bautista’s departure at least progresses the game forward. The big question still remains though, with Bautista leaving the Rizla Suzuki squad, does that signal another rider’s entry into the factory team, or does it mean the Japanese company’s departure from MotoGP racing?

John Hopkins Withdraws from the Malaysian GP

10/22/2011 @ 9:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on John Hopkins Withdraws from the Malaysian GP

It’s starting to become a bad joke for the Anglo-American rider, but John Hopkins has had to withdraw another wild card opportunity. Citing complications with the finger he broke back the Czech GP, Hopper has unfortunately had to call it quits in Sepang before Sunday’s race. Re-breaking the knuckle on his third finger on his right hand, Hopkins awoke yesterday to a swollen and immovable joint, which made riding the Suzuki GSV-R an impossibility.

Surely a disappointment for the talented rider, who has made no secret about his desire to get back into MotoGP, the move is also a blow to Rizla Suzuki, which as hoping to get some buzz this weekend, as the team negotiates plans for the 2012 MotoGP season with the Japanese factory. Hopper will stay in Malaysia to support the team throughout the race and cheer on teammate Alvaro Bautista, before he heads back to America for surgery.

Suzuki MotoGP Decision Expected at Phillip Island

10/10/2011 @ 6:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear  from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

Hopkins to Wild Card with Rizla Suzuki at Malaysia

09/30/2011 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Rizla Suzuki has announced that John Hopkins will return to MotoGP action for another race, riding again as wild card entry, this time at Sepang. The Malaysian GP will be Hopper’s third stint in MotoGP this season, as the Anglo-American filled-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez and was entered as a wild card for the Czech GP, where he unfortunately injured his wrist in a crash during Free Practice.

Currently leading the British Superbike Championship with the Samsung Crescent Racing team, Hopper will be looking to button-up the BSB Championship next weekend at Brands Hatch. Making a remarkable showing during his rookie year in BSB, this wild card ride with Rizla Suzuki is surely a reward for Hopkins’ determination this season, which has seen him make an appearance in World Superbike, on-top of his extracurricular MotoGP activities.

MotoGP: MotoGP Race Results from the Aragon GP

09/18/2011 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Though threatening with strong winds and the possibility of rain, the weather held out for MotoGP riders at the Aragon GP. As the Spanish track played host to the premier class of motorcycle racing, the Aragon GP proved to be a Honda affair during qualifying, as Casey Stoner took yet another pole position, while teammate Dani Pedrosa followed closely behind as second on the grid. With Jorge Lorenzo struggling at Motorland Aragon, Ben Spies carried the Yamaha banner to the front row, qualifying third on Saturday.

The first to break the six engine rule allotment (we should add, without a special dispensation) Valentino Rossi took his seventh motor of the season, and thus was relegated to starting from the pit lane, 10 seconds after the start of the Aragon GP. Perhaps the friendliest track to take such a manuvear, Ducati Corse is clearly not only thinking for the long-term of this season, but also for the 2012 season as well. How would starting from the rear affect the nine-time World Champion, and would Jorge Lorenzo continue his pursuit of Casey Stoner at Aragon? Find out after the jump.

MotoGP: Qualifying at the Aragon GP

09/17/2011 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on MotoGP: Qualifying at the Aragon GP

With power issues plaguing Friday’s Free Practice sessions, MotoGP took to the track Saturday in full-effort as riders and teams scrambled to make up for lost time. One of five races remaining in the season, the Aragon GP continues Jorge Lorenzo’s do or die point of the season, as the reigning-World Champion is on a campaign to claw back Casey Stoner’s 35 point lead in the MotoGP Championship standings. With the Yamaha’s struggling at Motorland Aragon, the Spaniard certainly has a tough a weekend ahead of him, especially since both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa looked to be well on top of their game in the two practice sessions.

News has been percolating for Ducati as well, as Valentino Rossi will finally ride on the much rumored aluminum chassis this weekend. While Rossi and the Corse crew struggle to adjust to yet another major modification to the Ducati Desmosedici, Randy de Puniet proved to be the fastest Italian bike man at Aragon leading up to qualifying. Also showing strong improvement in this homestretch of the season, Alvaro Bautista has been on a tear lately, and will be man to watch come Sunday’s race. Check after the jump for Qualifying results at the Aragon Gp>

Photo of the Week: Unsung Hero

09/12/2011 @ 2:45 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

With only rare exceptions, you don’t get to the top level of motorbike racing without being fast and having proven your raciness in the lower classes. Former 125cc World Champion and 250cc runner-up Álvaro Bautista is an example of a great rider on a bike that simply doesn’t allow him to show all of his talents.

After fantastic seasons in 125s and 250s, Bautista joined MotoGP in 2010 on the struggling Rizla Suzuki team aboard a bike that was flat out uncompetitive, managing a pair of 5th places for his best results of the year. He began 2011 as the team’s sole rider by breaking his leg in Qatar and missing the first two races, returning at Estoril while still mending. Since then he has managed a variety of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place finished as the 800cc Suzuki shows signs of life just at it reaches the end of its duty.