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.

Macau: Qualifying Results from the 2015 Macau GP

11/20/2015 @ 5:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Guy Martin Turns Down Top Gear Show Offer

10/02/2015 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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It seems Guy Martin won’t be a BBC Top Gear host after all, according to Britain’s Commercial Motor magazine, as the mechanic from Lincolnshire has seemingly turned down the job offer to be one of the hosts of the infamous British show.

Though a disappointment, Martin has seemingly reached this decision because the rigors of hosting Top Gear would have required him to quit his day job of being a mechanic, and interfered with hit motor bike racing pursuits.

James Hillier Talks About Taking a Lap Around the Isle of Man TT Course Aboard the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

08/21/2015 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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What is it like to ride a supercharged 300hp hyperbike around the Isle of Man TT? Somewhat terrifying, and that’s coming from a guy who does it for a living: James Hillier.

As you might know, Hillier rode a Kawasaki Ninja H2R around the Isle of Man TT road course as part of an exhibition lap during this last TT fortnight, much to the delight of fans lining the Manx hedgerows.

Now we can relive that experience, since Kawasaki put together a short video on James’ impressions riding the supercharged carbon fiber beast, complete with on-board footage. Enjoy!

Guy Martin Breaks Back in Ulster GP Crash

08/08/2015 @ 7:25 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Guy Martin’s weekend at the Ulster Grand Prix is over, after a nasty crash during the Dundrod 150 Superbike race left the Tyco BMW rider with a broken vertebra, sternum, and ribs.

Watching the footage of the crash (after the jump), Martin was surprisingly lucky with his crash, despite his laundry list of painful injuries. Martin went down in one of the few areas on the Dundrod Circuit where there is a clearing, and narrowly missed a tree that was in his crash trajectory, in the process.

That being said though, Martin will have to remain in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for the next few days, as he recovers from surgery and mends his wounds. He is said to be in good spirits.

Carl Sorensen Has Died While Practicing at Pikes Peak

06/25/2015 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Tragic news comes to us today from Colorado, as racer Carl Sorensen died during today’s practice session for the 93rd Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

With the motorcycles on the top section of the mountain, Carl crashed in a fast left-hand turn, known to have a bump on the racing line, near the summit.

Carl’s last run would have been one of the final runs up the course for the day, as the bikes were closing-in on their end time. Conditions reported to Asphalt & Rubber were that it was very cold at the Devil’s Playground staging area, with the road thawing from a measured 32°F to 42°F by the end of the sessions.

Thursday marks the third day of sanctioned practice for the motorcycles entered in Sunday’s racing event, with qualifying being tomorrow, on the lower section of the course (Pikes Peak practice sessions are divided into three course segments, with one motorcycle group and two car groups rotating through the course during practice week.

Familiar with the PPIHC race course, Carl finished last year’s hillclimb an impressive 16th overall, and 10th in the competitive “Open” class on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. For this year’s race, he made his move into the middleweight class, riding on a Ducati 848 Superbike.

A loyal A&R reader, and an avid motorcycle racer, Carl is survived by his wife and son, and will be sorely missed by all his family, friends, and racing compatriots. Our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by Carl’s passing.

Senior Race Day at the Isle of Man TT with Tony Goldsmith

06/12/2015 @ 6:16 pm, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

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For the final day of racing at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, and I headed to the north of the Island, as I had a brief to photograph the Lightweight race from the Ginger Hall section in Sulby. Just after the Sulby Straight, the Ginger Hall is very popular with fans, mainly due to the pub that gives the section its name.

After the Lightweight race, I drove the few miles to Ramsey and to the spectacular Milntown jump. From there, it was a brief stop at Parliament Square in the center of Ramsey before driving back to the Grandstand for the podium celebrations.

Above: John McGuinness plants a kiss on the Senior TT trophy.

IOMTT: PokerStars Senior TT Race Results

06/12/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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If there is one event everyone gets excited about at the Isle of Man TT, it’s the Senior TT. Often called “the blue-ribbon event” at the Isle of Man, the Senior TT is not a race for the elderly, like the name suggests, but instead it features the biggest, meanest, machines on the road course.

Most of the PokerStars Senior TT grid is filled with bikes from the Superbike TT, as the classes have a great deal of overlap, but the Senior TT usually has one or two special machines, who fall outside of the Superbike rules — the Norton SG4 is one of those machines.

All the TT riders want to win the Senior TT, and it fittingly is the final race of the Isle of Man TT, which only adds to excitement.

With Friday being drama-filled at the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT was no different.

IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Race Results

06/12/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on IOMTT: Bennetts Lightweight TT Race Results

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The final day of racing at the Isle of Man TT is usually set by two extremes: the “beginner class” Lightweight TT and the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.

The rules for the Bennetts Lightweight TT are pretty simple, bikes with two-cylinders, no bigger than 650cc, and the riders must perform at least one pit stop during the three-lap race.

This means that pit stop strategy is king for the Lightweight riders, and the shuffling of positions adds a bit of drama to the usually tight racing already found on the course.

The man to beat in the Lightweight TT class is Ryan Farquhar, one of the top privateer riders at the TT (if not, the top privateer). Farquhar is responsible for tuning and building many of the top Kawasaki race bikes on the Lightweight TT grid as well, though other brands and builders have started to find competitiveness in the class.

Not to spoil the results for the Senior TT, but Friday would see records drop at the Isle of Man, and we start that trend off first in the Bennetts Lightweight TT.

Hillier Sets 206 MPH Sulby Record on a Kawasaki H2R

06/11/2015 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Sulby Straight is the fastest part of the Isle of Man TT course, and when the conditions are right, it’s not uncommon for the big Superbike and Senior TT bikes to break the 200 mph mark on the nearly mile-long stretch.

It is, however, a bit uncommon for riders to reach the 200 mph mark during the TT’s parade laps, but don’t tell that to James Hillier. “Parading” the supercharged Kawasaki H2R around the Mountain Course, Hillier set an outright top speed record down the Sulby Straight, with an official speed of 206 mph.

Wednesday Race Day from Keppel Gate by Tony Goldsmith

06/11/2015 @ 3:15 pm, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

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We were treated to the best conditions of the 2015 Isle of Man TT for Wednesday’s racing. With that in mind, I decided to head for the hills and to Keppel Gate/Kate’s Cottage. Around three miles from the finish of the lap, Keppel Gate marks the point the riders start to descend from the mountain section.

As I’ve already mentioned the conditions were great with very little wind and warm sunshine. With the perfect conditions came the photographers worse nightmare, heat haze. I will therefore use that excuse for any pictures that look a little soft.

Above: The hard working volunteer marshalls at Kate’s Cottage, without them there would be no racing.