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.

Clarifying MotoGP’s Spec-Software Path for 2015 & Beyond

12/22/2014 @ 1:38 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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When the minutes of the latest meeting of MotoGP’s ruling body, the Grand Prix Commission, were unveiled, there was one passage which confused many who read it.

The press release included a paragraph on the spec software which is to be adopted for all MotoGP bikes from the start of the 2016 season. The passage read as follows:

It was already announced that Factory teams in the MotoGP class must move to using unified software with effect from 01 July 2015. It has now been confirmed that different teams, using machines from the same Factory, may use different versions of the unified software. 

The wording seemed to suggest that from 2016, factory teams would still be allowed to use a different version of the ECU software to that used by satellite and private teams.

MotoGP Rules Updated: Fuel Limits, Concussion Tests, Etc

12/18/2014 @ 4:46 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, held on Tuesday in Madrid, made a number of minor changes to the rules for all three Grand Prix classes, as well as a couple of more significant revisions.

The biggest changes concerned the setting of the maximum fuel allocation from 2016 at 22 liters, and the adoption of the SCAT3 test for concussion for riders after a crash. But perhaps the most significant outcome of the meeting of the GPC is not what was decided, but what was not.

Of the various minor rule changes, a few are worthy of comment. The first is the reduction of the time penalty at the start for a rider exceeding the engine allocation in any given year.

From 2015, anyone using an extra engine will start the race from pit lane 5 seconds after the green light is displayed after the official start (once all riders on the grid have passed pit lane exit), rather than 10 seconds.

This will have little direct impact on the outcome of any races, but should make it easier for riders using an extra engine to get close to the backmarkers, and perhaps score a point or two.

2015 MotoAmerica Rules Posted Online

12/18/2014 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Plans for the inaugural MotoAmerica season continue to move forward, and after KRAVE posted the basic guidelines for its 2015 class structure, the company behind America’s road racing revival has announced its full rules package for the Superbike, Superstock 1000, Supersport and Superstock 600 classes, note the KTM RC390 spec-class rules have not been finalized and are not included.

The full rulebook can be read online here, and as expected the rules bring MotoAmerica’s class structure and technical aspects very much in line with the World Superbike Championship’s new class structure and rules. A such there are few surprises for race teams and fans in the rulebook.

Friday Summary at Phillip Island: Special Tires for a Special Circuit, & The Rules for 2016

10/17/2014 @ 8:13 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Phillip Island is a very special race track. That has an upside – it rewards courage and talent, and has provided some spectacular racing – but it is also special in the more pejoratively euphemistic sense of the word. It challenges not just the riders, but motorcycle designers and racing teams as well.

Above all, it challenges tire manufacturers: with wildly varying temperatures, strong winds blowing in cool and damp air off the ocean, an abrasive surface, high-speed corners, more left handers than right handers, and the most of the lefts faster than the rights. It can rain, be bitterly cold, be bathed in glorious sunshine, or in sweltering heat. Try building a tire to cope with all that.

After last year’s fiasco, both Dunlop and Bridgestone tried to do just that. They came to the track in March to test tires and gather data to build tires for this weekend. The only minor problem is that the test came at the end of Australia’s long summer, and temperatures were much more congenial than now, as the country emerges from its Antipodean winter.

The tire selections brought by Dunlop and Bridgestone are much better than last year, but they are not quite perfect. At any other track, that wouldn’t be a problem. At Phillip Island, even being not quite perfect can land you in trouble.

WSBK: Test Ban Lifted Ahead of 2015 Rule Changes

10/09/2014 @ 9:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on WSBK: Test Ban Lifted Ahead of 2015 Rule Changes

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With new technical regulations set to come into effect for the 2015 season in World Superbikes, the Superbike Commission has decided to lift its customary testing ban.

Instead of testing being prohibited for the months of December and January, the World Superbike and World Supersport teams will be allowed to continue testing, with only a short break over the holiday period. Testing will no be banned from December 21st, 2014 to January 4th, 2015.

MotoAmerica Announces Its 2015 Class Structure

10/03/2014 @ 3:20 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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MotoAmerica, the organization which replaces the DMG in running the US AMA series, has given their first peek into the future, by announcing the rules package. Though still not finalized, the package does give a very clear indication of MotoAmerica and KRAVE’s thinking, and the direction they wish to steer motorcycle racing in America in.

Four classes have been announced, with two more currently being weighed. The series will feature two superbike classes, Superbike and Superstock 1000, which will run concurrently. There will also be two middleweight classes, Supersport and Superstock 600, which replace Daytona Sportbike and the Supersport series.

For the moment, the four classes will be very similar to the classes they replace, with the exception of Superstock 1000, which will be run along the same lines as the FIM Superstock 1000.

However, MotoAmerica make it very clear in their press release that the eventual goal is to bring the Superbike, Supersport, and Superstock 600 rules used at the world championship level, with the aim of bringing more American talent to world championship racing.

MotoGP: Grand Prix Commission Agrees to Lower Bike Weight & Freeze Software Development for Factory Option

09/14/2014 @ 1:47 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The Grand Prix Commission met at Misano to agree a couple of steps on the long road towards creating a single, unified MotoGP class from 2016.

The four parties to the GPC agreed that the minimum weight in the MotoGP class would be reduced from 160kg to 158kg, and agreed to freeze development of the software for all Factory Option class bikes from 30th June 2015.

From that point on, work will switch to the spec, or unified software, ready for the start of 2016.

No Compensation for Lost World Superbike Rounds

08/28/2014 @ 10:14 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The loss of the South African round of World Superbikes, when the safety improvements to the Welkom circuit could not be completed in time for homologation, meant that the WSBK calendar had lost two rounds from its 2014 calendar, with both South Africa and the Moscow Raceway event having been scrapped.

Two rounds meant the loss of two World Supersport races and four World Superbike races, a total of 50 points for WSS and 100 points for WSBK.

The loss of those points left both championships much closer to being decided. Tom Sykes leads the World Superbike championship by 44 points with 150 points still at stake, while Michael van der Mark is even closer to the World Supersport championship, leading Jules Cluzel by 53 points with just 75 points left.

The teams, but most especially the riders, felt that they had had a chance to try to reopen the championship races taken away from them.

The Quartararo Rule – Moto3 Minimum Age Limit Changed

08/17/2014 @ 7:45 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The minimum age limit for the Moto3 class is to be dropped for the winner of the Spanish CEV Moto3 championship. In a meeting at Brno, the Grand Prix Commission approved a proposal for the winner of the CEV Moto3 to be allowed to compete in the Moto3 world championship the season after winning the CEV.

The rule change will mean that Fabio Quartararo, the young Frenchman currently leading the CEV Moto3, will be allowed to start in Moto3 in 2015. The Frenchman is currently 15, and does not turn 16 until 20th April. If this rule had not been changed, then Quartararo would have been forced to miss the first two races of the 2015 season.

ACU Announces Changes to Isle of Man TT Sidecar Regs – Supersport Rules, Three-Cylidner Engines Now Allowed

06/25/2014 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on ACU Announces Changes to Isle of Man TT Sidecar Regs – Supersport Rules, Three-Cylidner Engines Now Allowed

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The sidecar class at the Isle of Man TT is about to get a pretty big change, as the ACU has announced a shift in the sporting regulations for sidecars. Already opening up the engine spec for the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the governing body has once again modified what the three-wheelers can use for their engines.

Applying the solo-class Supersport engine specs to the sidecar class, teams will have more strict guidelines on what they can and cannot modify for their machines, but they will also have greater flexibility in what engines they base their racing operation upon.

Since the Isle of Man TT Supersport class allows for 675cc three-cylinder sport bikes to compete, Sidecar class entrants can now make use of power plants from the Triumph Daytona 675 and MV Agusta F3 sport bikes.