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.

MotoGP: Qualifying Shows Some Surprises at Phillip Island

10/14/2011 @ 10:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With suspicious skies, qualifying for MotoGP’s Australian GP got underway today. With the weather always variable at Phillip Island, riders saw sun, clouds, and a light spitting of rain before taking to the qualifying session. Normally a favorite track with the GP riders, Phillip Island has been plagued with a bumpy and torn-up surface, which dominated the discussion after Friday’s debriefings. With the Australian track announcing that the GP circuit would be resurfaced before the 2013 season, there is at least a remedy on the way, though it doesn’t bode well for the 2012 Australian GP.

Despite the surface conditions, Casey Stoner primarily lead the charge through the Free Practice sessions, though not in as dominant of a fashion as one would have expected. Finishing FP3 just over half a second quicker than Lorenzo, Stoner is still the paddock favorite to win tomorrow’s race, though his chances of clinching the Championship here at home seem slim. Able to keep the Australian within their reach, Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli have given Stoner chase, though none of them have been able to take the top position on the timesheet from the Aussie.

Earthquake 60km from Fukushima Kicks Off Japanese GP

09/29/2011 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

MotoGP action has finally hit Japanese shores, as riders and teams made their usual Thursday preparations and announcements at Motegi for the Japanese GP. With the near rider boycott of the event, many eyes have been on the teams that have imported food and water, let alone the sighting of the occasional Geiger counter at the Twin Ring Circuit. Perpetuating an air of concern over the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake 60km (37 miles) SSE from the crippled nuclear power plant sent a reminder of the region’s seismic volatility. With no damage reportedly caused at Fukushima, and the Japanese GP unaffected by the event, the physical impact is of course non-existent for MotoGP, but the psychological factor certainly remains in the paddock.

Unrelated to the earthquake, Casey Stoner was absent from the Thursday pre-race press conference, as the Australian’s flight was late in arriving into Japan. As such, Jorge Lorenzo filled-in at the center seat, normally reserved for the MotoGP Championship points leader, and made light of the situation.”Where is Casey?” asked a playful Jorge Lorenzo. “Am I leading the Championship now?” he said with a smile. 44 points behind the Repsol Honda rider, Lorenzo acknowledged that his Championship bid was essentially over, though seemed still determined to carry the flag for Yamaha in the final four races of the 2011 season.

Simoncelli Re-Signs with Gresini – Factory Honda for 2012

09/27/2011 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Ahead of the Japanese GP at Motegi, Team San Carlo Honda Gresini has announced the re-signing of Marco Simoncelli to the satellite Honda team, with SuperSic once again riding on a factory Honda motorcycle. Hoping that the factory Honda RC213V will yield even more positive results for Simoncelli, HRC has thus also renewed their support for the Italian rider, who will join Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa as confirmed factory riders for 2012.

With HRC stating all silly season it would have only three factory riders, two in Repsol Honda, for 2012, this announcement is just as much about Marco Simoncelli as it is about Andrea Dovizioso. Though Dovi has beaten Sic on paper all year long, it would seem the other Italian Honda rider will end up in a satellite squad, either with Tech3 (Team Boss Hervé Poncharal has hinted at Dovi being his #1 choice) or LCR Honda. An announcement on Dovizioso’s 2012 plans outside of a factory HRC contract is expected at Motegi as well.

Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

09/19/2011 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Honda to Field Eight Riders at the Japanese GP

Make no doubts about it, Honda is set to make a statement at the rescheduled Japanese GP on October 2nd. After much hemming and hawing over whom would and would not race at Motegi, virtually every rider in the MotoGP paddock has been confirmed to be in attendance at Japan early next month, including Casey Stoner (according to Honda at least).

Whether it is because the riders have begun to believe the bevy of reports that Motegi and the Fukushima nuclear plant are safe, or the fact that the Twin Ring Circuit has already played host to several high-profile events, or even if it is the simple reality that Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha have enormously long memories regarding issues of pride and honor, the fact of the matter is that not only will the MotoGP grid be as full as possible (there are question marks regarding Loris Capirossi’s shoulder), but Honda will field two more riders for the Japanese GP.

Video: Hiroshi Aoyama at 300 km/h

08/26/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

For Hiroshi Aoyama, the perfect lap is unattainable, as motorcycle racers are always looking for a little bit more speed, and thus a better lap. That being said, the Japanese rider has perhaps an unhealthy relationship with velocity, saying that while going 300 km/h is scary, he “likes that feeling.”

With more super slow-mo footage from Catalunya, Red Bull again brings us some 1000 fps video, just in time to promote Sunday’s Indianapolis GP. For those movie continuity buffs, you can tell this video was made earlier in the year, as Aoyama talks about Indy’s four different kind of asphalt types, which have now been paved over for one consistent tarmac throughout the infield. Watch the high-speed camera footage after the jump.

Photo of the Week: Brush Your Shoulders Off

08/15/2011 @ 2:06 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

On the grid at Mugello I watched as seven or eight visiting Japanese gentlemen in matching white Honda shirts smiled, bowed, and shook hands with Simoncelli, and I couldn’t help wondering if they were congratulating him in advance for having knocked out his latest fellow Honda rider. Rumors had been flying around the paddock about the discussions HRC had held with Sic concerning his inability to tame his raw speed, and add the crucial element of sound judgment while in the heat of battle.

While his pace this season was plain to see, the question continued to fascinate us: would Marco ever find a way to be fast and smart? He came in sixth that day, and looked nothing like the Super Sic we’d come to know and fear, in spite of having qualified third. In Germany he was sixth again, and at Laguna Seca he crashed out for the fifth time this season.

At Brno he seemed to have completed a metamorphosis from wild and dangerous to calm and calculating (possible spoiler alert ahead). After a poor start he worked his way through the field until finding himself behind two riders with whom he has a complex past: Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Watching the laps tick off with Sic in fourth place, hungry for that first podium but dangerously close to Lorenzo, one couldn’t help but have the feeling of watching a train wreck about to happen. Given all that has occurred with Lorenzo, the sparring in press conferences, the latest rider elimination of JL at Assen, would Sic rush in again and further complicate his history with the reigning world champ?

MotoGP: Decisive Racing at the Czech GP

08/14/2011 @ 9:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The weather continued to shine on Brno for the Czech GP (we’ll see if it holds off for Monday’s 1,000 bike test), as the MotoGP riders geared-up for one of the paddock’s favorite circuits on the calendar. With MotoGP dodging a bullet on what’s been a rain-filled season, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Casey Stoner lead the 17 rider grid with their front-row qualifying lap times. While Pedrosa seemed to be uncatchable all week long, Lorenzo and Stoner seemed up to the task of at least being road blocks to the flying Spaniard, and in the process grasp some desperately needed strong finishes for the Championship title.

With precious Championship points on the line, Brno held the possibility for several riders to mount their assault on the leader board, including third-row starter Andrea Dovizioso. For Stoner on the other hand, the Czech GP was an opportunity to put some breathing room between himself and the competition, especially as the Australian considers whether he will forgo the Japanese GP round at Motegi later this October, surely losing position on the Championship in the process. With so much riding on their performance at Brno, MotoGP racing didn’t disappoint in this well-fought race.

Gresini Says No to Marco Simoncelli in WSBK, for 2011

05/12/2011 @ 10:45 am, by Victoria Reid7 COMMENTS

In an effort to get out ahead of rumors suggesting Marco Simoncelli would be participating in World Superbike racing in 2011, his Gresini Honda MotoGP team has definitively stated that he will not be doing so. Though he appeared at the WSBK Monza round just this past weekend, Simoncelli will not be repeating his 2009 wild card performance at Imola or any other rounds this season. There, he placed third in the second race on an Aprilia, after not finishing the first race.

Simply put, there will be no extra racing for Simoncelli in a MotoGP field already marred by riders suffering health problems from extracurricular racing. However, Gresini Honda will be providing their star rider with a Honda CBR1000RR that he may test at his and the FIM’s discretion.

Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

02/22/2011 @ 12:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Casey Stoner Leads MotoGP Testing at Sepang

Casey Stoner set the pace today at MotoGP’s second off-season test at Sepang. The Australian, and the rest of the four factory Honda riders, proved to be very impressive on the Malaysian track, as the 2011 Honda RC212V seems to be hitting its stride just before the season opener in Qatar in a few weeks.

The Honda riders don’t have things all sewn up though, as the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo was looking very fast, as were Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the day, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi even cracked into the Top 5 on the standings, and despite finishing the day just over a second behind Stoner, the Italian was upbeat about the team’s progress and his physical condition.

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