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.

2013 Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳) Revealed

05/10/2013 @ 12:57 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Shipped up and on its way to the Isle of Man, we can finally now see more than test shots of the Mugen Shinden Ni and get its basic racing specifications. The electric superbike that John McGuinness will ride in the 2013 TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden Ni represents that evolution of the Japanese firm’s design, having now a TT race under its belt.

Like its main competitor MotoCzysz, Team Mugen is eyeing a 110 mph lap around the Mountain Course, which would be a pretty remarkable one-year advancement for either team. With Mr. McPint at the helm, and seemingly brimming with on-board energy, Mugen is a serious contender for the top stop on the podium. It should make for some good racing in a few weeks’ time.

First Look: Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳)

04/17/2013 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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With the start of the racing season just barely into its second round for many of the world’s various series, it is hard to believe that we should start hearing about entries for the 2013 Isle of Man TT, but June is truly just around the corner. Returning for the TT Zero race, Team Mugen returns to the Isle of Man with its new Shinden Ni electric motorcycle.

Piloted last year by the King of the Mountain himself, John McGuinness returns to Team Mugen where he hopes to improve upon his second place finish, and the 102.2 mph average lap speed he posted during last year’s competition.

IOMTT: Team Mugen is Back for the 2013 TT Zero – New Lighter “Shinden 2” & Same-Sized John McGuinness

02/07/2013 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Runners-up in the 2012 TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, newcomer Team Mugen made quite the stir with its Shinden (神電) electric race bike, which was piloted by none other than TT great John McGuinness.

Announcing its intention to return for the 2013 TT Zero event, Mugen again confirms McPint as the team’s rider, and boasts of an even lighter and more refined Shinden Ni (神電弐つ), or Shinden 2, electric motorcycle.

Light on details with its new race bike, Mugen only mentions that the team has developed the Shinden Ni from the original Shinden, which has resulted in the weight of the motorcycle body and electric systems being reduced (read: less battery mass).

Mugen also says that the electric motor and aerodynamics of the motorcycle have also been analyzed and modified to make the Shinden Ni a more potent adversary.

Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

More Photos & Video of the Mugen Shinden

03/05/2012 @ 11:21 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Thought to be a Honda in disguise, the Mugen Shinden (神電) broke cover this weekend at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Suzuka Circuit. While the Shinden leaves a bit to be desired visually when compared to the Honda RC-E concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, underneath the bland white fairings is a carbon fiber chassis with 122 hp on tap, and a curb weight of 573 lbs. With that much weight on board, Mugen’s electric superbike is sure to have a massive battery pack, which should give MotoCzysz, Lightning, and other 2012 TT Zero contenders a run for their money…the £10,000 that is still up for grabs to the first team to crack a 100 mph lap.

Piloting the Mugen Shinden around the 37.733 mile TT course will be none other than “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness. The seventeen-time TT race winner has been keen on racing the electrics for some time now, and his involvement with the Mugen squad only adds more credibility to the belief that Honda is using the tuning outfit as a front to race its electric in a low-pressure situation (McGuinness is a contract Honda rider with the Honda TT Legends squad). Interviewed at the Morecambe Football Club, McGuinness added even more linkage between the two Japanese companies when he refered to the project as the “Mugen/Honda” electric bike.

This is the Mugen Shinden (神電) TT Zero Electric Race Bike

03/02/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Added more information & technical specifications from Mugen’s press release.

This morning we learned that John McGuinness will be Mugen’s rider in the team’s bid to break the 100 mph barrier at the 2012 TT Zero. Heavily speculated to be a stealth project by Honda (無限 / Mugen was started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda), much speculation has been done over what sort of bike Mugen would be bringing to the Isle of Man TT, and now we have that answer.

Called Shinden (神電), meaning “God of Electricity” in Japanese, the machine may not have the same exquisite lines of the Honda RC-E electric superbike concept, but upon closer inspection, Mugen’s electric race bike seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Breaking cover at a press conference in Suzuka, the Mugen Shinden features a brushless three-phase 90 kW (120hp) DC motor, carbon fiber swingarm, and a carbon fiber twin-spar frame design.

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