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 Tech Director: No Breach of Moto3 Rev Limit Found

03/11/2016 @ 1:53 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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MotoGP’s Technical Director has rejected KTM’s claim that Honda exceeded the official Moto3 rev limit during the 2015 season.

In an official statement issued today, Danny Aldridge said that he and his technical team had examined the official rev limiter used in Moto3 and verified that it was operating correctly, and that although there had been overshoots of the rev limit, these were very small and very brief.

Aldridge went on to confirm much of what we had found when we investigated the issue at the end of February. Speaking to Peter Bom, crew chief of 2015 Moto3 world champion on a Honda Danny Kent, Bom explained that the issue had been about the way in which Honda had optimized the point at which the rev limiter cut in, and this is what had caused the confusion.

Step Aside Honda Grom, Here’s the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

03/04/2016 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Behold the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro, Team Green’s answer to the Honda Grom. This four-stroke, 125cc, 225 lbs “monkey bike” from Kawasaki hopes to tap into the same unassuming, approachable, and fun vein that the Honda Grom exposed three years ago.

Like the Grom, the Kawasaki Z125 Pro appeals to two very different demographics. One the one hand, it is the perfect learner bike for young and green (no pun intended) riders – you can see as much in the photos at the end of this post that clearly target the millennial skateboarding young male.

On the other hand though, the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro is just as much of a machine for older and more experienced riders, who are looking for a cheap and fun machine to add to their already comprehensive stable –  perhaps as a grocery-getter or pit bike at the track.

If we can continue to the comparison to the Honda Grom, this dual approach appears to play out well in the market, with the unassuming motorcycle gaining attention from a surprising wide and large demographic. As such, Kawasaki is smart to jump on the trend.

Benelli Tornado 302 – Bringing Sexy Back

11/18/2015 @ 6:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Just like the Benelli Tornado Naked T, the Benelli Tornado 302 treads on one of motorcycling’s iconic names, replacing it with a budget-oriented model that has none of the pizazz of its namesake.

This is what Benelli has been reduced to as a motorcycle brand, and the reason why the West no longer takes Benelli seriously.

That all being said, if we beat our head against the wall long enough to forget the Benelli Tornado, in either its 900c or 1130cc variants, the Benelli Tornado 302 is a fetching small-displacement machine.

2016 KTM 690 Duke Learns Some Table Manners

11/17/2015 @ 6:09 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The KTM 690 Duke has always been a fun street bike, with a fair amount of power wedged into a relatively light package. For 2016, the KTM 690 Duke learns some refinement though, most notably with an engine overhaul that drops the buzz from the motor, and adds power to the dyno chart.

This comes about as the 690cc LC4 engine gains a secondary balancing shaft, a new crankshaft, and lighter pistons and connecting rods. All these changes come with a new cylinder head that has the exhaust valves on roller rockers, and the intake valves on the camshaft.

The result is that the 2016 KTM 690 Duke gets a modest power gain – a 73hp peak horsepower figure – and a powerband that is 1,000 rpm wider than before.

Watch the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Do Its Thang

10/13/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Maybe it’s because my supermoto season officially ended this weekend (without me, I should add), with our last scheduled sumo session at the go-kart track here in Portland passing by this weekend, or maybe it’s because we just want the Swedish brand to deliver the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto already…either way, consider our appetite whetted by this last video from Husky.

Finally giving us a showing of the 701 Supermoto on a proper race track — not that the ice course with spiked tires wasn’t cool (no pun intended) — we get to see the 701 at home in its natural element: hitting apexes, sliding tires, and crushing lean angles.

We imagine that the nearly as powerful, and considerably lighter Husqvarna FS 450 supermoto would be the better weapon on the track, but the 690cc power plant on the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is certainly the better choice for a machine that will roll a tire on public roads…and that’s sorta the point of the machine.

We’ll be eager to see this Husqvarna hit showrooms in Europe this November, and thus being the long wait for it to come to the USA in February 2016. Could the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto be the ultimate city hooligan bike? Time will tell…we’re certainly eager to find out, though.

KTM 690 Duke To Get Upgrades for 2016

09/09/2015 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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KTM is pulling the interesting move of only alerting certain outlets to the fact that the Austrian company will be bringing updates to the KTM 690 Duke for the 2016 model year. Regardless of that alienating choice, the facts remain, and we’re here to give you the details of their new models.

As such, expect to see the 2016 KTM 690 Duke to get a power boost, roughly to the tune of 73hp @ 8,500 rpm (up 1,000 rpm over the previous model), with peak torque also getting a boost of roughly 6%.

This increase in power comes about partly to internal changes, which include a larger bore and shorter stroke. These give that 690 Duke a very slight displacement increase of 3cc, for 693cc in total.

Husqvarna 701 Enduro Coming for 2016

09/08/2015 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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I had the supreme pleasure of being a guest at the KTM factory last week, touring the Austrian company’s headquarters at Mattighofen.

Seeing some things that I should have perhaps not have seen, Asphalt & Rubber can now confirm two things: the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto looks awesome in person, and that there will be a Husqvarna 701 Enduro for the 2016 model year.

Husqvarna 701 Café Racer Spied

08/27/2015 @ 12:30 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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The spy photographer who sent us these photos calls this mystery motorcycle a “Husqvarna 701 café racer” which honestly is as good of a guess as any when it comes to figuring out what the Swedish brand is doing with this machine, and its 2016 motorcycle lineup.

Based off the KTM 690 Duke, as is the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, this machine promises to have a 70hp thumper at its heart, mixed with a short seat-height, clip-on handlebars, underslung exhaust, and an attractive trellis swingarm.

To our eye, the motorcycle in question looks like Husky’s take on the KTM 690 Duke – a naked street bike that’s equally at home in the city as it is in the twisties – more than it does a café racer.

BMW Getting Closer to a Single-Cylinder 300cc Bike

05/20/2015 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Continued reports suggest that BMW is getting closer and closer to releasing a small-displacement motorcycle single-cylinder motorcycle (codenamed the K03), which is being co-developed with Indian brand TVS.

The machine is expected to be in the 250cc to 300cc range, be engineered by BMW Motorrad in Germany, but built by TVS in India.

Pictures of the test mule have been on the internet (see above), but the final design is said to be similar to the TVS Draken concept that we saw this time last year.

Yamaha MT-125 – Europe Gets Another MT

05/07/2014 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Need a small-displacement naked bike for your urban commute? Yamaha has something for you then, as the tuning fork brand has announced the Yamaha MT-125 for the European market today. Based off the Yamaha YZF-R125 platform, the MT-125 is essentially the R125 stripped of its fairings.

Featuring the same steel delta box frame, and 124.7cc single-cylinder thumper as the Yamaha R125, the big changes to make the MT-125 are the obvious ones, namely the “MT” styling that we have seen on the Yamaha MT-09 (that’s the Yamaha FZ-09 to us Americans) and the Yamaha MT-07.