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.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja RR – A 250cc Single-Cylinder for Asia

02/16/2014 @ 6:29 pm, by Aakash Desai16 COMMENTS

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Let’s see, what would be an ideal motorcycle for tackling the treacherous roads, unending traffic and inclement weather conditions of a typical Asian city?

You want a bike that is lightweight, easy to maneuver and doesn’t put too much of a traction burden on mounds of slippery cow manure. You also want a bike that is torquey to get you out of the way of juggernaut garbage trucks that won’t stop no matter what gets in their way.

With these characteristics in mind, the newly revealed Kawasaki Ninja RR (or Kawasaki Ninja 250SL in some markets) seems tailored made for these environments.

The Japanese company took their popular twin-cylinder Kawasaki Ninja 250R, changed it to a single-cylinder thumper, and built the bike around a new steel trellis frame.

Kawasaki to Release a Single-Cylinder 250cc Sport Bike?

01/06/2014 @ 11:33 am, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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According to TMCBlog (more photos on their site), Kawasaki may be planning to release a new entry level sport bike as a cost effective option for the Southeast Asian market. Rumor has it that this 250cc, single-cylinder bike is under construction and would be the more economical cousin to the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and its parallel-twin engine, while providing more competition for the Honda CBR250R.

While none of this can be confirmed, for time being it is a safe bet that if Kawasaki wants to remain competitive in its Asian markets, and it would be a good business strategy for Kawasaki to produce a bike that is comparable to many of the other single-cylinder bikes in the region, which are being produced by Honda, Suzuki, and KTM.

2014 KTM RC200 & KTM RC125 — The More the Merrier

11/07/2013 @ 7:36 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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For the American market, its all about the 2014 KTM RC390 and its single-cylinder sport bike format. But for the rest of the world, especially emerging markets, the talk of the 2013 EICMA show is focusing on the KTM RC200 and KTM RC125 — the smaller siblings in KTM’s “Race Competition” line.

Like the RC390, the RC200 and RC125 share engine designs with their Duke model counterparts. Both bikes feature the same aggressive styling as the KTM RC390, courtesy of Kiska Design, and are ideally situated for markets with tiered licensing programs and heavily segmented small-displacement categories. For us, we just think these motorcycles look hot.

2014 Honda CBR300R – Small-Displacement Warfare

11/07/2013 @ 5:11 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The battlefront in the small-displacement motorcycle war is heating up, as Honda has responded to last year’s debut of the Kawasaki Ninja 300 with its own 300cc sport bike, the 2014 Honda CBR300R. Departing from the looks of the Honda CBR250R, the Honda CBR300R instead gets its styling from the Honda CBR500R that debuted last year at this time.

Finally giving us some details since its preview last month, we now know what Honda has added another 37cc to its entry-level spot, as the Honda CBR300R has a 286cc single-cylinder engine, which makes 30hp and 20 lbs•ft of torque.

Honda says the CBR300R has an improved throttle response, and will come with ABS as standard. From the way the Japanese are talking, the Honda CBR300R is set to replace the Honda CBR250R worldwide, which means we will see this bike in the United States.

Officially Official: 2014 KTM RC390

11/05/2013 @ 6:37 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Even though the 2014 KTM RC390 leaked ahead of its EICMA debut, the KTM stand at the Fieramilano was packed full of attendees who were eager to get a glimpse of the single-cylinder sport bike from Austria.

The logical progression from the KTM 390 Duke, the RC390 shares many of its brethren’s features and specifications, though has a uniqueness all of its own.

Triumph Confirms 250cc Motorcycle is Coming for 2015

11/05/2013 @ 6:01 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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At Triumph’s EICMA press presentation today, the British brand confirmed that it would have a small-displacement world market bike for the 2015 model year.

Showing a very sporty concept sketch of the machine, Triumph also confirmed that the model would have a single-cylinder engine, be 250cc in displacement, and be manufactured at the company’s new India facility.

2014 KTM RC390 Cup – A Glimpse of What’s to Come

07/14/2013 @ 1:21 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Helping cultivate road racing’s future talent, KTM has teamed up with ADAS to bring you the “ADAC Junior Cup powered by KTM” series. Along the same vein as the Red Bull Rookies Cup for MotoGP, and the European Junior Cup for World Superbike, the ADAC Junior Cup is a spec-bike series aimed at developing young riders — good stuff, but not exactly a new concept.

What is exciting though is the “powered by KTM” part because zie Austrians have basically just unwrapped their new small-displacment street bike that is based off the KTM 390 Duke, you know it as the KTM RC390, and for the ADAC series, we know it as the 2014 KTM RC390 Cup Racer. Missing only a headlight, signals, and a license plate, the cup race bike is essentially what KTM will debut at EICMA in a few months’ time. We like.

Rumor: Ducati Scrambler Cometh

07/08/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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While I was lounging at the pool this holiday weekend, getting my bronze on, the A&R Bothan Spy network was hard at work dumpster diving, hacking emails, and subscribing to the NSA’s live PRISM feed.

The fruits of that labor was the alarming realization of how many kitten videos the motorcycle industry collectively watches in a single day, and the fact that Ducati is working on scrambler-style motorcycle.

The project itself dates way back when Pierre Terblanche was still toiling away in Bologna, dodging equal portions of labor strikes and carbonara, and at the time was based around the now defunct Ducati Sport Classic.

Shelved, and thought never to see the light of day, we can only imagine this whole Hipstacyclist™ movement has helped Ducati rethink its position regarding a scrambler.

KTM RC4 Concept by Luca Bar Design

05/06/2013 @ 3:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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KTM is shaping up to be the brand of 2013. Surpassing BMW Motorrad in outright unit sales, and becoming the largest motorcycle brand in Europe, zie Austrians have been on a tear with their small-displacement machine strategy. Most of that move has been buoyed by KTM’s partnership with Bajaj, which in-turn owns a very sizable minority stake in the Austrian company, but KTM also has been making other moves as well, like the acquisition of Husqvarna by CEO Stefan Pierer and his company Pierer Industrie AG.

Surprisingly, what has been occurring in KTM’s boardroom is almost overshadowing what is occurring in the company’s model line-up, with the KTM 1190 Adventure set to finally come to the USA later this year, almost a year after its European debut, as well the upcoming release of the KTM 390 Duke and its sport bike and adventure variants. Perhaps lost in the wash is the 2013 KTM 690 Duke, which is a new machine for the US market this year.

A single-cylinder hooligan-maker, the KTM 690 Duke is 330 lbs (curbside without fuel) and 67hp of two-wheeled fun, and we hope that the Austrians bring the KTM 690 Duke R our way as well. While we are on the topic of things missing from KTM’s American line-up, a decent supersport is painfully obvious, yet we can’t see the folks at KTM following the paths of other brands. That’s where our friend Luca Bar comes to mind with his latest concept: the KTM RC4.

Hell Freezes Over as the KTM 690 Duke Comes to the USA

12/07/2012 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

The following news from KTM USA today might shock you, but the KTM 690 Duke is headed to America’s favorite democracy in 2013. That’s right, the previously available everywhere but here model is coming to North America (both the US and Canada), much to the surprise of A&R…and just about everyone else. KTM isn’t talking dollars yet, though it says that the KTM 690 Duke will be competitively priced in its North American markets.

Assuming the US model is the same as the European version, we can expect that 90% of the bike is completely brand new from the previous iteration of the 690. Accordingly, at the heart of the 2013 KTM 690 Duke is a 690cc LC4 single-cylinder thumper that puts out a crushing 67hp and 51 lbs•ft of torque, while the whole motorcycle package weighs only 330 lbs (without fuel) at the curb.