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.

Caption this Photo: Learning Process

04/21/2011 @ 4:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Normally in our “Caption this Photo” series we just fire up a provoking picture, drop-in a photo credit, and let you the readers haver your way with it in the comments section; but for today’s photo, I thought our selection deserved a little background story, since not everyone is familiar with what Chip Yates and the SWIGZ.com Pro Racing team has been up to this past year.

Having a day of testing in the desert outside of Victorville, California, the SWIGZ crew have been practicing with Larry Kleinschmidt to hone Chip’s dirt-riding skills, as the team is set to compete in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb later this year. Yates is an accomplished road racer, but his dirt racing experience stems from four-wheeled endeavors, not two — hence the coaching from Kleinschmidt to help tackle the 2.6 miles of dirt road that still remain on the Pikes Peak course.

Jump.

04/14/2011 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Irony.

04/12/2011 @ 7:39 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Proper Positioning

04/11/2011 @ 10:10 am, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

The real question about the 2012 MotoGP season may be this: will the switch back to liter engines, and the rules that accompany that change, mean that non-factory teams can compete for the championship? Consider Alex de Angelis, shown here at the Sachsenring in 2009, hanging off his satellite Honda in typical style, and the fact that he was 2nd in the 2003 125cc championship, and third in 2006 and 2007 as a 250cc rider, but only had one podium in two years in the premier class.

Since the switch from 2-stroke 500s non-factory teams have not had much of a chance at taking the title, and for a rider on a satellite team the only realistic goal has been to be the Best of the Rest. We will almost certainly see a larger grid in 2012, but will the advantages the Claiming Rule Teams have (more fuel per race, more engines per season) mean they will be in a more competitive position?

I hope that riders such as De Angelis will find themselves competing for more than a few points each round, and will have a greater chance to show they belong in MotoGP before being demoted to another class or series.

Photo of the Week: Blue Fire for the Land of the Rising Sun

04/04/2011 @ 9:31 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen a similar image a few weeks ago, and read the story about how many tries it took to get an instance of the blue fire. Here it is again for those who missed it.

On Saturday night of the 2011 season opener, I was working in the pit lane when I noticed something visually striking. When some bikes were revved up by the mechanics in front of the pit boxes, every now and then some blue flame would appear deep within the exhaust pipe. This blue fire was visible for a tiny fraction of a second, but I thought if I could capture one appearance it would be an interesting image. We often see unburned fuel escape from engines and flame out from exhaust pipes, but during the day this fire is orange. But there is something about the night lighting in Qatar that makes it this distinctive blue.

Welcome Back.

04/01/2011 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Caption This Photo: DJ Rossi On the Ones and Twos

03/29/2011 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Promise & Question Marks

03/28/2011 @ 3:37 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off on Photo of the Week: Promise & Question Marks

At the MotoGP season opener in Qatar, Dani Pedrosa was the only rider who had anything for Casey Stoner. Qualifying second, two tenths behind the Australian, Pedrosa was six tenths ahead of third place qualifier, Jorge Lorenzo. Those of us who expected Stoner to find the front within a couple of laps and disappear were surprised to see Pedrosa pass Stoner with 17 laps to go. It was then the Pedrosa-Stoner show until, with 11 laps to go, Dani’s stuck-throttle crash at Motegi last season came back to haunt him.

He dropped to second, then fell back into Lorenzo’s clutches as his left arm went numb. In Motegi Pedrosa had broken his collarbone, and the nerves beneath the clavicle continue to be problematic when subjected to the pressure or fighting Casey Stoner on a MotoGP bike. Dani said he was basically unable to use the clutch for the second half of the race, and the fact that he managed to bring it home in third place is a testament to how tough a rider he is.

Powerslide.

03/28/2011 @ 12:21 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Desert Heat

03/21/2011 @ 7:52 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off on Photo of the Week: Desert Heat

The three Repsol Hondas have been the talk of the paddock throughout the pre-season testing. Dominating the time sheets with blistering laps, the only debate for the 2011 season seemingly was which rider’s name would be engraved on the MotoGP Championship trophy at the end of the season. The buzz surrounding the three-man squad reached a new peak in volume when stories of Honda’s new gearbox, allegedly a potentially illegal dual-clutch transmission, broke in the headlines of racing publications.

While subsequent reports later clarified that the gearbox was indeed very legal, and very quick in the way it changed gears and delivered power, the again superb performances in Qatar by Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa did little to sway opinions on the outcome of the 2011 season — that is until Jorge Lorenzo showed up on Sudnay night. Perhaps casting some doubt on the outright domination of the Repsol squad, the only pre-season chatter that seems to remain, is how impressive Casey Stoner has been at adapting to his new Honda RC212V. Like a maestro writing his opus, the MotoGP Championship seems to be Stoner’s for the taking, and all eyes will be on him as MotoGP heads to Jerez in two weeks.