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.

Report: Hero HX250R Launch Pushed Back Because of EBR

06/01/2015 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler75 COMMENTS

hero-hrx-250r

Word out of India is that the Hero HX250R, the quarter-liter sport bike that Erik Buell Racing helped design, will not be arriving later this year, as was originally intended. Rumors instead suggest that the HX250R will debut in 2016.

The delay is said to be directly linked to Erik Buell Racing going into receivership earlier this year, and it’s a fair bet that the delay is due to something in the design of the HX250R.

However, we would also bet good money that Hero realized there was no point in releasing a North American bound model without a North American distributor with which to sell it.

BMW Getting Closer to a Single-Cylinder 300cc Bike

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

bmw-tvs-k03

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.

First Shots of the Yamaha MT-25

05/06/2015 @ 9:03 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Yamaha-MT-25-spy-shot-TMCblog

If you like your small displacement machines sans fairings, then this might be the bike for you, as the first clear photos of the Yamaha MT-25 are hitting the internet, courtesy of Indonesian blog TMCblog.

Based around the same 249cc parallel-twin engine as the Yamaha R25, the MT-25 will go up against the other quarter-liter naked bikes on the market, like the Honda CB300 and KTM 200 Duke.

As we can see from the photos, the MT-25 shares many of the same parts with the R25 — most notably the chassis, suspension, exhaust, seat, and engine. Added is a new headlight, fairing chin, and air intake tubes.

Yamaha MT-25 Soon to Debut in Indonesia

04/30/2015 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Yamaha MT-25 Soon to Debut in Indonesia

yamaha-mt-25-render

Reports from Indonesia continue to tease the upcoming launch of the Yamaha MT-25, the fairingless version of the Yamaha YZF-R25 sport bike.

Judging from the other MT models and the spy photos that have come out, the MT-25 is expected to look like the rendering above.

A Naked Yamaha YZF-R25 Is Coming Soon?

03/18/2015 @ 4:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

yamaha-mt-blur

If you believe the reports coming out of India and Southeast Asia, Yamaha is working on a naked version of its YZF-R25 sport bike.

Presumably to be call the Yamaha MT-25, the naked bike would continue Yamaha’s trend of making naked version of its fully faired sport bikes, similar to the recently released Yamaha MT-125 that is available for the European market.

Kawasaki Trademarks “Ninja R2” with USPTO & Others

03/04/2015 @ 7:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

2015-Kawasaki-Ninja-ZX-6R-30th-Anniversary-06

Let the rumors fly as to what Kawasaki has up its sleeve, because Team Green has registered “Ninja R2” with the US Patent and Trademark office, as well as similar offices internationally.

The trademark application is fairly broad in what the name can be used for, but knowing Kawasaki’s product line, a new motorcycle can be expected from the “Ninja” name.

What that motorcycle could be, is up for debate. Some draw a line between the “Ninja R2” name and the recently revived “Ninja H2” model, and thus see another supercharged machine to come from Kawasaki. Others hear the whispers of a small-displacement sport bike, perhaps one with a stratospheric rev-limit (our pick).

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

01/12/2015 @ 2:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Husqvarna-401-Vitpilen-Concept-06

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them.

Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

KTM 390 Duke Also Confirmed for the USA

11/13/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

KTM-RC390-01

In addition the KTM RC390, KTM USA has also seen fit to bring the KTM 390 Duke to American soil for the 2015 model year. The absence of the small-displacement street bike on KTM USA’s lineup for the past two year has been a curious one, as the 375cc naked bike has been selling quite well in other markets.

Whatever reasons KTM USA might have for delaying the arrival of the KTM 390 Duke to the United States, the good news is that American riders will have it as an option starting next year. Pricing is set at $4,999, and includes Brembo brakes and WP suspension.

KTM RC390 Coming to America – $5,499

11/13/2014 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

2014-KTM-RC390-white-03

Good news small-displacement sport bike fans, as KTM North America has finally confirmed the KTM RC390 for the American market. The 375cc four-stroke single-cylinder street bike is good for 44hp, and tips the scales at 325 lbs dry.

On the larger side, displacement-wise, compared to the Honda CBR300R, Kawasaki Ninja 300, and Yamaha YZF-R3, the KTM RC390 also packs a bit more on the price tag. Pricing will be $5,499 MSRP, in the United States.

Benelli BN251 – Return of the Small-Displacement Italian

11/03/2014 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Benelli-BN251

Brands like Ducati, Vespa, and Benelli can trace their roots back to post-WWII Italy, where infrastructure and roads were shattered, and the country desperately needed a cheap, reliable, and effective way to navigate from Point-A to Point-B.

Enter the rise of the motorcycle to meet those needs; and from that, what has become over half a century of motorcycle culture in Italy. The first Italian motorcycles were really just bicycles with motors, and as more proper machines came into being, they were still tiny in displacement.

Therefore, the quintessential Italian motorcycle was what we would call today a small-displacement bike. Benelli is getting back to those roots now, introducing the Benelli BN251 at this year’s EICMA show.