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.

Michelin Schedules Extra MotoGP Tires Tests for December

12/09/2015 @ 10:59 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Michelin is stepping up preparations for 2016 by scheduling an extra tire test in December. The French tire maker has invited the MotoGP factories to spend two days at Jerez before Christmas, testing new front tires in cold conditions, according to GPOne.com.

Three manufacturers have accepted, Ducati, Honda, and Aprilia preparing to send their test riders to put in some laps on the latest iteration of tires at the Spanish circuit on 21st and 22nd of December.

As the test falls in the middle of the winter test ban period, contracted riders – that is, riders who will be permanent MotoGP entries for 2016 – are forbidden from riding, and only the official test riders can take part.

Why Michelin Returned to MotoGP & The Challenges Ahead

12/07/2015 @ 10:56 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin as the official tire supplier for MotoGP promises to be perhaps the most important change to the class for 2016, though the change to spec-ECU software runs it a close second.

Up until the Valencia tests, held after the final race of the year, the performance of the Michelins was still shrouded in mystery, the official riders contractually obliged to keep quiet about the French tires while Bridgestone was still the official tire supplier.

That all changed on the Tuesday after Valencia. With the handover to Michelin, the riders were free to speak, as were the principal players inside the French tire manufacturer.

The teams had a lot of work to do, their job not made any easier by the fact that so many riders crashed at Valencia. Riding styles needed to change, as did the weight distribution of the bikes.

But question marks remained over the performance of the Michelin front tire, especially, with so many riders lowsiding over the two days of the test.

On the Tuesday at Valencia, we got a chance to speak with Nicolas Goubert, the head of Michelin’s motorsports program, alongside Israeli TV5 commentator Tammy Gorali.

Goubert gave an update on the progress of their MotoGP program so far, and addressed several of the issues they had faced during testing. Of course, Michelin was delighted to be back in the premier class again.

2015 Superprestigio Set for December 12th in Barcelona

12/03/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on December 12th in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona’s Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona.

Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s.

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 12 – Jerez Test

12/03/2015 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Just because it’s the offseason doesn’t mean the guys from the Paddock Pass Podcast aren’t busy cranking out shows. Episode 12 finds David, Neil, and Tony after the Jerez test for both the MotoGP and World Superbikes, as well the Macau Grand Prix.

The boys talk about how the MotoGP teams are handling the unified electronics and adapting to the Michelin tires. They also gives us a status update on how the Aprilia and KTM projects are coming along.

Moving on to WSBK, there is a good discussion about the speed from the Kawasaki factory bikes, and how Nicky Hayden is handling the switch to the production class, with the Honda CBR1000RR. You will also enjoy Tony’s report from the Macau Grand Prix, the last stop on the 2015 road racing calendar.

The show is continues its mix of useful racing insight and friendly banter – if you ever wanted to know how much KTM’s Moto3 bike weighs in pixie farts, this is the show for you.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

270hp KTM RC16 Finishes First MotoGP Test at Valencia

11/30/2015 @ 8:58 am, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

Mika Kallio testing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike at Valencia

After its earlier roll out in Austria, KTM has completed its first proper test with the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike at Valencia. On Saturday and Sunday, test riders Alex Hofmann and Mika Kallio put the KTM RC16 through its paces on the Spanish track.

The test sees KTM stepping up the pace of development on the RC16. Alex Hofmann has been used as a development rider, to verify the bike is working correctly and is being developed in the right direction. New hire Mika Kallio has been brought in as the performance rider, the 33-year-old Finn freshly retired as a full-time racer, and therefore having the speed to push the limits of the bike.

Kallio also has more recent experience of MotoGP machines, having ridden for Pramac Ducati in 2010, and having tested the Suter CRT MotoGP machine in 2012. Kallio was known in his former teams for his attention to detail and ability to pinpoint areas that needed improvement.

Friday Summary at the Jerez MotoGP Test: Redding Reveals Ducati Dominance, & Where Honda Is Going Wrong

11/28/2015 @ 5:20 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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So, testing is over and the winter test ban can start. Riders who intend to race in 2016 are banned from testing between December 1st, 2015 and January 31st 2016.

Engineers now have a long winter ahead of them to try to make sense of the data gathered at the test at Valencia and Jerez, or else send their test riders out in the chill of winter, as Aprilia intend to do at Jerez in a few weeks. Those engineers have an awful lot of work ahead of them.

The men and women at Ducati will be getting the most time off over the holiday period. It is clear from the first two tests that the Italian factory has hit the ground running with the new unified software, and have the systems working relatively well.

One Ducati engineer reckoned that they were already at about 50% of the potential of the software, far more than the 10% MotoGP’s Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli had estimated at Valencia.

Thursday Summary at the Jerez MotoGP Test: Honda’s Overpowered Engine vs. Ducati’s Friendly Delivery

11/26/2015 @ 11:02 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Have HRC made the same mistake again? In 2015, the Honda RC213V was a nasty beast to tame, suffering with an excessively aggressive engine.

The engine was probably the single most important reason Marc Márquez could not mount a realistic defense of his second title, forcing him to try to make up in braking what he was losing in acceleration, and crashing out as a result.

At the Valencia test, all eyes were on Honda’s new engine, to see if they had finally fixed the problem.

Valencia turned out to be a little too complex to make a real judgment. The switch to spec-electronics and Michelin tires introduced way too many variables to be able to filter out a single factor, Honda engineers taking a long time to extract some kind of consistency from the new unified software all MotoGP bikes must now use.

The 2016 RC213V engine seemed a little less aggressive, but the new software made it hard to tell. The current test at Jerez was supposed to give a clearer indication, with HRC’s engineers having a better handle on the unified software.

Though the verdict is not yet in, it is not looking good for the 2016 engine Honda brought for the tests in Spain. Both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez have reported the engine as still being too aggressive, and difficult to manage, though the engine character has changed.

The Jerez Winter MotoGP/WSBK Test with Tony Goldsmith

11/26/2015 @ 8:47 pm, by Tony Goldsmith1 COMMENT

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Marc Marquez during the golden hour on Wednesday afternoon.

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Some World Superbike teams were also in attendance including Chaz Davies on the stunning Ducati Panigale.

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Dani Pedrosa on Thursday.

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 11 – Valencia Test

11/18/2015 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 11 – Valencia Test

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Officially the start of the 2016 MotoGP season, the Valencia test provides our first insights into how the coming year of racing will play out. Teams test new equipment, riders swap teams and bikes, and the paddock generally relaxes from a hectic year of racing.

In this show, Neil and David talk about the happenings at the Valencia test, and some of the news that came from it. Obviously, a lot of the discussion centers around the introduction of the spec-electronics package, as well as Michelin as the spec-tire supplier to the MotoGP Championship. The boys also talk about Casey Stoner’s “rumored” move to Ducati Corse, as a test rider. In other words, it’s a good show.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Summary at Valencia: New Electronics, New Systems, & A Pleasant Distraction

11/11/2015 @ 9:15 pm, by David Emmett37 COMMENTS

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The final day of testing at Valencia was a repeat of the first day: a lot of crashes on the Michelin tires, the factory Hondas, Yamahas, and Ducatis working on the brand new spec-electronics, the satellite bikes, and the Suzukis working on their own 2015 electronics.

For the Suzukis, that was not such a problem. The new electronics were likely to be an improvement on their own electronics, both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro said, so missing out now was not such a problem.

Suzuki have another test planned at Sepang at the end November, at which they plan to switch the 2016 unified software. With two days of Michelin testing under the belt, testing the spec-software should be easier.