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.

Motus Expands Its Dealership Network

04/25/2016 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Motus-MST-red-salt-flats

Motus Motorcycles continues to grow its dealership presence, especially with the announcement that the American motorcycle outfit has added eight new dealerships to its dealer network.

That addition brings Motus’ total to 22 dealers in the United States with more on the way, the company says.

That’s good news for riders interested in a unique American-built motorcycle, especially those that are familiar with tinkering on push-rod muscle cars.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

04/20/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Yamaha-Tracer-700-studio-06

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.

Using a similar chassis and the same motor as the MT-07 (that’s the FZ-07 for us Yanks), the Yamaha Tracer 700 adds a longer swingarm (+50mm), larger fuel tank (+3 liters), revised suspension settings, manually adjustable windscreen, a new seat and headlight, as well luggage options.

Gone Riding: 2016 Yamaha FJR1300

03/17/2016 @ 12:52 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

2016-Yamaha-FJR1300-static-66

Back on the road again, and this time I’m out in Arizona with Yamaha North America, riding the recently updated 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 sport-tourer.

Tomorrow sees our group leaving Phoenix and heading up into Sedona, where the red earth and picturesque mesas should make for an epic backdrop to our full day of riding.

For those who don’t know, the FJR1300 is a model that Yamaha has been slowly evolving each model year, instead of making punctuated improvements every few years. This makes it a surprising machine for press launch, but it also happens to be an important one for us to evaluate.

The sport-touring segment is surprisingly hot right now, with 17% growth in the past year, thanks mostly to the Yamaha FJ-09. There are some who think that the sport-touring market is dead, supplanted by the adventure-sport category, yet for some veteran riders, the ethos of the Yamaha FJR1300 is ideal.

The big news for the 2016 model year is the addition of a new six-speed gearbox, which should make highway speeds a bit more friendly. We will also be keen to tryout the suite of electronics on the base model FJR1300A, and experience the electronic suspension on the FJR1300ES, both of which were on the 2015 models, but are new to us.

As usual, I will attempt to answer questions regarding the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 from the road. We will have two days of riding on the machine, so that should be ample opportunity for A&R to get acquainted with this venerable sport-tourer, and give you the skinny on its qualities.

As before, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in Arizona. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #FJR1300 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Mega Gallery

11/30/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

2016-KTM-1290-Super-Duke-GT-10

The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT was the big unveil at EICMA, for the Austrian company. The model builds off the well-recieved KTM 1290 Super Duke R streetfighter, and adds some more fairing, a windshield, as well as a set of panniers.

Despite its beastly title and aggressive looks, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is a surprisingly comfortable motorcycle to ride, thanks mostly to an upright riding triangle. The Super Duke R also has a large 4.7 gallon tank, which gives good range, but KTM boosted the Super Duke GT’s fuel tank to 6 gallons regardless of that fact.

If experience tell us anything, this should make for nice long excursions on the “Grand Tourer” model, which thankful doesn’t get a neutering to its 170hp 75° v-twin engine, which is the true highlight of the model.

The Super Duke R can get some vibrations from that beast of a motor though, so it will be interesting to see how the GT model handles that, otherwise we consider the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT to be a very sporty sport-tourer – one we’re eager to ride.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT will come to the USA for 2016 though, which is a shame. Hopefully KTM North America can figure that nonsense out tout suite. In the meantime, we have 50+ high-resolution photos of “The Touring Beast” for your viewing pleasure.

2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

FJR1300A USA 2016

The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT – The Be(a)st Sport-Tourer?

11/17/2015 @ 5:31 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2016-KTM-Super-Duke-GT-01

I recently was pleased to get the chance to ride the KTM 1290 Super Duke R – machine that truly lives up to the name “The Beast”, yet shows enough comfort to be a potent touring machine, if you could mount bags and a windscreen to it.

That thought is exactly what drove KTM with its latest model, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, which takes the 173hp streetfighter, and gives its bags, more fairing, and a windshield — all for 502 lbs, ready to ride.

Unless the Austrian massively botched this relatively easy task, this could mean that the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is the best sport-tourer on the market.

This Ducati 1199 Panigale ST Concept Whets Our Appetite for a 200hp Sport-Tourer from Bologna

10/26/2015 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

ducati-1199-panigale-st-concept

Ducati has nine new models to showoff at the EICMA show later next month in Milan. We know one of them is the Monster 1200 R, and it seems very likely that we will see two more Ducati Scrambler models as well.

CARB filing documents point to a Ducati 959 Panigale, as well as a Ducati Hypermotard 939, which we expect to be mild updates to the current models, with obviously larger engine displacements.

All of this leaves another four models for us, though rumor suggests we could see some more variants of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 line come to market.

One of those variants is expected to be an off-road focused model, which will align better against the BMW R1200GS; while the other variant is thought to be a long-distance touring model, which will align better against the KTM 1290 Super Adventure.

One model were are unlikely to see is a revised sport-tourer, since the current Multistrada 1200 fills this niche quite well, but that doesn’t mean Ducatisti cannot dream of another ST model.

2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Finally Revealed

10/06/2015 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

2016-KTM-1290-Super-Duke-GT-teaser-04

We have been seeing for some time now evidence that KTM was set to bring a more touring-focused variant of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R to market, and now today we have confirmation of that fact.

Releasing photos of the still camouflaged 2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, KTM is leaving a little something to the imagination and EICMA, but the company is also confirming that another touring model will enter its lineup.

The Suzuki Bandit Returns to the USA for 2016

06/15/2015 @ 5:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

2016-Suzuki-Bandit-1250S-ABS-06

Suzuki’s lineup continues to underwhelm, with perhaps the most noteworthy machines being the Suzuki GSX-S1000 for 2015, and the Suzuki GSX-S1000F for 2016.

We say underwhelming because at the core of both bikes is the GSX-R1000 engine…circa 2008; but that’s ok, Suzuki has made enough subtle changes to warrant them being called new machines. Really.

Another new machine that is coming to the United States for 2016 is the Suzuki Bandit 1250S. Yes, this is of course the same machine that Suzuki first brought to market back in 2007, and has kept relatively untouched since that inception.

A KTM 1290 Super Duke Tourer?

05/15/2015 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

KTM-1290-Super-Duke-GT-photoshop

We have already seen “spy photos” of the KTM 1290 Super Duke based tourer. Some more photos are making the rounds again, you’ve probably seen them on other sites.

We stumbled upon this render of the new model, and think it looks pretty spot-on to what the general public can expect to see later this year, when undoubtedly the new model debuts.

Whether you call it an SMT or a Grand Tourer, this new model looks simply to be a Super Duke with a windscreen and luggage options — an interesting choice from the Austrian brand.