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.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Big Red Rises

01/06/2016 @ 7:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

during the Dakar 2016 Argentina Bolivia, Etape 4 - Stage 4, Jujuy - Jujuy, from January 6, 2016 , Argentina - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Stage 4 of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw competitors racing mostly in a 420km loop near Jujuy, Argentina. Stage 4 is also the start of the marathon stage of the Dakar Rally, where this year team mechanics and competitors are forbidden from working on their machines, until the next day’s liaison section.

Always a decisive moment, it means that riders especially need to ensure no harm comes to their race motorcycles over the course of the stage, as they will not have the benefit of their support crews.

In that way, concentration is very much a key element to winning The Dakar, which as a segue, is something HRC rider Joan Barreda is learning the hard way.

Despite being the fastest man on Stage 4, another speeding penalty on the liaison section means that Barreda had five minutes tacked onto his time for the day, which drops him to third overall. With his pace in the special section, Barreda should be leading this edition of The Dakar, but the unforced errors are costing him.

Meanwhile, teammate Paulo Gonçalves continues to benefit from Barreda’s mistakes, and thus gets the stage win after the times for Stage 4 were tallied.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Hat Trick?

01/06/2016 @ 1:23 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Stage 3 of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw another modified route, as the competitors worked around the weather in Argentina. This means that the timed special section was reduced to roughly 200km.

With the shorter route, the navigational challenges were virtually non-existent for the motorcycle competitors, though plenty of radar speed traps were on the course, which caught a few riders out.

The day was most fruitful for Honda, as the fastest three riders through the timed section were all HRC riders, with Joan Barreda leading the pack.

Unfortunately for Barreda though, the Spanish rider got another one-minute penalty, which officially knocked him back to fifth for the day, robbing Honda of its scorecard domination.

“Today was a great day after yesterday, when I had to open the track, but today we started from behind which gave us a good position to attack from,” said Barreda.

“We were very focused throughout the stage, which had very little navigation but plenty of radars that you had to be careful of. I kept a great pace throughout the 200 km and I’ve got the leadership back.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Beginning, In Earnest

01/05/2016 @ 1:16 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Racing almost 800km from Villa Carlos Paz to Termas de Río Hondo, Monday marked the first earnest day of racing in the 2016 Dakar Rally, after the timed section of Stage 1 had to be canceled because of the incredibly weather at play in Argentina.

This doesn’t mean Monday was without weather though, as the special section was trimmed from 450km to 354km, because track conditions had deteriorated after Sunday’s thunderstorms.

That slight respite proved to be a boon for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price, as the Australian took the first Stage win of The Dakar. Price finished just 20 seconds ahead of Husqvarna’s Ruben Faria, lining up a duel that is likely to be a major part of this year’s edition of The Dakar.

While KTM might be without Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, both riders now having retired from two-wheel racing, KTM has a strong showing so far in 2016, with Stefan Svitko of Slovakia rounding out the podium, third in Stage 2, though he carries a one-minute penalty from the day.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Coma Triumphs

01/17/2015 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Marc-Coma-2015-Dakar-Rally-KTM-Red-Bull

With only 174 km planned for today’s special, Stage 13 was always known to be a short affair. However, with heavy rain hitting the course, the timed section was cut short, stopping at the second checkpoint (roughly 100km in), making today’s timed ride less than an hour long.

Team Orange came out in force for the last stage, with Jakes, Svitko, and Price taking the top three slots away from the Honda riders.

Paulo Goncalves tried his best to shorten the distance, and was the first HRC rider across the line, only a minute behind the leaders, but Coma’s lead was too much to overcome.

However, it is worth noting that the 2015 Dakar Rally would have been much closer had the Portuguese rider not encountered 17 minutes of penalties the past two weeks. He finished second overall.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: And Then There Was One

01/16/2015 @ 11:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: And Then There Was One

toby-price-2015-Dakar-Rally-Stage-12-KTM

The penultimate round of the 2015 Dakar Rally, Stage 12 is really the last chance for the riders to shuffle around in the standings, as Saturday’s closing stage has only a 174 km time special stage, and thus won’t give many opportunity.

As such, Stage 12 saw Marc Coma managing his pace, so as not to stress his KTM 450 Rally race bike, but yet keep HRC’s Paulo Goncalves at bay.

This left KTM-support rider Toby Price to win the stage. The Australian is used to desert racing, is racing his second rally-raid, and this is his first ride as a KTM-supported rider. Price has certainly been impressing the Austrians, as he sits a comfortable third in the overall rankings after today.

“At this stage everything is just feeling good. We’re enjoying it, so it’s been a good experience. There have been a lot of highs and lows and good learning curves as well as a few mistakes, but we’re trying to fix them as best as we can and get to the finishing line,” said Price.

“Hopefully, that will happen tomorrow. I always knew it was going to be difficult, but you don’t know until you actually come here and have a go. Then you find out how hard it really is.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: HRC Penalties Aid Marc Coma

01/15/2015 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The second half of the second marathon stage, Stage 11 saw a strong performance from the factory Honda riders, and rightly so. After a three-way engine swap by the riders, Salta saw Barreda, Goncalves, and Isreal working until 2am, and suffering time penalties because of their actions.

So while Joan Barreda claimed another stage-victory, with Paulo Goncalves finishing closely behind him, the reality is that Marc Coma’s lead over his HRC rivals has been lengthened to 21 minutes, with only two more stages of racing to go.

“Yesterday we had to change Paulo’s engine with mine, which was fresher, and I had to put Jeremías’ one in. We were working until two in the morning and we only rested for a couple of hours,” explained Barreda. “Everything went well and I was able to win. We have proved that we can win not only stages, but also the whole race. Right now, the main priority is a win for the team.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

01/14/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

joan-barreda-Stage-10-HRC-2015-Dakar-Rally

The 2015 Dakar Rally headed back into Argentina today, as Stage 10 took riders out of Calama and into Salta. Stage 10 is the start of another marathon stage, meaning only the riders will be able to work on their machines tonight and tomorrow, until the end of the riding of Stage 11.

While the first marathon stage likely helped determine this year’s winner, the second marathon stage seems to be less of an affair. KTM’s Marc Coma sits with a seven-and-a-half-minute lead over HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. Goncalves finished 5th today, to Coma’s second, roughly two-minutes behind the overall leader.

“It’s been a tough Dakar. We have to fight many adverse situations but after so many days and despite the suffering, I am still enjoying it. That is what is great about this race. It makes you confront your limits and when you think you can’t do any more, you face them and move on,” said Coma.

“Today’s stage was very hard and it was not easy to keep up a high pace. At first there was the altitude, and then a technical part that really tested us. I tried to keep up the same pace throughout the stage.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: Honda Continues the Fight

01/13/2015 @ 7:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The last day in Bolivia, Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally was back to business for this weary bunch of competitors. Though the miles are counting down, the terrain isn’t getting any easier, and it’s starting to separate the field.

We’ve already seen the grueling course claim HRC’s Joan Barreda, perhaps dashing Honda’s best hopes of unseating KTM’s dominace of the iconic rally raid race. But HRC responded in-kind on Stage 9, taking four of the Top 5 spots…that lone remaining spot being Marc Coma’s.

While the factory KTM rider may not have much help on the time sheets from his teammates, KTMs well-run racing machine has kept the Spaniard out of trouble.

“It was foggy at the start of the special and I made one small navigation mistake and I lost some time there, but then I tried to push with a high rhythm to come back to my position,” said Coma. “The last part was also tricky navigation and it was difficult to find one of the waypoints. I am lucky because maybe I am faster than some of the others and I can push until the end. It’s okay. It was a good day for us.”

Coma now only has a five-and-a-half-minute lead, ahead of HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. The fellow Portuguese rider has shown fine form over The Dakar, and is perhaps HRC’s best hope of an overall win.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Coma Takes Overall Lead

01/12/2015 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

marc-coma-KTM-2015-Dakar-Rally

Stage 8 proved to be a big day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as the riders had to compete on machines that they alone could only work on the day before, as Monday was the riding portion of yesterday’s start to the first marathon stage.

This added challenge by the race organizers likely decided the outcome of this year’s rally, as it left HRC’s Joan Barreda to work on his broken Honda CRF450 Rally without the aid of his mechanics. Losing a monumental amount of time on Stage 8, after suffering electrical issues — Barreda saw an unfitting end to his well fought Dakar Rally.

Those issues can surely be attributed to the wet weather and the Uyuni salt lake that the competitors had to cross, which made for a slurry of salt water and mud. Ultimately the stage would be cut short at the 378 km marker, because of weather, with little complaint from the competitors.

“In the end it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today; to race in a sea. It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan,” said a disappointed Barreda. “To make a decision like that just wasn’t right. Today you couldn’t see a thing; visibility was zero. We were floating around on top of the water. They ordered us to start and this is what happened; my Dakar is over.’

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Coma Halves Time to Barreda

01/12/2015 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

paulo-goncalves-HRC-2015-Dakar-Rally

Fresh off their rest day on Saturday, the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were back to work on Sunday for Stage 7. A difficult round on the road, riders had to contend with 11,000+ feet in elevation, rain, and snow — all while crossing into Bolivia.

The big news from Stage 7 was Marc Coma halving the difference to Joan Barreda, mainly as a result of the HRC rider breaking his handlebar in two, after a crash during the time special section. The factory KTM rider now trails Barreda by only 6 minutes, and more importantly will have a significant gap on the course from his rival, on Stage 8.

“It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed,” explained Barreda.

“The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.”

Barreda finished the day 10th on the stage, while Coma crossed the line in second, in a close pack with stage winner HRC’s Paulo Goncalves and fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner, who finished third and continues to impress.

As if the route of The Dakar wasn’t hard enough, riders will not have the support of their teams at the end of the stage, as Stage 7 is the start of the first marathon stage for the motorbikes.

The timing of the marathon stage and Barreda’s crash could be fortuitous for Coma, but HRC has proven itself ready for this year’s Dakar, winning the lion’s share of the stages.