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

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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.

Skully AR-1 Helmet Delivery Pushed Back, Yet Again

04/07/2016 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Future Skully AR-1 owners will have to continue waiting for their helmets, as Skully has once again pushed back the delivery date of its heads-up display powered helmet.

The announcement is another blow for the San Francisco based startup, as Skully has gone from the media darling to full-blown vaporware-pusher over the past two years.

We say this because Skully first launched in 2013, with promises of helmets in the hands of consumers by the end of 2014. That date was then pushed back to May 2015, in conjunction with Skully’s Kickstarter campaign launch. That date would be revised again, this time to the end of the year 2015.

Now well into the fourth month of 2016, Skully is pushing back its delivery date again, though it isn’t giving a firm timeline when the production units will finally reach purchasers. It should be noted that as of this date, only a handful of pre-production units have made it the hands of specially chosen evangelists buyers.

Startup Spotlight: Velomacchi

03/25/2016 @ 6:06 pm, by Peter Ha41 COMMENTS

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It’s hard not to scoff at Velomacchi’s whole “privateer” shtick. It makes you wonder if it’s just a clever ploy to cover up the fact that this is just another lifestyle brand with nothing innovative to show for it, save for some glossy photos. Forget the fact that they’re from Oregon.

But then you notice a couple of things you’ve never seen before – what’s the deal with that pivoting shoulder strap or the magnetic coupler? And you begin to think that maybe this isn’t bullshit. Maybe, just maybe, these guys know what they’re talking about and have built gear that actually serves a purpose.

Still, just how much better could a backpack get? Besides tougher materials, deeper pockets, more pockets, a few more pockets, and one of two suspension systems – alpine or daypack – you’ve got two straps attached to a bag. That’s it.

Mission Motorcycles Filing for Bankruptcy

09/11/2015 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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If you were one of the unlucky few who plopped down close to $125,000 in deposits for a Mission R or Mission RS electric motorcycle by Mission Motorcycles, we hate to inform you that you are certainly not going to receive the bike you hoped to purchase, and you are likely not going to see your deposit back either.

This is because Mission Motorcycles, commanded by Mark Seeger, is set to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would see the company’s few assets liquidated in order to repay creditors.

Skully Sends Update Regarding Its Delayed Helmets

08/05/2015 @ 5:32 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Most Asphalt & Rubber readers are aware of Skully, the San Francisco startup that is making a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display (HUD), and many A&R readers are also aware that Skully is now officially late in delivering its maiden product to the masses.

Finally acknowledging the tardiness to its 2,000 or so early-adopting customers, Skully has released a video (after the jump) explaining its activities, and that the company is on-track for its new delivery date, before the end of the year – or as they say in marketing speak: just in time for Christmas.

Of course we knew back in late-2013, when Skully first announced its helmet, that there was no way the company was going to hit its delivery promise for 2014, though now the company seems in good stead for its new 2015 promise, with an actual office in SF, a deal with Flextronics to make the augmented reality portion of the helmet, and manufacturing tooled-up.

Skully Helmets Pushes Back Delivery to December 2015

05/21/2015 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Helmet startup Skully Helmets, the San Francisco based company that is building a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display system, has quietly pushed back its delivery to customers to December 2015.

Initial hopes from the company were to have product in the hands of consumers by the end of 2014, with that date being solidified to May 2015 once the company started its Indiegogo-powered pre-order campaign.

Anyone in the industry could have told you that was pie-in-the-sky forecasting though, as finished models were not even available at the start of the campaign, let alone other factors like certification, production, and distribution.

Skully Helmets Debuts Integrated HUD Helmet

01/03/2014 @ 1:09 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

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Bay Area based startup, Skully Helmets, has a unique solution for the future motorcycle heads-up display (HUD) market. While other players like Nuviz and Bike HUD are developing add-on solutions for your existing helmet, Skully intends to introduce a fully integrated, standalone helmet system that internally incorporates the HUD display tech, in addition to other features.

In addition to normal HUD information features such as turn-by-turn navigation, smartphone integration, and Bluetooth connectivity, the Skully AR-1 features a 180-degree rear-view camera that affords the rider a digital representation of what’s going on behind them. Along with the fully integrated system, the rear-view camera is a major feature that sets Skully apart from its competitors.

Layoffs Reported at Mission Motors

10/10/2012 @ 2:36 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word that Mission Motors has let go of a significant portion of its staff, both on the engineering and non-engineering sides of the San Francisco based startup. With the layoffs presumably the result of a lack of funding, the news comes interestingly just a few months after the departure of Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Moe, who made his return back to Vectrix in July of this year.

The bulk loss of its workforce is certain to be a blow to Mission Motors, which according to our sources, still has a core team in place to continue basic business operations. Making the switch from being an electric motorcycle company to supplying electric drive components to OEMs in Q1 2010, it wouldn’t surprise us if some of the now former Mission Motors employees found their way into other electric motorcycle manufacturers, and today’s news paints an interesting picture for the future of the Mission R electric superbike.

Scoot: The Zipcar for Scooters

09/17/2012 @ 4:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

I am actually surprised this idea took this long to come to fruition, but someone has finally built a “Zipcar for scooters” business. For those not familiar with the idea, Scoot promises to offer urban commuters convenient access to its network of electric scooters that it has parked around in major metropolitan areas. From what we can gather, the idea is that members of the Scoot community pay a monthly fee to have access to these scooters (in addition to the hourly-usage rate), and can use the Scoot scooters around to run errands in cities like San Francisco.

Lit Motors is Runner-Up at TechCrunch Disrupt Conference

09/14/2012 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

One of my daily stops in the blogsphere is a little tech blog called TechCrunch, which is known for its pretty firm grasp on the pulse of Silicon Valley, and balances its coverage of this fantasy ecosystem we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area with the appropriate amount of irreverence. As much as I like the site, the two-wheeled coverage of TechCrunch is fairly abysmal in its analysis and superficial in its depth, but that is probably a good thing, since it keeps me gainfully employed.

That being said, we should all be thankful for any coverage outside of motorcycling’s very small footprint, as when a tech blog behemoth like TechCrunch covers motorcycles, it exposes our little industry to a new audience of potential future motorcyclists. Such is the case with Lit Motors, which before this week was an obscure EV startup with a novel idea, but now after being named the first runner-up of the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco conference, the Lit Motors C-1 has significantly more buzz about it.