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.

KTM Pulling Its Shares off the Public Market

03/30/2016 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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News out of Austria says that KTM is gearing up to pull its shares off the public stock market. The move comes from a request by Cross Industries, which is run by Stefan Pierer and is the largest shareholder of KTM’s stock, with 51.4% of the shares.

With Indian motorcycle manufacturer Bajaj owning another 48%, this means the announcement only affects roughly 0.6% of KTM’s overall stock, which is floating around on the Third Market (Dritter Markt) of the Vienna Stock Exchange.

According to KTM’s press release on the issue, Cross will offer €122.50 per share for the outstanding stock, which will then make KTM officially a privately held company.

Secret KTM Moto2 Race Bike Breaks Cover

02/01/2016 @ 9:27 am, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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KTM has surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partner WP Suspension. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday.

KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks.

That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.

The existence of KTM’s Moto2 project had been kept a closely guarded secret, and came as a surprise to many.

Track-Only KTM RC16 Expected to Cost €140,000

06/23/2015 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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The motorcycle world is still processing Honda’s decision to make a road-going version of its RC213V MotoGP race bike, and whether you think its price tag overwhelms, or its spec-sheet underwhelms, the Honda RC213V-S is a testament to the engineering that HRC is capable of producing for its racers.

KTM has a similar philosophy afoot. Though Stefan Pierer has made it clear that there will be no successor to the KTM 1190 RC8 R street bike, the company will be making a track-only customer version of its own MotoGP race bike: the KTM RC16.

KTM Plans New Smaller V-Twin Engines, Husqvarna Too

12/02/2014 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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A quick look at KTM’s recent additions to its model lineup sees significant attention being given to the company’s large and small-displacement machines, yet the middleweight bikes have remained seemingly untouched.

That seems set to change, according to an interview MCN had with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer.

Saying that KTM would develop new v-twin engines in the 600cc to 800cc range over the next three years, the Austrian company seems set to its entire lineup revamped within the next few years.

Report: KTM Abandons Electric Scooter Project

10/15/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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KTM seems to have a tumultuous relationship when it comes to electric vehicles. The Austrian company was the first OEM to announce an electric product, back in 2011.

Then in 2013, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer announced that the timing wasn’t right for electrics…and then promptly debuted the company’s E-Speed electric scooter, several days later.

KTM has since revamped its electric dirt bike program, showing three new Freeride E models at EICMA (MX, Enduro, and Supermoto).

So maybe then it’s without surprise that word is going around that KTM is canning its E-Speed project, ahead of its expected 2015 debut.

An Analysis of KTM’s MotoGP Entry for 2017

09/18/2014 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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The news that KTM would be building a MotoGP machine has been public since the beginning of August. In an interview with the German website Speedweek, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer confirmed that the Austrian manufacturer would be building a V4 MotoGP machine ready for the 2017 season.

KTM’s MotoGP plans were confirmed again last weekend at Misano. KTM’s head of motorsport Pit Beirer told the MotoGP.com website that they would indeed be building a MotoGP bike, and that work on the machine had already started.

The bike, Beirer told MotoGP.com, would be a V4, would use a steel trellis frame, just as their Moto3 machines do, and would be kitted with WP suspension. Design work on the bike was already underway, with the bike scheduled to make its debut on track “at the end of next summer,” Beirer said.

There would be no prospect of an early entry, however. The bike is to be prepared for the 2017 season, with testing going on from late 2015 onwards. The bike would be designed around the Michelin tires, which will be replacing Bridgestone as the spec tire from 2016 onwards.

The bike would also be designed with the spec electronics and unified software package in mind, which is also to be compulsory from the 2016 season.

KTM Announces Plans to Enter MotoGP in 2017 with a V4-Powered KTM RC16 Race Bike

07/31/2014 @ 3:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Speaking to Speedweek, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer announced that the Austrian company will be entering the MotoGP World Championship in 2017. KTM will race with a brand new machine that features a V4 engine and will be called the KTM RC16.

Pierer said that KTM will debut the V4 engine in May of 2015, and begin testing and developing the RC16 later that year — KTM may even wild-card the race bike during the 2016 season. Perhaps the biggest news though is that KTM plans to produce up to 100 units of the KTM RC16 race bike, which will be available to the public for a cool €150,000 to €200,000 (likely in the same way privateers can purchase a lower-spec machine than KTM’s Moto3 racer).

Gas Gas Acquires Husqvarna Engine Designs

03/01/2014 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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It was nearly a month ago that we heard that Spanish firms Gas Gas and Ossa had merged their operations in order to take on the difficult economic climate in Spain. The firms’ business position should be even stronger now, as Gas Gas has acquired the IP from Moto Italia, the holding company of Husqvarna’s remains.

When KTM’s Stefan Pierer acquired Husqvarna through his Pierer Industrie AG company, he did not buy all of the once Swedish motorcycle brand from BMW Motorrad. What wasn’t transferred into the Austrian company’s control was left behind as a new company, Moto Italia, which now will find a new home in Spain with Gas Gas.

KTM Considering 500cc & 800cc Motorcycles in India?

02/05/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Aakash Desai11 COMMENTS

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Capital goes where capital flows, and it seems that India is turning out to be both a huge market expansion and production opportunity for many manufacturers.

As such Stefan Pierer, KTM’s President and CEO, says the Austrian company is considering manufacturing a 500cc and 800c parallel twin motorcycle on the subcontinent sometime in the next three years.

Husqvarna to Unveil New Prototype Motorcycle at EICMA

11/01/2013 @ 4:55 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The future of Husqvarna is an interesting one to mull over right now as we gear-up for the EICMA show in Milan, Italy next week. Recently acquired by KTM’s Stefan Pierer, through is Pierer Industrie AG company, Husqvarna finds itself now merged into Husaberg, as KTM has consolidated its splintered dirt bike brands back into one cohesive effort.

That move alone in an interesting one, as Husqvarna had begun tackling the on-road world while still under the stewardship of BMW Motorrad — releasing models like the Husqvarna Nuda 900 and concepts like the Husqvarna Moab. The brand now seems destined to stay in the dirt though, but that isn’t keeping Husqvarna away from releasing prototypes and concepts at EICMA, as it seems to do every year.