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.

Triumph Street Twin Recall

04/22/2016 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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You know what they say about first generation motorcycles…well, it looks like its teething problems for the Triumph Street Twin too, as the retro-styled street bike is being recalled for electrical/fuel problems.

According to Triumph’s recall notice with NHTSA, certain 2016 Triumph Street Twins (manufactured between September 7, 2015 and November 21, 2015) might have a defect in how they were wired.

Triumph says that the wiring in the fuel tank, which powers the fuel pump, may have damaged insulation; and as a result, the fuel may enter the wiring and travel down the harness, outside of the tank, and drip from the connector at the main harness. This can lead to a fuel leak, which could ignite.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

01/27/2016 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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There is a tongue-in-cheek joke amongst moto-journalists when it comes to new MV Agusta models: that each new machine is “the best motorcycle yet” from the Italian brand. The unspoken punchline of course is that each new model has such an incredibly low bar to surpass, that it is a relatively easy to be the next “best” motorcycle in the lineup, and thus it’s easy to lead a bike review with such a hyperbolic statement.

That joke has been slowly fading away though, and it is becoming more of an honest reality, as MV Agusta’s motorcycle lineup has evolved from a family of luridly appealing motorcycles that unfortunately are also deeply flawed, to a brand of machine that can boast the competence to match its striking beauty.

Nothing better proves this point than MV Agusta’s three-cylinder platform, which was mired by half-baked electronics and fueling at its debut in 2013, and now survives as a supersport/middleweight platform that should be on every rider’s short-list of must-ride motorcycles.

It is this trend that sees MV Agusta now updating its 800cc platform for 2016 (the 675cc machines will see an update soon enough), notably with Euro4 emission controls in full-effect.

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case.

The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines.

Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

KTM Made Over €1 Billion in Revenue in 2015

01/18/2016 @ 4:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

KTM

To put it succinctly, KTM is crushing it. In 2015, the Austrian company posted another banner year, which is nothing terribly new from a European motorcycle brand; but in just a few five short years, KTM has addd over 100,000 motorcycles to its volume of production.

As such, the Austrians sold 180,801 KTM and Husqvarna motorcycles in 2015, making €1.02 billion in the process. This is a 14% increase over KTM’s sales in 2014, a 18% increase in revenue, and a 26% in income (€95 million, EBIT).

This also makes 2015 the first time that KTM has exceeded a billion euros in revenue, and the fifth year in a row that KTM sales have increased.

According to KTM, this makes them the fastest growing motorcycle company in the world.

Honda RC213V-S Delivered to First Customer

12/30/2015 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

RC213V-S first customer handover (3)

Look at the smile on this guy’s face! That’s the smile of the first person on planet Earth to take deliver of their new Honda RC213V-S street bike.

The first example of the €188,000 “MotoGP bike with lights” goes to Mr. John Brown, a Brit who owns and runs a Honda motorcycle dealership in Manchester, and is also an avid collector of Honda motorcycles.

Honda says that other customers will begin to take receipt of their RC213V-S motorcycles after the New Year.

A Panigale-Powerd Ducati Monster Looks Really Good

12/07/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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I’m not a fan of the Monster line from Ducati. There, I said it. There is just something about the Monster models over the years that has failed to strike me as appealing, though I must say the latest crop of liquid-cooled Monsters has certainly been a step forward for me, visually.

I’m more of a fan of the Ducati Streetfigther lineup, and I still hope that Ducati has a new Streetfighter design somewhere on its design boards. Ideally, such a machine would have a Superquadro engine at its heart, and accordingly make big horsepower numbers that rip our eyeballs from our sockets.

The fate of the Streetfighter line remains to be seen though, and with each passing model year I expect to see the Streetfighter 848 finally leave the Italian company’s lineup. It would seem the Streetfighter is kaput as of the 2016 model year. -JB

As such, the Monster line could be Ducati’s only naked bike model, any year now. So, if time is really against us, and if the Monster really is to be the only naked bike from Ducati, I hope the future iterations take a lesson from this concept.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 Concept Helps Define the Future

11/17/2015 @ 10:37 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Ever since Stefan Pierer bought the Husqvarna brand, we have been curious to see how “Husky” would fit within the KTM family.

As of late, Husqvarna models have been little more than recycled KTM motorcycles, with a few minor changes and some cosmetic tweaks seemingly being the only thing that separates the Swedish brand from its Austrian owner.

Part of this is a necessary evil, as it takes time to design and build new models, with the current overlap at least serving to update the Husqvarna line until actual new models can be released.

In 2017, we will see the first truly new Husqvarna models come to market, the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen & Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen. Now we can see a third model, which further defines how we will understand Husqvarna in the future, its called the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 concept.

2016 KTM 690 Duke Learns Some Table Manners

11/17/2015 @ 6:09 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The KTM 690 Duke has always been a fun street bike, with a fair amount of power wedged into a relatively light package. For 2016, the KTM 690 Duke learns some refinement though, most notably with an engine overhaul that drops the buzz from the motor, and adds power to the dyno chart.

This comes about as the 690cc LC4 engine gains a secondary balancing shaft, a new crankshaft, and lighter pistons and connecting rods. All these changes come with a new cylinder head that has the exhaust valves on roller rockers, and the intake valves on the camshaft.

The result is that the 2016 KTM 690 Duke gets a modest power gain – a 73hp peak horsepower figure – and a powerband that is 1,000 rpm wider than before.

2016 Honda CB500F Gets Much-Needed Facelift

11/16/2015 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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When the Honda CB500F first debuted, it was a welcomed addition to Honda’s lineup, as the Japanese brand was really filling out its 500cc/A2 offerings, but the bike itself was hardly something to get excited about, especially in the looks department.

That seems to have changed now, with the release of the 2016 Honda CB500F at the EIMCA show in Milan, as the street “standard” is looking a lot more aggressive and edgy with its new haircut.

LEAKED: Liquid-Cooled Triumph Bonneville T120

10/27/2015 @ 1:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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It’s been no big secret that Triumph is about to add liquid-cooling to the venerable Bonneville and its ilk. The cult classic hasn’t changed much in its long and storied past; and don’t worry, beyond the liquid-cooling, it hasn’t changed much for the 2016 model year either.

Thankfully, Triumph has kept the Bonneville aesthetic well inline with what discerning retro-riders and hipsters are looking for in their motorcycles, discretely hiding the machine’s blacked-out radiator.

While the 865cc Triumph Bonneville T100 will still come to the USA for the 2016 model year (free of the EU’s new stricter emission standards), the 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 will travel worldwide, with its 1,200cc parallel-twin engine.

Yamaha PES2 Electric 2WD Concept to Debut in Tokyo

10/16/2015 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Back in 2013, Yamaha debuted two electric motorcycle concepts: the Yamaha PES1 street bike and the Yamaha PED1 dirt bike. This was a big deal, because Yamaha said it planned to bring an electric motorcycle to market by 2016.

Well, here we are just a few weeks from the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, where 2016 models from the Japanese manufacturers would typically debut…and it seems Yamaha has more electric motorcycle concepts for us.

The Yamaha PES2, as the name suggests, is an evolution of the PES1, though it does look slightly more ready for production than its predecessor.