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.

Weekly Racing News Digest #6

04/08/2015 @ 9:31 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Racing season is now truly upon us. MotoGP kicked off ten days ago at Qatar, last weekend the British Superbike championship had their first race of the year at Donington Park, and this weekend sees a bumper crop of racing. MotoGP is at Austin, where MotoAmerica also kicks off its inaugural season since taking over the AMA series from the DMG.

World Superbikes heads to the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain, where they are joined by the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 classes. It is going to be a busy weekend.

Despite the bustle of action, the amount of real news emerging has been limited. Teams and riders are too busy racing, absorbing the lessons of the first races while preparing for the next races, to be plotting and scheming beyond that. Here’s a rundown of things you might have missed anyway.

Casey Stoner Will Race in the Suzuka 8-Hour

03/26/2015 @ 10:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Well, the rumors were true…Casey Stoner will return to motorcycle racing, competing as one of Honda’s MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO three racers in the Suzuka 8-hour endurance race.

For those who don’t follow the Suzuka 8-Hour, the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team won last year’s event, and is a top Honda entry every year for the prestigous Japanese race. Joining Stoner on the team will be Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi.

Van der Mark is of course Honda’s factory World Superbike racer and the current reigning World Supersport Champion, while Takahashi splits his time racing in the MFJ All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship and testing for HRC.

The threesome will be looking to clinch Honda’s sixth-straight victory at Suzuka. They will of course be racing on the EWC-spec Honda CBR1000RR, which Stoner tested at January’s Sepang test. The Australian will test it again on the CBR in July 7th & 8th and July 14th and 15th.

Rumor: Casey Stoner To Race at the Suzuka 8-Hour?

03/02/2015 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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A rumor that we are almost certain isn’t true, yet too good not to muse about: Casey Stoner is said to be making a return to motorcycle racing, competing in the prestigious Suzuka 8hr endurance race for Honda.

The rumor comes from the Sportmediaset blog of Max Temporali — usually one of Italy’s more reputable sporting publications. Given Stoner’s contentious relationship with the media, especially the Italian media, one can guess as to the motivations involved though.

2015 FIM Endurance Calendar Down to Four Rounds

02/05/2015 @ 10:21 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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After releasing initially a five-round provisional calendar, with a sixth round yet to be confirmed, the FIM Endurance World Championship will actually go back to a four-round schedule for 2015.

The announcement coincides with Eurosport Events being named as the series’ promoter, and presumably Eurosport Events didn’t see the advantage of adding a 24-Hour Magny-Cours round to the schedule, along with one of three possibilities in Portual (Estoril), Belgium (Zolder), or Slovakia (Slovakia Ring).

Video: Kawasaki Ninja H2R Demonstration at Suzuka

11/06/2014 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The following is a rather long video of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R demonstrating earlier this week at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan (fast-forward to the 6 minute mark if you don’t want to watch the bike warm-up in the pits), taken during the All-Japan Road Race Superbike Championship.

To fully appreciate the video, it helps if you speak a bit of Japanese, but the what transcends all languages is the brute force of the supercharged 300hp the Ninja H2R, as it takes off — even in the hands of Kawasaki racer Katsuaki Fujiwara. We still think it’s pretty impressive, check it out after the jump.

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Wins the 2014 Endurance World Championship

09/22/2014 @ 11:01 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin Wins the 2014 Endurance World Championship

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The 2014 Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end, as this past weekend played host to the Le Man 24-Hour motorcycle race. Winning the 2014 title was the French team of Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin, which also took second place at Le Mans (SERT finding its way to the top podium step).

Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin’s team of David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines have had a prominent position all season long in the EWC. Finishing second at Bol d’Or, ninth at Suzuka (second among the regular EWC entries), second at Oschersleben, and now second at Le Mans, Yamaha France’s position came about because of sheer consistency.

With Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki’s top teams having troubles at individual races (along with Yamaha’s YART squad), Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin showed that true endurance racing is done over the long term. The full 2014 Endurance World Championship results are after the jump.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Game Face, Race Day (Days 3 & 4)

08/08/2014 @ 4:26 pm, by Shelina Moreda6 COMMENTS

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We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

It’s Day 3 at Suzuka. We had a short practice in the morning and very soon after, I had qualifying. I started out on the bike, got a few laps in, and then it was Melissa’s turn. I got the “Pit” sign on my pit board and came in to the pits, using my pit speed limiter for the first time in a race situation, and we practiced our pit stop. Melissa took off and wrapped up the rest of practice.

My qualifying came quick and it was a short one, I got something like seven laps total, including my out lap and in lap. We tried a bit different of a setup for me this time, handlebars out a little more and the shifter lower, so I was more comfortable.

In an endurance race, the bike has to be set up somewhere in the middle for both riders to be comfortable. We were riding Melissa’s setup, so they made it better for me for my qualifying. Wasn’t much time to get up to speed, but I was at least remembering the track.

When my session was over, I headed to our office and hopped in our big “kiddie” pool on the way, to test it out. The pool is situated just outside the office so we can get in it after our race stints to cool us down. It seemed so cold to me!! but I knew the next day during the race it would feel great.

We didn’t qualify as high as we had wanted, 52nd out of 69 teams, but we were both still getting used to the track and getting up to speed. We also had to realize we were up against teams who have ridden this track before, many locals, and almost all teams were from Japan, so had a home track advantage here.

That said, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Our main goal being to make our team and sponsors proud, race hard and move up. Our team and sponsors wanted to see us finish the race, that was their priority.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — Practice Makes Perfect (Days 1 & 2)

08/06/2014 @ 8:03 am, by Shelina Moreda5 COMMENTS

8 H DE SUZUKA 2014 WORMAN RIDE

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo made the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and campaigned a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. -JB

“So How was Japan, Suzuka, Moriwaki?!” is the question of the week.

“Everything you think it should be and more” is the answer of the week. I’m still in awe of the week I have just had. The most amazing race I’ve done to date. Intensity like you wouldn’t believe.

I was practically in tears at the weight of the thing after the Le Mans-style start and then the most challenging, and coolest race I’ve had the privilege of competing in. I keep thanking SynergyForce, Moriwaki, and the FIM Women’s Commission for all they have done to make it happen.

My week started with a day in Tokyo, where I got to visit my Japanese family. We had an exchange student when I was a kid, and Miyuki is now grown up with kids of her own. This is the third time I’ve gotten to visit them. Last time was when I lived in Japan, right before I started racing.

Japan is really close to my heart. I lived in Okinawa for a year, and living away from home, and everything I knew, helped me decide that I really could go after anything I wanted to do in life. Japan helped me realize I could make anything I wanted out of life.

I got my racing license only one month after I moved home to California and set out to race professionally. Then it was just a dream people thought I was crazy for.

The opportunity to race in Japan is really special to me, especially because of this. Pair that with the legendary circuit of Suzuka, the distinguished team of Moriwaki, and my first endurance race ever taking place during the famous weekend of Suzuka 8-Hour: the whole thing is a dream come true.

2014 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

07/28/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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With heavy rain delaying the start, the Suzuka 8-Hour was more like the Suzuka 6-Hour, as only six hours and thirty-five minutes could be fit into the race’s time slot. Still, FIM Endurance World Championship fans were treated to a good battle, which unfortunately saw F.C.C. TSR Honda out early while in the lead.

Kosuke Akiyoshi gave F.C.C. TSR Honda its early lead, and strong stint from Jonathan Rea seemed to solidify the team’s position. But on his next outing, Akiyoshi had a massive crash at the 130R corner. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR back into the pits with a broken femur, Akiyoshi was the hero of the race, but F.C.C. TSR would have to settle for 40th overall.

The crash left the lead for MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team, which laid claim to the top step at Suzuka for the second year in a row. The Japanese team, which was comprised of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael van der Mark put in an impressive performance at the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance race, though only had roughly a minute’s gap at the finish line to show for it.

How to Watch the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race

07/25/2014 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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UPDATE: Sorry folks, look like race day coverage is live-timing only.

I was trying to think this week how to frame how important the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race is for Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. It’s certainly more prestigious than any single MotoGP or WSBK round, and I would hazard that it is as big of a deal to the Japanese as the Isle of Man TT is to the Manx.

A race known for seeing factory teams staked with the top riders from around the world, this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours sees some of Japan’s finest joined by the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Jonathan Rea, Randy de Puniet, Josh Brookes, and Josh Waters. It can be hard to follow the race in Japan though, but we’ve got you covered for this year’s event.

The Suzuka Circuit puts up a live stream of the racing sessions on Ustream, and the link is right here. There is also an official Twitter feed in English which you should follow. We have embedded the Ustream into this post as well…because the internet is awesome.