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.

Saturday Summary at Motegi: The Key To Rossi’s Qualifying, The Perils of Data Sharing, & Fast Fenati, Finally

10/11/2015 @ 12:37 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Has Valentino Rossi finally mastered qualifying? The Italian has struggled since the format changed, from the extended hour of qualifying which started out as free practice and ended up as an all-out time attack, to the frenetic fifteen-minute dash for pole.

His biggest problem, he always explained, was getting up to speed from the start: leaving pit lane and going flat out from the very first meters. He had spent a lifetime slowly sidling up to a blistering lap, rather than getting the hammer down as soon as the lights changed.

The switch from an analog to a binary format had been hard to swallow. Millions of older fans sympathized, as they faced the same struggle in their own lives.

Lorenzo, on the other hand, has thrived in the new format, having learned the skill while doing battle with Casey Stoner. The Australian’s greatest legacy was his ability to go as fast as possible the moment he left the pit lane.

I was once told by Cristian Gabarrini, Stoner’s crew chief, that when they looked at his sector times, they would see that he had set his fastest sector times on his out lap. To beat Stoner, Lorenzo had to learn to emulate him.

Friday Summary at Motegi: The Key To Zarco’s Title, Lorenzo’s Strong Shoulder, & The Threat from the Ducatis

10/09/2015 @ 11:03 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It’s only Friday, but already, one championship has been decided. Tito Rabat’s mission to outscore Johann Zarco was tough enough before he crashed at Almeria and broke his wrist, but trying to handle the immense braking stresses of the Japanese circuit with a freshly plated radius proved too much to ask.

Rabat’s attempt was brave, but ultimately doomed to failure. After riding in FP1, Rabat realized that it wasn’t so much the pain, but rather a lack of strength in the arm needed to control the bike safely. Forced to withdraw, Rabat’s title defense came to an end, and Johann Zarco became the 2015 Moto2 World Champion.

It was a rather bewildered Zarco who faced the press later on Friday. His mind was still focused on Sunday’s race, rather than on becoming champion. He could barely comprehend that he had already won the title.

Mentally, he had prepared to celebrate on Sunday, after the race, so the title had come unexpectedly early. It did not put him off his stride, however. Zarco was twelve thousandths slower than Tom Luthi in FP1, and nineteen thousandths faster than Alex Rins in FP2. He remains the man to beat in Moto2, exactly as he has been all year.

Thursday Summary at Motegi: The Walking Wounded, Yamaha’s Supremacy, & Hayden’s Switch

10/08/2015 @ 8:58 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Motegi was the stage for a parade of the walking wounded on Thursday. The first question to half of the riders in the press conference was, “How’s the injury?”

The answers mattered quite a lot, given that Jorge Lorenzo is engaged in a battle to the wire with Valentino Rossi for the 2015 MotoGP crown, Marc Márquez has proved to be capable of being the joker in the podium pack, and Andrea Iannone is the dark horse always looking to disrupt proceedings at the front.

If any of those three are severely hampered by their injuries, it could have a major impact on the outcome of the championship.

There is, of course, one minor problem with asking riders how their injuries are, and how much trouble they are causing: you never know just how close to the truth the answer they gave you actually is.

This is not necessarily because they are trying to deceive you, but as Valentino Rossi himself pointed out, often, a rider does not know just how much trouble an injury will cause until they actually get on a bike and ride. “For me, I think it’s impossible to know,” he replied, when asked if he thought Lorenzo might be hampered by his injury at Motegi.

Suzuki GSX Concept Hints At…Something

09/30/2015 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Unlike the Honda “Light Weight Super Sports” concept, which gives a clear indication as to the cut of the Japanese manufacturer’s jib, the Suzuki GSX concept leaves a bit more to the imagination.

We know that the Suzuki GSX-R line is woeful need of an update, and our best information pegs the Suzuki GSX-R1000 finally getting a refresh in mid-2016, as an early 2017 model.

Other rumors suggest we’ll see something interesting from the Suzuki brand at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and hopefully that doesn’t mean just this GSX concept.

There Aren’t Enough “Top Gun” Jokes for the Time When Maverick Viñales Visited the Spanish Air Force

09/26/2015 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Maverick-Vinales-Spanish-Air-Force-Aragon-GP-Top-Gun-MotoGP-05

When your first name is Maverick, you surely have heard every Top Gun joke there is to make, especially by the time you are 20-years-old.

Just in case he hit the brakes, and watched them fly right by, we couldn’t help but serve up a couple more for Maverick Viñales, thanks in large part to his media event with the Spanish Air Force. Talk to me Goose.

Feeling the need for speed at the Danger Zone Zaragoza Air Base, near the Motorland Aragon circuit in Northern Spain, Viñales was treated to a tour of the facility and a flight aboard one of the Ejército del Aire’s F/A-18 Hornets.

Ecstar Suzuki teammate Aleix Espargaro was unfortunately not at the event, but is quoted as saying that once he got back to the track, Maverick could be his wingman anytime.

While we aren’t sure if the pattern was too full for fly-by, rumors of a shirtless volleyball 1980’s video montage are so far completely unfounded.

This is probably the coolest pre-event MotoGP media event ever, and after the jump we have a bunch of high-resolution shots from it, Ice…Man.

Volkswagen Ordered to Sell Its Stake in Suzuki

09/23/2015 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing.

Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night.

Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.

SERT Wins the 2015 FIM Endurance World Championship

09/21/2015 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

BOL DOR 2015

Taking things all the way to the last round of the championship – the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race – the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team can finally lay claim to being the the 2015 FIM Endurance World Champions.

Though endurance racing is very much a team effort, this victory for SERT couldn’t have been achieved without the team’s EWC veteran riders: Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle, and Etienne Masson.

The trio’s results have allowed Suzuki to claim its 14th EWC title, which is just one part of the Japanese brand’s domination in the FIM Endurance World Championship.

On its road to EWC glory, SERT won at Le Mans, finished fourth in the very competitive specialist field at Suzuka, landed second on the podium at Oschersleben, and wrapped up the Bol d’Or in the third position.

Suzuki Trademarks “Recursion” in the USA and Europe

09/16/2015 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Could Suzuki’s turbocharged Recursion concept bike be coming to market? There have been rumors already, but that news just got a lot more solid because of Suzuki’s trademark filings this week.

Registering the name “Recursion” in both the US and European markets, for use with motorcycles, the Japanese brand seems set to debut the new model in the coming months.

The question of course then turns to how closely the production machine will be to the concept machine, which features a 588cc intercooled and turbocharged two-cylinder engine. Very closely, we hope.

No New Suzuki GSX-R Motorcycles for 2016 Model Year

09/10/2015 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Despite the wishful reports that have been circulating the media sphere lately, Suzuki is seemingly not poised to bring any new GSX-R sport bikes for the 2016 model year, as Suzuki Motor America has confirmed this year’s models will return for next season.

This news is undoubtedly a blow to fans of the Suzuki brand and GSX-R line, who have been keen to see Suzuki reclaim its sport biking crown. There is however a silver lining to this news…

Some of That 30th Anniversary Suzuki GSX-RR Goodness

08/14/2015 @ 2:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Team-Suzuki-Ecstar-Sachsenring-German-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-15

I’m not gonna lie, we sorta dropped the ball when it came to sharing with you the 30th anniversary livery that Team Suzuki Ecstar is rocking in MotoGP. If anyone asks, it’s all Tony’s fault. Totally on him. Like, for reals…all Tony. Bad Tony! Bad!

While Tony works on a personal apology note, hand-written naturally, for each and every one of you, we’ve got a small collection of his photos from Sachsenring and Indianapolis of Suzuki’s tribute to the GSX-R line.

We think it’s pretty fetching, which only adds to the fact that the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike is one of the best looking machines on the grid. I actually had a dream about it last night…I’m not ready to talk about it.

Photos after the jump, ok? Enjoy! And Tony, I want those notes on my desk by Monday. Chop! Chop!