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.

Suzuki GSX-R1000 Red & Black Commemorative Edition

08/09/2015 @ 9:22 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Suzuki already has a classic blue and white commemorative livery for its GSX-R line of motorcycles, but today at the Indianapolis GP, the Japanese brand debuted another commemorative edition of the Suzuki GSX-R1000, this time in red & black.

While the blue and white livery has become the more traditional colors for Suzuki and its GSX-R sport bikes, it was the red and black GSX-R750 machines of Yoshimura Suzuki that dominated the Suzuka 8-Hour in 1986, the first year of the bike’s debut.

These Are Not the Eagerly Awaited Suzuki GSX-R250 & All-New GSX-R1000…But They Should Be

07/28/2015 @ 1:37 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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These images are very likely not of the hopefully-soon-to-be-released Suzuki GSX-R250 & GSX-R1000 sport bikes, as their purveyor, Japanese magazine Young Machine, has a fairly horrible track record with these sort of things…but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore them.

After all, here we see two very attractive offerings, which we hope the folks at Hamamatsu will take a long look at, as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 rendered here would be an attractive update to a name that was once the superbike to beat.

The rendering exercise from Young Machine also shows that a quarter-liter sport bike from Suzuki should be directly related to its liter-bike brethren, not only to strike the aspirational nerve of riders, but also to justify the added expense and limited return on the company’s superbike offering.

Suzuki GSX-R Gets a Special 30th Anniversary Livery

07/09/2015 @ 4:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Debuting today at the German GP in what has to be the best industry #tbt move ever, Suzuki is showing off a special 30th Anniversary livery for its GSX-R line, including the GSX-RR MotoGP race bike.

As the name implies, the livery celebrates 30 years of GSX-R sport bikes, which have sold over one million units since their first debut in 1985.

Helping celebrate the special occasion, the 30th anniversary livery bikes will be available globally from Suzuki, though there’s no word right now on how much they will cost in the USA, or when they will be available.

The Importance of Suzuki’s Rider/Crew Chief Relationship

07/07/2015 @ 11:51 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It is hard to overstate just how important the relationship between a motorcycle racer and his crew chief is. A rider must have complete confidence that his crew chief both understands what he needs from a motorcycle to go fast, and is capable of giving it to him.

A crew chief must be able to interpret the sometimes confusing and mixed signals from his rider, filter out the non-essential information, identify priorities from that which will offer the greatest gains, and assign the work to the rest of the crew in the garage.

There has to be complete trust between the two, or neither rider nor bike will achieve their full potential.

This was made all too apparent when I interviewed Ecstar Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaro and his crew chief Tom O’Kane for a story I wrote recently for the Dutch publication MOTOR Magazine, due out later this month.

One part of the interview which did not make it into the magazine was the relationship between Espargaro and O’Kane, and how they first started working together. However, it is a story which offers a fascinating insight into how a rider and their crew chief work together.

The Suzuki Bandit Returns to the USA for 2016

06/15/2015 @ 5:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Suzuki’s lineup continues to underwhelm, with perhaps the most noteworthy machines being the Suzuki GSX-S1000 for 2015, and the Suzuki GSX-S1000F for 2016.

We say underwhelming because at the core of both bikes is the GSX-R1000 engine…circa 2008; but that’s ok, Suzuki has made enough subtle changes to warrant them being called new machines. Really.

Another new machine that is coming to the United States for 2016 is the Suzuki Bandit 1250S. Yes, this is of course the same machine that Suzuki first brought to market back in 2007, and has kept relatively untouched since that inception.

Sunday Summary at Catalunya: The Stuff of Champions

06/15/2015 @ 12:41 am, by David Emmett29 COMMENTS

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Barcelona was the place the champions emerged. In Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, riders laid a solid claim to the titles in their respective classes.

Danny Kent rode with heart and head, and won the Moto3 race with a plan, extending his lead in the championship to 51 points.

Johann Zarco pulled back a big gap and made the right move when it mattered most, extending his lead to 31 points.

And Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi demolished all-comers to make it a Yamaha one-two, and push their lead out to 44 and 43 points respectively, the Movistar Yamaha men separated by a single point between them.

A lot can happen in the eleven races which remain, but the chances of the three titles not bearing the names of three of those four men are getting slimmer by the race.

The fat lady is still a long way from starting to sing, but you get a sneaking suspicion that you just heard her taxi pull up at the artists’ entrance.

Saturday Summary at Catalunya: Suzuki’s Triumph, Lorenzo’s Pace, & Preventing Moto3 Towing Madness

06/14/2015 @ 1:25 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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1993. That was the last time there were two Suzukis in the first two positions on the grid. Then, it was Kevin Schwantz and Alex Barros who qualified first and second at Jerez. Now, twenty-two years and six weeks later, it is Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales.

Then, Suzuki were at the height of their competitiveness, before beginning their slow decline, which went on until they withdrew at the end of the 2011 season. Now, Suzuki is back after a three-year absence, with a brand new prototype at the start of its development.

Taking pole and second in just their seventh race is quite an achievement for Suzuki, and vindication of their choice to build an inline-four, something they know all too well, rather than messing around with a V4, as they had done throughout the MotoGP era.

It is also a vindication for the team of people Suzuki chose to lead their return to MotoGP. Davide Brivio has proven to be a shrewd team manager, to nobody’s surprise.

Tom O’Kane, Aleix Espargaro’s crew chief, has been instrumental in providing direction to the development of the bike. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales have lived up to their expectations, combining experience, attitude and a hunger for success.

Friday Summary at Catalunya: Fast Suzukis, The Deceptive Pace of the Yamahas, & Tires and Electronics

06/12/2015 @ 5:46 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from Friday practice at Barcelona? We learned that things are not quite what they seem. Does the fact that the Repsol Honda riders are second and third overall mean that HRC’s travails are behind it? Certainly not.

Do the two Suzukis in the top five – and Aleix Espargaro setting the fastest overall time – mean Suzuki have found the horsepower to match the Honda and Ducati? Absolutely not.

Will the Yamaha’s lowly positions on the grid put them out of contention on Sunday? Leaving aside the fact that it’s just the first day of practice, with another full day on Saturday, definitely, absolutely, certainly not.

Are all these assumptions completely baseless? That’s where it gets interesting. In fact, there is a kernel of truth underlying them all.

Video: SERT’s Victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

06/05/2015 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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No name means domination more in the FIM Endurance World Championship than the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, and SERT is currently living up to that hyperbole as the team to beat in the 2015 championship race.

Winning this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, SERT makes its tally 11 wins out of the last 15 races at the historical French track, with riders Anthony Delalle, Vincent Philippe, & Etienne Masson on the Suzuki GSX-R1000.

So strong was Suzuki’s performance, that the squad’s “junior team” took fourth overall, winning the Superstock class at Le Mans in the process. Helping commemorate that feat, SERT put together a little video for its victories at Le Mans. Enjoy it and the bevy of hi-res photos from the event.

Preview of the Italian GP: Italian Hearts Dare to Dream

05/28/2015 @ 1:00 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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I shall spare you the “rolling Tuscan hills” patter. That cliché will be trotted out in most of the press releases and previews you will read. Indeed, it is one I have done to death in many of my own previews of the race.

Like all clichés, it is based on an underlying truth: the Mugello circuit is a breathaking track, set in a stunning location, and scene of some of the greatest racing over the thirty Grand Prix which have been held here since 1976.

So good is the track that it has remained virtually unchanged, with only minor tweaks to improve safety. There are still a few spots which could use some improvement. The wall at the end of the main straight could use being moved further to the left, and the gravel trap on the exit of Poggio Secco is terrifyingly small, but fixing these would require moving some serious quantities of earth.

But this is Mugello, and so we look away and carry on. At least the astroturf has been removed, removing one possible source of danger.

The setting and the racetrack mean that this is always one of the highlights of the year, but 2015 could be even better than usual. It might even live up to the hype, of which there is justifiably plenty. But where to begin?