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.

Photos from the 2015 Superprestigio in Barcelona

12/14/2015 @ 12:01 am, by Steve English7 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is fortunate to publish this outstanding photos by friend and photographer/journalist Steve English. Most motorcycle racing fans will know Steve for his work in the MotoGP paddock, but thankfully his skills translate well on dirt ovals. We hop you enjoy his work and captions. -JB

Failure to prepare leads to failure. On Friday, Brad Baker made sure that everything was just right for him to succeed on Sunday. Having crashed heavily last year and broken his shoulder and elbow, the Washington native took a different approach to this year’s Superprestigio.

“Last year was tough and when I crashed I was just trying so hard. This year I took a different approach because the win is given on the last race and I was building all weekend towards it. Two serious surgeries in two years helps you realize that the most important race is the final. Last year I was going out to impress everyone and I crashed and missed the race. This year I was able to win both finals and it’s great after such an emotional year.”

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Double Pro Flat Track Grand National champion Jared Mees wasn’t able to make the magic happen in the Superfinal, but enjoyed the weekend and said afterwards that “I’m glad Brad won because it means that it’s another win for America!”

The flat track rivals both joked that this weekend was a very different challenge for them. “For me and Jared we’re usually on opposite sides and looking to beat each other so it was fun that we both approached this weekend thinking ‘If I don’t win I hope you do,'” was how Baker summed up their approach to the weekend.

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“Is that a penny at the apex?” Marc Marquez brought a tremendous style to MotoGP when he arrived three years ago and his flat track style is equally impressive.

Leaning so far off the bike to try and generate grip from the edge of the tire is a very different style to that employed by the full-time flat track racers, but on the 200m Barcelona track it worked well for the Spaniard.

Race Results from the 2015 Superprestigio Superfinal

12/13/2015 @ 9:51 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Brad Baker has won the third edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio, holding off a strong challenge from Marc Marquez to take his second victory in the event. Jared Mees, who got boxed in at the start, took a comfortable third.

Superprestigio: Day 1 Practice – Marc Marquez & Toni Elias Lead Jared Mees & Brad Baker

12/12/2015 @ 1:57 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The first sessions of practice for the Barcelona Superprestigio event took place on Friday evening, and the man behind the event is fastest, as might be expected.

Marc Marquez posted a lap of 11.797 during his second run on the track, ahead of Toni Elias, with an 11.8. Jared Mees and Brad Baker were the fastest of the Open riders, for off road and dirt track specialists, both posting times in the 11.9 bracket.

Headline times are not the full story, however, with Marquez’s times less consistent than the two Americans. Brad Baker was particularly impressive, posting a long strings of 11.9s, showing he has good race pace.

2015 Superprestigio Set for December 12th in Barcelona

12/03/2015 @ 1:01 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on December 12th in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona’s Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona.

Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s.

Forward Racing Signs Toni Elias for Remainder of Season

09/17/2015 @ 12:31 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Things appear to be looking up for Forward Racing. After a very dark period when the future of the team was in danger, following the arrest of team owner Giovanni Cuzari, the team is moving on to a slightly more stable footing.

Earlier this week, they announced that former Moto2 champion Toni Elias is to ride for the team for the last five races of the 2015 season. Elias will be replacing Claudio Corti, who has stood in for Stefan Bradl after the German departed for Aprilia.

Preview of the Spanish GP: The Season Starts Here

04/30/2015 @ 6:26 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Jerez is always a very special weekend. When Valentino Rossi described the first race back in Europe using those words, he spoke for everyone in the MotoGP paddock.

Everyone loves being back in Europe, because the atmosphere changes, the hospitality units fill the paddock, the catering staff, hospitality managers, runners, cleaners, general dogsbodies – in other words, the people who actually do any real work – return to fill the paddock, and old friends are reunited after a long winter away, often doing something else to subsidize the meager pay they take for the privilege of working in Grand Prix during the summer.

The paddock becomes a village once again, awaking from the long winter slumber. The setting helps.

The charming old city of Jerez is showing the first shoots of economic recovery, not yet enough to match the full bloom of spring happening on the surrounding hillsides, the slopes covered with wild flowers, but there is a much more positive vibe than there has been for some years.

There is a sense of optimism. That sense of optimism flows into the paddock, already buzzing after a sizzling and surprising start to the 2015 MotoGP season.

With over 100,000 people expected to pack the stands on Sunday, Jerez feels like the right way to kick off the long European leg of the championship.

Friday Summary at Qatar: The Myth of Fairness & Aleix Espargaro’s One-Man Revolution

03/21/2014 @ 11:08 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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When was the last time a non-factory rider won a MotoGP race? Any MotoGP fan worth their salt will be able to give you year, track and rider: 2006, Estoril, Toni Elias.

Ask them why he won and they will give you all sorts of answers – Dani Pedrosa taking out Nicky Hayden in the early laps, Colin Edwards not being able to maintain his pace to the end of the race, Kenny Roberts Jr. misjudging the number of laps left in the race, or, as Valentino Rossi put it, because “Toni ride like the devil” – but none they can be sure of.

There is a less well-known explanation for Elias’ performance, though. Ahead of the Estoril race, Elias was given a set of the overnight special tires shipped in especially for Michelin factory riders.

In this case, Elias was handed a set of ‘Saturday night specials’ destined for Dani Pedrosa, but which Pedrosa had elected not to use, and so were going spare. Elias liked the same kind of soft carcass tire that Pedrosa was being offered, and went on to exploit the advantage it offered.

What does that have to do with Friday at Qatar? Two things. Firstly, it highlights exactly how important tires are in motorcycle racing. Tires dictate a huge amount of the performance of a motorcycle. They are the connection between the bike and the track, but that is a very full and complex function.

Tires determine how far a bike can be leaned, how much drive the bikes can get out of a corner, how well the power delivery of an engine transfers to the tarmac, how hard the bike can brake, they provide a certain amount of suspension, and they pass information about track surface, grip conditions and where the limits of braking and turning are for a motorcycle.

And that’s just the beginning. Tires are (quite literally) a black art. Their complexity cannot be underestimated.

Alstare Splits with Ducati in World Superbike

10/25/2013 @ 2:20 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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After just one year of a two-year deal, Alstare and Ducati have agreed to terminate the contract between the Belgian Alstare team and the Italian Ducati Corse World Superbike effort. Today, the two parties made it known that they would not be continuing their collaboration, citing financial problems at Alstare and the loss of a major sponsor as the reason.

The split has long been expected, as Alstare team boss Francis Batta had made no secret of his unhappiness with the collaboration between his team and Ducati, not to mention the performance of the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13.

WSBK: Toni Elias Will Replace Michel Fabrizio

09/10/2013 @ 11:19 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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The 2013 Moto2 rider line up is proving to be rather fluid. The latest in a series of changes to the line up is the departure of Toni Elias from the Blusens Avintia Moto2 team, after a season of disappointing results: the 2010 Moto2 champion’s best finish this year was a 9th place at Jerez.

Elias is part of a chain reaction encompassing three different paddocks, and stretching into 2014. The catalyst was Michel Fabrizio, who is leaving his Red Devils Roma team in World Superbikes with immediate effect. Fabrizio has had a positively mediocre season so far, his only podium coming at the season opener at Phillip Island, a great disappointment as the Italian started as an outsider for the title.

After financial disagreements with the team, which arose at the Silverstone round of World Superbikes, according to GPOne.com, Fabrizio and the team decided to part ways before the season was over, rather than at the end.

Elias will now replace Fabrizio at the Red Devils Roma team for the final four rounds of the year, at Istanbul, Laguna Seca, Magny-Cours and Jerez, with an option to continue in 2014, should his debut be a success, according to Spanish website Motocuatro.com.

MotoGP: Hector Barbera Fractures Vertebrae at Indy

08/17/2012 @ 4:28 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

Hector Barbera will be forced to miss the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, after suffering a back injury during the morning session of Friday’s free practice for the MotoGP class. Barbera suffered a nasty highside at Turn 16, his rear wheel appearing to catch on a section of track which appeared still to be dirty, and in the ensuing crash, Barbera landed on his neck and fractured three dorsal vertebrae, D5, D6 and D8. He was taken to the local Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, and has been ruled unfit to race.