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.

2016 Triumph Tiger Sport Gets Updated

02/10/2016 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Triumph Tiger Sport isn’t a model that we get here in the United States of America, but the adventure-sport model does round out Triumph’s European lineup quite well, slotting in between the Tiger 800 and Tiger Explorer (1,200cc).

For 2016, the Triumph Tiger Sport gets some updates, namely the same revamped 1,050cc three-cylinder engine that came to the Triumph Speed Triple earlier this year.

As such, the 2016 Triumph Tiger Sport will have increased torque and fuel economy, according to Triumph. The updated Triumph Tiger Sport also has a new ride-by-wire throttle, complete with riding modes, traction control, cruise control, ABS, and a slip-assist clutch.

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.

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.

Here is What the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Will Look Like

11/17/2015 @ 1:29 am, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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As we predicted, Suzuki has debuted a new Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike at the EICMA show, though before you get your hopes too high, we should preface that the model is actually the Suzuki GSX-R1000 concept.

Suzuki clearly isn’t ready to bring the GSX-R1000 to market in-time for the 2016 model year, and our sources tell us that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Concept will in fact be the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, which will debut in the second half of 2016.

That being said, the news is an exciting development from Suzuki, which says that the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 is the lightest and most powerful superbike ever from the Japanese manufacturer. To our eye, it looks to be the most advanced as well.

The Yamaha MT-10 Is Not Your Grandpa’s FZ-1

11/16/2015 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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Perhaps a model whose debut is obvious to us now, hindsight always being 20/20, Yamaha has just dropped the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 on us at this year’s EICMA show.

The Yamaha MT-10 helps round out Yamaha’s MT brand, with affordable and edgy models available from 125cc all the way up to now 1,000cc.

Without even riding the Yamaha MT-10 we are fairly certain that this street bike, with its Yamaha YZF-R1 race track DNA, is a hoon to ride with its over-abundance of personality – it would have to, with a face like that.

2016 Husqvarna FS 450 – Less Weight, More Swede

09/18/2015 @ 12:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna brand will continue with its FS 450 offering for the 2016 model year, though you would be wrong to confuse the 2016 bike with its predecessor.

Trimming the fat off the 2015 model, it is clear that Husqvarna looked for ways to make the FS 450 even lighter than before, for 2016, and the Swedish brand look successful in that endeavor, with a 232 lbs machine (sans fuel).

To hit that target weight and other benchmarks, the 2016 Husqvarna FS 450 needed a new chromium molybdenum steel frame, a potent 63hp, 450cc, SOHC, engine, and a bucket of weight-saving items.

Our press release says the new FS 450 will be out in dealers in September of this year, but we take that to surely mean European showrooms, not American. We hope this bike will come the USA though, as it sounds like two wheels of hoon for sumo enthusiasts, and a lighter option than the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto.

KTM 690 Duke To Get Upgrades for 2016

09/09/2015 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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KTM is pulling the interesting move of only alerting certain outlets to the fact that the Austrian company will be bringing updates to the KTM 690 Duke for the 2016 model year. Regardless of that alienating choice, the facts remain, and we’re here to give you the details of their new models.

As such, expect to see the 2016 KTM 690 Duke to get a power boost, roughly to the tune of 73hp @ 8,500 rpm (up 1,000 rpm over the previous model), with peak torque also getting a boost of roughly 6%.

This increase in power comes about partly to internal changes, which include a larger bore and shorter stroke. These give that 690 Duke a very slight displacement increase of 3cc, for 693cc in total.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

02/25/2015 @ 1:02 pm, by Mark McVeigh27 COMMENTS

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When the R1 was first launched it became an instant icon. A tri-axis engine with a GP style chassis was cutting edge technology back in 1998.

The bike has evolved through the years with fuel injection, a crossplane crank, and electronic systems amongst the hundreds of development upgrades.

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.

A team of 50 design engineers worked closely with Yamaha’s MotoGP team and test riders from divisions in Japan, Europe, and the US, including Valentino Rossi and US rider Josh Hayes, to come up with perhaps the most technologically advanced electronics package on a motorcycle ever made available to the riding public.

Many of the senior engineers were in attendance at Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek in Australia for the R1 world launch, providing excellent technical support for the test riders and a unique insight into the challenges they each faced creating the new R1.

The 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time.

The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle.

Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about. 

Watch the Yamaha YZF-R1M Lap, with Science

02/23/2015 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The international moto-press was gathered in Australia this week, some for World Superbikes at Phillip Island, and others for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 launch at Eastern Creek.

While we’ll have our assessment of the new R1 and R1M for you to read on Wednesday, we thought we would whet your appetite with some on-board footage.

Lapping at the Sugo Circuit in Japan, we get to see the new YZF-R1M go through its paces, quite convincingly we might add, but more importantly, Yamaha has visualized the electronics data coming from the superbike.

Lean-angle and acceleration telemetry comes from the R1M’s IMU, and the graphics also include when the traction control, quickshifter, wheel-lift control, and our personal favorite: slide control, are aiding the rider.

A visual, aural, and technical delight — we think you will enjoy the video, after the jump.

Video: Kawasaki Ninja H2R’s Electronic Controls

10/17/2014 @ 9:38 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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With great power, comes great responsibility…I’m fairly certain I read that in a comic book somewhere. The adage carries over to the Kawasaki Ninja H2R though, as any 300hp supercharged machine needs some snappy electronics to keep all that power in line. It’s something we talked about yesterday, when we got up-close with the H2R at the AIMExpo.

Seemingly reading our thoughts on that matter, Kawasaki has released a terse video on the H2R’s electronic controls. The video essentially confirms that the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, and presumably the Kawasaki Ninja H2 street bike, will come with anti-locking brakes (KIBS), traction control (KTRC), launch control (KLCM), quick shifter (KQS), engine braking control (KEBC), and an electronic steering damper (ESD).