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.

Officially Official: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 Recall

12/29/2015 @ 8:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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We have known that Yamaha USA is recalling all of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 superbikes it sold this year, for quite some time, and hopefully today we can end our coverage of that situation, as NHTSA has finally published the recall for the R1 on its website.

As expected, the recall touches roughly 3,000 units (2,921 to be precise), and will involve Yamaha dealers dropping the four-cylinder engine from the motorcycle, and replacing the entire gearbox – a roughly 16-hour job for the service technician.

The recall affects all 2015 YZF-R1, YFZ-R1C, YZF-R1MF, and YZF-R1MFC models, which were made between August 1, 2014 and June 1, 2015. This recall of course does not affect any 2016 models, which will have the issue address while still at the factory.

Yamaha Releases Letter for R1 Owners Regarding Recall

12/16/2015 @ 2:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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By now, Asphalt & Rubber readers should be well aware of the recall being issued on all the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA.

We broke the news back in November, and even covered how recalls work in Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast – the show is well worth having a listen to if you want to know more about how recalls work.

In the show, we speculated a bit about what Yamaha would do to fix the gearbox issues with the latest R1 superbikes, and now we have official confirmation from Yamaha Motor Corp. USA on how it will handle the 3,500 or so models that need to be recalled.

Yamaha was kind enough to supply us with a letter, which will be sent to all affected R1/R1M owners, as it outlines what is being recalled, what actions Yamaha and its dealers are taking, and what owners should do going forward. Read it, after the jump.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Gearbox Recall Affects All USA Units

12/09/2015 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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More trouble looms for Yamaha and its pending recall of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, as our sources have indicated that all of the superbikes sold in the USA will be affected by the new R1’s transmission issues.

You may recall that Asphalt & Rubber broke the story two weeks ago about the upcoming recall for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, and we explored the topic in-depth on Episode 11 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast.

Still, we are surprised that a more formal announcement hasn’t emerged from Yamaha Motor USA regarding the matter.

In the meantime, Transport Canada – the importer for Yamaha motorcycles in Canada – issued a recall for 240 units, while some YZF-R1 owners in the USA have begun to receive letters from their local Yamaha dealers concerning the recall procedure.

For 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 owners who haven’t received a recall notice from the dealer, you should expect one, as it’s our understanding that ultimately all of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycles sold in the USA will need to have their transmission replaced.

“Stop Sale” Recall Coming for the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1

11/24/2015 @ 11:32 am, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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If you are the owner of a 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 or YZF-R1M, your motorcycle might be part of an upcoming “stop sale” recall that affects the bike’s gearbox.

The soon-to-be-announced recall affects only a limited number of units, but centers around the gearbox on some R1’s having components of inadequate strength, which could cause the transmission to seize under extreme shifting, and thus result in a crash.

Brammo Gets Investment from TEAM Industries – Forms Strategic Partnership for Design and Production

07/08/2014 @ 4:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The folks in Talent, Oregon have some exciting news today, as electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo has announced a strategic partnership with TEAM Industries, a leading drivetrain technology firm. The partnership with TEAM brings a variety of advantages to Brammo’s production and design process, and it also sees TEAM becoming an investor in the electric vehicle startup.

TEAM’s ability to develop and produce, locally in the United States, will help Brammo not only develop its future products more effectively, but also help lower the cost of its current offering. Talking to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher, he called TEAM Industries “American manufacturing at its finest,” and highlighted TEAM’s commitment to creating jobs throughout Minnesota, and its ability to work on a wide variety of manufacturing stages

Aside from the capital infusion, which is the lifeblood of any startup company, Brammo seems to be getting a wide array of benefits by working with TEAM.

MotoGP: When Will Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox Arrive? Probably Not This Season

06/19/2013 @ 10:36 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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Why did the factory Yamaha team head to the Motorland Aragon circuit to join Honda and Suzuki at a private test? Was it perhaps to give Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi their first taste of the seamless gearbox Yamaha have been developing, to counter Honda’s advantage?

That is the question which many fans have been asking, and in recent days – and weeks – I have been inundated with questions about the seamless gearbox. Well, question, singular, actually, as it all boils down to just the one: When will Yamaha finally start to race their seamless gearbox?

It is a question I have been trying to pursue since the start of the season, since rumors first emerged that they may have used the gearbox at the first race of the year. All inquiries I made, at all levels of the Yamaha organization, received the same answers: Yes, Yamaha is developing a seamless gearbox, and is testing it back in Japan. No, Yamaha has not yet raced it, and has no plans to race it. And no, it is not yet ready to be tested.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

MotoGP: Ducati Racing with 2012 Chassis Starting at Assen

06/20/2011 @ 6:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse continues to battle a war on two-fronts: both by trying to market itself out of an otherwise disastorous MotoGP season, and also to rapidly develop and search for answers to the lackluster Ducati Desmosedici GP11. The latest news out of Bologna now leans more towards this latter effort (or is it the prior?), as Ducati Corse has announced that it will bring a version of its 2012 chassis to Assen for Valentino Rossi to use in the Dutch TT.

The Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, as they’re calling it, features a modified motor, and will debut Ducati’s next-generation gearbox: the Ducati Seamless Transmission (DST). Ducati hopes bringing out the new chassis, which has already been given the nod by both Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden, will not only help turn around the season’s results, but also expedite development for the Ducati Desmosedici GP12. Along with a new carbon chassis, the GP11.1 features an inverted swingarm design, which sees the rear shock mounted higher-up with a special rear-subframe assembly.

Brammo Launches Dirt Bike Product Line – Features Integrated Electronic Transmission (IET)

05/04/2011 @ 4:00 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Well it didn’t take us long to get to the bottom of the reason as to why Brammo will be racing at the AMA Mini Moto SX in Las Vegas this week, as we speculated the Ashland-based company has got dirt bikes on the mind, and today is launching its dirt/supermoto line of electric motorcycles. Debuting with the full-sized Brammo Engage MX & Supermoto, along with the Brammo Encite MMX mini moto, Brammo has a robust off-road offering to its name now.

Behind the new product launch is another big step in the electric motorcycle industry, as the Oregonian company is debuting its new Brammo Engage and Brammo Encite motorcycles with an Integrated Electronic Transmission (IET). Developed by Italian engineering firm S.M.R.E., the IET is basically a six-speed gearbox designed specifically for use on electric motorcycles, and should help lure current ICE rides to the dark side of electrification. With today’s news, we think someone just put Zero Motorcycles on notice.

Hero Motors to Build Gearboxes for BMW Worldwide

05/03/2011 @ 12:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Hero Motors has just inked a deal with BMW that sees the Indian motorcycle manufacturer building gearboxes for the Bavarian brand not only in the Indian market, but also worldwide. The five to eight year deal will see Hero building gearboxes for BMW on a variety of motorcycles, and we presume scooters, though which models exactly remains to be seen.

The news is a boon for the Indian motorcycle manufacturing industry, as it adds further credence to the country’s technical prowess. The deal is also beneficial for BMW as well, as the German company will not only be able to build its bikes for cheaper, but we’re sure BMW is gaining a foothold on the lucrative Indian market from the transaction as well. BMW currently imports fully-built motorcycles into India, but with this news, we see that business practice changing in the near future.