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.

Final TTXGP Round to be Held at Miller Motorsports Park

08/04/2011 @ 2:16 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After AMA Pro Racing and Virginia International Raceway had their little hubbub over hosting one of the last road racing events on the AMA calendar, the news that the two parties had fallen-out meant that the TTXGP round scheduled to piggyback off the VIR round was by proxy also cancelled. With TTXGP’s New Hampshire round (yes, you read that right…New Hampshire) also cancelled because of worries over competitor attendance, TTXGP’s joint-round with the FIM e-Power Championship at Laguna Seca threatened to be the series’s final running of the 2011 season.

With rumors swirling at the US GP that TTXGP was hard at work securing a final round, we get word tonight that the final round will be held at the venerable Miller Motorsports Park on the weekend of September 3rd & 4th. With MMP hosting Bike Fest (a regional gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts) during that weekend, TTXGP will presumably become a part of the Fests’ festivities. That is of course if anyone actually shows up to the racing event.

Sunday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/24/2011 @ 7:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The Rappture Comes to Laguna Seca – Mission Motors Wins Electric Bike Showdown

07/24/2011 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

With the micro-weather climate that is Laguna Seca, the skies cleared in time for the FIM e-Power/TTXGP Championship race. Fast throughout the week, Steve Rapp stood on the pole position riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike supersport. Qualifying second was Michael Barnes on the Lightning entry, and rounding out the front row was Michael Czysz on the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc. With eleven motorcycles on the starting grid, Laguna Seca proved to be one of the most well-attended grids for electric motorcycle racing; but perhaps more importantly, it was host to some of the most professional entries we’ve seen to-date from electric racing.

With 11 seconds covering the top six riders, the gaps between teams has narrowed in the two short years of electric motorcycle racing. Most of that gap caused by Mission’s scorching pace, a margin of just three tenths of a second covered the second row of the grid, making a battle for fourth almost assured from the get-go. Though the qualifying times were far apart overall, there was still some close racing to be had at Laguna Seca.

Friday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/23/2011 @ 1:22 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Mission Motors Laps at AMA Supersport Pace at Laguna Seca

07/23/2011 @ 1:06 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

While the REFUEL event a few weeks ago was Mission Motors’ true first public race with the Mission R, the San Francisco company is on a mission (oh sweet jesus) to prove a point at Laguna Seca this weekend, after previously being out of the electric racing gig for the past year. Undoubtedly by now you’ve seen photos of the Mission R electric superbike, and while it certainly looks fast standing still, the question had also been raised if it’s only good for standing around and looking pretty.

Taking those talking points to heart, Steve Rapp silenced those critics today, as the Mission Motors rider smashed the standing “best lap” time from last year’s e-Power Championship race at Laguna Seca, which was set by competitor MotoCzysz. Posting a 1’33.714 lap time, Rapp was nearly 11 seconds quicker than last year’s pace, and did so at will on the Mission R, posting half of his laps below the 1’34 mark (his slowest hot lap was a 1’36).

To put that pace into perspective, Rapp would have been fifth on the grid had he been lapping in AMA Supersport’s Free Practice (which occurred early in the day, and thus on a cold track), and thirteenth in AMA Supersport’s Qualifying Practice 1 (which was later in the day, and in similar conditions as the e-Power/TTXGP session). Boom goes the dynamite.

Twelve Entries for the FIM/TTXGP Round at Laguna Seca

07/21/2011 @ 10:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

After seeing a flop of a round at Infineon earlier this year with four, then three entries racing on the two race days, it would seem that some good has come from the FIM and TTXGP playing nice with each other, as twelve entries have been listed for the upcoming electric motorcycle race. Poised to be perhaps the best e-moto race to date, we have virtually all the major players in the electric motorcycle production, technology, and racing gig as entrants for the event (noticeably absent are Zero Motorycles and the “banned” Chip Yates).

Other notable notations include Lightning fielding two bikes, one in each TTXGP class, as well as eCRP entering two bikes in the open class. It also looks like Michael Czysz will be once again riding again on-board his 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc, personally defending his victory at last year’s Laguna Seca gathering. Find all twelve entries for the FIM/TTXGP round listed after the jump.

Azhar Hussain Named on Queen’s Birthday MBE Honours

06/11/2011 @ 11:19 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Since Asphalt & Rubber has been coming to you live from the Isle of Man this past fortnight, we’ve gotten hip to what our friends across the pond are doing these days. While we doubt that the copious amounts of tea and superfluous use of the letter “u” in words will stick with us when we return to the US, we do know that today is the Queen Elizabeth II’s Official Birthday in the UK (which oddly enough isn’t her actual birthday).

As is the custom on her official birthday, the Queen names a list of recipients of royal honours and those admitted to the Order of the British Empire, with this year including TTXGP’s Azhar Hussain as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his contributions to motorsport.

What Does a Record TTXGP Lap at Infineon Look Like?

05/23/2011 @ 6:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The 2011 TTXGP season-opener at Infineon Raceway got off to a less than enthralling start, with only four bikes showing up for racing on Saturday, and three bikes remaining for Sunday’s race. Nevertheless, the event was the first time we’ve gotten to see the Brammo Empulse RR in its race livery, and taking some laps in public. Though the racing wasn’t close, the shining star during the weekend was Steve Atlas taking the Brammo Empulse RR on an outright lap record for electrics at the Sonoma, California based track.

With a time of 1:55.15, Brammo is the team to beat currently, and there’s hope that Lightning, Mission Motors, and MotoCzysz will give the Oregonian company a run for its money later on in the season. Until those teams unveil their bikes in a race, Brammo retains the bragging rights to being the fastest on the track. Check out Brammo’s record run after the jump.

Up-Close with the Mission R at Infineon Raceway

05/16/2011 @ 8:01 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s a good thing for Mission Motors that the Mission R looks fast standing still, as the electric superbike was unable to race in this weekend’s TTXGP series opener at Infineon Raceway. The Mission crew did bring the bike out for fans to see though, which gave us a chance to get up-close and personal with the machine with a camera in-hand. Electricity aside, the Mission R is one of the most attractive motorcycles we’ve seen in a while (even without its clothes on), and the fit & finish on the bike is superb…now if only it actually ran.

We can’t wait to see how the Mission R fares on the track, especially with Steve Rapp on-board. Mission tells us it will be at some of the upcoming TTXGP events, which would be an unfortunate place to launch the Mission R, considering A&R has a strict rule about blogging from New Hampshire. We’ll see what our Bothans can do about sneaking a peak of the bike testing before the next TTXGP round; until then, here are 25 photos to ruin your Monday productivity.

TTXGP: Brammo Sets Track Record at Infineon

05/15/2011 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The California sun gods were in our favor this morning, as the rainy heavens over Infineon Raceway parted long enough to dry out the Sonoma track, and allow racing to commence under cloudy skies. After a thrilling ambulance race (Infineon Raceway had all its four-wheelers out drying the tarmac and racing line), Race Direction deemed the course fit for racing, and the slower-paced electrics were first on the card to try out the dryness of the track. Fielding three bikes for Race 2, we saw a return of Brammo, Moto Electra, and VOLT to the starting grid, as Ely Schless and his Proto Moto was a scratch for today’s event.

With such a large spread in the field, things sorted their way out much like on Saturday, with Brammo taking the early lead and never looking back. Thad Wolff made an impressive showing, but was no match for the faster Brammo Empulse RR. Meanwhile in the Formula TTX75 class, Kenyon Kluge rode to a solo victory with no other competitor fielding a 7.5 kWh machine.

Perhaps in response to some remarks by an unscrupulous blogger, Brammo put to rest any doubts about its efforts, as Steve Atlas set a track record for electric motorcycles on the Empulse RR. With a 1:55.150 race lap time, the Brammo team shaved nearly 19 seconds off his overall race time from yesterday. Breaking the record for electric motorcycles at Infineon with authority, Atlas posted 1:55 and 1:56 lap times throughout the race, setting a new bar in the TTXGP series.