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.

Ben Spies Comments on MotoGP Dropping the Rookie Rule

06/20/2012 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

After winning the World Superbike Championship in 2009, Ben Spies continued his rise to motorcycling stardom, as Yamaha gave the Texan its blessing to move onto the MotoGP Championship. The move wasn’t made without resistance though, as the satellite teams within MotoGP were sick and tired of seeing top-talent riders like Spies go directly into factory-backed teams in their first season. Thus the Rookie Rule was born, seemingly with the direct detriment of Spies in mind.

Showing its mettle with the American Spies, the Rookie Rule was again tested when Italian Marco Simoncelli entered MotoGP, and was forced to join the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. Simoncelli, considered by many in the MotoGP paddock to have the future star-power of mentor Valentino Rossi, served his two-season sentence in the satellite squad, and before his untimely death at Sepang, he was expected to move up to the factory ranks in 2012.

Now with the shock news of Casey Stoner’s retirement, HRC has been put in a tremendously difficult position with its factory-backed Repsol Honda team. Though said to be eager to retain Dani Pedrosa, HRC realizes that its long-term future is in Marc Marquez. With the young Spanish Moto2 rider posing a number of problems in his expected ascension into MotoGP in 2013, Honda has found itself between a rock and a hard place for next season.

Similarly, Dorna is in a precarious spot with the state of the MotoGP Championship. Watching its golden goose Valentino Rossi struggle on the Ducati, and counting the nine-time World Champion’s future time in MotoGP on only several fingers, the MotoGP media rights holder is under tremendous pressure to find a new star to attract the masses, and as a Spanish company…the preference is seen as favoring a Spaniard to take that center-stage spotlight. Enter the repeal of the MotoGP Rookie Rule, which kills two birds with one stone.

2012 Ducati Desmosedici GP12

03/19/2012 @ 5:52 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Unveiled online today, here are the first pictures of the 2012 Ducati Desmosedici GP12. Unsurprisingly using a twin-spar aluminum frame, instead of the carbon fiber chassis found on the GP11, perhaps the biggest change for fans who have been following the GP12’s development is the new tri-colore paint scheme, which is visually very similar to the design of the Ducati 1199 Panigale Tricolore.

Getting hip to this whole internet fad, Ducati Corse made its 2012 season launch live on Facebook, hosted by team sponsor TIM. With 96,000 fans connected to the video stream, it’s arguably the most public launch of a Desmosedici to date, and the subject of social media was a hot topic for the unveilings Q&A session (including some insight into Nicky Hayden’s accidental leaking of the Ducati Streetfighter 848). We’ve got a bunch of hi-res studio shots after the jump, along with some photos from the live unveiling.

Welcome to Twitter Casey Stoner

02/28/2012 @ 11:20 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Not too long ago I gave a presentation at the San Francisco Dainese Store about MotoGP & social media, and one of the interesting points that came up from the discussion was the fact that Casey Stoner did not have a Twitter account. With former-World Champions Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi racking up 400,000 & 600,000 follower respectfully, the current-MotoGP World Champion was voiceless in the online space, which only fueled further the perception that Stoner’s interests in MotoGP resided only with racing on Sunday afternoons.

HRC Makes the Comparison: Stoner vs. Rossi

02/07/2012 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

It may still be the pre-season, but the banter regarding MotoGP on Twitter is certainly getting us ready for the start of the 2012 MotoGP Championship. Sending out a simple infographic this morning with the message, “this picture says it all,” HRC’s official Twitter account posted some interesting statistics that compared Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner to Ducati Corse’s Valentino Rossi.

Breaking down Stoner’s win percentage over the past five years, the results of course paint an interesting picture. Of course the image “didn’t say it all” as the reaction on Twitter is about what you’d expect from a world widely divided by international boundaries. This of course lead to the image’s immediate removal, but alas nothing truly dies in the digital age.

In case you aren’t already aware, Valentino Rossi is a nine-time World Champion, and also happens to be the favorite son the of MotoGP Championship. Casey Stoner on the other hand…well, the Australian has at best a tumultuous relationship with the public. Naturally, backlash ensued, and HRC finally removed the graphic from its Twitter account.

Asserting that it was all in good fun and simply pointing out some statistics about the last five years, HRC surely was trying to bolster Stoner’s record, and remove the Repsol Honda rider from the “Most Underrated” list in MotoGP — a hard thing to do, even on the heels of a World Championship.

No, This is the “90%” New Ducati Desmosedici GP12

01/30/2012 @ 8:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

You may have been misled by some eager journalists today and yesterday, if you saw a Ducati Corse livery-clad Ducati Desmosedici GP12 that some sites were passing off as the first shots of the “90% new” GP12. With the alleged new GP12 looking surprisingly similar to the aluminum-framed “GP0” that was tested at Valencia, Valentino Rossi’s mechanic has now Alex Briggs confirmed that the photos taken were not of the all new “GP12 Phoenix” that the factory team will race this season. While the Ducati lords can taketh away, they can also giveth, and Valentino Rossi himself has posted the first photo of the factory Desmosedici GP12, and the bike is clearly different.

Kevin Schwantz Will Ride Marco Simoncelli’s Race Bike in an All-Hands GP Memorial Track Ride

11/05/2011 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Sunday morning here in Valencia marks the final race of the 2011 MotoGP Championship, and the already bittersweet Grand Prix will become increasingly somber as the GP paddock will also be paying its final respects to Marco Simoncelli. Starting at 10:10am, 125GP, Moto2, and MotoGP riders will partake in a parade lap around the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana. The procession will be lead by Kevin Schwantz, who will ride Marco Simoncelli’s San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V race bike for the occasion.

A Minute of Noise for Marco Simoncelli

11/03/2011 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The MotoGP paddock has reconvened in Valencia for its final round of the 2011 season, and percolating at the top of everyone’s mind here is the passing of Marco Simoncelli. While the Italian’s death has been talked about non-stop the past week or so, with the MotoGP community together again for the first time since SuperSic’s passing, the emotions here are still very raw (A&R is coming to you live from Valencia, Spain this race weekend).

With the riders unanimous on the importance of racing, and everyone honoring Simoncelli in his or her own way, the final official tribute to Marco will come on Sunday at 10:15am local time. In a more fitting manner to honor Marco Simoncelli, over the course of MotoGP’s tribute there will be a minute of noise, in lieu of the usual minute of silence. Suggested by Marco’s father, Paolo Simoncelli, the celebration of SuperSic’s career will be a boisterous affair, with presumably all the bikes in the paddock revving their motors to honor the Italian racer.

Valentino Rossi Finally Joins the 21st Century & Twitter

10/11/2011 @ 9:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

For being a motorcycle mega-brand in his own right, Valentino Rossi has been slow to adapt to this crazy new thing called the internet. A series of tubes, the internet has been a remarkable breakthrough on a variety of levels, changing the paradigm of how we eat, sleep, and waste our lunch breaks at work. Helping teenage girls gossip about their latest crushes, aiding in the massive distribution of pornography to middle-aged men who hide in their basements from their wives and children, and allowing no-talent journalistic hacks to masquerade around as proper motorcycle journalists, there is literally no telling how the internet will change our lives next, and what industries it will turn on their head.

Well get ready for another shockwave ladies and gentlemen, as the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, has hopped on this interweb bandwagon with full 0 & 1 force, first by finally creating his own official website, and now by signing up for a thing called Twitter. Tweeting, twatting, twittering so far in only Italian, Rossi was one of the last hold-outs of MotoGP riders to embrace the micro-blogging service (Randy de Puniet just got on Twitter this week too we might add. Thanks Lauren). Rossi’s move is sure to create a stir with the VR46 crowd, as his legion of fans can now take time out from their busy days of lathering neon yellow paint all of their bodies, and hang onto every one of Rossi’s 140 character messages.

So far, Rossi has tweeted about go-karting, his injured finger, and traveling to Melbourne. We wait with bated breath to see what photo the nine-time World Champion first tweets from his account. Bellissima.

Nicky Hayden Teases the Ducati Streetfighter 848

09/07/2011 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Spending some time at Borgo Panigale factory during the San Marino GP race week, Ducati Corse rider Nicky Hayden couldn’t help but tease the upcoming 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 that was “spied” testing last month. With this photo and tweet, Hayden affirms the news we broke in July, and with the message “Coming soon… #ducati #droppingonmonday” we can infer that Ducati will be taking the wraps off the Streetfighter 848 on Monday next week.

2011 MotoCzysz E1pc Tests at Jurby

06/03/2011 @ 3:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

We spent the today at the Jurby course, as teams for the Isle of Man TT came out to the short airfield race track to test their machines before the TT starts in earnest tomorrow with its first races. Among those teams in attendance was MotoCzysz, and the team debuted its 200+ hp 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc for the first time to the public (we brought you a sneak peek yesterday). With Michael Czysz and Michael Rutter both taking laps on the new electric superbike, today was the first time the new E1pc had ever turned a wheel. Photos and more after the jump.