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.

Saturday at Austin with Tony Goldsmith

04/11/2015 @ 10:54 pm, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on Saturday at Austin with Tony Goldsmith

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Jorge Lorenzo put his troubles from yesterday behind him to qualifying on the front row for tomorrows Grand Prix of the Americas.

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Nicky Hayden pits during FP2, balance and electronics issue have left him looking concerned.

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Not even with the soft tire in qualifying could let Andrea Dovizioso match Marquez’s stunning lap.

US Motorcycle Sales Up 4.0% in Q2 2014

08/01/2014 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The US economy has been slow to recover, and so too has the US motorcycle market. With first-quarter sales down 0.3% this year though, it looked like the US motorcycle market was about to flatline.

Thankfully, that has not been the case in Q2 of 2014, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is proud to report that US motorcycle sales are up 4.0% in the second quarter of this year.

Selling 169,111 units in Q2 2014 (6,585 more than in 2013), motorcycles sales in the US so far this year are now up 2.6%, with 263,833 units sold so far in 2014.

US Motorcycle Q1 2014 Sales Flatlined

05/01/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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How Is that rebounding economy treating you? If you work in the motorcycle industry, probably not so well according to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s latest sales report, which highlights sales from the first-quarter of 2014. Down 0.2% (or 118 units) from Q1 2013, the slight decline over last year’s numbers are primarily due to a 10.7% sales drop in scooter sales.

Dual-sport motorcycles were up 3.9% (7,644 units), with on-road bikes holding at 0.9% growth (65,301 units). Dirt bike sales were down 2.7% during the same three-month time period (16,597 units).

In total, 94,524 two-wheel vehicles were sold in the US (94,772 units were sold in Q1 2013) according to the MIC, which tracks Can-Am, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio Group, Victory, Suzuki, Triumph, and Yamaha.

US Motorcycles Sales Decline 5.2% for the First-Half of 2013

08/01/2013 @ 8:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Don’t call it a comeback, because even though the US motorcycle industry beat the Motorcycle Industry Council’s projections last year, sales so far for 2013 are looking less than stellar in the first-half of the year.

Down 5.2% from January to June, motorcycle sales were hit mostly by abysmal losses in the scooter segment (23.3%), and helped along by modest losses in the on-road segment (5.3%). Adding more to the misery, dual-sports suffered a 3.4% drop in the first half of the year, though surprisingly off-road bikes showed a gain, increasing 5.4% over Q1 & Q2.

Ducati Reports 21% Sales Gain in 2012

03/12/2013 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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As was predicted, Ducati Motor Holdings has posted a very impressive 2012 sales report, with 44,102 motorcycles being delivered to customers last year. Appeasing its new German owners, Ducati also grew 16% in revenues over its 2011 figures.

Perhaps more importantly, the American market has solidified its position as the brand’s most important market (the US market posted 21% sales gains as well). With this news, 2012 now officially marks Ducati’s high-water mark in terms of yearly sales figures. Swish.

Ducati North America Posts 43% Sales Growth in 2011 – Now Ducati’s Top Market Worldwide

01/23/2012 @ 9:01 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

If you read A&R with any sort of regularity, you should know by now that the European motorcycle companies have been cleaning house during these otherwise tough economic times, with 2011 being the high-water mark for many of these more premium brands. BMW Motorrad posted its best sales year ever in 2011, while Triumph and KTM have been holding their own as well.

The same has been true for Ducati, and now Ducati North America has posted its sales numbers for 2011, which show a 43% gain over the previous year. This increase in sales has now established North America as Ducati’s #1 market for the first time ever, and the Italian brand continues to grow here in the United States, Canada, and Mexico (while declining back home in Italy).

Triumph Tiger Explorer Gets $15,699 MSRP Price Tag

01/13/2012 @ 5:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

When the Triumph Tiger 800 came out, speculation immediately set forth on when the British brand would build a “full-size” adventure bike. Then the 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer broke cover ahead of the 2011 EICMA show, and officially added a 1,200cc three-cylinder adventure-tourer to Triumph’s motorcycle line-up. Along with a plethora of other motorcycles, the Triumph Tiger Explorer hopes to take on the BMW R1200GS, the undisputed king of ADV riding.

Since the Tiger 800 gained favorable reviews and traction in the marketplace, the Tiger Explorer was expected to also be a market favorite for 2012…that is of course if Triumph could price the big-displacement Tiger competitively against the Ducatis, BMWs, and KTMs in the US market. Getting a $15,699 MSRP price tag, that element of our question has been answered, and sets the Triumph Tiger Explorer as the cheaper alternative in the premium-adventure market.

2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 – Traction Control Cometh

09/14/2011 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 has broken cover, and the biggest feature the lightly tweaked liter-class bike boasts is a new seven-level traction control system (for our brothers in arms across the pond, a six-level traction system is being used…consider that punishment for your European ways). Other material changes include a revised engine map for smoother power delivery in the lower and middle rpms, while the footrests, triple clamps, headlight marker lamps, front cowl, and exhaust guards & end caps have also been revamped for 2012. More after the jump.

BMW S1000RR Priced at $13,800 for USA

07/15/2009 @ 8:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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BMW has finally gotten around to setting the MSRP on its highly anticipated S1000RR sportbike. Priced in-line to compete with the major Japanese manufacturers, the S1000RR is going for a measly $13,800.

For that price you’ll receive a bike with 193hp at the crank, a dry weight of 404lbs, and a headlight only a mother could love. For an additional $1,000, you can get the S1000RR with ABS brakes,  and only sacrifice an additional 5.5lbs of that curb weight.

Ducati Streetfigher Arriving at US Dealers in Superbike “1098” Boxes

05/16/2009 @ 11:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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If you have a Ducati Dealership in your home town, then chances are you may be closer to a Ducati Streetfighter than you think. Arriving as we speak to dealerships in the United States are nondescript cardboard covered metal crates, labeled “Ducati 1098”.

Big deal right, what Ducati dealership doesn’t have a few 1098 superbikes sitting on the showroom floor, or in the shop waiting to be put together? If you saw the box, you’d walk on buy unsuspecting that in fact Ducati has begun shipping the Streetfighter purposefully in these mislabeled crates to throw off any peeking eyes.

Yes, we’ve seen a Ducati Streetfighter on American soil, and on May 22nd so will you. That is of course, assuming you don’t go down to your local Ducati dealership and beg/borrow/steal a peak in their inventory lot. Tell them we sent you.