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.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 10 – EICMA, Part 2

11/26/2015 @ 11:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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As promised, here is Part 2 of the 2015 EICMA show coverage by the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. Episode 10 covers all the non-Italian motorcycle manufacturers: BMW, KTM, Triumph, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Victory – whereas Episode 9 deals with all the Italian bikes at the show.

This episode has a bevy of new models to cove;, and as usual, the guys do it with their usual pop-culture references and general irreverence to the motorcycling status quo. We think this is a show you will enjoy greatly – just in time for the holiday weekend.

If you haven’t listened to Part 1 already, you should do so as well.

Victory Ignition Concept Is A Very Sporty Cruiser

11/18/2015 @ 2:47 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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It had been widely rumored that Victory Motorcycle would launch a sportier offering, using the 60° water-cooled 1,200cc engine that powered the Project 156 race bike almost to the top of Pikes Peak.

The new model is a tectonic shift for Victory, which also this year debuted its first electric model – though the Empulse TT is really just a rebadged Brammo Empulse R.

Debuting the Ignition concept at the 2015 EICMA show today though, it’s clear that Victory Motorcycle is becoming more than a modern alternative to Harley-Davidson and the metric cruisers from Japan.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 8 – Schwartz

11/15/2015 @ 2:34 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 8 – Schwartz

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The EICMA show is nearly upon us, so Quentin and Jensen walk us through what bikes are expected to debut in Italy, and what bikes the pair would like to see at the show. It’s a pretty exhaustive overview recording, and thus a little longer than the normal Two Enthusiasts Podcast, but we don’t think you’ll mind.

There’s some good stuff in Episode 8 you won’t want to miss, and it expands on our EICMA show preview story, though pre-dates it. Obviously some news has come out since this show’s recording, but we seem to be pretty good a predicting some things. Take a lesson, and get ready for EICMA starting on Monday.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Cheers!

Your Definitive Guide to the 2015 EICMA Show

11/13/2015 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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We are already feeling the early effects of the EICMA show in Milan, Italy – easily the most important trade event for the motorcycle industry.

EICMA is where many of the next year’s new models are released, not to mention the show serves as a platform for much of the yearly business that occurs in the motorcycle industry, especially in Europe.

For us in the media, EICMA is a cross between a marathon and Christmas, a plethora of days where articles surge as we see the launching of so many new models. It can be a lot to take in, but it is always exciting to see what the manufacturers have been working on for the past year(s).

To help you keep track of everything, and to help guide your expectations, we have put together this exhaustive list of all the models we expect to see at EICMA. Let the holiday season begin!

Some Curious Details of That Stolen Victory TT Race Bike

08/18/2015 @ 3:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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A month ago, the Victory TT electric race bike was stolen from the Brammo’s headquarters in Talent, Oregon. Thankfully, the bike was recovered quickly, though it suffered some damage to the bodywork, and the rear wheel was removed.

Two suspects were arrested in conjunction with the theft, and currently are out on $25,000 bail bonds. We will have to let the great wheel of justice sort out the facts, and awaits the two suspects in question.

While one would likely not call the legal process entertaining, there are some amusing facts at issue to this case.

Victory Empulse TT — A Rebadged Brammo Empulse R

07/28/2015 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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When Polaris acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and left the startup to be its electric drivetrain guru, much was talked about what would come to the electric motorcycle manufacturer. So, when a Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike showed up at the Isle of Man TT in Victory Motorcycles livery — let’s not forget the Brammo employees in Victory t-shirts — a bit of Polaris’ game was tipped.

Therefore it is perhaps without surprise that today we bring you the Victory Empulse TT, which is basically a rebadged Brammo Empulse R street bike.

There are some improvements to the Victory Empulse TT over the Brammo Empulse, namely a larger battery pack (+10% for 10.4 kWh nominal), a narrower rear tire (180 is now a 160), a new seat, and most importantly, a rubber cush drive for the rear wheel.

We won’t waste words hyping a motorcycle that has effectively already been on the market for several years, but we will point out two things: 1) Brammo Victory has improved upon an already competent design, and 2) the addition of the cush drive could change our luke-warm opinion of the Empulse R.

Victory Electric Race Bike Stolen from Brammo HQ

07/17/2015 @ 5:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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If you are in the Pacific Northwest, keep an eye out for a very special motorcycle that was stolen last night, the Victory electric race bike that ran at this year’s Isle of Man TT.

The bike in question is the #3 bike that Lee Johnston rode to a podium finish in the TT Zero class at the Isle of Man TT (VIN 0004), making the machine a particularly special bike from both Victory Motorcycles and their partner Brammo.

IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/10/2015 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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It might be the shortest event during the TT fortnight, but the TT Zero packs the more technology and development than the other TT races combined. Every year, the electric race bikes make leaps of progress in their pace, and for 2015 the unofficial mark to beat was the 120 mph barrier.

Team Mugen seemed close to that mark during the practice sessions, with John McGuinness posting a timed 118 mph lap. With Bruce Anstey already a race winner from the Superbike TT, and McPint always looking good on the Shinden race bike, the duo was heavily favored to win.

This year’s TT Zero also sees the return of Brammo to the Isle of Man, disguised as the Victory Racing team.

Victory was originally slotted to have Lee Johnston and William Dunlop as its riders, but Dunlop’s crash during the Superstock race meant his TT racing was over for this year. Luckily, his Tyco BMW teammate, Guy Martin, was available and keen to ride the electrics, and thus substituted for the injured Dunlop.

Other entries include Saroléa and Saietta, as well as the university teams from Brunel, Kingston, and Nottingham.

Up-Close with the Victory Electric IOMTT Race Bike

06/10/2015 @ 12:53 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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In less than 24 hours, the TT Zero race will be underway at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, which means that riders Lee Johnson and Guy Martin (who is substituting for the injured William Dunlop) will be putting the Victory Motorcycles electric race bike through its paces on the 37.773-mile Mountain Course.

If Victory’s entry looks familiar, it should, as it’s based off the Brammo Empulse RR. Brammo has made some improvements to the machine for Victory though, namely a reworked motor, new battery pack, and aerodynamic touches.