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.

Video: MotoGP’s Universal Sign Language

05/05/2016 @ 6:57 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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MotoGP is in Le Mans, France this weekend and if you watch the TV feed long enough, you will invariably see a candid moment where a rider is in the pit box, trying to explain a technical item with his team. In these moments it goes, almost without saying, that he will be doing most of the explaining with his hands.

There is something about the dynamic movements of a motorcycle at speed that defies mere words – gestures and sounds seem to be an integral process of getting one’s point across in a clear manner. It’s two-wheeled pantomime.

The folks at Alpinestars have picked up on this, and made a quick video with its sponsored riders in the MotoGP race class. What’s interesting to see is how many of the gestures at the same for explaining the same act. Call it Universal Rider Sign Language, perhaps?

Startup Spotlight: Velomacchi

03/25/2016 @ 6:06 pm, by Peter Ha41 COMMENTS

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It’s hard not to scoff at Velomacchi’s whole “privateer” shtick. It makes you wonder if it’s just a clever ploy to cover up the fact that this is just another lifestyle brand with nothing innovative to show for it, save for some glossy photos. Forget the fact that they’re from Oregon.

But then you notice a couple of things you’ve never seen before – what’s the deal with that pivoting shoulder strap or the magnetic coupler? And you begin to think that maybe this isn’t bullshit. Maybe, just maybe, these guys know what they’re talking about and have built gear that actually serves a purpose.

Still, just how much better could a backpack get? Besides tougher materials, deeper pockets, more pockets, a few more pockets, and one of two suspension systems – alpine or daypack – you’ve got two straps attached to a bag. That’s it.

Goodyear Eagle-360 Spherical Tire Concept Debuts

03/03/2016 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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Goodyear is touting its 117 years of tire-making experience at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, but it is the years ahead that are concerning the American tire brand right now.

Debuting its Eagle-360 spherical tire concept, Goodyear envisions a future where your current tires looks practically two-dimensional in their thinking, and where the contact patch that connects us to the roadway will evolve into a three-dimensional form.

The concept is likely little more than an attempt at grabbing headlines and pretending relevancy, as there is virtually no current demand from automanufacturers for a spherical tire solution.

That notion is compounded by Goodyear’s attempt to link the Eagle-360 to the rise of autonmous vehicles, as if the two things have anything to do with each other. Still, there is something intriguing here.

Movie Star Ryan Reynolds Loves His Motorcycles

02/22/2016 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Personally, I’m not a big fan of the idolatry that seems to follow Hollywood’s golden stars. That being said though, Ryan Reynolds seems like a pretty cool dude, and everything I have heard suggests that he is a true two-wheeled enthusiast.

The star of Van Wilder (and more recently Deadpool) has been spotted practicing his powerslides at SoCal Supermoto, and he has more than a couple motorcycles in his garage, one of which is a custom café racer made by Kott Motorcycles, which is the subject of the video after the jump.

Our favorite Ryan Reynolds story though centers around how the Hollywood star was so enthralled with the Mission R electric motorcycle, that he tried to tempt the San Franciscan startup with a blank cheque offer for one of his very own. Mission Motors declined, which seems like a missed opportunity to me.

Take a Moment to Escape to Baja California

02/18/2016 @ 1:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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It seems that over the past few weeks, I’ve had a barrage of conversations about riding in Baja California. One of those conversations happened with A&R super-friend Carlin Dunne, who just happened to make the ride down to Mexico with filmmaker Dana Brown in tow. Yeah, this Dana Brown.

In addition to an epic journey for the four riders, we the viewers are treated a short video that makes us want to dust off our dirt bikes, grab our gear, and head south to Mexico. The route looks tough, but don’t worry…there will be tacos.

Bell Pro Star Helmet, Protecting A Head Near You

02/17/2016 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The narrative that surrounds the Bell helmet brand is a long and storied one, with some of the more interesting bits happening in just recent time, as the brand’s many different elements and organizations have finally come back together under one roof.

As such, Bell is keen on changing some of the perceptions of its products, especially in the motorcycle space, and has made great strides in doing so with its latest crop of Star helmets.

A full-featured race helmet, priced to undercut the top offerings from AGV, Arai, Shoei, et al, the Bell Star now sees its successor, the Bell Pro Star progeny coming to market.

We don’t talk a lot about gear here on Asphalt & Rubber, but that is slowing going to change in the coming months, and we wanted to give a nod to what Bell is up to with the Pro Star.

Pata Yamaha Previews the 2016 World Superbike Season

02/16/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The 2016 World Superbike season is rapidly approaching, and Yamaha Racing wants to remind you all that it has entered back into the premier production racing championship.

As such, the Pata Yamaha squad stayed over an extra day at the Jerez Test earlier this month, producing a little preview video of the WSBK season to come.

Asphalt & Rubber was lucky enough to be on-location with the Pata Yamaha team during the filming of this video, which is only an interesting piece of information in that we finally get to see the finished product from the work we witnessed first-hand.

Time will tell if the Yamaha YZF-R1 can be competitive in WSBK, right out of the gate. It certainly looks the business in person, with riders Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes working well with the Crescent Racing squad.

Let the countdown begin for the WSBK season-opener at Phillip Island, on February 28th. It should be a good season.

The Epic Story of Barry Sheene is Coming to the Big Screen

02/12/2016 @ 11:13 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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Barry Sheene is one of grand prix racing’s greatest riders, and perhaps one of its most intriguing characters. The two-time World Champion comes from a era when motorcycle racers were as unapologetic as the machines they rode, and Sheene exemplified both those those facts to the maximum.

Perhaps the original playboy of grand prix racing, Sheene eventually married Penthouse model Stephanie McLean – you’ve likely seen the set of iconic photos with her in Sheene’s unzipped leathers.

A heavy smoker, a big drinker, and a constant partier, Sheene represents a forgotten time in motorcycle racing where polished personalities weren’t the norm, and the personality of racers weren’t whitewashed by PR firms.

Why are we telling you all this? Because the epic story of Barry Sheene is finally coming to the silver screen, thanks to IO Films Australia and Deep Spring Pictures UK. It looks like it’s still early days for the crew, but the trailer is waiting for you after the jump.

Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday Summary: Exploding Tires, Changing Compounds, & Stoner’s Return

02/02/2016 @ 1:15 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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If being the official supplier to a racing series is a double-edged sword, then being the sole supplier of equipment as essential as tires is doubly so.

Leaving aside the complexities of exactly what a four-edged sword would actually look like, being official tire supplier to MotoGP is a role that offers massive opportunities for raising the role of a brand, and having it associated with the most famous names in motorcycle racing.

It gets your brand name and logo in front of many tens of millions of race fans and motorcycle enthusiasts every weekend. It also sees your logo plastered all over just about every photo which appears in magazines and newspapers about MotoGP, as well as filling thousands of column inches on websites and in magazines.

If you had to pay for the same exposure – a concept known as equivalent advertising value – it would cost you many, many times the €25 million Bridgestone were rumored to have paid for the contract.

There is a downside, of course. It is extremely uncommon to hear riders heap praise upon your tires spontaneously. Bridgestone had to announce they were pulling out of the role as official supplier to receive the praise they deserved, riders immediately paying tribute to just how good their racing tires actually are.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

01/31/2016 @ 9:22 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon.

Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.

He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Furthermore, this was his first time on a MotoGP bike for a year, his first time riding the Ducati GP15 – a very different beast indeed to the GP10, the last Ducati Stoner raced – and his first time on the Michelins. Despite that, he told reporters he was very happy with how the test went.