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.

Tip: Don’t Break Your ADV Bike in Your Teaser Video

01/25/2016 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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For reasons we haven’t fully been able to understand, there has been a lot buzz lately about the new Himalayan model from Royal Enfield, the Indian company’s foray into the ADV market.

The premise might seem obvious enough, a small-displacement (410cc) adventure-tourer that is supposed to be cheap, rugged, and easy to work on.

There has always been a trade-off to make in buying a Royal Enfield though, with the “unique” charm of owning a motorcycle from the historic brand having to be balanced against its less than stellar reputation for quality and reliability.

While the idea of a simpler and easier adventure-tourer is certainly appealing to a demographic that is like to have to make repairs on the side of some single-track trail, it just seems you are just as likely to be making those repairs because something on the bike broke for no good reason. There’s a chicken and the egg thing going on somewhere here with this logic.

That being said, if you’re a brand that is try to tackle that very problem, it would probably be best not to show your rough and tumble ADV bike breaking when it is used on a modest of jump. Skip to 1:51 in the video, after the jump, and look for the right footpeg coming off during landing. Hrrm.

Ducati draXter Concept Debuts in Verona

01/22/2016 @ 4:33 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Ducati is at this year’s Motor Bike Expo in Verona, and it has a bevy of concepts and customs it wants to show the world. The Italian brand’s trio of Sixty2 Scrambler concepts didn’t really spark our engine, but the Ducati draXter Concept is certainly of note and worthy of further scrutiny.

The Ducati XDiavel was Bologna’s big reveal at EICMA this year, and while the cruiser model wasn’t our cup of tea, we might have to change our tune with this decked-out version of the machine.

Ducati says that the draXter model interprets the XDiavel from a “sports” point-of-view, and the modifications made to the machine certainly do a good job of connoting a bike that leaps from the line.

2016 AMA Supermoto Championship Calendar Released

01/19/2016 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Now in its third year of racing, since its revival, the AMA has released the 2016 AMA Supermoto Championship calendar.

For this year’s racing, American supermoto racers will have six events to test their mettle, most of which take place in the Western half of the United States, though there is one round in Quebec City, to keep the Canucks at bay.

Perhaps most importantly though, the AMA Supermoto Championship will return to television, as the series has inked a TV package with MAVTV Motorsports Networks. The TV package includes six episodes, with 12 airings, which will be produced by Greg White.

The Dakar Rally, The Hardest Motorcycle Race in the World

01/18/2016 @ 12:46 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The 2016 Dakar Rally is done, and as always, the toughest motorcycle race on the planet was full of action.

If you think that this edition of the rally-raid was “easier” than its predecessors, try saying that to several of the top riders in the world who failed to make it to the final leg to Rosario.

The reality of course is that every year many of The Dakar’s competitors don’t find the final finish line, having to throw in the towel after a bout with one of the race’s many tests. Accordingly, of the 136 motorcycle racers who entered the 2016 Dakar Rally, only 84 finished.

One of those non-finishers this year was Chris Cork, whose rally tragically ended on Stage 10 (along with 12 other riders). This was the Brit’s second attempt at the Dakar Rally. As you watch the video after the jump, understand that these are the closing moments for a man who has had over a week of hard racing.

You should also know that before last year’s edition, Cork sold his house in order to raise the funds to compete, only to have his hard work end in a brutal crash on Stage 4.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Toby Price Triumphs

01/16/2016 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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They call it the hardest motorcycle race in the world, and for good reason. The 13-day trial that is the Dakar Rally sees competitors racing against each other, racing against the clock, racing against the terrain, the rain, the heat, and even racing against themselves, as they test the limits of their bodies.

It shouldn’t surprise us then to see the number of top-level competitors whose 2016 Dakar Rally ended before the finish line in Rosario, and it also shouldn’t surprise us that even those who finished the race considered today a victory, no matter where they landed on the results sheet.

That being said, no one is celebrating harder than KTM’s Toby Price, who clinched his first Dakar Rally win today, on only his second Dakar participation.

“Winning in my second participation is awesome, but being the first Australian to win the Dakar is just insane. I would’ve never imagined this two years ago. Finishing the rally is already a triumph. Winning it is amazing! I tackled the race in true Aussie style,” said Price.

“I attacked when I had to, when the time was right, and I kept an eye on my bike during the all-important marathon stages. I also navigated quite well. I hope this is just the start, to win again. It won’t be easy, so I’ve got to savour this victory.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: Yamaha Takes the Day

01/16/2016 @ 1:37 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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The Penultimate stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally, Stage 12 also happened to be the rally’s longest stage – 931km overall, with a 481km timed special. With most riders now saving their bikes, in order to ensure a finish tomorrow, only a few pushed hard on the way from San Juan to Villa Carlos Paz.

One of those riders pushing for victory was Helder Rodrigues, who finally put Yamaha Racing on the charts with a strong result. For his efforts, Rodrigues is now only four minutes away from securing a podium finish for Yamaha and himself, battling closely with Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla (3rd) and Honda South America Rally Team’s Kevin Benavides (4th).

“Today was a good day for me and for the whole Yamaha crew. It was a difficult stage but I felt it was the moment to attack and finally I managed to win! What is great is that I climbed up in a good position to fight for a podium tomorrow,” said Rodrigues.

“I will stay focused until I cross the finish line but, for sure, I will push even more for the last stage. The WR450F Rally is really a good bike; on a rally as the Dakar, a machine that lasts the distance makes a big difference. Yamaha’s crew did a good job on this competition, day after day; I had great pleasure working with them.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: A Tough Day at the Office

01/15/2016 @ 12:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Stage 11 of the 2016 Dakar Rally proved to have more drama, despite KTM’s Toby Price extending his overall lead. The big news though was Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves crashing out, 118km into the timed section of the stage.

Trying to make up time to the front-runners, Gonçalves’s crash was pretty severe, and he had to be airlifted to a hospital in San Juan for his concussion. Thankfully though, doctors in San Juan determined that beyond the concussion, Gonçalves had no other major injuries.

“Today my participation in the Dakar 2016 came to an end in the worst way. It appears that I had a heavy fall, but I can’t remember what happened. I was told that I arrived on the bike to an area where there were spectators and ambulances,” said Gonçalves.

“It’s a Dakar that finishes for me in the worst way. It is a shame because the team really deserved much more. The competition is that hard and the last few days hadn’t been going that well. But we have to keep going and think that soon we will be back in competition.”

Honda’s hopes for the 2016 Dakar Rally now rest on the shoulders of American and Dakar rookie, Ricky Brabec – who is almost an hour back from overall leader Toby Price.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: HRC Overcomes Adversity

01/13/2016 @ 10:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Stage 10 of the 2016 Dakar Rally didn’t have much movement on the leaderboard, but it still was an eventful day, especially for the Honda factory riders.

With Paulo Gonçalves suffering a punctured radiator on Stage 9, and as a result a damaged engine, right before the start of the second marathon stage, things seemed dire for Honda.

Luckily, the HRC factory riders were able to replace the radiator, and inspect the engine. With the piston showing less damage from the heat than previously thought, only the compression needed to be adjusted on the Honda CRF450 Rally, in order for Gonçalves to continue onto Stage 10.

“The day was a positive one. I started behind the trucks and the tracks weren’t good. The sand was very unstable and I had to ride very smoothly. The good thing is that I arrived without problems,” said Gonçalves. “I’m still in the fight for the top positions and now we will set the bike up for an attack tomorrow because in the marathon stage I repaired the bike as best I could.”

“After what happened on Tuesday it will be very difficult to fight for the victory because the difference is very big. But it isn’t over yet. After the problems that I’ve had, to be here is very positive. I have to keep up a good pace every day, starting tomorrow.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: This Is What Hell Looks Like

01/12/2016 @ 11:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Stage 9 of the 2016 Dakar Rally proved to be a hellish one, which ultimately saw race officials shortening the day’s route, even though some riders had completed the full-stage distance. The course shortening came about because temperatures reached 113°F (45°C), leaving the ASO no choice but to end Stage 9 at the second checkpoint.

From CP2, riders were sent straight to their bivouac, where they began their second marathon stage. As such, they will not have the benefit of their team mechanics to make adjustments and repairs to their machines for Stage 10.

This fact could be very significant for HRC, since their day was especially difficult, as Paulo Gonçalves suffered a punctured radiator, and lost significant time to KTM’s Toby Price.

The good news for HRC is that Paolo Ceci was able to tow Gonçalves’s bike to CP2, which meant he finished the stage because of the shortened course. The bad news though is that Gonçalves’s engine seized from a lack of cooling, and will require significant work before tomorrow’s start.

With the marathon stage, Gonçalves will have to rely on his teammates to help him repair the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike. Honda says it is far from throwing in the towel on the situation, though they have a difficult road ahead of them.

Despite this attitude, the 2016 Dakar Rally is essentially now Price’s to lose, with only a couple more days of solid racing remaining.

See How the Honda RC213V-S Is Painstakingly Built

01/12/2016 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Whatever your thoughts are on the Honda RC213V-S, you have to appreciate the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into the $184,000 MotoGP bike with lights.

With just over 200 units being made, Honda had little incentive to design the RC213V-S for mass production, opting instead to make each unit by hand, with a small team of highly skilled builders.

There is something about that process that gets lost in description, so we are fortunate that Honda Hong Kong released a video (after the jump) that shows the Honda RC213V-S build team hard at work.

A couple mech-geek things of note: at 1:32, the jig used to bring the chassis pieces together for welding; at 1:50, the one-off shaping of the sheet metal for the headstock; at 2:12, how virtually ever metal piece is hand-welded. There is plenty here to geek-out over, enjoy!