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.

Jonathan Rea is the 2015 FIM Superbike World Champion

09/21/2015 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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After this weekend’s World Superbike racing in Jerez, Jonathan Rea has finally emerged as the 2015 FIM Superbike World Champion, clinching the title with a fourth place in Race 1, and then backing up that result with another fourth place in Race 2.

The championship title has been a long-time coming for Rea, having first shown himself to be the only man capable of wrangling the factory Honda CBR1000RR to success, and then this season showing his brilliance on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

Absolutely dominating the 2015 season on the track, and continuing his typical humble nature off of it, Rea is a popular choice for the WSBK Championship title, and will certainly be a force to reckon with now that he’s on a competitive machine.

“This is an amazing moment for me in my career because I started schoolboy motocross when I was six years old, spending time at race circuits with my father and growing up in a racing environment, so I always dreamed of being world champion. So to finally be here and be world champion is incredible,” said Rea.

Marc Marquez is the 2014 MotoGP World Champion

10/12/2014 @ 3:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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After the results of the Japanese GP, Marc Marquez has clinched the 2014 MotoGP World Championship. Securing the win on Honda’s home race, on its corporate-owned track no less, Marquez is now officially a four-time World Champion, with half those Championships coming from the MotoGP class.

The celebrations are surely still underway in Japan as we publish this, and rightfully so, after the masterful season Marquez has put in thus far for 2014. Helping to commemorate the occasion, Repsol has produced a short video, which you can watch is after the jump, along with a bevy of photos.

Marc Marquez is the 2013 MotoGP World Champion

11/10/2013 @ 2:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Tom Sykes is the 2013 WSBK World Champion

10/21/2013 @ 12:25 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Max Biaggi Officially Retires from Motorcycle Racing

11/07/2012 @ 8:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

True to speculation, Max Biaggi’s media presentation today announced the retirement of the reigning World Superbike Champion, at the ripe age of 41. A six-time World Champion, Biaggi’s latest stars to his leathers have come from his involvement in the factory Aprilia Racing team in WSBK, with the other four stars coming from his consecutive 250GP World Championships.

Winning his crown by half a point, in what will surely be the narrowest margin ever in World Superbike history, Biaggi’s last season went right down to the wire until the end of the season at Portimao, as the Roman Emperor had to fend off strong contentions from both Tom Sykes and Macro Melandri throughout the 2012 Championship.

“It ‘s been the longest night, but I’m happy to leave now. I do not want to be like politicians attached to the chair. I thought about it a lot, I said to myself continuous 1 or 2 years or I stop? And I decided to leave now,” said Biaggi during his announcement at Vallelunga, the circuit where he started his racing career.

Jorge Lorenzo is the 2012 MotoGP World Champion

10/28/2012 @ 2:37 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Marc Márquez is the 2012 Moto2 World Champion

10/27/2012 @ 9:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: The Face of a Champion

10/09/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

Even before I met Max Biaggi in 2011, I had the sense that here was someone who takes himself and his racing pretty seriously. From the immaculately trimmed facial hair, to his manner in the pit box, to his long career as a motorcycle racer, if there is anything he takes lightly, it is certainly not racing.

Some riders are approachable, quick to smile, who naturally put others at ease even on race weekends. Biaggi is not among this group. But I didn’t appreciate just how intense he is when he’s at work until, as one of my contributions to benefit Riders for Health, I decided to ask him to sign a print I was donating at last year’s Miller WSBK round.

I had brought a matted print of Biaggi from 2010 with me, and as I approached the track on Saturday morning I considered that it would likely fetch a higher price, and thus a greater donation to Riders for Health, if it bore Max’s signature. So I set about getting that done with no idea how easy or difficult it might be.

First I approached the Aprilia media officer, a pleasant fellow who worked with me, half in Italian and half in English, to come up with a plan to approach his star rider. He suggested we talk to someone in the pit box, someone who knew Max better than he did in his recently acquired role with the team.

We descended into the Aprilia garage and found someone whose exact role I never understood, but who also liked the idea of doing something for Riders for Health. He did not, however, care to be the one to bring it directly to Max. The three of us considered the situation and appealed to one of the senior mechanics, who gave us a sympathetic look and said in gestures instead of words that he wanted no part of the business.

We stood to the side of the box, waiting for inspiration, and I wondered if the plan were doomed. Max spoke to mechanics as if discussing matters of life and death. Team members approached him respectfully, presented their concerns for his comment, and left him alone. In some garages the guys joke and there is music in the business of racing motorbikes. In Max’s garage, it’s more like a war room, its business deadly serious.

Photo of the Week: Hail to the King

10/17/2011 @ 6:11 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

It seems to have been inevitable now, and what other words could there be to say? Casey Stoner has been head & shoulders above the rest of the MotoGP class, a trait that is not too dissimilar from how Jorge Lorenzo, his rival all season long, won the Championship in 2010. The bike to beat this season, being on the Repsol Honda certainly didn’t hurt Stoner’s chances, but he did more on his factory Honda RC212V than the three other very talented riders who had similar equipment. Congratulations to Casey and his HRC team for a well-deserved 2011 World Championship title.

MotoGP: Nail-Biter at the Australian GP

10/15/2011 @ 11:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Despite multiple showers, MotoGP managed to dodge having wet any sessions for the Australian GP. With the weather always unpredictable at Phillip Island, concern on what was above quickly turned to concern on the track, as Jorge Lorenzo suffered a weekend-ending finger injury after a violent tankslapper sent the Spaniard to the tarmac in Turn 12. Out of the Australian GP, the incident all but assures Casey Stoner of clinching the 2011 MotoGP Championship at his home GP, and on his birthday no less.

The bad news continued for Yamaha, as Ben Spies announced that he would not race at Phillip Island as well, too battered and concussed from yesterday’s 167 mph get-off. Also a scratch was Australia’s own Damian Cudlin, who was filling-in for the injured Hector Barbera in the Mapfire Aspar Ducati squad. Cudlin’s second chance at riding a Ducati in a MotoGP race, the Australian also had to sit this race out because of injuries sustained during a T4 high-side on Saturday morning.

With the grid down to just 14 riders, the new front row consisted of Casey Stoner, Marco Simoncelli, and Alvaro Baustista. Lorenzo’s misfortune is an obvious boon to the Rizla Suzuki squad, who have found a new intensity these past few races. With Spie’s, and subsequently Yamaha’s, withdrawal from the Australian GP, Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa also got a boost, moving from the middle of the third row, to the outside of the second row. Teammate, and rival for third in the Championship, Andrea Dovizioso certainly can’t be pleased with that circumstance of that situation.

With all eyes on the picturesque island track, MotoGP fans eagerly awaited to see if a new World Champion would be crowned today. Continue reading to find out more.