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.

Recall: 2012 Zero Motorcycles S & DS

09/21/2012 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has issued a recall for 2012 Zero S & 2012 Zero DS electric motorcycles. Affecting 315 units, the recall is for a motor encoder position signal, which may drift over the course of the motorcycle’s use. If the signal drifts outside of the given parameters, the motor controller may shut off, resulting in the Zero inadvertently losing power.

Obviously, if the motor cuts out power unexpectedly, it could result in a loss of control of the motorcycle, which could lead to a crash for the rider. Zero Motorcycles will notify affected owners, and Zero dealers will reprogram the motorcycle’s motor controller free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin on September 24, 2012.

Concerned owners may contact Zero Motorcycles at 1-888-786-9376, As always the NHTSA is available at 1-888-327-4236 and safercar.gov.

US Senate Ponders Electric Motorcycle Tax Credit Extension

08/07/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A pivotal moment on Capital Hill for the electric motorcycle segment, as the US Senate Finance Committee has green-lit a bill that would extend tax credits for on-road electric vehicles, which include electric motorcycles. The measure now goes to the full body of the US Senate for voting, and if passed, then$2,500 in tax credits will continue to be given on electric vehicle purchases.

“Without an extension of this tax credit for the purchase of electric motorcycles, we could be stifling this innovative new industry in its infancy,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). A testament to the lobbying power of electric motorcycle manufacturers, Sen. Wyden is at least correct in his assessment that the federal and state subsidies available to electric vehicle manufacturers create a tipping-scale advantage for this fledgling industry.

Zero Motorcycles Finds New CEO After 16-Month Search

07/24/2012 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that for over a year now (16 months by our count) that Zero Motorcycles has gone along without a hand on the rudder. Well…that’s not entirely true of course, as we hear that Zero’s COO Karl Wharton has been calling the shots at the Scotts Valley company in the interim, but the duration certainly has been done without a formal leader at the electric motorcycle manufacturer. That all ends today though, as Richard Walker has been appointed as the new CEO of Zero Motorcycles.

Walker comes with references from Hewlett Packard & Control4 (a home automation controller company). At HP, Walker was the VP and General Manager of the Consumer Desktop Business Division, which was responsible for the HP Pavilion, Compaq Presario, and HP Touchsmart product lines. While at Control4, Walker was the Executive Vice President of Product Development and Product Operations, so we are guessing he knows a thing or two about bringing a product to market.

Recall: Weatherproofing Lacking on 2012 Zero Motorcycles

07/12/2012 @ 5:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Things aren’t going so well for Zero Motorcycles, as the electric motorcycle manufacturer has submitted a second recall to the NHTSA, this one for the 2012 model line-up. Recalling 254 units because of insufficient weatherproofing, the motorcycles may be subject to an electrical short inside the battery management system (BMS) during wet conditions. A short-circuit could cause the electric motorcycle to cut power, which could potentially cause an accident (the recall notice from the NHTSA says nothing about possibility of electrocution).

Recall: 2011 & 2012 Zero Motorcycles

07/11/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Zero Motorcycles has submitted a recall with the NHTSA that includes units from its entire line-up, built for the 2011 & 2012 model years. The issue stems from a faulty brake light switch, which may not illuminate the rear brake light when the front brake lever is pressed without strong force.

The recall affects 450 units of Zero Motorcycles’ on-road units, which includes the following machines: 2011-2012 Zero DS, 2011 Zero MXD, 2011-2012 Zero S, 2012 Zero X, 2011 Zero XD, 2011-2012 Zero XU. Because the brake light may not illuminate while the motorcycles are under braking, Zero Motorcycles will recall the affected units starting around July 16th.

Why It’s a Big Deal that Zero Motorcycles Is Coming to an MSF Course Near You

06/21/2012 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

For as much harping as I do about Zero Motorcycles, here comes some news from the Scotts Valley company that even my cold heart can appreciate. For those who don’t know, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has very strict criteria for the motorcycles that its classes can use during the hands-on portion of their curriculum. The various restrictions include things like seat height, displacement, weight, power, and so forth. Additionally, the classes concern themselves with the cost of the bikes themselves, the cost of maintaining the machines, and the cost of the replacement parts, which invariably will be needed as new riders cut their teeth on two-wheeled transportation.

Getting the nod from the MSF that the Zero XU can be used for its rider courses, Zero Motorcycles’ urban commuter is the first electric motorcycle to be certified for use in the popular rider training program. Not only a boon to the California-based company, the news is a step-forward for the MSF, as the clutchless, gear-less, noiseless, and effortless motorcycle is the ideal platform for a new rider to learn how to safely ride a motorcycle. Best of all though, the news bodes well in training soon-to-be motorcyclists more effectively, as well as increasing the likelihood of attracting otherwise disinterested riders into the world of motorcycles.

Lies, Damned Lies, & The MIC’s Electric Range Estimates

06/13/2012 @ 5:58 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Rewind a few years ago in the electric segment of the motorcycle industry, and you found a landscape where manufacturers published wildly inaccurate numbers relating to speed, range, and power. The situation of over-promising and under-delivering was so bad, virtually any figure quoted, whether it was made with the best or worst intentions, was immediately called into question. The issue of course stemmed from the fact that OEMs were unable to deliver motorcycles with specifications that were remotely acceptable to a savvy motorcycle market. 20 mile ranges? 15hp available continuously? 60 mph top speeds if you’re downhill, tucked in, have a tailwind, and add five to the speedo’s reading? Yup, those were the good old days.

As the industry matured, so did our expectations, and it looked like some sanity was going to come to fruition as the MIC began pooling interest on developing a standard to rate the various performance specifications of electric motorcycles. An industry group setup to look after the best interests of the OEMs and other business in the motorcycle industry, you only need to follow the cash to see whose best interests are really being served by this group.

So, it should not surprise us then that the latest “standard” from the MIC, which establishes criterion on how the highway mileage of an electric motorcycle should be rated, is doing a downright scandelous disservice to consumers and the industry itself, as the proposed standard massively overrates the highway range of electric motorcycles.

Zero Is Working on a Brammo-Killer for 2013

04/20/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The nearly two-year wait for the Brammo Empulse is nearly over, as the Ashland-based company is set to debut the Brammo Empulse and Brammo Empulse R in Los Angeles (and online) May 8th. It should come as no surprise then that the A&R Bothan spy network is picking up on murmurings from Zero Motorcycles, and that the Californian company is working on an Empulse-killer for the 2013 model year.

Said to be building a proper electric sport bike, as well as suitable electric dirt bike package, Zero is seemingly finally on the verge of sunsetting its current motorcycle designs for more mature motorcycle offerings, and is putting companies like Brammo and BRD squarely in its sights.

Up-Close with the 2012 Zero S ZF9

03/27/2012 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

While still maintaining the product line’s general aesthetic from its previous generations, Zero Motorcycles has refined and polished its electric motorcycles for 2012. This is primarily due to the Zero’s limited amount of time to further develop its 2011 models for the 2012 model year (roughly nine months says the Californian company), but still Zero has been able to revise most of the Zero S’s components to warrant this year’s models to be visually and functionally set apart from its predecessors.

This bodes well for Zero Motorcycles, because bluntly, the startup has had extremely unrefined and unpolished motorcycles from its inception to the 2011 model year (if you heard otherwise from somewhere else, they were trying to sell you something). Walking up to the 2012 Zero S, it is immediately clear that the electric motorcycle has been touched by people who understand motorcycles. Gone are the on/off switches marked in Sharpie (I wish I was making this up), though you’d be hard-pressed to find top-shelf components on the Zero line. This makes for a mixed response regarding the bike, from a visual perspective.

Living Electric: A Series on Living with Electric Motorcycles

02/22/2012 @ 12:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

I wanted to give our readers a heads-up that we have been working on a new article series that will feature electric motorcycles. A space has been maturing at a rapid pace, we have already seen several manufacturers come out with electric motorcycles available for consumers, with several more companies coming closer to market as well.

While early-adopters have been touting the benefits of electrics for some time now, the infancy of this market has many riders remaining on the fence about the gas vs. electric debate. While we here at Asphalt & Rubber believe the future of motorcycling is through electric motorcycles, we wanted to take an in-depth look at this budding sector, and ground some of the debate that has been going on in the industry with some actual experience.