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.

Zero/Agni Dominates at TTXGP Practice

05/14/2010 @ 6:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

TTXGP hit American soil here at Infineon Raceway today, with two zero-emission practice sessions under its belt for the day. Although dubbed an historic moment, today’s big winner probably wasn’t the sport of electric motorcycle racing, despite ZeroAgni put on a strong performance during the practice sessions. At the helm of the ZeroAgni bike was AMA privateer Shawn Higbee, who looked the part on the former Team Agni Isle of Man bike. Higbee was carrying tons of corner speed, and was the only electric sportbike rider to lap the course at near sportbike speed, and to really go the distance lap-wise.

Zero/Agni Running Isle of Man Bike at Infineon

05/13/2010 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

As we get ready for TTXGP’s first race in the United States this weekend (and apparently the AMA is racing with them too, who knew?), more details are emerging about what we can expect from Sunday’s race. Our operatives caught Team ZeroAgni and K² out at Thunderhill last week, and saw a modified Zero S (K²’s entry), and a GSX-R piloted by Shawn Higbee taking laps around the track. With the GSX-R clearly not TTXGP legal, we were left to speculate what AMA privateer Higbee would be riding at Infineon, and now we know: it’s the inaugural TTXGP winning bike from Agni Motors (you can see the bike re-painted above, with it’s noticeable “tank-plank” protruding).

Spotted: What Do a Zero S, Suzuki GSX-R, and Shawn Higbee Have in Common?

05/07/2010 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

UPDATE: It looks like Zero is using Team Agni’s GSX-R based electric motorcycle, which won the inaugural TTXGP last year at the Isle of Man. Picture in the comments posted by our very own John Adamo (skadamo).

They were all at Thunderhill Park Raceway yesterday testing for Team ZeroAgni, that’s what. With a Suzuki GSX-R (600 we’re assuming, but impossible to tell) and a modified Zero S that was sporting the K² logo, the team from Santa Cruz was out getting their lean on with some special help from Shawn Higbee, of AMA privateer fame. The assumption from these findings is that Zero Motorcycles was out pacing the K² Zero S, against the sportbike to see how the two compare. We can only assume that the added presence of Buell-tour-de-force Higbee means the AMA rider has been tapped to pilot ZeroAgni’s race bike at Infineon on May 16th.

Zero Not Racing A Mavizen at Infineon TTXGP

05/01/2010 @ 10:35 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

After hearing that Werkstatt Racing and Repair would soon be taking delivery of the first Mavizen to hit US soil, our ears piqued because we were under the impression that Zero Motorcycles must surely have recieved their Mavizens already, after announcing that the team would field two Mavizen bikes in the TTXGP series a while back.

With that apparently not the case, rumors suggested that Zero would be using another non-proprietary chassis at the first round of the TTXGP series at Infineon Raceway. While Zero wasn’t able to comment on their racing plans to us before the weekend, we do have some clues on what the company has up its sleeve from what we know already. More after the jump.

California Rebating $1,500 on Electric Motorcycle Purchases with Clean Vehicle Rebate Project

03/26/2010 @ 6:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

After Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), the Governator took a tour of electric vehicle companies in the Golden State. The new law lops $1,500 off the sticker price off an electric motorcycle for California residence, which in many cases means over 15% off the sticker price.

Taking a look at both Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors, Gov. Schwarzenegger made endorsing comments about the two companies and how they are allowing California to take the lead in the emerging electric vehicle markets.

Zero Motorcycles Grabs Ex-Bueller Abe Askenazi

02/27/2010 @ 12:25 pm, by John Adamo11 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles and other electric manufacturers are rising stars in the motorcycle industry where few American companies have seen large scale success. Late last year one of the most loved to hate American motorcycle companies in history closed it’s doors just as it was starting to win AMA races and claimed an AMA Daytona Superbike Championship.

Years of motorcycle experience hit the streets after Buell closed it’s doors and it appears Zero was able to grab 14 years of it by bringing on Abe Askenazi as Vice President of Engineering. With that much knowledge of motorcycles under his belt, it is a great sign companies like Zero are on the right track. Check out the press release after the break for more details.

Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler Talks (a lot) on The Motorcycle Nation Podcast

01/25/2010 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It was a busy weekend in the A&R office, not only was John Adamo out talking on the EVcast, but our own editor Jensen Beeler took some time this Sunday talk (at length!) to Steve McQueen and the Motorcycle Nation podcast. Jensen and Steve cover everything from how Asphalt & Rubber got its start (spoiler alert: he lost a bet with Warren Buffett), A&R StreetLevel, electric motorcycle startups, American motorcycle companies, and just about anything else that came up in-between.

Listen to the podcast after the jump, subscribe to Motorcycle Nation on iTunes, and listen to Jensen learn what life is like on the other side of the interview table after the jump.

Zero Motorcycles Raises Additional $5.5M in Funding

01/06/2010 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has raised an additional $5.5 million in its Series A funding, bringing it’s total war chest to just over $10.5 million in funding to date. The Invus Groups seems to have lead, if not solely financed, the Series A round, and retains two seats on Zero’s Board of Directors. The funding is reported to “help grow the company”, which in these financial climates could mean anything from paying looming costs to amounting cash for harder days ahead. Whatever the reason, it’s a positive sign for Zero Motorcycles, and an early high-point to their 2010 accomplishments.

Zero Enters TTXGP Racing Series [Updated]

12/02/2009 @ 10:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Zero-Motorcycles-gauge

UPDATE: Neal Saiki comments about using the Mavizen chassis.

Zero Motorcycles has announced their entry into the 2010 TTXGP series, where they will race against Team Agni, and competitors using the CRP Racing and Mavizen platforms. Early reports peg Zero as also using a Mavizen TTX02 platform, essentially a KTM RC8 chassis gutted of its ICE components. Despite using the Mavizen/KTM chassis, the race bike will be powered by Zero’s Z-Force battery packs and motors.

Zero Motorcycles Enters Asian Markets

11/01/2009 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

taiwan-traffic

Zero Motorcycles continues its sales push with an announcement about its entrance into the Asian market by partnering with Singapore-based AMPLE World. AMPLE will distribute Zero’s product line through-out Asia, starting with the Zero X and Zero MX, and later in 2010 taking orders for the Zero S and Zero DS.