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.

2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R – Celebrating 30 Years of Ninja

05/06/2014 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2015-Kawasaki-Ninja-ZX-10R-30th-Anniversary-05

There aren’t too many product lines in the motorcycle industry that can claim a thirty-year heritage, and with the whimper of marketing coming from Kawasaki, you would hardly know that the Ninja has been on the scene for three decades now.

To fix that problem, the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has been released early to help Team Green celebrate the Ninja’s birthday. However, don’t get your hopes too high, the changes for 2015 are only skin-deep, and are comprised of the following:

  • A special 30th Anniversary Ninja ZX-10R model features Lime Green/Pearl Stardust White paint and 30th Anniversary badges on each side of the fairing
  • The standard Ninja ZX-10R model is now painted in Metallic Matte Carbon Gray/Flat Ebony

Recall: 2011-2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R for Oil Leaks

08/13/2012 @ 2:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Kawasaki is recalling 4,170 units of its  ZX-10R motorcycle for an oil leak that may come out from the crankcase. The recall only affects 2011 & 2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R models (ZX1000 JBF / JBFL / KBF / KBFL / JCF / JCFL / KCF / KCFL), and deals with leaking that occurs at the mounting point for the starter motor, which then causes the oil to pool at the top of the crankcase.

Kawasaki’s obvious intent with the recall is to address the possibility that the leak could increase the American market’s dependence on foreign oil, due to the needless amounts of petroleum that would be lost because of the leak. In addition to that hot-button topic, the issue of the oil dripping onto, or in front of, the rear tire is a serious safety concern, which is being addressed by Kawasaki’s recall since it could cause a lack of adhesion.

2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Gets Adaptive Electronic Steering Damper – Welcome to 2004 Says Honda

07/10/2012 @ 12:29 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

For the next model year, Kawasaki is giving a modest update to its flagship model, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Mostly touching up its work from 2011 with a dollop of new paint, the one intriguing feature of the 2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R is its new electronic steering damper, which adjusts the level of steering damping based on how fast the motorcycle is traveling.

Kawasaki developed the damper with the help of a little Swedish company named Öhlins, and is the first manufacturer to use the new suspension from the famed suspension brand, which is sure to be a standard item on the bikes of other OEMs in the coming years — just like the Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) that Big Red debuted circa 2004.

Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

05/06/2012 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Video: What Does 210 MPH at Monza Look Like?

Hitting over 210 mph down the front straight at Monza, Tom Sykes became the fast two-wheeled man in World Superbike history. Setting the speed on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Sykes got a bit of help from Aprilia-man Max Biaggi, as the Brit slip-streamed behind the Italian part of the way down the track. Making the effort on rain tires, Sykes will have to start tomorrow’s races from the second grid position, unable to take advantage of the drying track on slicks, as pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli did.

“When I hit the new record top speed I could feel that the rpm was higher and I knew from the note of the engine that it was more than on previous laps,” said Sykes. “I could not have timed my run to get into Biaggi’s slipstream any better. I had a fantastic run out of Parabolica and I used Max’s draft all the way down the straight. If we had more time we could have come back in and gone with a slick rear or intermediate rear and made the difference, but it wasn’t to be.”

“We did a great last lap on wet tyres and starting from second on the grid is not too bad. It is a front row start and that is the main thing,” the Brit continued. “The competitive side of me for sure is disappointed not to keep the run of Superpole wins going but tomorrow is the one that counts. It’s great for Kawasaki and myself to be on the front row and it is a lot better starting slot for tomorrow. We have good pace in the dry and I do not think the wet will be an issue either. A dry race would be better for everybody.”

Did Kawasaki Just Enter TT Zero Without Anyone Noticing?

04/24/2012 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The Isle of Man TT sent out an interesting press release yesterday, where it cited the largest competitor entry list in the TT Zero’s race history (lawyer’s crafty word choice note: this does not include when in 2009 the race was run under the TTXGP banner and 23 competitors allegedly entered). With 18 competitors signed up for the single-lap electric motorcycle race around the Mountain Course, we can surely expect the field to dwindle, as virtually none of the electric series have been able translate large entry lists into large starting grids, sans maybe the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, which TTXGP is now piggy-backing off of as well.

Announcing the return of MotoCzysz and its two-rider team of Mark Miller and Michael Rutter, the Isle of Man TT also gave a nod to the Mugen entry, which is widely believed to be a front for Honda’s own electric motorcycle racing program. Having 17-time TT race winner, and long-time factory Honda rider John McGuinness at the helm of the Mugen Shinden has only added further credence to the rumor. However getting only one sentence in the press release was perhaps the most intriguing entry to the list of competitors: Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive, which will race the team’s Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike.

Recall: Kawasaki ZX-6R & ZX-10R

02/24/2012 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Kawasaki is recalling certain ZX-6R & ZX-10R motorcycles for a regulator/rectifier that may be improperly charging the motorcycle’s battery. Concerning Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R motorcycles from 2009-2012 and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R motorcycles from 2008-2011, the NHTSA is reporting that 20,544 motorcycles are affect by the recall, all of which were manufactured between December 14, 2007 and July 26, 2011.

Video: 7min 50sec Around The Nürburgring on a Kawasaki

09/06/2011 @ 3:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

One of the relatively newer trends in automobile promotion is the timed-lap video footage around the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. With Porsche, Ferrari, Chevrolet, et al battling for four-wheeled supremacy on one of the most famous road courses in Germany, the Lexus LFA currently stands as the quickest of the productions cars with its 7min 14sec lap time. While the motorcycle industry has been relatively mum to respond to such feats, some intrepid souls have taken arms up for the cause.

In what we’re sure will re-ignite the ongoing car vs. bike debate, Bridgestone test rider Tim Röthig set out with a 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R, a set of of Battalax R10 race tires, and a handful of blitzkrieg riding moves to race against the clock on the German course. With an entirely respectable 7min 50sec lap time, Röthig lapped the 12.8 mile track just over half a minute off the carbon-chassised LFA’s time. Though perhaps not the King of the Nordschleife, with that run Röthig still manages to embarrass a number of drool-worthy cars we’d like to have in our fantasy garage.

Considering the Lexus LFA carries with it a $375,000 price tag and a 500 unit production run, we think the $13,799 Kawasaki ZX-10R is still a pretty good bargain, though riding at the pace Röthig goes makes a feel a bit squeamish while watching the video. Check it out after the jump.

Recall: 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R

07/29/2011 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Recall: 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R

Kawasaki is recalling 2,480 units of its 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R motorcycles for a faulty wiring harness. Affecting both the base and ABS versions of the motorcycle, it is possible that the wiring harness can become pinched between the rear subframe and either the rear fender or the bolt holding the seat cover. If the wiring harness does become pinched, it could damage the harness and cause an electrical short in the system, which could stop the engine suddenly.

Kawasaki Releases More Information on the ZX-10R’s Technical Hold – Sales to Resume Late January

12/29/2010 @ 6:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

The launch of the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has been a rocky one for Team Green. First there was the new that the ZX-10R’s class leading power figures wouldn’t be making it to the American market, as the Japanese manufacturer was honoring new EPA noise standards, which necessitated the Kawasaki ZX-10R getting its wings clipped by 750RPM and approximately 20hp. With this sort of impediment soon to become a common occurrence in the North American markets, the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R is just the first of many bikes likely coming to the Land of the Free with less power than its European counterparts.

The next big blow for the ZX-10R occurred just a few weeks ago when Kawasaki put a worldwide technical hold on the model, and asked for units already sold in the United States to be returned to the manufacturer. Kawasaki was tight-lipped on the actual reason for the technical hold, but rumors that a piston problem was the cause quickly emerged. Now releasing more information about the technical hold, Kawasaki says that its engine issue was not in the pistons, but instead was due to an intake valve seating issue was the cause of the non-recall.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R Tops November Sales in the UK

12/17/2010 @ 11:11 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The British Motorcycle Industry Association is reporting that the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R was the best selling 651cc-1000cc motorcycle on the island nation for the month of November (with a whopping 17 sales!), despite the fact that the 10R has been put on a technical hold by Kawasaki, and not a single machine has made it to a British customer. Leaving aside the obvious problems of counting your chickens before they’ve hatched, and the validity of the MIA’s statistics just generally, it will be interesting to see how this “technical hold” affects Kawasaki’s sales for the superbike-derived ZX-10R as we get closer to the prime sportbike selling season.

Already under some controversy for coming to the United States sans about 20hp, the technical hold on what many believe is a piston wear issue is another blow to Team Green. While A&R‘s ZX-10R launch invite must have gotten lost in the mail (that’s what you get for being one of the first to break Kawasaki’s lowered RPM news), it would appear from one owner’s video that the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is more than capable of ludicrious speed in street form (not that we condone such a thing). Video of a 300+ km/h top speed run after the jump.