A Review of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

Since 1999, Yamaha has sold over 153,000 YZF-R6 supersport motorcycles, and for the 2017 model year the Japanese manufacturer adds a new chapter to that 19-year history. Big Blue calls the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 a fourth generation motorcycle, but for those paying attention, it is obvious that Yamaha has merely taken its class-leading 600cc sport bike, made some refinements to the machine, and added an electronics package to the mix. While there is disappointment that Yamaha didn’t bring as revolutionary of a debut to the YZF-R6 as it did just recently with the YZF-R1 superbike, we should state quite clearly that the Japanese brand continues its dominance in the 600cc sport bike realm with this most-recent addition to its lineup.

The Honda Africa Twin Gets Rally Raid Ready

When it comes to adventure-tourers that can actually go off-road, the Honda Africa Twin easily rises to the top of the list. Couple that to Honda’s pursuits in the Dakar Rally and other rally raid events, and its easy to see where the Honda Africa Twin Rally could be born. A special model being built by Italy’s Honda importer that was unveiled at this year’s Motodays show, the Africa Twin Rally won’t be hitting other markets any time soon (read: never), though it shows a machine that many ADV riders have been clamoring for, since the first shots of the Honda CRF450 Rally hit the internet. The Honda Africa Twin Rally loses roughly 15 pounds over its OEM predecessor, mostly by using carbon fiber and a minimalist LED headlight assembly. Yes, a roadbook is an optional accessory, for when you find yourself in the middle of The Dakar.

Yes, Winter Traction Tires Exist for Motorcycles

If you are in a region that gets all four of the seasons, you are likely counting down the days to the coming snow-thaw. As such, this article might be coming to you a little late for this season, but for next winter you should consider mounting some winter traction tires to your motorcycle. Yes, such things exist. To be fair, I too was unaware that you could get a motorcycle tire that met the criteria from the DOT, in order for it to carry the “mountain/snowflake” symbol, but apparently Turkish tire-maker Anlas has such tires in its line-up. That’s right, for regions of the world that require special tires during the snowy months, there is a tire out there to keep you riding all-season.

SWM Motorcycles Targets 6,000 Units in 2017

You probably haven’t heard of SWM Motorcycles, the off-road brand that carries on where Husqvarna left off in Italy. Built from the parts that KTM didn’t want when it bought the Swedish brand in 2013, SWM Motorcycles is based outside of Milan, Italy and produces a variety of off-road focused machines using pre-BMW Husqvarna engine designs. Many members of the company’s team are former Husqvarna employees, including the company’s CEO, Ampelio Macchi – all of whom were left out in the cold when the German brand sold Husqvarna to KTM. But, with a new production facility, support from the local government and worker unions, along with Chinese financing (from the Shineray Group), SWM Motorcycles has taken on a new life with a promising future.

How Dorna Is Ending the Spanish Armada in MotoGP

It is terribly fashionable in some circles to regard Dorna as a blight on the face of motorcycle racing. Their alleged crimes are both heinous and manifold. They have dumbed down the sport by exerting an ever tighter grip over the technical regulations. They killed off the two-strokes in favor of four-strokes. They have aggressively pursued copyright and trademark claims, at the cost of broadening the appeal of the sport. They have been relentless in their pursuit of financial gain over the spirit of the sport. They have meddled in the sport to favor one rider, or one nationality over the rest. Most of these complaints are either baseless, or an expression of anger at how the sport has changed over the years.

The 2017 Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP Race Bike Debuts

The final factory MotoGP to debut its 2017 MotoGP Championship race bike, Aprilia has finally debuted the 2017 Aprilia RS-GP that Aleix Espargaro and Sam Lowes will campaign this year. The Italian outfit continues to make quiet strides in its development with the RS-GP, though the efforts from Suzuki and KTM tend to dominate the headlines. For the 2017 season, Aprilia looks ready to take another step forward, especially with Aleix Espargaro at the helm. The biggest task for the 2017 will be to bring more horsepower to the Aprilia RS-GP. The machine reportedly handles quite well, though that is often an item of praise that changes as the power increases.

The Subtle Big Deal That Is Ducati Premier Financing

Ducati released a new financing program this week, maybe you saw the announcement already. If you even bothered to read one of the copy/paste jobs on this announcement, you probably got three sentences into it, and then realized you just lost a minute or two of your life, which you will never get back. It is hard to make this topic sexy, and motorcycle journalists are lazy creatures (myself included)…which is why you probably just saw the press release reprinted on a website, with some Ducati advertising placed next to it, just for good measure. The Ducati Premier Financing program is a big deal though, just not in a way that is immediately sexy to the casual motorcycle buyer.

Washington Lane-Splitting Bill Passes State Senate

Legalizing lane-splitting in Washington State just got a step closer to reality, as the State Senate of the Washington State Legislature has passed a bill that would allow lane-splitting under very specific circumstances. Senate Bill 5378 (SB 5378) would allow lane-splitting only during slow traffic conditions – up to 10mph faster than the flow of traffic, but no faster than 25 mph – and only on numbered highways that have a median and multiple lanes of traffic in each direction. The bill passed the senate with 32 “yea” votes from both Republicans and Democrats, while the 17 “nay” votes came solely from Democrat members.

Indian Working on an Electric Motorcycle?

Polaris Industries says it is working on a new electric motorcycle, to replace the now discontinued Victory Empulse TT model that was scrapped when the Minnesota company closed the doors to the Victory brand earlier this year. According to a report from Reuters, the new electric motorcycle will be released under the Indian Motorcycle brand name, and will be focused towards riders who ride for pleasure, rather than those who commute or do long-distance trips. The report says that Polaris is targeting a 120 to 140 mile range – almost double of what was available from the Empulse TT – from this new electric motorcycle model, when ridden at an aggressive pace.

Indian’s Flat Track Racer Now Available to Mere Mortals

When the Indian Scout FTR750 flat track race bike debuted, our comments section was filled with enthusiasts screaming for a production version of the water-cooled 750cc machine. Well my friends, your prayers have been answered…in part. Indian is making the Scout FTR750 available to anyone who has the coin to spend, with a couple caveats: 1) you will need to pony up $50,000 in order to purchas the bike, and 2) it will be a race-only model. Still, the news should be exciting for privateer flat track racers who are keen to use Indian’s very trick racing package, which looks to be far more purpose-built than Harley-Davidson’s Street 750 based offering.

Video: Kawasaki at the Isle of Man TT

07/24/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Kawasaki had a good outing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, scoring a win in the Sidecar class (Dave Molyneux), a podium in the Superstock class (Dean Harrison), and a clean sweep of the Lightweight TT (Dean Harrison, James Hillier, and James Cowton).

Team Green’s results may not displace the dominance by Honda at the Isle of Man, though Big Red’s TT reign is certainly under fire, as BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are all looking for a piece of the Manx pie.

Recapping its fortnight at the Isle of Man TT, Kawasaki has put together a nice video about its riders. We have roughly a year to wait until the next TT, so we will have to rely on videos like these to manage our appetite until then.

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old?

06/17/2014 @ 3:18 pm, by Richard Mushet2 COMMENTS

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With Michael Dunlop’s second successive year taking the lion’s share of silverware at the TT, a changing of the guard appears to be taking place as a new generation of riders lay claim to the podium places on the famous Mountain Course.

Debut victories by James Hillier and Dean Harrison, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and John McGuinness’ pair of solitary trips to the top step of the podium in the same years appear to confirm this.

Before any cries of ageism are thrown in my direction, the age of a rider bears no relation to whether they belong in the old or new guard. Experience around the course is what separates the old from the new.

With over 200 apexes to learn and countless lumps, bumps and cambers to memorise, it’s believed by many who have raced it, that the Mountain course takes years to truly learn, even with the advent of HD-quality on-board videos to study.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Mugello

06/12/2014 @ 3:49 pm, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

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When the calendar for the 2014 MotoGP season was announced one race immediately jumped out, Mugello.

This would probably not be for the reason that everyone would assume, after all Mugello is one of the most popular races on the calendar. It stood out as it was bang in the middle of the Isle of Man TT races.

While I really enjoy photographing MotoGP, my passion is, and always will be, the Isle of Man TT. In fact had it been any race other than Mugello, I may have decided to stay at home. But it wasn’t, so the decision was made, after all, how could I shoot a MotoGP season and not go to Mugello?

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante

06/10/2014 @ 2:52 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

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Now the dust has begun to settle on this year’s Tourist Trophy, the obvious headlines are taking up most of the page space in the motorcycle press. Michael Dunlop’s quadruple wins, John McGuinness’ hand injury issues, Dave Molyneux’s 17th victory, and any potential speculation and hearsay that they believe print-worthy dominates the news.

After an interrupted week of practice, due to weather and on-course incidents, Michael Dunlop laid his intentions down for all to see by breaking McGuinness’ long-standing lap record on the first two laps of the race at 131.730mph and 131.810mph.

Riding the Superbike-spec BMW S1000RR that was deemed to be the unknown element in Dunlop’s fortnight-long campaign at the TT, Michael broke his rivals and silenced the doubters before he had even completed his first pit stop. These laps bettered the lap record that had stood since John McGuinness set the marker of 131.671 mph during the 2013 Senior race.

While much of the focus was on Michael’s cruise to victory over Guy Martin and Connor Cummins, Bruce Anstey was wrestling his way to the fastest-ever lap of the Mountain Course by bettering Dunlop’s freshly-set lap record by over three seconds.

Teaser: Baron von Grumble Goes to the Isle of Man TT

06/09/2014 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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My sleep schedule is almost back to normal, so that must mean that Asphalt & Rubber has just about wrapped up our 2014 Isle of Man TT coverage. After a great fortnight of TT racing, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our favorite YouTube personality, Baron von Grumble, was able to witness the Isle of Man TT in person as well, him with his video cameras in tow.

You might remember The Baron from his misadventures off-roading on a Suzuki GXR-1000 a couple years ago. Since then, His Lordship has become one of motorcycling’s most popular video bloggers — I wonder how many marketing executives in the motorcycles business could name the industry’s top five blogs and YouTube channels? Clearly Dainese and AGV can, since they helped bring Von Grumble to the Rock. Good on them.

The plan is for more videos from the Isle of Man TT trip to come forth from Von Grumble. If they are anything like this teaser (after the jump), then we are in for a real treat. I’ve played this probably 10 times so far. Nice work fella!

Michael Dunlop Wins Joey Dunlop TT Championship, Again

06/09/2014 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Winning four of the five major solo races, Michael Dunlop easily took the Joey Dunlop TT Championship this year, and further solidified his supremacy at the Isle of Man TT. Last year’s winner as well, many regard Michael Dunlop as having taken over John McGuinness’ place as King of the Mountain.

McPint lovers might take issue with that statement, seeing how McGuinness came to the 2014 IOMTT with a wrist injury, and thus was not at the top of his game. Whoever you pick though, there can be no denying that Michael Dunlop is on a tear, especially when paired with the BMW S1000RR.

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge with Richard Mushet

06/08/2014 @ 5:13 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

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For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.

After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.

From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.

For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.

The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge & Ballacrye with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2014 @ 4:52 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge & Ballacrye with Tony Goldsmith

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The day dawned bright and sunny for the final day of racing at TT 2014. The choice of location for the Lightweight TT was the legendary jump at Ballaugh Bridge, where I found fellow Asphalt & Rubber photographer Richard Mushet enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Once the Lightweight race was finished I jumped into the car and headed a mile or so down the road to the Ballacrye jump for the Senior TT.

I am told that on a superbike the riders take the jump flat out in 5th gear which would be in the region of 160mph. To see a superbike leap through the air at that speed only a few feet away is mind blowing.

After witnessing that, and 3 of the 6 laps Senior TT laps, I packed up and drove back to Douglas to make it just in time for the final podium celebrations of TT 2014.

IOMTT: Union Mills & Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2014 @ 3:12 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Union Mills & Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

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I decided prior to the start of the second sidecar race that I wanted to get to the grandstand for the podium. Photographing a TT podium does place some restrictions on where to shoot the race, while still enabling you to get away.

After a bit of deliberation I decided on the bridge at Union Mills. This is a popular spot, particularly for the solos, as you can catch them leaned over with the back wheel popping off the ground as they go over the bridge.

It can also be good for the sidecars, as the front runners just take off as they hit the bridge. If you time it right you can catch them with all 3 wheels off the ground.

Once the leaders had gone through on the final lap, it was time to jump in the car and head to the grandstand to get the podium shots.

IOMTT: Kirk Michael with Richard Mushet

06/07/2014 @ 11:02 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: Kirk Michael with Richard Mushet

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Due to the weather, another postponed race yesterday (Wednesday), meant that I had the opportunity to shoot the second sidecar race and a couple of practice sessions from another location.

Looking for a place I hadn’t been to before, I thought that the backdrop of Kirkmichael village would make for a dramatic image that really shows off the spectacle of the Mountain course.

Accelerating through the village, between rows of houses only a yards away from the curb, the exhaust notes reverberate down the road, giving any spectators an aural treat that will raise the hairs on the back of their neck and arms.

A fairly straightforward place to shoot from, this public viewing point gave me a chance to play around with different ways to frame the riders and really try to convey the experience of watching the TT from the roadside.