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.

Dorna & Wayne Rainey Looking to Develop American Racing

08/12/2014 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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There has been so much smoke lately about Dorna doing something in the American market for road racing, that surely there must be some fire. Our sources, and the consensus in the MotoGP paddock is that Carmelo Ezpeleta has his eyes on a North American Championship, of sorts — a move designed to side-step issues with DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing.

With the France family perhaps responsible single-handedly destroying American interest in motorcycle racing, it should not be too surprising that the often unliked entity that is Dorna Sport, is being hailed as a possible savior of the sport in the United States. Whatever you think about those two entities, it is clear that something has to give.

Talking to Fox Sports 1, Ezpeleta tipped his hand on what he envisioned for the US market, saying that he has been talking to “relevant people” to create a program that will develop American riders for the Grand Prix Championship. Helping him spearhead that plan is none other than a certain Mr. Wayne Rainey.

CHP Drops Lane-Splitting Guidelines from Website

07/21/2014 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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The California Highway Patrol has removed its guidelines for lane-splitting in the Golden State on the CHP website, after receiving a complaint from a Sacramento citizen. Though lane-splitting has been a long-time established practice for motorcyclists in California, the act is poorly defined and regulated.

Since California has no provision directly outlawing the practice, motorcyclists are free to lane-split, lane-share, and filter so long as their actions fit under the California Vehicle Code’s catchall provision of “safe and prudent” operation of a motor vehicle. What does that mean? No one really knows.

In an effort to define what it viewed as safe and prudent, the CHP released last February a list of guidelines for motorcyclists to follow while lane-splitting in the Golden State. The guidelines were not law in the de jure sense of the word, but without any other comment from a government entity, they became the de facto rules of the road, which leads us to today.

No TV or Live Stream for AMA Pro Racing at Laguna Seca

07/09/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Near the start of the 2013 AMA Pro Road Racing season, DMG had yet to announce a TV package for America’s premier motorcycle road racing series.

The issue was of great concern to riders and teams, who had made sponsorship commitments, with TV exposure being an integral piece of consideration involved in those contracts. Luckily at the last-minute, a TV package was announced, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Fast-forward to the 2013 Laguna Seca round, and it became apparent that not all of the AMA Pro Road Racing events would be on TV, namely the AMA’s stop at Laguna Seca, which was being held with the now Dorna-control Superbike World Championship. Again the news was a shock, and sent the AMA Pro Racing paddock into a fervor.

Thanfully again a remedy was found at the last minute — albeit, an imperfect one — with a free online live stream being offered to two-wheel racing fans.

Moving into the 2014 season, once again it was revealed that AMA Pro Road Racing would see a downgrade in its exposure levels, as no TV contract would be produced for the season. Instead, the 2014 races would be broadcast solely on the FansChoice.tv website for free.

Laguna Seca has once again proved to be the stickler though, as DMG announced this week that the only AMA round west of The Rockies would not even be shown on the company’s streaming website. The reactions are predictable.

Dorna Eyeing a North American Championship?

06/23/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

spanish-inquisition

The discourse in AMA paddock is palpable. From 2013’s surprise revelation that AMA Pro Road Racing’s TV package would not cover all the events, to 2014’s complete lack of television coverage, there have been serious questions raised about DMG’s ability to market the premier road racing series in the United States.

A constantly dwindling calendar of events has caused many to wonder about DMG’s ability to organize race weekends, as this year’s provisional five-event calendar was marked with the absence of any races west of The Rockies (the motorcycle industry’s sweet spot), a move that would cause John Ulrich of Roadracing World to start his own three-event “Superbike Shootout” series (Laguna Seca would later be added to the AMA calendar as a sixth event).

This year was also marked by an exodus of top-level teams (Michael Jordan Motorsports and Erik Buell Racing), as well as marquee sponsors (The Army National Guard and GEICO).

Just recently torrential rain, a field of Superbikes on slicks, and not a red flag in sight caused a dust-up just a few weeks ago at Road America, resulting in a modest investment in publication ink regarding the officiating at AMA Pro Road Racing events, especially in regards to rider safety.

American road racing has long been in decline, but never before has the frustration with the series been so evident across the series’ stakeholders of riders, teams, sponsors, fans, and journalists. The malcontent is evident whenever the subject is broached.

No one can say for certain what form American road racing will take for the 2015 season, but things do not seem to be taking a positive direction with DMG’s ownership of AMA Pro Racing.

American road racing is in serious danger of fracturing if the Superbike Shootout continues, and it could legitimately collapse altogether if DMG continues operating the way it has to date. As if that wasn’t enough, a third option is waiting in the wings: Dorna.

Motorcycle Fatalities Dropped 7% for 2013

05/08/2014 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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According to a preliminary report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), motorcycle fatalities dropped 7% for 2013. The drop is the second time in five years that fatalities on a motorcycle have decreased (the last drop was in 2009), with 4,610 motorcyclists dying last year, compared to the 4,957 in 2012.

The report by the GHSA is based off the first nine months of 2013, and shows that fatalities dropped in 35 states (along with the District of Columbia), increased in 13 states, and remained the same in 2 states.

EPA Admits Ethanol Damages Engines

04/22/2014 @ 10:31 am, by Bryan Delohery13 COMMENTS

corn-field

Since Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as a means to “combat our growing energy problems” and “reduce our independence on oil”, the debate over how safe ethanol additives really are has raged on.

As you may know, the Act lead the introduction of E10 (gasoline with 10% ethanol), which vehicle owners have been claiming causes serious damage to engines, such as damaged catalytic converters, improper combustion, and component deterioration.

While proponents of ethanol claim that it is a cleaner burning, higher octane fuel source that is renewable, opponents feel that the mixture of gasoline and ethanol is causing more problems than it is solving. This week marks a victory for the latter camp, as the EPA has now publicly confirmed that ethanol does cause serious damage the engines.

Girl’z MotoCamp – For Ladies Only

04/04/2014 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

girlz-motocamp-shelina-moreda

Motorcycles are a good time out. If you are reading Asphalt & Rubber, then you already know this simple truth. So with such a basic offering, why do we struggle to bring more people into this sport?

We have already seen the FIM’s recent efforts to encourage and foster female road racers at the international level, but what are we doing at the domestic level?

How are we encouraging this sport and this industry to the other 50% of the American population, especially when we don’t have a robust female community that uses two-wheels for their urban commute?

Well recently one such answer to that question came in the form of the girls-only Girl’z MotoCamp put on by our friend Shelina Moreda.

An FIM and AMA Pro Racing rider, Moreda is no stranger to racing in a man’s world, and she is well aware of the limited number of entry points for ladies into motorcycling  — you may have seen that she recently penned a story on A&R about teaching at the FIM girls camp in Spain, just a few months ago.

AMA Pro Road Racing Will Race at Laguna Seca with WSBK

03/13/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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When AMA Pro Road Racing released its 2014 calendar, there were no tracks out west, and there were only five race weekends schedule. The folks at DMG hinted a possible sixth round though, with Laguna Seca heavily rumored to be venue.

When Mid-Ohio reshuffled its schedule to accommodate AMA Pro Racing’s desire to race at Laguna Seca on the World Superbike weekend, it seemed like we were only moments away from an update to the provisional calendar. And then nothing happened.

Since then we’ve see John Ulrich put together his still unnamed “Triple Crown” event, which will bring three races, for AMA riders, west of the Mississippi. News of a complete lack of a TV deal has hit the AMA paddock shores, as even the Daytona 200 will be without a TV contract for 2014.

But, today we do have some good news for American motorcycle race fans: AMA Pro Road Racing will compete as the support class for the World Superbike stop at Laguna Seca, this coming July 11th-13th.

Watch Benny Solis and His Crew Practice Their Pit Stops

03/12/2014 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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You don’t need a good excuse to watch a motorcycle pit crew practice their pit stop maneuvers, but the upcoming Daytona 200 certainly helps.

Common place in the four-wheeled realm, the pit stop is still a bit of a novelty in two-wheeled racing. Outside of the Endurance World Championship and Isle of Man TT, you would be hard pressed to see a team refuel and change tires on a bike mid-race.

Of course at Phillip Island last year, MotoGP riders had to try their hand at a pit stop. Though the GP riders had a simpler go of things than most, only having to switch bikes instead of servicing one.

Even with that relatively easy task, that Australian pit lane was like armageddon for the MotoGP paddock — so much so, photographers were banned from entering pit lane for that race, and we’ll say nothing about Marc Marquez’s snafu.

So with that all said, enjoy our yearly “pit stop practice video” for the Daytona 200. This year, Benny Solis and his crew show us how it’s done. Looking good boys.

US Senators Want to Defund Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

03/10/2014 @ 2:55 am, by Aakash Desai6 COMMENTS

dont-tread-on-me-motorcycle

Take heart my two-wheel riding cohort: four courageous, topical, and freedom-loving senators are fighting for your right not to be discriminated against based on the number of wheels between your knees.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 5th aims to prohibit the use of federal funding to programs that seek to setup “motorcycle-only checkpoints.”

The aptly named, “Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act,” would restrict the Secretary of Transportation from granting funds to government entities that want to make sure you and your passenger have on a helmet, amongst other things.