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.

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.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

2012 Brammo Empulse R – Was It Worth the Wait?

05/09/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Launching last night in downtown Los Angeles, the 2012 Brammo Empulse R & 2013 Brammo Empulse broke their cover and officially debuted. Right off the bat from the designations, you can see that Brammo intends for the Empulse R to be a 2012 model, with the base model Emuplse coming out next year (more on that further down). As we expected, the Brammo Empulse R got quite the price bump after its 22-month marination, and will be $18,995 MSRP. Meanwhile when the Brammo Empulse becomes available next year, it will have a slightly more palatable $16,995 price tag.

Featuring a six-speed gearbox the Brammo Empulse R comes with a 54hp motor, 10.2 kWh battery pack (9.31 kWh nominal), and a bevy of brand-name components like Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks, a Sachs rear shock, and a few carbon pieces (read the full technical specifications here). Getting a revised look, the basic Empulse design is still there with some subtle changes (some for the better, some of the worse, in our humble opinion). Touting 56 highway miles and 120 city miles, the Empulse is going to suffer from the same range-limiting use that other electric bikes on the market are facing, though Brammo has thought to include J1772 Level 2 capability on the bike, which should make for some more rapid charges away from the mothership. We like that.

Photos: One Crashed 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/06/2012 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Retaining the same basic shape as last year’s bike, the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR is still a looker, due mainly to its very “Iconic” livery scheme. Keeping things an Oregonian affair, the addition of Portland-based Icon as a sponsor to the Brammo racing effort bodes well for the team, and brings more validity to the budding electric motorcycle racing scene. It’s just a shame the color scheme lasted all of a few hours for Team Icon Brammo at Sears Point Raceway this weekend.

Crashing in yesterday’s first TTXGP practice session, Steve Atlas was diagnosed with six fractured vertebrae. With a thrashed bike, the Brammo squad managed to cobble together the race bike again, and thanks to its busy black & white design, one could barely see the black gaffer tape and white electrical tape that was keeping things together. Now with 130 hp at the rear wheel, as well as 35 lbs less poundage on its bulk, the revised Empulse RR clearly has a problem with people named Steve, as the electric motorcycle once again bucked a rider off, also again in Turn 7 at Sears Point.

Highsiding Steve Rapp during Saturday’s qualifying session, it is not clear what caused the rear wheel of the Empulse RR to spool up, as Rapp said he was still straight up and down with the bike when he went airborn. With fluid dripping from the bike afterwards, and Rapp stopping a lap earlier or two earlier because of the bike cutting out, the Brammo team is surely still pouring over the data as we type. That effort will do little to change the fact that Rapp has likely broken his hand from the incident, and will be out of racing the rest of the weekend, much to the chagrin to the Attack Performance AMA Superbike team, which Rapp took to a sixth place finish that same day in Superbike Race 1.

As you can see from the photos after the jump, the damage does not look too extensive to the bike — though, our assessment is only skin deep. Two riders, two highsides, one corner…no bueno. Surely not the result the Ashland-based crew wanted before it launches the street-bike version of the Brammo Empulse on Tuesday next week, it’s not clear if Brammo will try and race tomorrow, or if they even can race sans a healthy rider who lapped during Saturday’s qualifying.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

Up-Close with the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/04/2012 @ 11:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brammo is back for electric motorcycle racing in the North American TTXGP series, as the Ashland-based company is set to defend it’s #1 plate this year with Steve Atlas on board ( Shelina Moreda is slated to join the team later in the season). Gaining a title sponsorship from Icon, Brammo arrived at Infineon Raceway Sears Point with some edgy graphics on the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR. Dropping roughly 35 lbs in weight, and gaining roughly 50hp over the bike they ran at last year’s season opener, Brammo is making most of those gains in its revised motor and power inverter for the newest Empulse RR.

The chassis is noticeably the same to last year’s bike, and sans some minor improvements here and there, the bike is technically very similar to last year’s lap-record setter. Unlike the Brammo Empulse R that will debut Tuesday next week, the Empulse RR does not use the six-speed IET gearbox. Brammo’s Brian Wismann explained to A&R that the high-voltage system that the Empulse RR uses does not benefit as much from the IET gearbox as the lower voltage street bike does, and thus hasn’t made it to the race bike…yet.

With these pictures taken just a couple hours before Steve Atlas had a highside crash at Sears Point, we imagine the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR doesn’t look as good as when we last saw it. Atlas took a pretty big hit, but is said to be ok (UPDATE: Atlas has six fractured vertebrae, and will be out for the weekend). The bike on the other hand…well, hopefully the Brammo crew can get it ready in time for this weekend’s two TTXGP races in wine country. More drool material after the jump.

Sticker Shock: Brammo Empulse R Priced at $20,000?

05/03/2012 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A Bothan spy just dropped off a note in the A&R inbox saying that the soon-to-be-released and recently-spotted Brammo Empulse R is to come with quite the price tag. Said to be priced just shy of $20,000, the R-spec Empulse would be commanding a $6,000 premium over the $14,000 MSRP that was quoted when the Brammo Empulse first hit the newswires 22 months ago. Considering the $13,995 price tag offered by the Zero S ZF9, the $20,000 figure being bantered about sounds very high to our ears, at least initially.

Spy Photos: Brammo Empulse R Caught in the Wild

05/01/2012 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Next week we will get to see the Brammo Empulse R officially and publicly unveiled in Los Angeles, but the eagle-eyed lens of Brenda Priddy & Co. and the pages of AutoMoto have caught the electric motorcycle during a movie shoot for its upcoming launch. With an “R” emblazoned on the side, you can be sure this Empulse R and not the base model Empulse we have looked at for the past 22 months, though the two bikes seem to share a bit of similarity.

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.

2012 Brammo Empulse R Technical Specifications Revealed

04/18/2012 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Right on schedule, Brammo has released the technical specifications of the Brammo Empulse & Brammo Empulse R electric street bikes. Featuring a 54hp water-cooled Permanent Magnet AC (PMAC) motor, the Empulse will come with a 10 kWh (9.3 kWh nominal) battery pack, and of course the Oregonian company’s six-speed gearbox. With fully-adjustable Marzoochi front forks, a fully-adjustable Sachs rear shock, Brembo brakes, & Marchesini wheels, Brammo has included some nice kit on the Empulse, though the company hasn’t tipped off to what the “R” designation will mean for consumers.

Our best guess is the Brammo Empulse will be a naked version that is very similar to the Empulse prototype we’ve seen from day one, with some cosmetic updates of course, while the Brammo Empulse R will be a fully-faired sport bike that strikes a similar line to the Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike.

Asphalt & Rubber‘s Bothan spies report that the gearbox works incredibly well, allowing the Empulse to operate just like a standard street bike with shifting and gearing control. There’s still some debate as to whether electrics need trasmissions, let alone close-ratio six-speed transmissions, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.

Still not releasing any images of the new Empulse and Empulse R, Brammo will be taking the wraps off its latest bike on May 8th at an event to be held in Los Angeles. The unveiling will also be live-streamed on the web as well. Click after the jump for the full technical specifications of the 2012 Brammo Empulse R.