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.

Italian Court Approves MV Agusta Debt Restructuring Plan

03/24/2017 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The future of MV Agusta has hinged on a crucial court decision for the past five months now – one that would allow the Italian motorcycle brand to restructure its debt, thus reducing its financial liabilities and freeing up a greater portion of its cash flow for continued production.

News comes today from Varese, Italy that a local court has approved MV Agusta’s new business plan, and allowed the motorcycle manufacturer to restructure its debts with creditors and suppliers.

This is positive news for MV Agusta, and it sets in motion a number of possibilities for the Italian brand, namely closing its investment deal with Black Ocean, an Anglo-Russian private equity firm.

One New MV Agusta Debuting in 2017, Two in 2018

03/13/2017 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

It has been a long road for MV Agusta, over the past few years. However, the Italian brand seems ready to finally move on from its financial troubles, once we see its debt restructured in the Italian courts, and the investment secured from Black Ocean.

MV Agusta latest issues, which concern cash flow difficulties, seem to be balancing out as well, though the effect on the company’s new model lineup has been noticeable, with a disappointing lack of new machines to show at the 2016 EICMA show.

As such for the 2017 edition of the trade show, we should have measured expectations, with Giovanni Castiglioni saying in an interview with MCN that only one new model will debut later this year, and only two new bikes will be shown in 2018.

What It Really Means for Harley-Davidson Now That Trump Has Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

03/07/2017 @ 9:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

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The Subtle Big Deal That Is Ducati Premier Financing

03/02/2017 @ 7:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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.

In realities, Ducati Premier Financing is not that different from the BMW 3asy Ride financing program, in that it is a finance plan that is not too dissimilar from a leasing program, and it is aimed at making the monthly payment on a motorcycle incredibly affordable*.

Caution: Radioactive Material

03/02/2017 @ 10:02 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The warning label for radioactive substances (technically, the warning label for ionizing radiation) was born in 1946, at the UC Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, and the now iconic symbol began life a bit different from how we know it today, originally colored with a very hip magenta "trefoil" on a blue background.

The shape of the three-bladed trefoil is quite specific and purposeful - drawn with a central circle of radius R, an internal radius of 1.5R, and an external radius of 5R for the blades, which are separated from each other by 60° of empty space.

It's shape is tightly defined because it is to noticeably and clearly warn you against the dangers of ionizing radiation, which at their very worst would cook you instantly like an egg, or in less worse conditions, still potentially cause life-changing mutations to your cells and DNA.

The yellow and black trefoil is supposed to be a literal warning (the IAEA and ISO adopted this new coloring in 2007) of course, but labeling something radioactive carries with it a metaphorical weight as well. And, it too demands a cautious interaction from the user.

In the motorcycle industry, we have our fair share of radioactive elements, though few come with a warning label. On Episode 45 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you may have heard me refer to a motorcycle company as being radioactive. I thought it was worth spending some words on what that means in that context.

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Report Says Sport Bike Sales in USA Dropped 4.7%

02/27/2017 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

The data continues to support the notion that sport bike sales are contracting, with Powersports Business releasing a report that sport bike sales dropped by 4.7% over a 12-month period that ended in October 2016.

According to the dataset put together by Statistical Surveys Inc., 75,469 sport bikes were registered in the United States during last year’s time period, compared to the 79,225 motorcycles that were registered the previous year.

While the general trend across the country is a drop in sport bike sales, the research also showed some interesting locations where sport bike sales actually increased dramatically, showing that there may be a location element to the demise of the sport bike.

Zero Motorcycles Hires a New CEO

02/22/2017 @ 1:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has finally filled its vacant CEO position, announcing that Samuel Paschel will take over the reigns at the electric motorcycle company,  and replacing Richard Walker who left Zero in July 2016.

A newcomer to the motorcycle industry, Paschel has a product development focused resume, and most recently was the Chief Commercial Officer at Skullcandy. He has also held management and leadership positions at Burton Snowboards and Giro Sports Design.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #44 – Michael Lock

02/20/2017 @ 10:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Episode 44 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is very special, because we have our very first guest on the show, Michael Lock from AMA Pro Racing.

Some of you might know Lock as the man behind the freshly rebranded American Flat Track series, and he has deep roots in the motorcycle industry, leading the US efforts for Ducati and Triumph, as well as working for Honda in the UK and across Europe.

As such, we had a very interesting time picking Lock’s brain about the current state of the US motorcycle industry, what is wrong with road racing, and what he is doing with flat track (with a bevy of side topics along the way, of course).

You will want to grab some provisions before hitting the play button on this show, because this one is super long (two hours) – we just didn’t want to cut out any of Lock’s insights.

Duration aside, we think you will find Lock’s comments and perspective to be very insightful, especially during these uncertain times for the motorcycle industry. 

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Yamaha Motor USA Shakes Up Motorcycle Division

02/17/2017 @ 11:36 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Changes are afoot at Yamaha Motor USA, as the company’s US President Terry Okawa announced a bevy of changes to the company’s motorcycle division, the most notable of which being the ascension of Mike Doughty to the role of General Manager, in charge of Motorcycle Operations.

With that announcement, Doughty announced a restructuring of Yamaha’s motorcycle operations in the United States, along with more personnel changes for the company.

Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

02/07/2017 @ 7:34 am, by Jensen Beeler74 COMMENTS

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles.

The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together.

The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million).