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.

The New Grandstands at Assen, And the Economic Impact of a MotoGP Race

12/11/2016 @ 4:45 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

“If it wasn’t for the Dutch TT race, I would have to close my business.” Those were the words of the taxi driver who took me from the Assen train station to the circuit, for a presentation on the plans for major upgrades to their spectator facilities over the next three years and beyond.

It offered an insight into the importance of the MotoGP race at Assen, and by extension, the importance of circuits and MotoGP events around the world.

My taxi driver explained that over the week surrounding the Assen race, he was kept so busy that the money he made during that period was the difference between ending the year with a profit and the ability to invest in the future of the business, or just about breaking even.

Chatting to an official of the provincial government, who had grown up in the city and worked in bars there during his college years, he confirmed that experience.

The bars back then were so busy during the race weekend that it was the difference between survival and failure. The same is true for many businesses and hotels around the region, as anyone who has ever tried to book accommodation in the weeks before the race can attest.

KTM Announces A New President for North America

12/05/2016 @ 5:52 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Big news from KTM, as the “Ready to Race” brand has appointed John Hinz as the new President of KTM North America, effective January 1st, 2017. This means that the buck will stop with Hinz, when it comes to KTM, Husqvarna, and WP Suspension brands in the United States and Canada. 

Hinz will take over from current President Jon-Erik Burleson, who will stay on through January 31st, in order to ensure a smooth transition. After that point in time, Burleson will shift to a brand ambassador role for Husqvarna.

How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

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Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

11/20/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state.

Italy’s Guardia di Finanza had found that the Italian company had been using the social security contributions of its workers to pay down the money owed to parts suppliers (something MV Agusta disputes is the case), and earlier this year MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni was investigated for irregularities on his tax return.

All of this is on top of the ever precarious financial situation MV Agusta has been in for the past year, which has resulted in the company looking to restructure its €50 million debt in the Italian court system, furlough a good portion of its workforce, and reduce its production volume to roughly 9,000 units per year.

Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta.

Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models.

Police Find MV Agusta Misused Social Security Funds

11/17/2016 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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More bad news comes from Italy, as MV Agusta has come under investigation by the Guardia di Finanza for allegedly misusing its employees’ INPS contributions (Italy’s national pension system, similar to the USA’s Social Security system), which may have gone to paying bills from suppliers, to the tune of €6.8 million.

To put this into context for our American readers, Italy’s Guardia di Finanza is law enforcement agency that handles financial crimes – its duties and powers are analogous to the intersection on a Venn diagram that is composed of our IRS, FTC, and US Customs bureaus.

Italian businesses are required to pay into the INPS pensions of their employees, and here the Guardia di Finanza has been investigating whether MV Agusta used those funds instead to pay its supplier invoices. MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni denies the allegations, though has some financial issues of his own to contend with.

It’s Legal To Hack Your Motorcycle for the Next Two Years

11/02/2016 @ 5:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have finally gone into effect, which means that you can now legally hack the computer systems on your motorcycle and other motor vehicles.

The exceptions were put into place last year by the Librarian of Congress, despite pressure from vehicle manufacturers, who wanted to extend digital right management (DRM) practices to the computer systems that now permeate the two and four-wheeled spaces.

This is a win for security researchers and hobbyist mechanics, because it means that they can modify the software on their personal and research vehicles, without the fear of running afoul of the DMCA, which we should point out was written roughly 20 years ago.

Right Now Is the Best Time to Buy A New Motorcycle

10/26/2016 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler50 COMMENTS

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With all the new motorcycles for the 2017 model year debuting right now, it might seem counter-intuitive that this would be the right time to make a trip down to your local motorcycle dealership, but it is. Let me explain.

After seeing a modest rebounding of sales and momentum from the recession, this year has been a stumbling block for the motorcycle industry, with sales at the beginning of the year building slowly, before tapering off later in the summer and early fall.

Economic indicators are up, unemployment is down, but the third quarter results from around the industry are pointing to the US motorcycle market taking a market contraction for 2016. The reason for this is uncertainty.

BSA Brand Purchased by Mahindra for $4.1 Million

10/25/2016 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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News from across the pond indicates that the historic BSA motorcycle brand has been acquired by Indian motorcycle manufacturer Mahindra.

According to the newswires, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited (through a subsidiary named Classic Legends Private Limited) acquired 100% of BSA Company Limited for the tidy price of £3.4 million, or $4.1 million (at the time of this writing).

MV Agusta Introduces Repayment Plan in Court

10/24/2016 @ 6:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta has unveiled in court its plan to get back to financial stability, after seeing cash flow issues reaching a zenith in March 2016.

The plan is exactly as it has been previously advertised by MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni: MV Agusta will reduce its workforce, produce fewer machines, focus on high-margin models, and seek a freeze on its debts to creditors and suppliers.

Whether the Varesini court will accept this plan remains to be seen, it will also require some buy-in from MV Agusta’s creditor and suppliers, who are owed €50 million from MV Agusta.

Skully Sued by Flextronics for Owed Money

09/24/2016 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Things keep getting worse motorcycle helmet startup Skully, as its production partner Flextronics has filed suit for money and materials allegedly owed it.

According to court documents, Flextronics is demanding payment of roughly $2 million dollars – $505,703 in past-due bills, $514,409 in unpaid bills, and another $1.5 million in what Flextronics calls “materials and inventory related to the Skully project.”

This lawsuit is the second legal action taken against Skully since the company laid off its workforce and shut its doors for lack of funding.