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.

Ian Hutchinson Wins the 2013 Macau GP

11/16/2013 @ 11:23 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Defying the odds against him, Ian Hutchinson has won the 2013 Macau GP, beating fierce competitor Michael Rutter in the shortened race. Hutchinson took the lead from Rutter on the fourth lap of fifteen, though a crash on the eleventh lap by Dean Harrison brought the Macau GP to an early end.

Thankfully Harrison was unhurt by the crash, though his bike was in the middle of the course, and forced race officials to red flag the race. Despite the premature ending, there can be no question that it was Hutchinson’s day, as the man from Bingley had a solid two-second gap over Rutter.

Coming off an eighteen month recovery period, Hutchinson’s win reconfirms the young Yorkshireman as a true talent in road racing, with today’s Macau GP win adding another impressive entry on Hutchinson’s already illustrious resumé, which includes a clean sweep of the 2010 Isle of Man TT’s five solo-class races.

“It’s probably one of the most special wins I’ve ever had with what’s gone on in the last few years, but hopefully now I can move on to carrying on back where I left off three years ago,” said Hutchinson after the race.

Ian Hutchinson Takes Pole Position for Macau GP

11/15/2013 @ 7:13 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The Macau GP is this weekend, and it is already shaping up to be a great event after today’s qualifying. Normally this is a race that Michael Rutter dominates (the Brit has eight Macau GP race wins to his name), but this year sees a new name on the leaderboard at the conclusion of the two qualifying sessions: Ian Hutchinson.

The only man to ever win all five solo races at the Isle of Man TT, Hutchinson was all the talk in 2010, but the Bingly man has seen his last two seasons hampered with tough recoveries from leg injuries.

Though finally healthy, many were beginning to wonder if Hutchy had lost his pace on a motorbike — his performance today on the Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1 has ended that talk though.

2014 Honda CBR300R Breaks Cover in China

10/17/2013 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Not content to have only the Honda CBR250R as its small-displacement offering, Honda Motor Corp. announced at the China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition in Chongqing yesterday that the 2014 Honda CBR300R would be its latest “world model” motorcycle, with production set to start at Honda’s Thailand factory.

Details on the small-displacement motorcycle are next-to-nonexistent, with Seiji Kuraishi, Chief Operating Officer for Honda China simply stating that “Honda is exhibiting the world premiere of the CBR300R, a global motorcycle model for which Honda is planning to begin production in Thailand in the future. The market introduction of this model in China will be discussed in the future.”

Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012

01/28/2013 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Honda Motor Co. has reported its 2012 sales figures, with the Japanese behemoth showing a 5% sales drop for 2012, when compared to 2011. Selling 15.6 million units last year, Honda made progress in its home country Japan (+1%), as well as in North America (+25%) and Europe (+22%).

However in Honda’s most volume-heavy markets, the company suffered modest loses: South America (-14%), Asia (-5%), and China (-1%). With three out of four Honda motorcycles being sold in Asia, the region’s 5% dip essentially assured the Japanese company’s sales loss for the year.

KTM Reconfirms “Faired” and “Travel” Duke 390 Models

12/03/2012 @ 6:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

For some time now, we have known that KTM intended to bring a 300cc-class version of its KTM 125 Duke motorcycle to market, thanks primarily to a leaked product road map that covered the Austrian company’s product line-up clear through the 2014 model year.

Slotted to bring the KTM 390 Duke to the US market this coming spring, the leaked road map has so far proven to be accurate, and has two interesting machines listed for 2014: the KTM Moto3 350 & KTM Enduro 350.

Now confirmed by KTM’s CEO Stefan Pierer, KTM will debut a “faired” model (the KTM Moto3 350) and a “travel” model (KTM Enduro 350), which are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, and will share the bike’s 375cc single-cylinder engine.

The 2012 Macau GP with Tony Goldsmith

11/20/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Tony Goldsmith10 COMMENTS

Michael Rutter Claims Eighth Macau GP Win

11/18/2012 @ 7:53 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

John McGuinness might be the King of the Mountain at the Isle of Man, but Michael Rutter is the King of the Streets at Macau. After leading throughout the qualifying and practice sessions, Rutter rode a dominant 10 lap race to claim his eighth win at the Macau GP.

Virtually uncontested during the road race, Rutter finished to comfortably, despite a late-stage charge by Martin Jessop, who put on a show with his charge to second, after a poor start off the line.

“The team gave me a brilliant bike,” said Rutter. “The crowds have been fantastic. I enjoy coming here and hope it will keep continuing.” Riding for the SMT Racing team on a Honda CBR1000RR, Rutter was teammates with Isle of Man TT star and rival John McGuinness, whose seventh place finish put SMT at the top of Macau’s first-ever Team Award.

Rounding out the podium was Simon Andrews, making the post-race celebrations a strictly British affair. Meanwhile, America’s main man Mark Miller rode to a respectable fifteenth place finish for the Splitlath Redmond team. Full race results are after the jump.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Benelli Due Release Clarified – End of 2012 & Worldwide

12/21/2011 @ 2:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After the news that the Benelli Due 756 would finally be produced and released came out last week, the Italian brand has released a clarification in response to the news that hit the interwebs. Confirming that the Due would indeed become a production model (after making the rounds at motorcycle shows for the better part of the last five years), the Chinese owned Benelli Q.J. released a statement saying that the release date would not be the end of 2011 as some sites had reported, but instead at the end of 2012 (seemingly making this a 2013 model year motorcycle).

Benelli has not outright denied that the news that the Due will hit the Chinese market before it makes its way to Europe, though the Chinese company was quick to say in its statement that “the current version of the Due will be produced in Italy and exported to China and the emerging global markets (without neglecting the European market).” Cryptically we gather that means that the Due we’ve seen will be a world model, while an updated version is slated to hit the European market at some point in the future (2018 perhaps?).

Benelli Due 756 Finally Goes Live…in China?

12/16/2011 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Benelli Due concept has been in the works for so long, we’re officially giving it the Duke Nukem Forever status of the motorcycle industry. I first laid my eyes on the two-cylinder street-standard back in 2009, as the then called “2ue” was making its second EICMA appearance (the Due made its first appearance as early as the Cologne show in 2006).

Essentially a Benelli triple with a cylinder lopped off, the Benelli Due displaces 756cc with its inline cylinders, and is an otherwise attractive motorcycle. Given how much of a basketcase the “Tre” motor was, we can only imagine the “character” its two-cylinder counterpart brings to the table, though that is an entirely different issue.

Finally announcing that the Benelli Due will hit dealership floors in 2012, the Chinese-owned Italian company has an interesting twist with its news: the Benelli Due will be released in China first, then Europe and other markets.

At play surely is the idea and principle of pride that Chinese companies should release models in their home country first, before servicing other markets. This notion is surely understandable, but does strike us as interesting considering that Europe and North America are likely to be bigger volume markets for this big-displacement motorcycle.