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.

Recall: 2015 Zero Motorcycles

09/19/2016 @ 12:10 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Zero Motorcycles is recalling a number of models from its 2015 lineup, all for issues with DC-DC converter, which takes direct current electricity from one voltage and converts it to a different voltage.

According to the recall documents, when under high-power demands the DC-DC converter can suffer from insufficient output, which in-turn can cause the anti-lock brake system (ABS) not to function properly.

Since the failure of the ABS can lead to an increase in the risk of a crash, Zero Motorcycles has issued this recall, and while this recall affects the SR, S, DS, and FX motorcycle lines, only 96 motorcycles are actually being recalled under this notice.

BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter Finally Coming to the USA

09/12/2016 @ 4:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Here is some more BMW news for your Monday, as BMW Motorrad USA has confirmed that the BMW C Evolution electric scooter will finally make its way to the USA.

The news marks an important moment for electric two-wheelers, with BMW Motorrad being one of the few major motorcycle OEMs to offer an electric vehicle to consumers in the United States.

The news is good timing too, because BMW Motorrad just announced an update for the BMW C Evolution scooter, with a long-range version (100 miles on a charge) model being offered alongside the standard model, which still has a 60-mile range.

Not-A-Review: Alta Motors Redshift MX

09/06/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Quentin Wilson40 COMMENTS

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For a long time now, Asphalt & Rubber has been following the progress of Alta Motors (formerly BRD Motorcycles), as they have worked to make a lites-class comparable electric motorcycle.

With the Redshift MX motocross and Redshift SM supermoto bikes now shipping from the company’s San Francisco facility, the motorcycle community can finally see in the flesh what I have been calling one of the most competent electric motorcycles yet produced.

I have no problems saying I have had a hearty drink of the Alta Kool-aid. I was impressed with the Redshift SM prototype that I rode back in 2009, and the finalized form of the Redshift has only matured further from its strong start. 

I don’t want you simply to take my biased word for it though, so for today’s post, I have enlisted the help of my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host, Quentin Wilson. For those who don’t follow the show (shame on you), Quentin is a former chassis mechanic for the Graves Yamaha AMA team and the MotoCzysz MotoGP project. 

He is also an accomplished racer, generally go-fast guy, and has a fair bit of electric motorcycle riding experience as well. It also helps that he is familiar with the woodsy trails we have here near Portland, as we were riding Alta Motors’ motocross machine for the first time, at the Browns Camp OHV Area.

Quentin is like me though: we see electric motorcycles not as an answer to saving the environment, though that is a nice side effect, but instead as a superior method of making motorcycles not only faster, but more rideable.

With those two aspects in mind, I asked Quentin for his thoughts on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, after a couple hours of trail riding.

As you will see, Quentin’s usual ride is a Christini Honda CRF250X, which is an unusual bike in its own right, but fits into the 250cc class that Alta Motors is targeting right now with the Redshift series.

It is an interesting contrast, to be sure, but we think you will enjoy it. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks too for my more measured review on the Alta Motors Redshift SM. -JB

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #30 – The Need for Speed

08/30/2016 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 30 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees us discussing three different powertrains, the motorcycles that they power.

First up is Harley-Davidson’s new Milwaukee-Eight engine, which will power its Big Twin touring models for the 2017 model year. We then turn our attention to Ducati (no surprise there), and discuss the seeming return of the air-cooled Ducati Monster, which was spied last week.

We finish the show with a lengthy debrief on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, as Quentin and I had previously spent a day riding this electric dirt bike in the mountains near Portland, Oregon.

As always, 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!

Here’s How You Make A Proper-Fast Electric Motorcycle

08/17/2016 @ 4:11 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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It’s been a long-time coming, but customer bikes are starting to roll out of the Alta Motors production facility outside of San Francisco. That’s music to the ears of many patient and eager owners, and we’re pretty excited about it too.

This is because the Alta Motors Redshift SM is a designed to compete against any 250cc supermoto on the market, and the same can be said of the Californian company’s MX model as well, when it comes to motocross duties.

So far, every indication points to the Redshift living up to that promise (A&R will know first-hand, soon enough). Until then though, we’re chewing on this time-lapse video that Alta Motors posted to YouTube.

It’s interesting to see how the Alta Motors crew assembles their production electric motorcycles; but perhaps what is most striking, is the relatively clean and simple design that makes the Redshift come to life.

For a bike powered by batteries and liquid-cooled, there are almost no visible wires or hoses. See for yourself, after the jump.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 24 – It’s A Brap

06/20/2016 @ 2:02 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Episode 24 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, for your podcasting pleasure. In this episode of the show, Quentin and I have a chat about the race week at the Isle of Man TT, which is split between talking about the races themselves, and the evolution of racing motorcycles.

We then focus our attention to my recent trip to Los Angeles, where I saw first-hand the 2017 Yamaha SCR950 and FZ-10 street bikes from Yamaha North America. Next, we talk about the second part of my trip, which involved riding the Energica Eva electric street bike.

To finish the show, Quentin talks about riding a motorcycle that belonged to a good friend, who died not too long ago. It’s an interesting story that involves a very special motorcycle and getting back out on the track. We think you’ll enjoy it, and the rest of the show.

As always, 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!

Audi Says “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”

06/16/2016 @ 3:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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After much buzz and fanfare regarding the future of Volkswagen, which in-turn called into question the future of Ducati, today we finally get a glimpse into how VW is going to soldier forth from the fallout of its “Dieselgate” scandal.

Instead of announcing how the company was going to restructure itself, and review its current business holdings and ventures, as was reportedly widely in financial circles, instead today saw Volkswagen strongly staking its future in electric and autonomous cars.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, this announcement failed to impress analysts investors; but for Ducatisti, some good news does emerge, as Ducati certainly won’t be leaving its home in the Volkswagen Group.

To drive that point further, a Ducati representative confirmed and conveyed to Asphalt & Rubber the words of Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who said emphatically that “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE” which is as straight and to the point as you can get.

Suzuki’s Electric “Grom Killer” Coming to Market?

06/14/2016 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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When the Honda Grom debuted in 2013, the other Japanese manufacturers took note. The first copycat was Kawasaki, which earlier this year debuted the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that Suzuki brought out its EXTRIGGER concept at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, as well.

Listening to our calls, the Suzuki EXTRIGGER coming to market seems to be getting more likely now, as Suzuki has filed for patents in the China, Europe, and the United States for the plucky electric machine. Just in time, to battle with the freshly updated Honda Grom.

Harley-Davidson Going Electric Within Next Five Years

06/10/2016 @ 6:53 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years, so says the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings, while talking to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

This news comes almost exactly two years after Harley-Davidson debuted the LiveWire project, a demonstration model built with help from the now kaput Mission Motors.

Details beyond this statement are lean however, though we can imagine that the news is in response to rival cruiser brand Victory Motorcycles continued push of its electric prowess with its Victory Empulse TT electric street bike, and its racing programs at the Isle of Man TT and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

This announcement is fairly superfluous, however. Lead times on new models – motorcycles that actually require engineering and design, not just a different fuel tank and extra letters – take roughly three to five years, from concept to completion.

The real news is that Harley-Davidson has finally green-lit its electric project, and has committed itself to bringing a commercially-viable version of the LiveWire to market, with the initial work on that new model now just beginning.

Up-Close with the 2016 Victory RR Electric Race Bike

06/10/2016 @ 3:37 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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It has been a while since we’ve done one our “up-close” sets of photos, so we sent our man Tony Goldsmith into the Victory Motorcycles tent at the Isle of Man TT, to get some snaps of the 2016 Victory RR electric race bike.

The Victory RR is an evolved version of the Brammo Empulse RR project, Brammo of course being one of inaugural participants in the Isle of Man TT’s first electric race, which was called at the time TTXGP.

2016 marks the second year in a row that Victory Motorcycles has competed at the Isle of Man, with William Dunlop taking his seat on the Victory RR this year, after missing 2015’s ride due to injury (Guy Martin filled in last year).

This year, it was another podium finish for Victory, and the team improved its result to a second-place finish, and more importantly increased their best lap time to 115.844 mph.