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 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*.

Harley-Davidson Sales Dropped 1.6% in 2016

01/31/2017 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

As motorcycle manufacturers report their 2016 numbers, we see the continued trend that last year was a tough year for OEMs in the USA. Harley-Davidson reports that its sales dropped 1.6% overall (262,221 units) in 2016, but that number doesn’t paint the full picture for the Bar & Shield brand.

Harley-Davidson sales were down 3.9% in the USA for the 2016 sales cycle (161,658 units), which is a stark contrast to the 2.3% growth Harley-Davidson saw abroad with its international sales.

These losses translated to Harley-Davidson’s balance sheet, with the company posting an 8% decrease in net income, making $692.2 million in 2016. Consolidated revenue remained steady however, at $6 billion.

The Great Motorcycle Buyer Divide

12/13/2016 @ 12:13 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

In my last A&R Pro article, I argued that the recently debuted and updated Honda Rebel was the most important new motorcycle that we have seen thus far for the 2017 model year.

That is a bold statement, as many pointed out, especially when you consider the bevy of intriguing new models that were unveiled at the various industry trade shows this year, and also considering the lack-luster product the outgoing Honda Rebel 250 proved to be for many.

In that story, the bulk of my argument was that motorcycling needs an affordable gateway for young and new riders to come into the industry, and with cruisers accounting for over half of the new motorcycles sold in the United States, having cruiser-styled entry models is a shrewd move by Honda.

There is more to that argument though, which I want to touch upon today. It concerns the growing divide of motorcycle buyers, and how their access to capital greatly affects the motorcycles they can, and do, purchase.

American motorcycles sales fall almost entirely under what is called consumer discretionary income, and when it comes to how we spend our hard-earned money, there are two ways we do so: with cash and with credit.

That is the fairly obvious part of this argument, but this is an important concept for us as enthusiasts and consumers to understand, as it allows us to make better sense of the strategies behind the new models we see from manufacturers. It also allows us to peer into the future of the motorcycle industry.

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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.

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.

Skully Officially Closes, So Just How SOL Are You Actually?

08/06/2016 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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Skully on Friday finally acknowledged what has already been known in the motorcycling community: the company was going out of business. The news comes after a last-minute effort by the remaining management to secure a new round of funding.

With $15 million down the drain, work still to do before the Skully AR-1 would be ready to ship, and a growing group of disgruntled early adopters, Skully’s resurrection was not to be.

Instead in a letter to backers and customers, Skully announced that it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy procedure for companies that are going out of business. This news, of course, directly impacts the thousands of motorcyclists who were expecting to receive a Skully AR-1 helmet.

MV Agusta In Talks with New Investors

08/01/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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News out of Italy is that MV Agusta is courting not one, but three potential investors that would takeover Mercedes-AMG’s stake in the two-wheeled company.

As we have covered extensively already, MV Agusta is in quite the precarious financial position, with cash flow issues compounding the unhappy marriage between the Italian motorcycle-maker and the German automobile manufacturer.

MV Agusta would like to divest Mercedes from its business, but that comes with complications involving the immediate payback of debts, should Mercedes-AMG’s position in MV Agusta drops below 20%.

In order to make that divesture, MV Agusta would need not only an investor who would bring sizable amounts of cash to the table to keep MV Agusta’s business running, but one who can also cover the €15 million debt whose payment would be triggered by Mercedes-AMG’s business departure.

Skully Closes Its Doors and Ceases Operations

07/26/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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It was just two weeks ago that we told you about Skully’s investors ousting brothers Marcus Weller and Mitch Weller from the San Francisco startup, and today TechCrunch reports that the motorcycle helmet company will be rather swiftly closing its doors.

A&R readers may remember that Skully’s latest delay to market stemmed from the Skully AR-1 helmet not being ready for mass production, despite the nearly $15 million raised through seed money and a Series A funding round, which was led by Intel Capital.

As such, the closure surely stems from Skully’s investors choosing to shut down the company’s operations, rather than rebuild Skully’s tarnished reputation and retool its product for mass production.

According to TechCrunch, operations at Skully have already ceased, and the website is expected to go offline later today, though as of this writing Skully’s website remains, and its social marketing team is still on Facebook cooling the heels of angry customers.

Harley-Davidson Takeover Rumors Spur Wall Street, Again

07/07/2016 @ 9:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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If you believed the reports from the financial sector, Harley-Davidson is a prime candidate right now for a hostile takeover by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a global private equity firm.

The news sent shockwaves through Wall Street, with Harley-Davidson’s stock gaining 20% in value in a single day, as investors tried to capitalize on the news.

You are just hearing about this news on Asphalt & Rubber though for two reasons, 1) I’ve been on either a motorcycle, plane, trolley, or car for the past few days (just getting back from Italy), and 2) we have seen this all this before, and it wasn’t pretty.