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.

Dainese Working on Flat-Track Specific Race Apparel

03/13/2017 @ 7:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Dainese/AGV and American Flat Track announced their partnership today, with the Italian apparel brands becoming the official safety and race apparel brand of flat track racing in the United States.

What is more interesting though is that according to the announcement, Dainese and AGV will develop products that are specifically designed with flat track racing in mind.

This should be a huge boon to flat track racers, who often have to compromise and adapt apparel from road racing and dirt disciplines for their unique needs.

Indian’s Flat Track Racer Now Available to Mere Mortals

02/28/2017 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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.

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!

Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

12/29/2016 @ 3:04 pm, by Steve English9 COMMENTS

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. 

At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes.

The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again.

2017 American Flat Track Calendar Released

11/11/2016 @ 4:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

american-flat-track-logo

The 2017 calendar for the newly rebranded American Flat Track racing series has been released. The 18-round schedule traverses the USA, with four different race track varieties: (6) mile-long tracks, (7) half-mile track, (2) short-track courses, and (3) TT type courses.

2017 also sees American Flat Track using a new class structure, with the premier class is the AFT Twins class, comprised of two-cylinder motorcycles with displacements ranging from 650cc to 999cc. There will also be an AFT Singles class for upcoming riders, which will be based on 450cc single-cylinder bikes.

With plenty of opportunities through the year, and through out the country, we supremely suggest you attend an American Flat Track round this coming season. We think you will find it highly satisfying to your two-wheeled inclinations.

The Honda CB1100 TR Concept Gives a Nod Towards Europe’s Flat Track Racing Fascination

11/08/2016 @ 6:08 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

CB1100TR Concept

The American Flat Track aesthetic is catching hold over in Europe. We can see evidence of such by the popularity of flat track racing for Europe’s top MotoGP athletes, the rise of the Spanish Superprestigio event in Barcelona, and with the concepts we are seeing come from the European divisions of motorcycle OEMs.

Add the Honda CB1100 TR concept to that pile of evidence, as it is one of two motorcycle concepts that Honda Motor Europe is debuting at the 2016 EICMA show (the other being the very tasty Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept).

Built off the Honda CB1100 street bike, the Honda CB1100 TR concept takes a motorcycle we otherwise would not be terribly interested in riding, and gives it a healthy dosage of sex appeal.

Go-fast parts come from Öhlins and Termignoni, with the #58 numberplate honoring the memory of Marco Simoncelli, who passed away five years ago, and whose passing is still deeply felt in Italy.

Indian Announces Its New Flat Track “Wrecking Crew” with Bryan Smith, Brad Baker, and Jared Mees

09/26/2016 @ 9:44 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Indian-Scout-FTR750-flat-track-race-bike-07

Indian Motorcycles is getting into a flat track racing in a big way. We have already seen the American brand’s purpose-built race bike, the Indian Scout FTR750, which looks quite the business with its purpose-built 750cc v-twin race engine.

Now, we get word that Indian will have an all-star team of riders competing on the  Indian Scout FTR750, with Bryan Smith, Brad Baker, and Jared Mees lined up to be Indian’s new three-man “wrecking crew” on the race track.

AMA Pro Flat Track is Now American Flat Track

09/26/2016 @ 3:53 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

american-flat-track-logo

Flat track racing in the United States is getting a makeover, with AMA Pro Flat Track changing its name to American Flat Track (AFT). This change comes during an interesting time, with flat track racing seeing a renaissance in its two-wheeled racing spectacle.

Reading our minds, the press release from AMA Pro Racing says that the rebranding comes as “the dawn of a new era for America’s favorite motorcycle sport,” which also comes as American Flat Track also ushers in a new class structure for professional flat track racing.

As you would expect then, AMA Pro Racing is also announcing its new racing classes for the newly named American Flat Track series.

There will be an AFT Twins class, with two-cylinder motorcycles, 650cc to 999cc, which will cater to the series’ top riders; and then there will be an AFT Singles class, with 450cc single-cylinder machines, which will serve as a feeder for the AFT Twins class.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 23 – Tourist Trophy

06/07/2016 @ 12:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

Episode 23 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out for your audio pleasure, and it covers a range of topics that we think you will find interesting. First off, Quentin and Jensen cover the spectacle that is the Isle of Man TT, talking about this iconic road race, some of racers who compete in it, and what the TT needs to grow in the future.

This discussion then evolves into a conversation about flat track racing, which has already seen a bump in popularity, and seems to have additional momentum to grow in the coming years. This is of course aided by Harley-Davidson’s renewed interest in the sport, with the Bar & Shield brand releasing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R.

The guys then turn their attention to lane-splitting in the USA, a topic that is fueled by the recent news that California is looking to codify the practice, which is already legal permissible in the Golden State. That codification process has consequences for riders outside of California as well though, and the guys talk about those in the show.

Overall it’s a very informative look at three hot topics in motorcycling. We think you will find it both enlightening and entertaining.

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!

Harley-Davidson XG750R – The Bar & Shield’s Next-Gen Flat Tracker, For Racers Only

05/26/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson XG750R

What you see here is the first purpose-built Harley-Davidson race bike to come from the Milwaukee for quite some time, as its been several decades since the Bar & Shield brand formally offered flat track racing machines – 44 years, to be precise.

Called the Harley-Davidson XG750R, the flat track racing machine is based off the Harley-Davidson Street 750 platform, and it will make its racing debut this weekend at the AMA Pro Flat Track Springfield Mile in Illinois.

As the name suggests, the Harley-Davidson XG750R features the same 750cc v-twin engine that is found in the Harley-Davidson Street 750 street bike, though it has been tuned for racing duty.