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.

Report Says Sport Bike Sales in USA Dropped 4.7%

The data continues to support the notion that sport bike sales are contracting, with Powersports Business releasing a report that sport bike sales dropped by 4.7% over a 12-month period that ended in October 2016. According to the dataset put together by Statistical Surveys Inc., 75,469 sport bikes were registered in the United States during last year’s time period, compared to the 79,225 motorcycles that were registered the previous year. While the general trend across the country is a drop in sport bike sales, the research also showed some interesting locations where sport bike sales actually increased dramatically, showing that there may be a location element to the demise of the sport bike.

Gone Riding: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/22/2017 @ 8:30 am, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS

Good morning from cloudy California. Today’s adventure takes us to one of my favorite race tracks, Thunderhill Raceway Park, to test the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6.

It should be an interesting day, namely since Northern California is getting some much-needed rain, although that makes it tough to test a 120hp+ supersport machine.

On second thought though, maybe these are ideal conditions for the “new” R6 – with its freshly added traction control, riding modes, and anti-locking brake system.

It’s this electronics suite that will be the focus of our testing today, considering that the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 keeps the same frame and engine as its predecessor.

Definitely more evolution than revolution, other changes to the R6 for 2017 include revised suspension and braking components, magnesium subframe, aluminum tank, and bodywork that improves aerodynamics.

Yamaha calls this its “4th Generation” YZF-R6 model, though the spec list is suggesting something closer to a “3.5 Generation” machine…maybe 3.75, if I have had my Mountain Dew this morning and am feeling generous.

Yamaha feels confident that the 2017 model is a “new” bike though, and they even brought a 2016 model to ride, in order to prove the point to us. So, that will certainly be interesting. It looks like Bridgestone W01 full-wet rain tires will be the order of the day, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that things don’t get too moist out there.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have. So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, before even my own proper review is posted.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at Thunderhill. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #RWorld #R6FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

We’re Going to Try a New Motorcycle Review Format

03/22/2017 @ 12:55 am, by Jensen Beeler74 COMMENTS

For a long time, I have been unhappy with how we do motorcycle reviews here at Asphalt & Rubber – and if I am being real honest, I have been unhappy with how the industry as a whole deals with motorcycle reviews, especially in this new crazy online world.

Mea culpa, A&R is just as guilty as the rest when it comes to publishing motorcycle reviews. We have been just as lazy as the next publication, as we try to chase elusive pageviews at the end of each bike launch, with timely but flaccid prose (with varying degrees of success, on both accounts, I should say).

Well, I want that to stop. It is dumb, and it is bad for the ecosystem.

So, starting today we are going to try a new motorcycle review format – one that I have been chewing on for several months now. It is a three-pronged approach to bike reviews, which sees us trying to achieve different goals with each of our three postings about the new motorcycles we ride. Let me break them down for you.

Gone Riding: Yamaha SCR950

08/18/2016 @ 8:01 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-SCR950-scrambler-17

Hello from Julian, California which is just a stone’s throw away from Southern California’s Palomar Mountain State Park – a local riding Mecca. I’m out here today with Yamaha USA, riding the Yamaha SCR950 – the Japanese company’s “Made for the USA” scrambler model.

The SCR950 is part of Yamaha’s “Sport Heritage” line, and joins bikes like the XSR900 café racer and Yamaha Bolt C-Spec. That latter model is important, as the Yamaha SCR950 is built off the Bolt platform, adding a number of scrambler-styled design cues to the affordable cruiser model.

It’s worth noting that the SCR950 is the first model by Yamaha that has been developed here in the USA, rather than in Japan. As such, its focus is obviously on the American market. Strangely though, its most comparable competitors are all European.

This is becoming a trend for Yamaha, as we saw with the Yamaha FZ-09 and Yamaha FZ-10. The brand from Iwata is making great strides to set itself apart from the other Japanese companies.

We’ve got a full day’s worth of riding to find out. While I’m out on the road, I will try and give you a live assessment of the machine, and answer any questions you might have. So, here’s your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, before even my own proper review is posted.

Cellphone reception is pretty spotty here in the mountains, but we’ve got pretty good wifi at the hotel, so I will attempt to answer any questions you post here in the comments and on social media.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in North Carolina. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #SCR950 #SCR950FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

Gone Riding: Yamaha FZ-10

07/21/2016 @ 5:11 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-FZ-10-USA-22

Hello from The Tail of the Dragon, one of the USA’s most famous motorcycling roads, which happens to be situated in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I’m out here for a press launch with Yamaha USA, riding the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10.

Our route will see us riding some of the local roads, including The Tail of the Dragon (something I’ve long wanted to do), which should be happy hunting grounds for Yamaha’s new streetfighter…I just hope it doesn’t scare the locals with its Transformers-inspired face and neon accents.

Truthfully though, the Yamaha FZ-10 looks better in person, and it is even starting to grow on me visually. What I’m really interested to see though is how this “retuned” R1 handles the street. I’m hoping it has as much crazy between the handlebars as its avant-garde attire suggests.

While I’m out riding, I will try and give you a live assessment of the machine, and answer any questions you might have. So, here’s your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10, before even my own proper review is posted.

Cellphone reception is pretty spotty here in the mountains (read: non-existent), but we’ve got pretty good wifi at the hotel, so I will attempt to answer any questions you post here in the comments and on social media.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in North Carolina. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #FZ10 #FZFirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

Gone Riding: Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L

05/03/2016 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler50 COMMENTS

2016 Honda Africa Twin

Hello from the road, dear readers. I’m out in Moab, Utah for the next few days, testing the Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L adventure-touring motorcycle. We have a solid couple of days riding ahead of us, with Tuesday being an on-road day, and Wednesday seeing our feet get dirty with some off-road action.

Weather here in Moab has been fluctuating for the past few days, with rain, hail, and flurries being previously on the menu, but the forecast promises us some sunshine for our stay. Hopefully the weatherman right.

One of the most anticipated machines for the 2016 model year, the Honda Africa Twin is finally about to arrive in motorcycle dealerships (though, in limited numbers). We’ve been looking forward to swinging a leg over this off-road focused ADV machine for some time, to see if it lives up to the hype.

Gone Riding: 2016 Yamaha FJR1300

03/17/2016 @ 12:52 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Back on the road again, and this time I’m out in Arizona with Yamaha North America, riding the recently updated 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 sport-tourer.

Tomorrow sees our group leaving Phoenix and heading up into Sedona, where the red earth and picturesque mesas should make for an epic backdrop to our full day of riding.

For those who don’t know, the FJR1300 is a model that Yamaha has been slowly evolving each model year, instead of making punctuated improvements every few years. This makes it a surprising machine for press launch, but it also happens to be an important one for us to evaluate.

The sport-touring segment is surprisingly hot right now, with 17% growth in the past year, thanks mostly to the Yamaha FJ-09. There are some who think that the sport-touring market is dead, supplanted by the adventure-sport category, yet for some veteran riders, the ethos of the Yamaha FJR1300 is ideal.

The big news for the 2016 model year is the addition of a new six-speed gearbox, which should make highway speeds a bit more friendly. We will also be keen to tryout the suite of electronics on the base model FJR1300A, and experience the electronic suspension on the FJR1300ES, both of which were on the 2015 models, but are new to us.

As usual, I will attempt to answer questions regarding the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 from the road. We will have two days of riding on the machine, so that should be ample opportunity for A&R to get acquainted with this venerable sport-tourer, and give you the skinny on its qualities.

As before, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in Arizona. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #FJR1300 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

Gone Riding: Ducati XDiavel S

02/03/2016 @ 6:25 am, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

2016-Ducati-XDiavel-S-21

Coming to the end of two weeks straight on the road, our final stop is in San Diego, CA for the international press launch of the Ducati XDiavel power cruiser.

Like its sibling and namesake, the Ducati Diavel, the XDiavel blurs the line between sport bike and cruiser, showing the Italian brand’s interpretation of an ubiquitous American motorcycling concept.

The XDiavel treads further into the cruiser segment than the Diavel does though, and as such it features feet-forward controls, a belt final drive, a teardrop-shaped gas tank, and a 240-width rear tire.

Bologna hopes that we will still regard the XDiavel as “true” Ducati though, with its Testastretta DVT 1262 v-twin engine producing 156hp, while making its peak torque of 95 lbs•ft at only 5,000 rpm.

Upping the performance factor is a suite of electronics: traction control, cornering ABS, launch control, wheelie control, ride-by-wire, and an IMU.

Will all of this make a power cruiser we wish we had in our garage? Well, that’s why we ride these things. So far though, the initial impression is favorable. Photos don’t do the lines of the XDiavel justice. I’m still not sure it’s my cup of tea, but we’ll let the brew marinate a bit longer, and see how it tastes.

Gone Riding: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

01/25/2016 @ 12:45 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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It’s a busy time in the Asphalt & Rubber office, with the entire motorcycle industry deciding that January/February is the perfect time to host events. As such, we should have a flurry of reviews, interviews, and other articles from these events posting to the site over the next few weeks.

For me, this starts two weeks on the road, with my first top near Malaga, Spain for the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 launch – the day’s route see us riding the new Brutale 800 near the Mediterranean Sea today, putting about 150km on the bike.

Things are already off to an interesting start, as we woke up to a sizable earthquake, whose epicenter was just on the other side of the sea, 11km off the coast of Morocco. Hopefully that’s not a bad omen for my fellow riders, though for me it felt like being back in California.

Enough of all that, the purpose of this post is to field questions about the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 from A&R readers, which I can answer in the comments section. If I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the MV Agusta personnel that are here with me in Spain.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Brutale800 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

Gone Riding: Yamaha YZF-R3

03/12/2015 @ 12:15 am, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

2015-yamaha-yzf-r3

Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we are out near Willows, CA testing the new Yamaha YZF-R3. We will be spending the first part of the day on a 120-mile street ride, and then following that up in the afternoon by riding the new “West Course” at Thunderhill Raceway.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #YamahaR3USA & #FirstRideR3 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

Yamaha’s entry into the small-displacement space, the YZF-R3 specifically fills a void in Yamaha’s lineup for a small-displacement, learner-focused, sport machine.

Gone Riding: Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/04/2012 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we are in the Palm Desert testing the new Ducati Streetfighter 848. We’ll be spending most of the day playing with its revised chassis & traction control, and getting used to the baby Fighter’s wet clutch & Testastretta 11° engine. You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Twitter, and our last five tweets will automatically display here on this post.