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.

It’s Legal To Hack Your Motorcycle for the Next Two Years

11/02/2016 @ 5:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

motorcycle-computer-code

Exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have finally gone into effect, which means that you can now legally hack the computer systems on your motorcycle and other motor vehicles.

The exceptions were put into place last year by the Librarian of Congress, despite pressure from vehicle manufacturers, who wanted to extend digital right management (DRM) practices to the computer systems that now permeate the two and four-wheeled spaces.

This is a win for security researchers and hobbyist mechanics, because it means that they can modify the software on their personal and research vehicles, without the fear of running afoul of the DMCA, which we should point out was written roughly 20 years ago.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #32 – Kinda Corny

09/13/2016 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Summer is coming to an end in Two Enthusiasts Podcast land, and as such Episode 32 starts with some talk of the final track days of the season, before we head off into a discussion about the American Motorcyclist Association.

The prompt for this discussion is the recent kerfuffle over four-gallon minimum fill-ups from blended nozzles (if you don’t know what that means; don’t worry, we get you up to speed on it in the show), and the AMA’s response to this recent business recommendation from the corn lobby.

We examine this issue, and then turn to talk about the AMA as an organization, and whether it is representing the best interests of mainstream motorcyclists.

It’s a pretty interesting conversation, which quite frankly, every motorcycle-owner should examine for themselves, and decide where they fall in terms of how this industry should be lead in the coming years.

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!

Report: Traffic Fatalities Increased in 2015

09/13/2016 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

motorcycle-crash

National crash statistics for 2015 have just been released, and overall, the news is not good. After decades of seeing road fatalities drop, 2015 saw an 7.2% increase in fatalities across all vehicles.

The increase comes primarily from an increase in miles driven by Americans, but the data also shows an increase in the number of crashes per mile driven, suggesting that the trend isn’t just from drivers being on the road more.

For motorcyclists, 2015 was especially bad, with motorcycle crash fatalities increasing by 8.3%, though motorcycle crash injuries were down 4.3% last year.

The Real Deal with E15 Fuel and Four-Gallon Fill-Ups

09/02/2016 @ 1:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

gas-pump-nozzle

Every month, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) releases notes on the various happenings and movements that are occurring in the two-wheeled political landscape.

September being no different, one of the AMA’s line items is the return of a four-gallon minimum purchase recommendation of E15 fuel, courtesy of the American Coalition for Ethanol.

If this issue sounds familiar, it is because a similar provision was put forward by the EPA back in 2012, but was ultimately withdrawn when it was clear most motorcycle carried only 3-5 gallons of gas, and were not EPA-approved to run E15 fuel.

I wasn’t planning on rehashing this story when the AMA’s note came out, but since there have been a few reports with some inaccurate information, I thought it best to address what is going on with E15 fuel this time around.

Hanoi Ponders Banning Motorcycles by 2025

08/29/2016 @ 5:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

hanoi-vietnam-traffic-jam

In most of the Western World, motorcycles are seen as a means of easing inner city traffic congestion. But, in some parts of the world, even the efficient transportation options of motorcycles are not enough to keep the roadways moving.

Such is the case in Vietnam, where there is a movement to ban the use of motorcycles within the Hanoi city limits. With the roads already resembling something out of a Mad Max scene, even scooters and small-displacement bikes appearing to be to many in number there (Note: I’m not sure I agree with this premise -JB).

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #29 – Motocyclisme

08/22/2016 @ 10:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 29 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees Quentin and I discussing about the recent lawsuit against Skully, which alleges a number of pricey corporate perks, on the helmet startup’s company dime.

We also discuss some racing news: the sacking of Romano Fenati and the prospect of team communications with riders in MotoGP. We also discuss the settlement reached by the EPA and Harley-Davidson, over the use of engine tuning devices, and what that can mean for the industry as a whole.

Lastly, Quentin tells us a tale about getting back on an air-cooled Ducati, and camping in Eastern Oregon, while I give a glimpse into my review of the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, as I was in Julian, California riding the scrambler at the US press launch. It’s another great show for our Two Enthusiasts fans.

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!

California Formalizes Lane-Splitting Law

08/20/2016 @ 2:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

california-lane-splitting-bear

It finally happened, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 51 into law, making California the first state to put lane-splitting on its books.

Lane-splitting has always been legal of course (despite what other headlines might suggest), though was legal only by a technical loophole in the California Vehicle Code (CVC).

The passage of AB 51 now formally adds lane-splitting as a condoned practice by the CVC; and more importantly, it expressly allows government agencies, like the California Highway Patrol, to create and teach best-practice guidelines.

EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

08/18/2016 @ 4:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler102 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson-Screamin-Eagle-Super-Tuner

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices.

Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. Boom goes the dynamite.

While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Compounding the issue though, Harley-Davidson has sold an amazing number of these tuners. Accordingly the EPA and DOJ came down on the Bar & Shield brand like a box of bricks, but the likely costs to take the boxes off the market will make the fines pale in comparison.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #28 – Getting Cranky

08/15/2016 @ 7:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

Episode 28 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts with some recent news: the closure of Skully and the near-passage of California’s lane-splitting law.

The conversation about Skully quickly moves from the failed startup, to a broader conversation about helmet design and the progress of technology in this space. The show then turns to California’s lane-splitting law, and what it could mean for motorcyclists in states other than California.

Once the news items are out of the way, the show spends a bit of time talking about crankshaft design, namely what it means to have a “crossplane” crankshaft.

Further down the rabbit hole, this turns into a larger conversation about how engines make their power, and how that power is tuned for specific tasks. It’s a tough subject to do only via voice, but we think you’ll enjoy it.

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!

California One Signature Away from Codifying Lane-Splitting

08/05/2016 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

california-lane-splitting-bear

There is good news for those following California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), which would formally codify lane-splitting as legal under the California Vehicle Code and empower state agencies to develop safety guidelines for its practice.

That news is that the California State Assembly yesterday concurred with the California State Senate on the most recent wording of AB 51 (AB 51 had been changed by the State Senate, dropping the provisions about maximum speed and traffic speed deltas for when lane-splitting was permitted).

The State Assembly’s vote yesterday was needed in order to create a concurrence on the same language of the bill between the two legislative bodies. With the Assembly’s unanimous vote, AB 51 now goes to California Governor Jerry Brown for his signature, the last step before making lane-splitting a law.

Gov. Brown is expected to sign AB 51, especially since both the State Assembly and State Senate had unanimously passed the codification of lane-splitting.

California is now just a single signature away from being the first state in the United States of America that expressly allows lane-splitting for motorcyclists. Booyah!