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.

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.

Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

07/13/2016 @ 12:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff.

The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus.

The Skully AR-1 helmet debuted to much fanfare, but it soon became clear that the company’s leadership wasn’t up to the task on delivering the promises they were making to the public. Seemingly on a different page with their investors as well, Marcus and Mitch Weller were fired by the company’s Board of Directors.

It looks like Martin Fitcher, Skully’s current COO, will take over the reigns for the company, or what’s left of it, as its new CEO. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.

Valentino Rossi’s 2016 Mugello AGV Helmet

05/21/2016 @ 1:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Another year, and another Italian GP at Mugello. As usual, this means that we have another special AGV helmet from Valentino Rossi to show you.

This year’s helmet is called “Mugiallo” – a play on the Italian word for yellow (“giallo”) and of course the Mugello race track – and is the work of Aldo Drudi, the same man who made the Burasca 1200 that we showed you yesterday.

As you can see from the photos attached, the AGV Pista GP helmet features “Mugiallo” across the crown of the neon helmet, with Rossi’s “46” stenciled on the top of the rear spoiler.

On the nape of the helmet, Rossi’s two dogs (Cesare and Cecilia) and cat (Rossano) are featured, while the Italian flag is on either side of the chin. The top of the helmet as the layout of the Mugello circuit drawn on it.

As we saw during Saturday’s qualifying sessions, the bright neon yellow helmet really stands out on the time sheets.

Skully AR-1 Helmet Delivery Pushed Back, Yet Again

04/07/2016 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Future Skully AR-1 owners will have to continue waiting for their helmets, as Skully has once again pushed back the delivery date of its heads-up display powered helmet.

The announcement is another blow for the San Francisco based startup, as Skully has gone from the media darling to full-blown vaporware-pusher over the past two years.

We say this because Skully first launched in 2013, with promises of helmets in the hands of consumers by the end of 2014. That date was then pushed back to May 2015, in conjunction with Skully’s Kickstarter campaign launch. That date would be revised again, this time to the end of the year 2015.

Now well into the fourth month of 2016, Skully is pushing back its delivery date again, though it isn’t giving a firm timeline when the production units will finally reach purchasers. It should be noted that as of this date, only a handful of pre-production units have made it the hands of specially chosen evangelists buyers.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 16 – Chest Hairs Up

02/21/2016 @ 7:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Episode 16 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is another jam-packed show, for your aural pleasure.

Quentin and myself cover some of the moto-specific releases from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), such as BMW’s HUD helmet and laser-power headlight, along with the advances Yamaha is making with its MotoBot project, and the future of wearables and personal video.

We also dive into a weighty discussion on the use of quickshifters on modern sport bikes, and how their use can affect the life of a motorcycles transmission.

We also find out that Quentin is a sucker for a good IPA, that Corona will never sponsor the show, and that I have perhaps spent too much time (and money) in West Hollywood. Also, King Leopold II of Belgium was kind of a jerk.

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!

Bell Pro Star Helmet, Protecting A Head Near You

02/17/2016 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The narrative that surrounds the Bell helmet brand is a long and storied one, with some of the more interesting bits happening in just recent time, as the brand’s many different elements and organizations have finally come back together under one roof.

As such, Bell is keen on changing some of the perceptions of its products, especially in the motorcycle space, and has made great strides in doing so with its latest crop of Star helmets.

A full-featured race helmet, priced to undercut the top offerings from AGV, Arai, Shoei, et al, the Bell Star now sees its successor, the Bell Pro Star progeny coming to market.

We don’t talk a lot about gear here on Asphalt & Rubber, but that is slowing going to change in the coming months, and we wanted to give a nod to what Bell is up to with the Pro Star.

Arai Unveils Its 2016 Limited Edition Isle of Man TT Helmet

02/10/2016 @ 6:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Every year Arai Helmet comes out with a highly coveted limited edition lid for the Isle of Man TT; and each year has a different design, with the latest crop coming from the studio of Aldo Drudi.

This year’s design comes on the Arai Corsair-X, a helmet we were very impressed with when we tested it at Thunder Hill last year.

As you can see from the photos, Drudi has emblazoned the Corsair-X helmet with the “TT” logo, as well as the island nation’s Triskelion symbol, which is of three running legs. “Ellan Vannin” is of course the native Manx name for the Isle of Man.

Iannone Pays Homage to Dead Seagull with Winter Helmet

02/04/2016 @ 5:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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You don’t have to be a raging Ducati Corse fan, or even a fan of Andrea Iannone, in order to appreciate the humor in the Italian rider’s winter test helmet this week at Sepang.

In case you missed it, the bright red AGV Pista GP helmet is adorned with a familiar face, Gavin the seagull. If you don’t remember Gavin, we are sure the mentioning of last year’s Phillip Island race will help jog your memory.

Coming down the hill, into Turn 10, Andrea Iannone found a spectator whose vantage point was a little too close to the action. The seagull, finally realizing the error of his ways, took flight, though not in time to avoid the outcome everyone feared.

The bird struck Iannone’s Ducati Desmosedici GP15, while it was in mid-flight, leaving a gaping whole in the front of the race bike and a puff of feathers in its wake.

Joking aside, Iannone was lucky not to be injured in the collision, and actually went on to take third in the race. Bird strikes are not uncommon at Phillip Island, and they can cause grave injuries when they occur at speed. Thankfully for Iannone, Turn 10 is one of the slowest corners on the Australian track.

While we mourn the loss of Gavin, as he has made his way to the big race track in the sky, it is good to see that he has not been forgotten. A few photos of Iannone’s helmet are after the jump.

Bell Developing Helmet with Integrated 360° Video Camera

01/11/2016 @ 11:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Are you ready for another post about helmets, especially one with integrated technology? Sure you are, Sparky – and you will be happy to learn about this collaboration between Bell Helmets and a company called 360fly.

Like the Nikon KeyMission video camera, 360fly’s system captures everything around the rider in 4k video resolution, and then creates a video that can be viewed from an immersive virtual-reality perspective.

Thanks to a built-in GPS, altimeter/barometer, and accelerometer, the 360fly system is capable of overlaying telemetry data into its video, among a variety of other features. What really separates the unit from the rest though is what is in the pipeline from 360fly.

Injuries Soar After Michigan Helmet Law Repeal

01/11/2016 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler64 COMMENTS

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The link between helmet laws and motorcyclists fatalities may seem intuitive and obvious, but now because of a study published in the American Journal of Surgery we have scientific proof that helmets save lives.

The study focuses around Michigan, which repealed its mandatory helmet law (thanks to help from the AMA) in April 2012, and has since had three riding seasons with a greatly reduce helmet-wearing requirement.

After the repeal, motorcyclists in Michigan can now ride without a helmet if they are over 21-years-old, have had their license for at least two years, and have at least $20,000 in additional medical insurance coverage.

Postulating that legislatures made a mistake in that repeal, the basic conclusions from the study are that the state has seen an increase in injury severity for motorcycles, a higher in-patient mortality for motorcyclists, and worse neurological damage for motorcyclists.

While those are all painful logical results, the numbers paint an even more grim picture.