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.

US Motorcycle Sales Down in 2016, While UK Sales Are Up

01/11/2017 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler72 COMMENTS

For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated.

Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015.

Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations).

Wazer, A Mass Market Water Jet Cutter

09/12/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

wazer-water-jet-cutter

I know more than a few Asphalt & Rubber readers are do-it-yourselfers, so this news about the Wazer mass market water jet cutter should be of particular interest.

The $6,000 desktop water jet cutter by Wazer offers a key technology that previously was only available to larger fabrication outfits, with typical water jet cutters costing up to $50,000 for standard units, and north of $100,000 for industrial-level cutters.

Suitable for cutting metal, rock, composites, and other materials, water jut cutters are what the big boys bring out for cutting jobs, when laser cutter can’t…umm…cut it, making this of particular note to builders and creative-types who previously could not afford the technology.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

pied-piper-psi-results-2016

Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

Ducati Dealers Top Pied Piper Rankings, Again

05/04/2015 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Pied-Piper-PSI-chart-2015

Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) is one of the major ranking systems out there assessing the US motorcycle industry and its dealerships.

To give you a quick primer on how scoring works, Pied Piper takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences, along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement.

For this year’s assessment, it comes with little surprise that Ducati is once again taking the top honors, followed closely by Harley-Davidson and Victory — two brands that have high customer satisfaction, according to Consumer Reports.

Moto Bellwether: Q1 2014 Motorcycle Tire Sales Down 12.7%

06/02/2014 @ 5:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

ducati-streetfighter-motorcycle-burnout

Tire sales for the first quarter of the year are down 12.7%. It’s certainly not great news, but why are we publishing this figure for you? Because tire sales are the best indicator of how active motorcyclists are during the riding season. With tire sales down 12.7% retailers and brands can expect similar downward trends in apparel, parts, and service items during the same time period.

You can account for the sales drop through a number of factors, though one has to certainly consider the unseasonably cold winter (Polar Vortex) that occurred in the United States — except for us Californians, who just had an extended autumn, despite a slew of new ski gear.

Ultimate Motorcycling Claims To Be The Most Popular American Motorcycle Publisher Online – We Call Bullshit

10/18/2010 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Ultimate Motorcycling, formerly of  Robb Report fame, issued a fun article today (and accompanying press release) about how they’ve become the most popular American-based website for motorcycling out of all the print magazines, surpassing CycleWorld, Motorcyclist, and *gasp* even Asphalt & Rubber (actually we don’t dabble in print, so we guess we’re excluded from this club). This of course is complete, utter, and absolute bullshit, now allow me to tell you why. Ultimate Motorcycling is backing up its claim by citing Alexa.com, one of the most unreliable and easily massaged traffic reporting sites on the internet.

Now while all metric sites should be taken with a fair dose of salt, since they typically indirectly measure a website’s traffic, Alexa is by far the worst of the group. Bought by Amazon in 1999, and then quickly forgotten about by the Seattle company, Alexa has done little since the 20th century to change with the ever evolving internet. While the site was fun back in the days when AOL was still the default landing page for most internet users, Alexa has long since jumped the shark in regards to its credibility in the industry.

There is a nice Wikipedia article that explains basics of Alexa, and TechCrunch gives a good example on how inaccurate Alexa reports really are (YouTube bigger than Google? Really!?), but the boiled down version is that Alexa collects the majority of its data through its own Internet Explorer toolbar and Firefox/Opera add-ons, and given how few people actually use these toolbars the sample sizes are woefully small and statistically insignificant. Further proof of this is the fact that Bulgaria is shown at Ultimte Motorcycling‘s top ranking country…yes, Bulgaria (we apologize to all 600 of our Bulgarian readers for this slight, but come on!).

The worst part about Alexa’s rankings, is how easy they are to game. Remember, these stats are coming from a toolbar that only a handful or readers are actually using, so to inflate them all you need to do is have a few more people visit your site using the toolbar. Having litterally two or three more people visiting Ultimate Motorcycling‘s website with the Alexa toolbar installed can drastically skew the data results the company uses, and for instance say…making someone’s writing staff install Alexa on their work computers could just as easily raise the traffic figures (not that we’re suggesting such an unethical thing has actually occured).

First Quarter 2010 Motorcycle Sales Down 21% – March 2010 Sales Down 5%

04/28/2010 @ 9:18 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council has released the latest figures on motorcycle and industry sales for the first quarter of 2010, and the figures show a 21% decrease in motorcycle sales compared to 2009, with the industry as a whole posting a 23% loss. These statistics paint a continued doom and gloom scenario for the motorcycle industry, but there is a silver lining in the March 2010 numbers, which show an increase in some segments, and a slowing decline in the rest. Check after the jump for a full breakdown.

Industry Report: Have We Found the Bottom?

10/21/2009 @ 9:32 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

bottom-of-the-well

The latest data from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), suggests that the end of cascading motorcycle sales may be near. According to the MIC, the combined new unit sales for motorcycles, scooters, and ATVS during the past 9 months were down 40% from last year’s numbers. While still frighteningly low, these results show a 2% rebound in sales when compared to the first 6 months of 2009.