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.

The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

12/15/2016 @ 11:20 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 2: On Moto2

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.

Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be.

The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself. 

The Aki Ajo Monster Interview, Part 1: On Identifying Talent

12/15/2016 @ 10:19 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.

The list of champions and great riders he has produced is almost endless: Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Sandro Cortese, Luis Salom, Danny Kent to name just a few. 

To find out how he does it, I sat down with Aki Ajo at Valencia and spoke for nearly half an hour. The results of this interview were fascinating, and offer a great insight into the how to get the best out of a rider, to help them achieve success.

In the first part of this interview, he shares his philosophy of racing and team management, of motivation, and what keeps him going. He also talks about the difference it makes working with a rider the second time around, and why he is happy with his current crop of riders in Moto2 and Moto3.

Eugene Laverty Explains His Return to Aprilia & WSBK

12/02/2016 @ 12:34 pm, by Kent Brockman3 COMMENTS

world-superbike-motogp-jerez-test-tony-goldsmith-wednesday-17

The Jerez Test was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori, but while the bike was similar, it was new surroundings for both riders.

With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017, the opening day of the Jerez test was the team’s first experience of the Italian bike.

Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience on the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike, and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day.

For SMR however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RRs during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss, Shaun Muir, it was clearly an important day for the British squad.

Marco Melandri Talks About His Return to World Superbike

11/27/2016 @ 10:46 am, by Kent Brockman10 COMMENTS

marco-melandri-ducati-corse-wsbk-jerez-test-02

The return of Marco Melandri to World Superbike in 2017 has been one of the biggest talking points in the series over the last few months. The Italian has won 19 races, from 100 starts, in the championship, and as a former 250GP World Champion, and 22-times Grand Prix winner, his credentials are highly impressive.

The last two years have been a blot on the copybook, however. Having enjoyed an exceptionally strong finish to the 2014 WorldSBK season, Melandri looked well placed to finally win a second world title.

Winning six races and finishing fourth in the standings looked to be a perfect springboard for a title run the following year, but Aprilia had other ideas and with Melandri, and the Italian was forced to race in MotoGP. The relationship then turned sour.

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

11/23/2016 @ 5:36 pm, by Kent Brockman6 COMMENTS

world-superbike-motogp-jerez-test-tony-goldsmith-wednesday-04

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it.

Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, 39 victories from 76 races, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements.

The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, and the Italian manufacturer’s renaissance over the last 12 months has made it the early favorite for title success in 2017.

New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Q&A: Dani Pedrosa – Media & Changes from 990/800/1000

11/09/2016 @ 10:17 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

MotoGP-2016-Brno-Rnd-11-Tony-Goldsmith-1450

Dani Pedrosa is in his eleventh season in MotoGP. Throughout that period, he has seen many changes in the premier class. He raced in the last year of the 990s, then throughout the 800 era, and saw the return of the 1000cc machines.

Only Valentino Rossi has been in MotoGP for longer, or raced, and won on, a greater variety of machines.

Pedrosa arrived in MotoGP being heralded as the next big thing, the prime candidate to challenge Valentino Rossi for the title. He started strongly, winning races in his first season, and clearly being competitive.

But the focus would shift in his second year to his former 250cc rival Casey Stoner, who took the factory Ducati ride and blew the competition out of the water in 2007.

In 2008, Jorge Lorenzo came to strengthen the top of MotoGP, creating the narrative of the four MotoGP Aliens. When Stoner hung up his helmet at the end of 2012, Marc Márquez stepped into his boots and upped the level of competition even further.

The level of competition Pedrosa has faced has meant he has not received the recognition he deserves for his incredible record. In eleven seasons, Pedrosa has won 29 races in MotoGP, putting him in 8th place on the all time winners list.

His win at Misano, after a very difficult start to the season, laid any doubts to rest over his motivation, and his ability. Pedrosa remains capable of winning any race he lines up on the grid for.

I spoke to Pedrosa at Misano, intending to look back at his time in MotoGP, and to discuss how things had changed. But the conversation took a slightly different tack than I was expecting.

In our conversation, Pedrosa talked about his relationship with the press, and how that had colored his time in the class.

Pedrosa has not always been the most talkative of riders – questions are sometimes answered with a tiny nod or shake of the head, where another rider might explain in great detail – but when he does talk, it is always worth listening carefully.

Leon Camier – “To Be on the Podium Would Be Perfect”

10/18/2016 @ 6:08 pm, by Kent Brockman1 COMMENT

leon-camier-donington-park-world-superbike

Which rider has exceeded pre-season expectations the most in the 2016 WorldSBK season? For many inside the paddock, Leon Camier is the most popular and obvious response.

Coming into the season there was little expected of the Italian manufacturer, but eight Top 6 finishes mean it is easy to see why Camier’s performances are being hailed.

The fortunes of MV Agusta in 2016 have surpassed expectations to such a degree that there is now the expectation rather than hope of podium finishes.

“I think a lot of our improvement this year comes down to personnel,” said Camier, after the Jerez round of the championship. “Mainly it comes down to just having a little bit more structure in the team, so they can get the changes done they needed to get done.”

“The team is now more streamlined and Andrea Quadranti is the one boss. We brought in some extra staff, and that has helped, but we knew last year what we needed to change with the bike, and we’ve been able to make those changes this year.”

Having announced his decision to re-sign with the team for a third season, the changes made to the team and the improvement to the bike mean that he is well-placed to finally give the manufacturer their maiden podium finish.

Lin Jarvis on Lorenzo – “It’s Business, Not Charity”

10/14/2016 @ 5:33 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

twin-ring-motegi-2016-jorge-lorenzo-esses-scott-jones

Ever since we found out that Yamaha was only going to release Jorge Lorenzo from his contract to test at Valencia after the last race, but not at a private test at Jerez a week later, there has been much speculation as to the cause.

Had growing friction between the factory and Lorenzo led Yamaha to block the test? Was Yamaha afraid of just how competitive Lorenzo would be on the Ducati? Or, as the more conspiratorially inclined would have it, was this the invisible hand of Valentino Rossi at work?

The massed media had to wait until Motegi to find out. In the pre-event press conference, Jorge Lorenzo acknowledged that Yamaha had told him that the Jerez test was off the cards.

“Well, obviously I would like to make the Jerez test, but it is not a thing that depends on myself. For the moment, looks like I will test in Valencia. Looks like for Jerez, Yamaha is not so keen to permit that.” Lorenzo felt disappointed by the decision.

“I think that for the years we’ve spent together, and for the things we’ve won together, I deserve it. But obviously it doesn’t depend on myself and I will respect whatever decision Yamaha will make, because I am a Yamaha rider.”

Due to the large number of journalists asking to speak to Lin Jarvis to get his side of the story, Yamaha convened a press conference to allow the assembled media to ask questions.

In the space of half an hour, the Yamaha Motor Racing boss laid out in clear terms why the decision had been made. It was a masterclass in the underlying truth of MotoGP: this is a business, with millions of dollars involved, and a tangled web of interest beyond just Yamaha.

Yamaha has a duty to its shareholders and its sponsors to hold Lorenzo to the contract they both signed. Helping Lorenzo to try to beat Yamaha on a Ducati would be to fail their sponsors and Yamaha’s corporate interests.

Q&A: Michelin’s Nicolas Gouber – On MotoGP Tire Technology & Michelin’s Development Direction

10/10/2016 @ 2:27 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

nicolas-goubert-michelin-motogp

Three quarters of the way through their first season back in MotoGP, and their first as a spec tire supplier, Michelin took the unique decision to start holding regular debriefs for the media at each race.

Aragon was the first of such debriefs, and was therefore a lengthy affair. In it, Michelin’s Racing Technical Director, faced some very broad-ranging questions about the development of the French firm’s tires throughout the season.

But he also covered more general questions, such as the R&D and marketing benefits of going racing, the direction Michelin are following, and how they are trying to accommodate of so many different riders.

Goubert offered a fascinating insight into where Michelin stands at the moment, and how they intend to move forward.

Safe or Unsafe? Riders & Michelin Talk Tires at Brno

08/24/2016 @ 11:18 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

MotoGP-2016-Brno-Rnd-11-Tony-Goldsmith-1120

The tire degradation during the MotoGP race at Brno was still a hot topic on the test on Monday, after so many riders suffered problems during the race on Sunday.

We asked most of the riders who tested on Monday what they felt about the tires, and whether they were safe. We also spoke to Nicolas Goubert, Michelin’s technical director, and he explained why he felt that some riders had suffered problems, while others had been able to finish the race.

The comments below are offered without any further commentary. I do not wish to cloud the judgment of those reading the comments by first setting out my own theory of what happened. The comments stand on their own, and should be read as such.