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.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Barreda Rises to the Top

01/04/2017 @ 11:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Stage 3 for the 2017 Dakar Rally was a beast – especially in the first 70 km- as temperatures ranged from scorching hot to freezing cold; the climate changed from dry desert to patches of mountain rain; and the day saw nearly 4,000 meters of elevation. So, it shouldn’t surprise to see a shake-up on the leaderboard.

As such, Joan Barreda and his Honda are now the combo to beat in this year’s Dakar Rally, the Spaniard pulling out a solid 10-minute gap on his nearest competitor, who is now KTM’s Sam Sunderland.

Navigation was crucial in today’s two-part 364km special, with the terrain offering a bevy of challenges, including the dreaded fesh-fesh.

Where is Toby Price you might be asking? After a mistake during the very difficult first waypoint of the timed section, Price finds himself down in fifth place, over 16 minutes back from Barreda overall.

Stage 3 was also tough on the factory Yamaha team, with Xaiver de Soultrait slipping out of the Top 5, all the way down to 13th overall, after making a series of costly mistakes early in the special.

Conversely, the day was slightly better for the factory Husqvarna riders, with Pablo Quintanilla making some mistakes, but still seeing his name rise in the rankings. He’s just over a minute outside of the Top 3 now.

Tomorrow sees the Dakar Rally entering Bolivia, with high-altitude sand dunes and plenty of over challenges awaiting them. Still, none of the top riders are out of contention for ultimate victory, but they have a tough road to redemption.

However, Joan Barreda must surely be enjoying the padding he’s just given himself. The test, of course, is to minimize mistakes, and more important nurture his machine all the way to the finish line in Buenos Aires in ten days’ time.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Halfway Point

01/10/2016 @ 12:29 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2016-Dakar-Rally-Stage-7-HRC-05

Stage 7 of the 2016 Dakar Rally was another long one, with 793km in total on the route and 353km on the special. With more trecherous weather, not all of the motorbike competitors crossed the finish line, with some turning back at their discretion, with the blessing of Race Control. The special stage was also trimmed, leaving out the second checkpoint.

The day’s results mark the halfway point of the Dakar Rally thus far, with Sunday serving as a much needed day off for the riders.

Despite the long and technical route, not much has changed overall in the standings. With Antoine Meo winning the stage, and Kevin Benavides finishing second, Paulo Gonçalves got some breathing room on his overall lead position, with his third place finish on Stage 7.

His closest competitor, KTM’s Toby Price, finished the day 5th quickest, and is now over three minutes behind Gonçalves.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Battle of Attrition

01/09/2016 @ 3:10 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2016-Dakar-Rally-Stage-6-KTM-03

With the marathon stage behind them, the riders took to the long loop around Uyuni today. Stage 6 of the 2016 Dakar Rally brought in more navigational challenges, not to mention a staggering 540km time special.

With over 700km on the day, and a peak altitude of 15,000 feet, this is where the Dakar Rally starts earning its reputation as being the most grueling motorsport on the planet.

The first to show weakness on the day was Joan Barreda, whose Honda CRF450 Rally suffered some sort of mechanical problem, and had to be towed to the finish line by HRC teammate Paolo Ceci. Barreda lost four hours because of the technical setback, which effectively ends his Dakar.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 5: KTM Closes In

01/08/2016 @ 1:52 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2016-Dakar-Rally-Stage-5-KTM-01

The second half of the marathon stage for the 2016 Dakar Rally, where riders and teams are forbidden from working on their machines until today’s liaison stage, Stage 5 had the added challenges beyond its 642km total distance and 327km special section, which brought them into Bolivia.

The navigational challenges also increased on Stage 5, as The Dakar begins to separate the wheat from the chaff. With most of the stage at over 11,00 feet, with a peak altitude of 15,000 feet, competitors traded the hardship of rain for altitude, an equally formidable obstacle.

The racers in orange fared the best in the high mountains, as Stage 5 was dominated by KTM riders, with Toby Price taking the top honors, followed by Stefan Svitko and Matthias Walkner. This result closes Svitko and Price to under two minutes of overall leader Paul Gonçalves, who struggled on the stage with altitude sickness, losing roughly nine minutes in the process.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Big Red Rises

01/06/2016 @ 7:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

during the Dakar 2016 Argentina Bolivia, Etape 4 - Stage 4, Jujuy - Jujuy, from January 6, 2016 , Argentina - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Stage 4 of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw competitors racing mostly in a 420km loop near Jujuy, Argentina. Stage 4 is also the start of the marathon stage of the Dakar Rally, where this year team mechanics and competitors are forbidden from working on their machines, until the next day’s liaison section.

Always a decisive moment, it means that riders especially need to ensure no harm comes to their race motorcycles over the course of the stage, as they will not have the benefit of their support crews.

In that way, concentration is very much a key element to winning The Dakar, which as a segue, is something HRC rider Joan Barreda is learning the hard way.

Despite being the fastest man on Stage 4, another speeding penalty on the liaison section means that Barreda had five minutes tacked onto his time for the day, which drops him to third overall. With his pace in the special section, Barreda should be leading this edition of The Dakar, but the unforced errors are costing him.

Meanwhile, teammate Paulo Gonçalves continues to benefit from Barreda’s mistakes, and thus gets the stage win after the times for Stage 4 were tallied.

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Hat Trick?

01/06/2016 @ 1:23 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

2016-Dakar-Rally-Stage-3-HRC-17

Stage 3 of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw another modified route, as the competitors worked around the weather in Argentina. This means that the timed special section was reduced to roughly 200km.

With the shorter route, the navigational challenges were virtually non-existent for the motorcycle competitors, though plenty of radar speed traps were on the course, which caught a few riders out.

The day was most fruitful for Honda, as the fastest three riders through the timed section were all HRC riders, with Joan Barreda leading the pack.

Unfortunately for Barreda though, the Spanish rider got another one-minute penalty, which officially knocked him back to fifth for the day, robbing Honda of its scorecard domination.

“Today was a great day after yesterday, when I had to open the track, but today we started from behind which gave us a good position to attack from,” said Barreda.

“We were very focused throughout the stage, which had very little navigation but plenty of radars that you had to be careful of. I kept a great pace throughout the 200 km and I’ve got the leadership back.”

2016 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Beginning, In Earnest

01/05/2016 @ 1:16 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

2016-Dakar-Rally-Stage-2-KTM-04

Racing almost 800km from Villa Carlos Paz to Termas de Río Hondo, Monday marked the first earnest day of racing in the 2016 Dakar Rally, after the timed section of Stage 1 had to be canceled because of the incredibly weather at play in Argentina.

This doesn’t mean Monday was without weather though, as the special section was trimmed from 450km to 354km, because track conditions had deteriorated after Sunday’s thunderstorms.

That slight respite proved to be a boon for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price, as the Australian took the first Stage win of The Dakar. Price finished just 20 seconds ahead of Husqvarna’s Ruben Faria, lining up a duel that is likely to be a major part of this year’s edition of The Dakar.

While KTM might be without Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, both riders now having retired from two-wheel racing, KTM has a strong showing so far in 2016, with Stefan Svitko of Slovakia rounding out the podium, third in Stage 2, though he carries a one-minute penalty from the day.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: And Then There Was One

01/16/2015 @ 11:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 12: And Then There Was One

toby-price-2015-Dakar-Rally-Stage-12-KTM

The penultimate round of the 2015 Dakar Rally, Stage 12 is really the last chance for the riders to shuffle around in the standings, as Saturday’s closing stage has only a 174 km time special stage, and thus won’t give many opportunity.

As such, Stage 12 saw Marc Coma managing his pace, so as not to stress his KTM 450 Rally race bike, but yet keep HRC’s Paulo Goncalves at bay.

This left KTM-support rider Toby Price to win the stage. The Australian is used to desert racing, is racing his second rally-raid, and this is his first ride as a KTM-supported rider. Price has certainly been impressing the Austrians, as he sits a comfortable third in the overall rankings after today.

“At this stage everything is just feeling good. We’re enjoying it, so it’s been a good experience. There have been a lot of highs and lows and good learning curves as well as a few mistakes, but we’re trying to fix them as best as we can and get to the finishing line,” said Price.

“Hopefully, that will happen tomorrow. I always knew it was going to be difficult, but you don’t know until you actually come here and have a go. Then you find out how hard it really is.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 11: HRC Penalties Aid Marc Coma

01/15/2015 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

joan-barreda-2015-Dakar-Rally-Stage-11-HRC

The second half of the second marathon stage, Stage 11 saw a strong performance from the factory Honda riders, and rightly so. After a three-way engine swap by the riders, Salta saw Barreda, Goncalves, and Isreal working until 2am, and suffering time penalties because of their actions.

So while Joan Barreda claimed another stage-victory, with Paulo Goncalves finishing closely behind him, the reality is that Marc Coma’s lead over his HRC rivals has been lengthened to 21 minutes, with only two more stages of racing to go.

“Yesterday we had to change Paulo’s engine with mine, which was fresher, and I had to put Jeremías’ one in. We were working until two in the morning and we only rested for a couple of hours,” explained Barreda. “Everything went well and I was able to win. We have proved that we can win not only stages, but also the whole race. Right now, the main priority is a win for the team.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

01/14/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Coma Adds to His Lead

joan-barreda-Stage-10-HRC-2015-Dakar-Rally

The 2015 Dakar Rally headed back into Argentina today, as Stage 10 took riders out of Calama and into Salta. Stage 10 is the start of another marathon stage, meaning only the riders will be able to work on their machines tonight and tomorrow, until the end of the riding of Stage 11.

While the first marathon stage likely helped determine this year’s winner, the second marathon stage seems to be less of an affair. KTM’s Marc Coma sits with a seven-and-a-half-minute lead over HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. Goncalves finished 5th today, to Coma’s second, roughly two-minutes behind the overall leader.

“It’s been a tough Dakar. We have to fight many adverse situations but after so many days and despite the suffering, I am still enjoying it. That is what is great about this race. It makes you confront your limits and when you think you can’t do any more, you face them and move on,” said Coma.

“Today’s stage was very hard and it was not easy to keep up a high pace. At first there was the altitude, and then a technical part that really tested us. I tried to keep up the same pace throughout the stage.”