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.

2015 Dakar Rally – Rest Day

01/10/2015 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Saturday is a rest day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, giving riders and teams a chance to catch their breath, tune their bikes, and hone the strategies for the next eight stages, one of which is a marathon stage, where the teams cannot help the riders work on their bikes.

For KTM and Marc Coma, the day will be spent trying to figure out how to shake Joan Barreda from the four-time Dakar winner. For HRC and Barreda, the game is simple, cover Coma’s every action and don’t let him eat into the 12-minute gap that the Spaniard has built with his hard riding.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Racing’s Alessandro Botturi has been waiving the banner for the blue and white contingency, which has otherwise had an abysmal Dakar Rally without Cyril Despres in its ranks — Despres is racing this year in the car category. Botturi is 11th overall, having made up some serious time during the shake up on Stage 6.

Other rankings notables are Laia Sanz in 14th, the top female racer in the 2015 Dakar Rally. Alain Duclos of France is the top Sherco rider, which this year has partnered with TVS making the Sherco/TVS team.

With a lot of Dakar still to race, expect these standings to still move around. After the jump is the full listing of all 110 bike entries to The Dakar.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 6: A Shuffling of Things

01/10/2015 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Stage 6 of the 2015 Dakar Rally saw the riders head into Iquique, and while the course was fairly straight-forward, a navigational error at the front of the pack caused a shuffling in the stage’s finishing order.

Though first out of the gate, Marc Coma finished the day 7th, after crashing in the early parts of the stage. He was quickly caught by Joan Barreda, whose strategies seems to be sticking close to Coma at all costs, minimizing the KTM rider’s ability to gain time on his Honda rival.

This left HRC’s Helder Rodrigues who took the stage win, planting another flag for Honda in this year’s Dakar. The Japanese manufacturer is proving to be a serious contender in the Dakar Rally, and could upset KTM’s dominance of the rally raid event.

“I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road. They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them,” said Rodrigues. “I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end. It’s rest-day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Takes First Stage Win

01/09/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Marc Coma has finally chalked up his first stage win of the 2015 Dakar Rally, gaining back several minutes from the overall leader Joan Barreda.

With 10 minutes still between the two top riders from HRC and KTM, it seems Barreda is content to manage the gap, as he let Coma lead Stage 5 and followed the Spaniards tracks and navigation decisions in the difficult fesh-fesh minefield that is the Atacama Desert.

“I am happy about the stage win but the fact is that Joan enjoys a significant advantage and we will try to trim it,” said Coma. There is still a lot of race left. The second part (of the rally) is longer with the marathon stages and it will be a fight every day. We are going in the right direction and we will keep fighting.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 4: Barreda Answers

01/08/2015 @ 12:08 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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After Yesterday’s fateful round, the 2015 Dakar Rally was back in action today with Stage 4, Chilecito to Copiapo. The stage would lead the riders out of Argentina and into Chile, for the first time this rally raid.

A mixture of sand dunes, rocks, and high elevation, the day was the second longest overall (909km), but featured only a 315km timed special stage.

Answering yesterday’s KTM 1-2 victory, Honda’s Joan Barreda set out to maintain is top spot in The Dakar standings, though would have to contend with KTM’s Marc Coma, who stuck to him like glue once the two were riding together.

While Barreda’s lead over Coma was increased by a couple of minutes, Coma’s spot on the overall time sheets is now second, and well within striking distance of the HRC rider — especially with two marathon stages left to contend with.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: KTM Responds

01/06/2015 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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In response to a difficult Stage 2, Dakar officials shortened Stage 3 of the 2015 Dakar Rally, but the picturesque course was still enough to shake up the standings a bit. Winning the stage was Dakar newcomer, MX3 World Champion Matthias Walkner — the first Austrian rider in The Dakar since the 1990’s.

“I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day. But at the end I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes,” explained stage-winner Walkner.

“It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure I didn’t expect this. It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”

A Factory KTM rider, Walkner added some orange to the stage podium, and was joined by KTM’s Marc Coma, who finished second for the day, 40 seconds behind his teammate. Managing the gap though, Honda’s Joan Barreda finished the day third, only a minute and change behind Walkner.

As such, Barreda stays in control of the overall standings, but Coma is within a comfortable 11-minute gap of the HRC rider.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Thinning the Herd

01/05/2015 @ 11:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Hosting the second longest special stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally (518 miles), Stage 2 between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan was especially grueling because of the added heat; and as such, The Dakar has already started to separate the top riders.

To that end, the HRC riders find themselves weighed and measured at the top, thus far. Joan Barreda rode to a solid stage win, and finishes the day with over a four-minute interval to his closest competitor.

“In the end we set off with a game-plan to not make any mistakes and arrive safely at the finish-line,” said Barreda. “The result has been amazing. In the first part, Sunderland and Coma pushed really hard and I overtook Paulo to try and stop them running away with the stage.

“In the end, it was more about survival than anything else. We had to measure the pace and keep focused on the navigation as there were some extremely tricky spots, plus another stretch towards the end, that really put a strain on the body,” he continued.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: And They’re Off!

01/05/2015 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The first stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally started from Buenos Aires this weekend; and as usual, the day was a relatively easy affair that allowed riders to check their machines and get into the groove of what will be a grueling competition.

As such, a 144km liaison ride was made through the Argentinean countryside before the competitors reached the 175km timed “special” stage. Another long (519km) liaison section ended the day, and everyone bivouacked in Villa Carlos Paz.

Because of the short special stage, the riders are packed close on the standing, with less than six minutes separating the Top 20 riders. KTM’s Sam Sunderland drew first blood with the stage win, with teammate Marc Coma 1’12 behind in third.

KTM 450 Rally Production Racer Now Available

02/21/2014 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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KTM has won the last 13 runnings of The Dakar, and to get that thirteenth win for 2014, the Austrians went back to the drawing board, designing and building an all-new 450cc rally racer.

With the previous KTM 450 Rally being essentially the 690cc machine, with a 450cc motor wedged into it, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike was able to make great strides over its venerable, though compromised, predecessor.

The proof in the pudding was Marc Coma claiming his fourth Dakar win, and soldifying KTM’s position against an increasingly more competitive field, which sees both Honda and Yamaha elevating their game.

With the factory team signing off on the design, the Austrians are is now making the KTM 450 Rally available to privateers, with the KTM 450 Rally Production Racer now available for purchase.

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory

01/19/2014 @ 12:03 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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The 2014 Dakar Rally is finally done, after two weeks of hard racing across Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Despite a slow start to this year’s Dakar, KTM’s Marc Coma took his fourth career win of the iconic rally raid race, aboard KTM’s all new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Finishing almost two hours clear of his nearest competitor, teammate Jordi Viladoms, Coma took the lead on Stage Five and never looked back. The Spaniard’s fourth Dakar win came primarily from consistent riding, which saw Coma slowly rise in the rankings as Despres and Barreda made mistakes and encountered technical difficulties with their machinery.

“Without the right people behind me it would have been impossible to win,” said Coma. “We have worked very well throughout the race and also before. Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me. I am very proud of this victory. What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”

Marc Coma dedicated his win to his late teammate Kurt Caselli, who tragically died during the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000. Caselli filled in for Coma in the 2013 rally, earning himself great praise for his assention in the ranks, and two stage wins. Coma’s victory is a fitting tribute to the American rider.

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

01/18/2014 @ 10:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

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The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.

“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”