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.

KTM’s Toby Price Breaks Leg During Dakar Rally

01/06/2017 @ 1:30 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Marc Coma’s words ahead of the 2017 Dakar Rally seem almost prophetic right now, with the five-time winner and now Dakar Sport Director saying that this year’s edition of the iconic rally raid race would be the toughest ever held. The first four stages of The Dakar have proved this point, quite well.

As of Stage 3, eight motorcycle competitors had already retired, and Stage 4 claimed the Dakar’s first high-profile victim: KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price.

Just a few kilometers from the end of the stage, Price had overtaken Honda’s Joan Barreda on the course, and while navigating a tough riverbed, the KTM rider crashed and broke his left femur.

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.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Toby Price Takes Over the Lead

01/03/2017 @ 6:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Today marks the real start of the 2017 Dakar Rally, with Stage 2 taking competitors on a 803km trip (275km on the timed special) through the Chaco region of Argentina. Navigation wasn’t too hard on the racers for this stage, though the heat and humidity persisted and road hazards abounded.

This allowed KTM’s Toby Price to pull out a small lead over the competition, which doesn’t mean much in the standings, but sets him up with clear road for tomorrow’s stage start, which could prove to be a strong advantage as the Dakar Rally gains in elevation.

Finishing behind Price was KTM teammate Matthias Walkner, who got caught speeding during the liaison section and suffered a five-minute penalty for it. This dropped Walkner to 15th for the day, and put Paulo Gonçalves into the day’s #2 spot – a good position for the Honda rider.

Yamaha’s Xaiver de Soultrait has another strong day, as he rounded out the third-place position on Stage 2. KTM’s Sam Sunderland finished the day fourth, and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finished fifth.

In the overall standings, there is less than five minutes covering the Top 7 riders, showing that there is still some sifting left to do, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Tomorrow’s 364km special stage should do just that.

2017 Dakar Rally – Stage 1: A Half-Hour in Paraguay

01/02/2017 @ 10:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Short and sweet, that’s how the opening day of the 2017 Dakar Rally went down. The stage may have been 454km long, but the timed special was a paltry 39km. This means not much separates the top riders, with many treating the day as a shakedown before the long to come.

The weather was hot and humid, showing just one of the extremes that riders can expect from this year’s edition of The Dakar. Thankfully, the 39km special only took about half an hour for riders to complete, limiting their exertion.

With a bit of confusion from the ASO about who finished where, it seems that Stage 1 belongs to an unexpected name, with Joan Pedrero taking the top honors on his Sherco TVS Rally Factory bike, once the day’s times had been calculated.

The reason for that confusion comes down to Yamaha’s Xavier de Soultrait. Despite being the fastest during the timed special stage, the Frenchman will finish 10th for Stage 1, 58 seconds back, as he was a bit too fast through one of the speed-controlled sections, and suffered a one-minute penalty for his carelessness.

For the rest of the top riders, Toby Price finished 17th overall – a 1’23 behind – despite leading the charge out of the starting gates in Paraguay. Meanwhile, Honda’s Joan Barreda was thirty seconds back, 5th overall, with Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finishing 12th, a minute and one second back.

Christini II-Track AWD Snow Bike Is Ready to Hit the Slopes

12/20/2016 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The snow from Portland’s Snowpocalypse is melting right now, and the rebuilding has begun. Jokes aside, we could have had some serious fun last week with Christini’s latest AWD motorcycle, the Christini II-Track.

Taking the snow bike concept to the next logical Christini progression, the Christini II-Track features not one, but two, power-giving snow tracks, and the machine is now available for purchase from this plucky boutique American brand.

Video: Maintaining Oregon’s OHV Forest Trails

12/05/2016 @ 2:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Oregon might be one fo the best-kept secrets in the American motorcycling landscape, with great riding abounding in the Beaver State, both on and off-road.

Maintaining all those trails, especially the ones that are built around logging territories, is no easy feat though, but the Oregon Forestry Service does a great job of doing it.

So, we were pretty stoked to see this candid video from GoPro, which features Reid Brown, a Off-Highway Vehicle Specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, who is also a diehard motorcyclist.

It is beautifully shot video, and it shows a get perspective into the enthusiasts and professionals that keep our trails maintained and growing. We think that you will enjoy it.

Snow Bike Racing Is Officially A Thing Now

12/02/2016 @ 9:43 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Depending on your geography, the start of snow bike season might finally be here. These modified dirt bikes have snowmobile-like treads at the rear, a ski at the front, and look like an absolute blast in the frozen white stuff.

We’re sure that any time two snow bikes find themselves together, that some form of racing ensues. But now, to make things a bit more legit, the American Motorcyclist Association has officially sanctioned snow bike racing, starting the AMA Championship Snow Bike series in the process.

The BMW R nineT Urban G/S Helps Us Remember When the Dakar Rally Still Raced to Dakar

11/08/2016 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Our Bothan Spies came through once again this EICMA season, bringing us news that the BMW Lac Rose Concept would enter production as the 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S motorcycle.

As the name implies, the Urban G/S is based off the BMW R nineT platform, which means that it uses the iconic 1,170cc, 110hp, air-cooled, boxer-twin engine as its base, and then builds out from there.

As such, the chassis is the same modular frame that powers the rest of the R nineT line, complete with telescoping fork suspension at the front, along with a 19″ wheel wire-spoked wheel in the front, and a 17″ wire-spoked wheel in the rear.

All of this means that the BMW R nineT is mostly an aesthetic exercise – but it is quite the exercise, if you want our opinion.

2017 BMW R1200GS Gets Upgrades, And a Little Rallye

11/08/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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As expected, the BMW R1200GS is getting some updates for the 2017 model year. Beyond the anticipated engine refresh for Euro4 compliance – which sees the 2017 BMW R1200GS continuing to make 125hp at 7,750 rpm, thanks to a new catalytic converter and modified ECU settings – other improvements have also been made to this iconic machine.

The changes run the gamut, and include visual changes to the bodywork, mechanical updates for better operation, ergonomic refinements to the controls, and electronic upgrades to the standard and optional equipment.

BMW Motorrad has also made several model variations available of the 2017 BMW R1200GS, shown here is the very tasty BMW R1200GS Rallye, which shows an off-road focus with its rally seat, sport windshield, radiator and frame guards, wide enduro foot pegs, and spoked wheels with optional studded tires.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 “Black Arrow” Gets Green-Lit

11/08/2016 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the yin, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s yang, with the Swedish “black arrow” providing a unique twist on the typical scrambler motorcycle.

Another model that is based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a bike we have seen for quite some time, and now it has finally been given the nod to become a production bike for the 2017 model year.

Like its “white arrow” compatriot, the Svartpilen 401 takes a modern approach to an old aesthetic, and creates something entirely new in the process.

Though Husqvarna is a name with deep off-road roots, we imagine the Svartpilen 401 is about as dual-sport capable as the next “scrambler” you’d find, though we should mention that the small-displacement machine does have some qualities that would lend to its success on down a fire road or two.