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.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Scott Wine Elected Chairman of the Board at Polaris

01/31/2013 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Coming off the third-straight record year for Polaris, CEO Scott Wine has just gotten a resounding vote of confidence from the company’s Board of Directors, and has been elected to Chairman of the Board at Polaris Industries. Wine replaces former-Chairman Greg Palen, who had served in the position of chairman for 11 of his 20 years on Polaris’ Board of Directors.

“I would like to congratulate Scott on his election to serve in the additional capacity of Chairman of the Board,” said Palen. “Under his leadership, Polaris has delivered consistent and profitable growth while successfully executing the company’s ambitious strategy, generating record results and shareholder returns.”

Polaris Acquires KLIM Technical Riding Gear

12/06/2012 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Polaris Industries continues to be the 800 lbs gorilla of corporate M&A in the motorcycle industry, and the American firm reinforced that fact today after it announced the acquisition of KLIM Technical Riding Gear. Known for its superb snow and off-road gear, KLIM is a strong apparel brand that matches up well with the core Polaris’s core business of ATVs and snowmobiles. While terms of the acquisition are not being discussed, KLIM is expected to clear $30 million in revenue in 2012.

In its statement, Polaris says that it will operate the KLIM brand in conjunction with the other existing Polaris apparel brands. Additionally, KLIM will continue operations at its Rigby location, and will retain the company’s current staff members. Planning to invest further in KLIM’s infrastructure, Polaris intends to establish the Rigby facility as its “new apparel Center of Excellence,” thus centralizing the company’s apparel manufacturing efforts.

Brammo Raises $13 Million in Series C Funding Round

07/12/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo announced today that it has raised another $13 million, in a Series C funding round that was lead by Polaris Industries. Hoping to secure a total of $45 million over the course of the entire round of funding, the investment by Polaris is the second one that American company has made into the Ashland-based electric motorcycle company.

Polaris first invested in Brammo back in October, as the Minnesota-based company was rumored to be taking a close look at a number of electric motorcycle firms for a strategic partnership. Ultimately settling on Brammo, Polaris was a part of the Oregonian company’s $28 million Series B funding round, and is said to have lead this current Series C tranche.

Sticker Shock: Brammo Empulse R Priced at $20,000?

05/03/2012 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A Bothan spy just dropped off a note in the A&R inbox saying that the soon-to-be-released and recently-spotted Brammo Empulse R is to come with quite the price tag. Said to be priced just shy of $20,000, the R-spec Empulse would be commanding a $6,000 premium over the $14,000 MSRP that was quoted when the Brammo Empulse first hit the newswires 22 months ago. Considering the $13,995 price tag offered by the Zero S ZF9, the $20,000 figure being bantered about sounds very high to our ears, at least initially.

Brammo Empulse Spotted “Testing” Six-Speed Gearbox

01/03/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

Teased, delayed, and dismayed, fans of the Empulse should be able finally to get their hands on the Brammo Empulse in 2012, as the Oregonian company has been busy finalizing the Empulse’s design and technical specifications for its street bike release. Rumored to incorporate the six-speed SMRE-designed integrated electric transmission (IET) found on the Brammo Engage and Brammo Encite, a video has cropped-up that shows a test mule Brammo Empulse with the IET gearbox fitted to it. Naturally one of the testing requirements is a fat parking lot burnout.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

Polaris Invests in Brammo’s $28 Million Series B Round

10/26/2011 @ 7:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

After being courted by several major OEMs according to our sources, electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo received a minority investment by  Polaris Industries today. The move will give Polaris access to Brammo’s proprietary electric powertrain technology, and positions the large OEM to enter further into the electric motorcycle market as a strategic partner to the Oregonian company. In the process of this investment, Brammo has also closed a $28 million Series B round of funding that also included contributions from repeat investor Alpine Energy and first-time Brammo investor NorthPort Investments, LLC.

Polaris has already been aggressively expanding into new market segments this year by buying both Indian Motorcycles and electric car manufacturer GEM. Polaris’s investment in Brammo, the two companies will form a strategic partnership that will presumably see Brammo’s electric drivetrain in different Polaris Industry products, which gives the American company a formidable ally in the move to electric-powered vehicles. For Brammo, the news bodes well as it not only means an infusion of fresh capital, a roadmap to further funding, and a step closer to a possible exit, but Polaris will also be sharing its vast array of technical, sales, and support knowledge to the electric startup.

Polaris Q3 Sales Up 23%

10/18/2011 @ 6:20 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Polaris has just released its third quarter figures, with the American brand reporting a 23% increase ($35.6 million) in sales revenue for the months of July, August, and September when compared to the same time period last year. Those Q3 numbers continue the company’s upward trend this year, as year-to-date (YTD) sales for Polaris, when compared 2010, are up 37% overall ($111.4 million).

While sales have risen across all of Polaris’s market segments, its on-road vehicle segment, specifically its Victory Motorcycles line, has lead the growth for the company. With Q3 sales up 77%, and YTD sales up 83%, Polaris has been making strides against a market that has seen a massive decline from its Japanese competitors.

Indian Produces First Motorcycle Under Polaris Ownership

08/31/2011 @ 3:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Indian Motorcycle has released some photos of the first 2012 Indian Chief to roll out of the company’s Spirit Lake, Iowa plant — the first motorcycle to be produced by the oldest American motorcycle company since its acquisition by Polaris. Nicknamed the “Polaris-Indian Bike #1,” the new Chief is not terribly different from the 2011 Indian Chiefs built under the old regieme, but it does symbolize the next chapter in the iconic company’s history.