At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #49 – Send It

04/03/2017 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Episode 49 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is mostly about our chance to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 at Thunderhill Raceway, though there are certainly enough rabbit holes of side-discussion that we suppose we can make note of a few other topics that we covered as well.

Obviously, the show includes a look at the supersport segment, as we talk about the latest 600cc four-cylinder machine to hit the motorcycle industry. We also talk about the Bridgestone R10 DOT race tire, as well as the Bridgestone W01 full-rain race tire, both of which we got to try at Thunderhill in mixed conditions.

In our talk about the “new” Yamaha YZF-R6, we got side-tracked by a number of interesting topics, like wet track riding and chassis setup/dynamics, as well as the problem of choice overload, as it pertains to the motorcycle industry. Another Two Enthusiasts classic, we hop you listen and enjoy the show.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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A Review of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/23/2017 @ 2:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler65 COMMENTS

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.

We should also give full-marks to the the realization that for Yamaha’s competitors in the supersport category, it will be considerably harder going forward to compete with Yamaha’s 600cc offering – a task that has already been a tough feat.

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Gone Riding: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/22/2017 @ 8:30 am, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

Good morning from cloudy California. Today’s adventure takes us to one of my favorite race tracks, Thunderhill Raceway Park, to test the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6.

It should be an interesting day, namely since Northern California is getting some much-needed rain, although that makes it tough to test a 120hp+ supersport machine.

On second thought though, maybe these are ideal conditions for the “new” R6 – with its freshly added traction control, riding modes, and anti-locking brake system.

It’s this electronics suite that will be the focus of our testing today, considering that the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 keeps the same frame and engine as its predecessor.

Definitely more evolution than revolution, other changes to the R6 for 2017 include revised suspension and braking components, magnesium subframe, aluminum tank, and bodywork that improves aerodynamics.

Yamaha calls this its “4th Generation” YZF-R6 model, though the spec list is suggesting something closer to a “3.5 Generation” machine…maybe 3.75, if I have had my Mountain Dew this morning and am feeling generous.

Yamaha feels confident that the 2017 model is a “new” bike though, and they even brought a 2016 model to ride, in order to prove the point to us. So, that will certainly be interesting. It looks like Bridgestone W01 full-wet rain tires will be the order of the day, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that things don’t get too moist out there.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have. So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, before even my own proper review is posted.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at Thunderhill. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #RWorld #R6FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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We’re Going to Try a New Motorcycle Review Format

03/22/2017 @ 12:55 am, by Jensen Beeler79 COMMENTS

For a long time, I have been unhappy with how we do motorcycle reviews here at Asphalt & Rubber – and if I am being real honest, I have been unhappy with how the industry as a whole deals with motorcycle reviews, especially in this new crazy online world.

Mea culpa, A&R is just as guilty as the rest when it comes to publishing motorcycle reviews. We have been just as lazy as the next publication, as we try to chase elusive pageviews at the end of each bike launch, with timely but flaccid prose (with varying degrees of success, on both accounts, I should say).

Well, I want that to stop. It is dumb, and it is bad for the ecosystem.

So, starting today we are going to try a new motorcycle review format – one that I have been chewing on for several months now. It is a three-pronged approach to bike reviews, which sees us trying to achieve different goals with each of our three postings about the new motorcycles we ride. Let me break them down for you.

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Gear Review: AGV Corsa R Helmet

12/14/2016 @ 7:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

AGV Corsa R Helmet

New for 2017, the AGV Corsa R is the Italian company’s update to its top-of-line sport bike helmet offering. Building off the success of the Corsa that proceeded it, the Corsa R makes a number of modifications to the already robust helmet package, thankfully listening to the feedback of customers.

As such, it is evolution not revolution for the AGV Corsa R, but we think that riders will enjoy the bevy of changes made to the Corsa R. Standout improvements include a liner that is more plush, improved air ventilation, and a more stout visor package.

For this review, we took the AGV Corsa R helmet for a spin at the race track (Buttonwillow Raceway), and the street (PDX), to see how the Corsa R compares to its predecessor, and we came away pleased with the result.

The AGV Corsa R should be on your short-list – that is, if you are in the market for a near-$1,000 sport-focused helmet.

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Not-A-Review: Alta Motors Redshift MX

09/06/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Quentin Wilson40 COMMENTS

Alta-Motors-RedShift-MX-Two-Enthusiasts-Podcast-1

For a long time now, Asphalt & Rubber has been following the progress of Alta Motors (formerly BRD Motorcycles), as they have worked to make a lites-class comparable electric motorcycle.

With the Redshift MX motocross and Redshift SM supermoto bikes now shipping from the company’s San Francisco facility, the motorcycle community can finally see in the flesh what I have been calling one of the most competent electric motorcycles yet produced.

I have no problems saying I have had a hearty drink of the Alta Kool-aid. I was impressed with the Redshift SM prototype that I rode back in 2009, and the finalized form of the Redshift has only matured further from its strong start. 

I don’t want you simply to take my biased word for it though, so for today’s post, I have enlisted the help of my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host, Quentin Wilson. For those who don’t follow the show (shame on you), Quentin is a former chassis mechanic for the Graves Yamaha AMA team and the MotoCzysz MotoGP project. 

He is also an accomplished racer, generally go-fast guy, and has a fair bit of electric motorcycle riding experience as well. It also helps that he is familiar with the woodsy trails we have here near Portland, as we were riding Alta Motors’ motocross machine for the first time, at the Browns Camp OHV Area.

Quentin is like me though: we see electric motorcycles not as an answer to saving the environment, though that is a nice side effect, but instead as a superior method of making motorcycles not only faster, but more rideable.

With those two aspects in mind, I asked Quentin for his thoughts on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, after a couple hours of trail riding.

As you will see, Quentin’s usual ride is a Christini Honda CRF250X, which is an unusual bike in its own right, but fits into the 250cc class that Alta Motors is targeting right now with the Redshift series.

It is an interesting contrast, to be sure, but we think you will enjoy it. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks too for my more measured review on the Alta Motors Redshift SM. -JB

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Gone Riding: Yamaha SCR950

08/18/2016 @ 8:01 am, by Jensen Beeler50 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-SCR950-scrambler-17

Hello from Julian, California which is just a stone’s throw away from Southern California’s Palomar Mountain State Park – a local riding Mecca. I’m out here today with Yamaha USA, riding the Yamaha SCR950 – the Japanese company’s “Made for the USA” scrambler model.

The SCR950 is part of Yamaha’s “Sport Heritage” line, and joins bikes like the XSR900 café racer and Yamaha Bolt C-Spec. That latter model is important, as the Yamaha SCR950 is built off the Bolt platform, adding a number of scrambler-styled design cues to the affordable cruiser model.

It’s worth noting that the SCR950 is the first model by Yamaha that has been developed here in the USA, rather than in Japan. As such, its focus is obviously on the American market. Strangely though, its most comparable competitors are all European.

This is becoming a trend for Yamaha, as we saw with the Yamaha FZ-09 and Yamaha FZ-10. The brand from Iwata is making great strides to set itself apart from the other Japanese companies.

We’ve got a full day’s worth of riding to find out. While I’m out on the road, I will try and give you a live assessment of the machine, and answer any questions you might have. So, here’s your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, before even my own proper review is posted.

Cellphone reception is pretty spotty here in the mountains, but we’ve got pretty good wifi at the hotel, so I will attempt to answer any questions you post here in the comments and on social media.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in North Carolina. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #SCR950 #SCR950FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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Understanding the Ducati XDiavel, A Review

08/06/2016 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Ducati-XDiavel-S-Launch-Jensen-Beeler-25

The Ducati XDiavel is another big step for the Brand from Bologna, as the modell pushes further into the territory first pioneered by the Ducati Diavel, and hopes to give cruiser enthusiasts a design that speaks a little bit more of their native language.

With forward controls coming standard, along with a low and raked chassis design, the XDiavel is unlike any other Ducati on the market, and it takes some time to wrap your head around that fact.

These changes though allow Ducati to move boldly into an area dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson. That is a tall mountain to climb, as the Bar & Shield brand has a chokehold on the cruiser-riding faithful, who flock to the American brand not because of what it does, but because of who it is.

This makes winning the hearts and minds of cruiser riders an exceptionally difficult task – one too that is not easily undertaken. The first step in mounting the assault on that summit is to develop a motorcycle that has no equal. In this regard, Ducati has a fighting chance.

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Ride Review: Yamaha FZ-10

08/02/2016 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-FZ-10-Jensen-Beeler-08

What makes a good streetfighter? In the past, the formula was simple: you would take a potent superbike, strip it of its fairings, and maybe attach a flat handlebar, shortened exhaust pipe, or some other distinctively “urban” modification. Boom. Dank wheelies.

Now, the formula isn’t quite as clear. Power is still a must, and a certain level of hooligan-cred helps, but the market has begun to ask for more from these “super naked” or “hypernaked” motorcycles.

Commuter and touring duties have entered the space, electronics have become standard, and a certain level of refinement is expected – such are the treacherous waters that the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 must navigate, all while hitting a budget-friendly price-point.

That is no easy list of criteria for a single motorcycle to juggle, but such is the nature of life, the universe, and everything. The FZ-10 fancies itself up to the task though, and Yamaha has high hopes for this streetfighter…err, super naked…or whatever you want to call it.

A such, Yamaha recently invited Asphalt & Rubber out to the Tennessee / North Carolina border, to ride over 150 miles (including The Tail of the Dragon) to see how the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 stacks up to the hype, and to the competition.

I came away impressed with this “retuned” Yamaha YZF-R1 for the street, though with some caveats. Keep reading, and I will explain further.

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Gone Riding: Yamaha FZ-10

07/21/2016 @ 5:11 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-FZ-10-USA-22

Hello from The Tail of the Dragon, one of the USA’s most famous motorcycling roads, which happens to be situated in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I’m out here for a press launch with Yamaha USA, riding the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10.

Our route will see us riding some of the local roads, including The Tail of the Dragon (something I’ve long wanted to do), which should be happy hunting grounds for Yamaha’s new streetfighter…I just hope it doesn’t scare the locals with its Transformers-inspired face and neon accents.

Truthfully though, the Yamaha FZ-10 looks better in person, and it is even starting to grow on me visually. What I’m really interested to see though is how this “retuned” R1 handles the street. I’m hoping it has as much crazy between the handlebars as its avant-garde attire suggests.

While I’m out riding, I will try and give you a live assessment of the machine, and answer any questions you might have. So, here’s your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10, before even my own proper review is posted.

Cellphone reception is pretty spotty here in the mountains (read: non-existent), but we’ve got pretty good wifi at the hotel, so I will attempt to answer any questions you post here in the comments and on social media.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in North Carolina. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #FZ10 #FZFirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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