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.

Caution: Radioactive Material

03/02/2017 @ 10:02 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The warning label for radioactive substances (technically, the warning label for ionizing radiation) was born in 1946, at the UC Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, and the now iconic symbol began life a bit different from how we know it today, originally colored with a very hip magenta "trefoil" on a blue background.

The shape of the three-bladed trefoil is quite specific and purposeful - drawn with a central circle of radius R, an internal radius of 1.5R, and an external radius of 5R for the blades, which are separated from each other by 60° of empty space.

It's shape is tightly defined because it is to noticeably and clearly warn you against the dangers of ionizing radiation, which at their very worst would cook you instantly like an egg, or in less worse conditions, still potentially cause life-changing mutations to your cells and DNA.

The yellow and black trefoil is supposed to be a literal warning (the IAEA and ISO adopted this new coloring in 2007) of course, but labeling something radioactive carries with it a metaphorical weight as well. And, it too demands a cautious interaction from the user.

In the motorcycle industry, we have our fair share of radioactive elements, though few come with a warning label. On Episode 45 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you may have heard me refer to a motorcycle company as being radioactive. I thought it was worth spending some words on what that means in that context.

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Skully Sued by Flextronics for Owed Money

09/24/2016 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Things keep getting worse motorcycle helmet startup Skully, as its production partner Flextronics has filed suit for money and materials allegedly owed it.

According to court documents, Flextronics is demanding payment of roughly $2 million dollars – $505,703 in past-due bills, $514,409 in unpaid bills, and another $1.5 million in what Flextronics calls “materials and inventory related to the Skully project.”

This lawsuit is the second legal action taken against Skully since the company laid off its workforce and shut its doors for lack of funding.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #29 – Motocyclisme

08/22/2016 @ 10:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 29 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees Quentin and I discussing about the recent lawsuit against Skully, which alleges a number of pricey corporate perks, on the helmet startup’s company dime.

We also discuss some racing news: the sacking of Romano Fenati and the prospect of team communications with riders in MotoGP. We also discuss the settlement reached by the EPA and Harley-Davidson, over the use of engine tuning devices, and what that can mean for the industry as a whole.

Lastly, Quentin tells us a tale about getting back on an air-cooled Ducati, and camping in Eastern Oregon, while I give a glimpse into my review of the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, as I was in Julian, California riding the scrambler at the US press launch. It’s another great show for our Two Enthusiasts fans.

As always, 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!

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #28 – Getting Cranky

08/15/2016 @ 7:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Episode 28 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts with some recent news: the closure of Skully and the near-passage of California’s lane-splitting law.

The conversation about Skully quickly moves from the failed startup, to a broader conversation about helmet design and the progress of technology in this space. The show then turns to California’s lane-splitting law, and what it could mean for motorcyclists in states other than California.

Once the news items are out of the way, the show spends a bit of time talking about crankshaft design, namely what it means to have a “crossplane” crankshaft.

Further down the rabbit hole, this turns into a larger conversation about how engines make their power, and how that power is tuned for specific tasks. It’s a tough subject to do only via voice, but we think you’ll enjoy it.

As always, 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!

Former Skully Employee Alleges in Lawsuit that Executives Used Corporate Funds as “Personal Piggy Banks”

08/08/2016 @ 7:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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The story of Skully is starting to sound more and more like a script for a soap opera, and today’s installment sees former Skully employee Isabelle Faithhauer bringing suit in the San Francisco County Superior Court against Skully and its founders Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller.

Faithhauer is the former-assistant to Skully CEO Marcus Weller, and for a time, served as the company’s bookkeeper. In her complaint she alleges that Skully wrongfully terminated her, and brings several other causes of action that are related to that wrongful termination.

However in her filing with the court, Faithhauer also lists a number of incidents where Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller allegedly used company funds to buy exotic cars, rent expensive apartments in San Francisco, and travel around the world.

If true, this sort of spending could help explain why Skully ran out of capital, and then officially closed its doors last week, despite having raised roughly $15 million from investors and would-be customers.

You can read the full filing of Faithhauer’s complaint against Skully and the Wellers here, which is a PDF hosted by the San Francisco County Superior Court and a public record.

Skully Officially Closes, So Just How SOL Are You Actually?

08/06/2016 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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Skully on Friday finally acknowledged what has already been known in the motorcycling community: the company was going out of business. The news comes after a last-minute effort by the remaining management to secure a new round of funding.

With $15 million down the drain, work still to do before the Skully AR-1 would be ready to ship, and a growing group of disgruntled early adopters, Skully’s resurrection was not to be.

Instead in a letter to backers and customers, Skully announced that it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy procedure for companies that are going out of business. This news, of course, directly impacts the thousands of motorcyclists who were expecting to receive a Skully AR-1 helmet.

Skully Closes Its Doors and Ceases Operations

07/26/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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It was just two weeks ago that we told you about Skully’s investors ousting brothers Marcus Weller and Mitch Weller from the San Francisco startup, and today TechCrunch reports that the motorcycle helmet company will be rather swiftly closing its doors.

A&R readers may remember that Skully’s latest delay to market stemmed from the Skully AR-1 helmet not being ready for mass production, despite the nearly $15 million raised through seed money and a Series A funding round, which was led by Intel Capital.

As such, the closure surely stems from Skully’s investors choosing to shut down the company’s operations, rather than rebuild Skully’s tarnished reputation and retool its product for mass production.

According to TechCrunch, operations at Skully have already ceased, and the website is expected to go offline later today, though as of this writing Skully’s website remains, and its social marketing team is still on Facebook cooling the heels of angry customers.

Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

07/13/2016 @ 12:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff.

The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus.

The Skully AR-1 helmet debuted to much fanfare, but it soon became clear that the company’s leadership wasn’t up to the task on delivering the promises they were making to the public. Seemingly on a different page with their investors as well, Marcus and Mitch Weller were fired by the company’s Board of Directors.

It looks like Martin Fitcher, Skully’s current COO, will take over the reigns for the company, or what’s left of it, as its new CEO. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.

Skully AR-1 Helmet Delivery Pushed Back, Yet Again

04/07/2016 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Future Skully AR-1 owners will have to continue waiting for their helmets, as Skully has once again pushed back the delivery date of its heads-up display powered helmet.

The announcement is another blow for the San Francisco based startup, as Skully has gone from the media darling to full-blown vaporware-pusher over the past two years.

We say this because Skully first launched in 2013, with promises of helmets in the hands of consumers by the end of 2014. That date was then pushed back to May 2015, in conjunction with Skully’s Kickstarter campaign launch. That date would be revised again, this time to the end of the year 2015.

Now well into the fourth month of 2016, Skully is pushing back its delivery date again, though it isn’t giving a firm timeline when the production units will finally reach purchasers. It should be noted that as of this date, only a handful of pre-production units have made it the hands of specially chosen evangelists buyers.

Skully Sends Update Regarding Its Delayed Helmets

08/05/2015 @ 5:32 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Most Asphalt & Rubber readers are aware of Skully, the San Francisco startup that is making a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display (HUD), and many A&R readers are also aware that Skully is now officially late in delivering its maiden product to the masses.

Finally acknowledging the tardiness to its 2,000 or so early-adopting customers, Skully has released a video (after the jump) explaining its activities, and that the company is on-track for its new delivery date, before the end of the year – or as they say in marketing speak: just in time for Christmas.

Of course we knew back in late-2013, when Skully first announced its helmet, that there was no way the company was going to hit its delivery promise for 2014, though now the company seems in good stead for its new 2015 promise, with an actual office in SF, a deal with Flextronics to make the augmented reality portion of the helmet, and manufacturing tooled-up.