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.

Video: Suzuki MotoGP Development Report, Part 4

01/10/2014 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

randy-de-puniet-mugello-suzuki-racing-04

The fourth installment of Suzuki’s four-part video series (part 1, part 2, & part 3 here) on its MotoGP program is out, and this time around the Japanese OEM is talking about the relentless perils of testing, testing, and more testing (no surprises here). One of Suzuki’s biggest hurdles though, as it gets ready for the 2015 season, is switching from its Mitsubishi electronics system, to the spec-ecu being built by Magneti Marelli for Dorna.

The process is more difficult than it sounds. Not only does Suzuki have to do the general development necessary to get the most out of the Suzuki XRH-1 GP prototype (more photos here, too), but then once complete, Suzuki must port those settings to the Magneti Marelli unit. Meanwhile test riders Randy de Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki are constantly finding things to improve with the race bike, which can require further changes to the ECU software.

No one ever said it was easy to race in the premier class of motorcycle racing, and Suzuki’s efforts prove that point. With the MotoGP proving itself to be an ever-changing landscape for rules and regulations, Suzuki also faces a very slim window to use the bike that they are currently developing. Thus in our minds, their place as the 2015 underdogs has already been solidified well ahead of their debut. Good luck to all of them.

Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP over a Spec-ECU?

12/30/2013 @ 12:33 am, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

dani-pedrosa-hrc-motogp-scott-jones

The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing’s premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams; however, only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves.

If a team decides to run Dorna’s standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two – entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software – is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna.

Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal-breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era. The change in capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007 vastly increased the importance of electronics in the overall package, with more and more money going into both the development and the management of electronics strategies.

The combination of a vast array of sensor inputs, fuel injection, and electronic ignition has meant that vehicle control has moved from merely managing fueling to dynamic and even predictive engine management. Engine torque is now monitored and managed based on lean angle, bike pitch, tire wear, fuel load, and a host of other variables.

So it comes as no surprise that Honda is already making threatening noises over the regulations due to come into force from 2017 onwards. Dorna intends to remove the freedom for factories to use their own software from 2017 onwards, with all bikes using the same, spec, Dorna-supplied software, as currently being developed for the Open category.

Monday Summary at Misano: 2013 vs. 2014 Machines, Spec Electronics, & A New Rear Bridgestone

09/17/2013 @ 1:52 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

jorge-lorenzo-misano-motogp-test-yamaha-racing

The rain on Monday morning brought a welcome respite for tired journalists at least, after a night spent filing stories until the early hours of the morning. It meant that the Misano MotoGP test did not get underway until very late in the morning, with most riders staying in the pits until well after noon.

Once they got started, though, there was a lot to be tested. Both Yamaha and Honda had brought the latest versions of their 2014 prototypes for testing, but with the championship heading into its final five races, there was a lot to work on with the current crop of machines.

That was particularly true for Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda man dropped from second to third in the championship at Misano, Jorge Lorenzo matching him on points, but taking the position on the basis of having more wins. Pedrosa has complained of a lack of rear grip almost all season, and if he is to retain a shot at the title, his team have to find a solution.

Is Aprilia Looking for Concessions to Join MotoGP Factories?

07/30/2013 @ 5:27 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

aleix-espargaro-corkscrew-motogp-jensen-beeler

The performance of Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet has made it clear that Aprilia’s ART machine is the bike to be on for any rider not on a factory or satellite machine. There are a lot of reasons for the bike’s success: the engine in its standard state is very strong, the bike handles exceptionally well, and is very easy to ride.

But perhaps the biggest advantage which the Aprilia has is the use of Aprilia’s WSBK-derived electronics package, which is helping to make the bike extremely competitive. “Electronics are 75% of the bike,” Aleix Espargaro said in a recent interview with the Dutch MOTOR Magazine.

And here lies Aprilia’s dilemma. From 2014, Aprilia will be forced to choose. If they wish to continue as a non-factory entry (as the category replacing the CRT will be called), they must use the Dorna-supplied spec-software, written by Magneti Marelli for the spec-ECU.

Though the spec-electronics has made huge bounds in the six months since it was introduced, it is still very much a project under development. However, Aprilia’s software is a proven package, with many years of development behind it.

MotoGP’s New Rules on ECUs & Factory Riders Explained

07/29/2013 @ 11:45 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

ducati-yamaha-spy-jensen-beeler

There was a small flurry of excitement when the minutes of the last meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, including rules on the spec-ECU and factory entries were announced last week. That was then followed by a bout of confusion, as everyone tried to figure out what all of the various changes meant, and what impact they may have on the series. It appears that the answer to that question is “not as much as you might think,” so let us take a look at what has changed.

MotoGP: FIM Confirms New Rules for Factory/Non-Factory Spec-Electronics, Engine, Fuel, & Entries for 2014

07/26/2013 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

yamaha-yzr-m1-no-tank-cover-jensen-beeler

We have already extensively reported the coming rule changes for the 2014 MotoGP Championship season (most recently the conclusion of the engine claiming rule), so the news today is really more about the FIM has giving its blessing to the new direction that Dorna is taking for the premier class.

Drawing a new distinction now as to how teams are classified as “factory” entries, and thus subject to differing fuel, engine, and entry requirements, the real crux of the equation revolves around whether a team uses the the spec-electronics software from Dorna, or decides to use its own software (note: all teams will be on a spec-ECU from 2014 forth).

GP Commission Confirms Dropping of MotoGP Claiming Rule, Reduces Cost of Moto2 Engine Swaps

07/02/2013 @ 2:31 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

CRT-Magneti-Marelli-MotoGP-Jensen-Beeler

As we reported at Mugello, the claiming rule is to be dropped from the MotoGP rulebook. Introduced to prevent factories entering MotoGP under the guise of private teams, the claiming rule allowed any factory to claim the engine of a bike entered by a CRT team.

But after the Grand Prix Commission agreed to the introduction of a spec-ECU, the decision to run the spec-software proved to be an alternative and more effective way of separating full-factory efforts from privateer teams. The claiming rule was never actually used, the factories having said when the claiming rule was introduced that they had no intention of ever claiming an engine.

It was kept there as the ultimate threat, Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘big stick’ to prevent other factories from even considering such a ruse.

The new distinction between factory and private teams is now the spec-ECU, and so the claiming rule has been dropped with immediate effect for all teams (Forward Racing, Avintia Blusens, PBM’s Michael Laverty, CAME Ioda Racing) currently using the spec-software.

From 2014, all teams will have to use the spec-hardware, and so the claiming rule will be dropped completely for the 2014 season.

Analysis: Ducati’s Non-MSMA Entry Machines for MotoGP – A Great Gamble with the New Regulations

07/01/2013 @ 4:15 pm, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

2013-desmosedici-gp13-cota-motogp-jensen-beeler

At Assen, Ducati MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti revealed that they too will be offering bikes for non-MSMA teams in 2014. While Honda is selling a simplified production racer version of the RC213V, and Yamaha is to lease M1 engines, the package Ducati is offering could turn out to be very interesting indeed.

Instead of producing a separate machine, Ducati will be offering the 2013 version of the Desmosedici to private teams, to be entered as non-MSMA entries, and using the spec-electronics hardware and software package provided by Magneti Marelli.

Although the current 2013 machine is still far from competitive – at Assen, the two factory Ducatis finished 33 seconds behind the winner Valentino Rossi, and behind the Aprilia ART machine – the special conditions allowed for non-MSMA entries make the Desmosedici a much more interesting proposition.

MotoGP: A Ducati Desmosedici GP13 Production Racer?

06/29/2013 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2013-Desmosedici-GP13-LCD-dash-Jensen-Beeler

Speaking with MotoGP.com, Ducati’s MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti has revealed that the Italian factory is considering making a production racer version of the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 that will be made available to privateer MotoGP teams.

Conceived along the same vein as Honda’s RC213V-based production racer, the Ducati race bike would be available only to privateer teams in MotoGP, and would fall under MotoGP’s new rules, which make distinctions between factory and privateer bikes.

“Since the new rules came out for next year, where it is actually possible for a full MotoGP bike to run in what would have been the CRT class – using the single ECU and single software – we are considering to make available the 2013 bike with this package,” said  Ciabatti while talking to MotoGP.com

Wednesday Summary at Assen: Of Weird Wednesdays, Difficult Ducatis, & MotoGP’s Long-Term Future

06/26/2013 @ 8:35 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Honda-RC213V-cockpit-MotoGP-Scott-Jones

Wednesday at Assen is always a rather odd day. At most rounds, Wednesday is a travel day, and the paddock regulars spend the day in airports, planes, and hired cars. But because the race at Assen is on Saturday, the events that normally take place on Thursday such as the pre-event press conference, happen a day earlier.

That leaves everyone with the racing equivalent of jet lag, their bodies and minds 24 hours behind events. Mentally, we are all prepared for a day of torpor and inaction. What we are greeted with is a day of rushing around to talk to riders, team managers, and anyone else foolish enough to cross our paths. Mind battles physical reality, and both come out losers.

Even focusing on the upcoming race is hard. Rolling into the circuit under bright skies and cheery temperatures – not warm, but not freezing either – feels slightly surreal after having studied the weather forecasts for the coming days.

While race day is likely to be dry, Thursday and Friday look like being full wet days. What that means is that practice may not be much of a guide to what actually happens on race day, rendering practice and qualifying relatively meaningless.