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.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Is Finally Ready

03/17/2017 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

Every time I hear about how the Japanese brands are abandoning the 600cc sport bike market, I have a little chuckle with myself. Honda et al will tell you that the issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride supersports anymore.

However, I am a firm believer that the real issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride the same old supersports that the OEMs keep cookie-cuttering out of their factories every year. In my mind, the Vyrus 986 M2 proves this point.

I can think of no other machine that has generated a bigger response on Asphalt & Rubber than this 600cc Italian exotic. The sweet irony too is that it’s powered by a Honda CBR600RR engine.

The motorcycle industry keeps trying to sell supersports, pitches them as watered-down superbikes, and then acts surprised when the bikes don’t sell.

Instead, they should take a note from, Vyrus, which has managed to create an inline-four 600cc speed machine that you want so bad, that you would sell a kidney from your middle-child for it.

Carbon fiber fairings, hub-center steering, edgy design…this bike screams unique and special…and no one cares that it’s not a 1,000cc 200hp monster. 

In other news, the street bike version of the Vyrus 986 M2 is finally available for order. You can order one completed, or in kit form.

As with all things from the Italian factory, each bike is built bespoke to its owner’s wishes, though last we heard the Vyrus 986 M2 was fetching a reasonable €25,000 price tag.

How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

motorcycle-cruiser-evolution

The following is an example of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

11/18/2016 @ 10:55 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

ariel-ace-r-10

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress.

It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design.

Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

The Z800 Becomes the 2017 Kawasaki Z900

11/14/2016 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

2017-kawasaki-z900-abs-04

The naked sport bike segment continues to push into larger displacements, with the Kawasaki Z800 turning into the all-new 2017 Kawasaki Z900. With that change in number comes an obviously new 948cc inline-four engine, slung into a light-weight trellis frame, amongst other improvements.

For the marquee differences between the machines, the Kawasaki Z900 brings with it a 13hp power increase to 124hp, and a weight reduction of over 50 lbs, for a curb weight of 458 lbs (non-ABS).

For creature comforts, the 2017 Kawasaki Z900 comes with assist and slipper clutch, with optional ABS brakes. Priced at an aggressive $8,399 ($8,799 for the ABS model) though, that tradeoff comes from the Z900 being sans any advanced electronics and high-spec components.

2017 Aprilia Shiver 900 – There’s No Replacement…

11/09/2016 @ 10:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

2017-aprilia-shiver-900-01

There is no replacement for displacement, as the old saying goes. That is the thought behind the 2017 Aprilia Shiver 900, as well. Like the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, which also debuted at EICMA, the Aprilia Shiver 900 gets an engine and electronics upgrade for the 2017 model year.

The new 896cc 90° v-twin engine is a stroked out version of the old 750cc motor (stroke increased from 56.4mm to 67.4mm), which allows Aprilia to meet Euro4 emission standards, while keeping performance specs more or less the same.

To that vein, peak horsepower is now 95hp at 8,750 rpm, while peak torque is 66 lbs•ft at 6,600 rpm. Other changes for the 2017 Aprilia Shiver 900 include a new smoother ride-by-wire throttle, three-level traction control, and dual-channel ABS brakes.

KTM 390 Duke Gets a Facelift for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

2017-ktm-390-duke-06

The KTM 390 Duke has sold like hotcakes since its 2013 debut, and now the pint-sized street bike is getting a facelift for the 2017 model year.

As has been the case with many of KTM’s new model releases, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will get a similar kendo-styled LED headlight design, which we have already seen debut on the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the recently released KTM 1290 Adventure R.

Bodywork changes come to the 2017 KTM 390 Duke as well, which give the entry-level machine a very edgy look and feel. Other changes include an improved ride-by-wire throttle, a full-color TFT dash, and a rear subframe that now bolts directly onto the steel trellis chassis.

The new subframe also means that the seat design has been changed, and KTM has seen fit to adopt a larger 3.5-gallong fuel tank for the 390 Duke. There are new 43mm WP suspension forks to soak up the bumps, and also a 320mm front disc for better stopping power.

Overall, the changes address many of the complaints levied at the original KTM 390 Duke design, which really should be taken as a compliment since the original model was pretty good out of the box.

The new bike is quite the looker as well, so it looks like KTM has another hit on its hands.

KTM 790 Duke Prototype Debuts with Parallel-Twin Engine

11/08/2016 @ 5:21 am, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

ktm-790-duke-prototype-eicma-06

For KTM, the 2016 EICMA show is all about the Duke line of streetfighters. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R got a pretty sizable upgrade for 2017, the KTM 690 Duke received a facelift, and the KTM 390 Duke is now easily the best bike in its class.

The Austrians didn’t stop there though, they also gave us a taste of what is still to come for the Duke brand, teasing us with the KTM 790 Duke prototype.

Rumored heavily before the new bike season, this “KTM 800 Duke” features an 800cc parallel-twin engine, slapped into an upright motard-esque chassis.

The Kendo-styled LED headlight that’s finding its way into the entire KTM range features here as well, though that is hardly the most radical part of the 790 Duke’s design – checkout the undertail exhaust, which probably spit plums of fire before the lawyers got ahold of it.

Ducati Monster 797 – The Air-Cooled Monster Returns

11/07/2016 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

HyperFocal: 0

The third amigo to Ducati’s air-cooled posse debuting at EICMA, the Ducati Monster 797 brings back Bologna’s 803cc two-valve engine to the Monster family.

The return of the Monster 797 also happens to add a third model to Ducati’s iconic street-focused Monster line, offering another affordable entry point into the Ducati brand for those who aren’t interested in the Italian company’s scrambler or café racer models.

Ariel Ace R Set to Debut, Only 10 Will Be Made

11/01/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

ariel-ace-r-concept

Remember the Ariel Ace? The VFR1200F-powered street bike from the revived British brand? The attractive street bike is about to get an even sportier sibling (sketched above), as the Ariel Ace R is set to debut at the NEC Motorcycle Live show, this November.

Unless you are well-coined, the NEC show might be your only chance to see an Ariel Ace R in the flesh, as the Brits plan on making only 10 examples of this R-spec machine.

Details are light at the moment, but Ariel does day that the Ace R will have a unique color scheme, and of course there will be better performance pieces and more power from the limited edition motorcycle.

FGR Midalu 2500 V6 – The Boss Hoss of Sport Bikes

10/31/2016 @ 9:58 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

fgr-midalu-2500-v6

The FGR Midalu 2500 V6 has been in the motosphere for some time now, but finally the six-cylinder Czech-built motorcycle is available for purchase and going into production. Just in case you wanted a V6-powered street bike, right?

At 577 lbs…dry…it is east to dismiss the FGR Midalu 2500 V6 as being too heavy, and an exercise in excess. The sport bike world’s Boss Hoss, if you will.

But, we have to admit that there is something interesting about FGR’s creation, if for no other reason than the Czech company’s willingness to make something that is a standard deviation or two from the normal motorcycling fare.