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.

BMW K1600B – Germany’s Six-Cylinders of Bagger

10/11/2016 @ 5:40 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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We’ve expect for some time to see BMW Motorrad debut a bagger model, based off its K1600 touring bike platform, and now the wait is over. The attractive BMW Concept 101 teased this much to us, and today that speculation can be put to rest, with the release of the 2017 BMW K1600B.

Like the Honda Gold Wing F6B, the concept behind this six-cylinder motorcycle here is pretty simple, and its hope is to go after a large motorcycle segment that is dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson.

As has been BMW’s playbook for the 2017 model year, the K1600B floods a space that BMW is already a heavy-hitter in, offering even more options to riders who are looking to pound some pavement, this time with some bagger appeal.

Helping make that appeal, BMW’s inline-six engine will make 160hp for the 2017 model year, thanks to Euro 4 regulations. The BMW K1600B will also see a 2.75″ seat height drop, fixed side cases (hence the “bagger” name), and various subtle styling changes from the GT/GTL models.

The New Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight Engine Debuts

08/25/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson-Milwaukee-Eight-engine

What you are looking at above is Harley-Davidson’s ninth iteration of its “Big Twin” engines. It’s called the Milwaukee-Eight, named after Harley-Davidson’s home town and the fact that the engine head design employs a very modern eight valves in total (four per cylinder head).

Time will tell if the Milwaukee-Eight becomes as iconic as Harley-Davidson’s other designs, like the Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead, etc. But, we do know that the Milwaukee-Eight marks a more modern approach to engine design from the Bar & Shield brand.

To this end, Harley-Davidson says that the new power plant offers a quicker throttle response, more passing power, purer sound (whatever that means), and a smoother ride (read: less vibrations).

The Milwaukee-Eight will first be used on Harley-Davidson’s touring and trike lines, though we can expect the engine design to permeate through Harley-Davidson’s lineup.

Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

07/02/2016 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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You may have already seen the leaked photo from World Ducati Week, which shows that the Ducati Supersport is making a return to Bologna’s lineup.

We haven’t seen the “Supersport” sport-touring line in almost a decade, but it will be making a return for the 2017 model year, with two bikes.

Since yours truly is at World Ducati Week this year, I was able to get a peak at the Supersport, and can share with you some details on the machine.

First off, a clarification for those who aren’t acquainted with Ducati’s history with the Supersport line. The name is different from our normal usage of the term “supersport” and doesn’t imply that this motorcycle is Ducati’s answer for a 600cc racing machine.

Instead, the Ducati Supersport has a rich history as a sport-tourer; back when that segment actually existed, and was distinct from being just a superbike for the road. This model seems very much a return to that past.

Updates Coming for 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

03/21/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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It looks like updates are coming for the KTM 1290 Super Adventure, as the Austrian company has been caught testing the machine.

What those updates will be though, is anyone’s guess, as the photos captured of the new KTM 1290 Super Adventure don’t reveal too many changes (see the photos here).

Most noticeable are some revisions to the front of the Super Adventure, with the fairing/headlight and windshield getting some minor shape corrections.

This is likely to improve airflow around the rider, which makes sense as KTM has fitted their test rider with a bevy of wind telltales for aerodynamic assessment.

2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

FJR1300A USA 2016

The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

Triumph Debuts Six New Tiger Explorer Models

11/18/2015 @ 9:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

2016-Triumph-Tiger-Explorer-XCa-01

For 2016, Triumph is revamping its Tiger Explorer offering, and like with the Tiger 800, the big adventure-touring machine gets a bevy of different variations to cater to a wider variety of riders.

The lineup is a bit of an alphabet soup, so we’ll try and break it down for you. First up, there are two basic models: the Tiger Explorer XR & Tiger Explorer XC. The XR is Triumph’s on-road ADV bike, while the XC is geared to go off-road.

Within the Triumph Tiger XR on-road line, the base XR model is the cheapest and most basic model, and the line has two higher-spec machines: the XRx & XRt. Similarly, the the Triumph Tiger XC off-road line and the XC is base model. The higher-spec off-road models are the XCx and XCa.

We asked Triumph to clarify the differences between the four higher spec models, and the six models in general, but it seems that the OEM doesn’t have that answer at their fingertips. I have no words to respond to that with.

There’s no information on the company’s website, we’ll tell you just about everything that is in the company’s press release in this article, and it seems even other publications don’t seem to have an answer – this is a first for me, in my seven years of running Asphalt & Rubber.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT – The Be(a)st Sport-Tourer?

11/17/2015 @ 5:31 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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I recently was pleased to get the chance to ride the KTM 1290 Super Duke R – machine that truly lives up to the name “The Beast”, yet shows enough comfort to be a potent touring machine, if you could mount bags and a windscreen to it.

That thought is exactly what drove KTM with its latest model, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, which takes the 173hp streetfighter, and gives its bags, more fairing, and a windshield — all for 502 lbs, ready to ride.

Unless the Austrian massively botched this relatively easy task, this could mean that the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is the best sport-tourer on the market.

2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Finally Revealed

10/06/2015 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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We have been seeing for some time now evidence that KTM was set to bring a more touring-focused variant of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R to market, and now today we have confirmation of that fact.

Releasing photos of the still camouflaged 2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, KTM is leaving a little something to the imagination and EICMA, but the company is also confirming that another touring model will enter its lineup.

Reitvergnügen – Day One – Autobahning

09/02/2015 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Reitvergnugen-day-one-panorama

Our first day in earnest sees our group leaving our Radisson hotel in Munich, walking across the street to the massive München BMW dealership, grabbing our respective bikes – a fleet of F800R, F800GT, R1200R, R1200RS, R1200GS, and S1000XR motorcycles – and heading out on the autobahn, towards Austria.

Since our group is full of early risers, we got things moving ahead of schedule. For some, this meant extra time to meet our fellow riders; though for one member of the group, it meant a little extra time to shake off the cobwebs with a pre-ride beer – an occurrence that unfortunately became more of a ritual.

Joining me on our trek through the better parts of Europe is a dynamic group of individuals: there are a bunch of NY/NJ guys from N2 Track Days, an Apple engineer with an affinity for Triumphs, a designer with the gift of gab, and a former World Champion motorcycle racer.

The show is orchestrated by Cat MacLeod, a tall Scotsman with bleached white hair that ends in a ponytail, and his team of European tour guides and logistic personnel who are eager to help us navigate some of the best roads in the world, as well as the nightlife that surrounds them.

With nearly 500km of riding to report for Day 1, we better stop stalling and get to it, eh?

Reitvergnügen – Day Zero – München

08/28/2015 @ 10:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber will have a decidedly European kick the next few days, as David and Tony are in the UK for the British GP, and I will be in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy for a bit of motorcycle touring.

I got this amazing opportunity to join Leod Motorcycle Escapes for their “Alps & Sachsenring Dream” tour, which means for the next five days I’ll be riding in the German/Swiss/Italian Alps, as well as the Italian Dolomites. Once that’s done, we head back into Germany for a two-day track day at Sachsenring. Schwing!

Over the course of the trip, I will be riding the new BMW R1200RS (maybe a little seat time on the S1000XR too) during the touring sections, and throwing a leg over the updated 2015 BMW S1000RR while at Sachsenring. It’s a hard life, right?