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.

Up-Close with the Yamaha YZF-R3

10/18/2014 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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This week we not only go a chance to see the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 unveiled at the AIMExpo, but also we had the chance to see the R3 up-close in the flesh. The budget-minded sport bike shows the obvious signs of more cost-effecient construction and fitted components, yet retains the fit-and-finish you would expect from a Yamaha motorcycle.

This makes the R3 a prime candidate for aspirational riders, who want an affordable first motorcycle that looks the part of a proper sport bike. Track enthusiasts and veteran riders though will be disappointed with the Yamaha YZF-R3’s non-adjustable KYB suspension, box swingarm design, and bulky chassis — this is still a 368lbs (wet) motorcycle.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

10/16/2014 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida today and tomorrow, covering the new bikes that are debuting on North American soil. We’ve already seen the new Yamaha YZF-R3 released here, as well as the Alta RedShift electric motorcycles (formerly BRD Motorcycles).

While both bikes are impressive, and are massively important to the American motorcycle scene, the buzz remains about the Kawasaki Ninja H2R. The AIMExpo is the first venue for Americans to get a glimpse of Kawasaki’s hyperbike, and the H2R sits like a praying mantis, waiting to strike you with its supercharged charms.

Naturally, we had to get a closer look…and bring you a bevy of high-resolution detail shots from the trades how floor. Enjoy!

Up-Close with the Ducati Scrambler Icon

09/30/2014 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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The 2015 Ducati Scrambler has officially debuted at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany today, in case you missed the news. Before today though, Ducati North America invited us out to get a sneak peak of the new Scrambler Icon, along with a little time in a photo studio.

As a result, we have a bevy of our “up-close” photos for you, as well as some first impressions of the machine.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Ducati Scrambler is how bare bones the motorcycle is. Ducati did a good job of not over-thinking the Scrambler, leaving the model true to its name.

The dash is a tastefully small round unit, which sits nestled between the high and wide handlebars. This gives the rider a good open feeling from the seat, though the exposed wires and cables are a bit distracting, with nothing else to hide them.

Artfully exposed is the air-cooled v-twin DesmoDue engine, which is borrowed from the Monster 796, and thus is a confusing 803cc. The header shape should look familiar as well, as it mimics those found on the Ducati Diavel.

The seat seems practical for two-up riding, and the Scrambler Icon is fitted with passenger pegs. The cheapest ($8,595 for the yellow one) of Ducati’s four Scrambler variants, the Icon is perhaps the most vanilla model. That’s not a bad thing, but the other three models are clearly present to appeal to certain niche riders.

Up-Close with the Energica Ego Electric Superbike

07/17/2014 @ 12:05 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber had the fortunate chance to ride the Energica Ego today, and before I get to a proper review of riding the electric superbike, I wanted to reintroduce this Italian machine to our readers, because while A&R might have been one of the few outlets to cover Energica, this new player in the “E2V” space might still strike you as unfamiliar.

A project from Italy’s respected engineering firm CRP Racing, I first had the opportunity to see the Energica Ego at the 2011 EICMA show. The machine wasn’t a runner at the time, as CRP was still looking for a drivetrain partner that could supplement CRP’s already extensive knowledge in chassis design.

Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, and the Energica sub-brand debuted its first production electric superbike, the Ego. The naming might be a bit tough, especially for us Anglophones, but this 134hp, 143 lbs•ft superbike packs a punch, and is remarkably well-refined.

I will leave the full review for a more-detailed article, but the short version of it is pretty positive. I came to the launch skeptical of Energica and the Ego, but left very impressed with the company its machine — the conversation about production electric motorcycles now has to include this potent Italian brand and its first product offering. Enthusiasts should take note.

Up-Close with the 2014 Mugen Shinden San (神電 参)

06/04/2014 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The TT Zero event for the 2014 Isle of Man TT is about to kick-off in about an hour, so we thought we’d show the electric superbike that everyone in the paddock is talking about, the Mugen Shinden San. The third iteration of the machine from Mugen, this year the Japanese tuning brand has two riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

With Bruce Anstey on fire this TT fortnight, and McGuinness off his pace in the previous sessions with a wrist injury (and sitting out today’s Supersport TT race), it seems like anything can happen before the starter’s flag drops.

Assuming the two-rider format remains, Mugen has said to Asphalt & Rubber that both riders will likely run the same electronic maps during the race, which should rest the race’s results squarely on the riders. In order to do this, Mugen must feel confident with its energy management and overall racing package.

Video: An Intimate Look at the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

05/23/2014 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1199 Superleggera is finally here, Ducati’s exclusive 500 customers are starting to receive their bikes, and Ducatista around the world are acting like its Christmas in May. We can’t blame them; after all, the Superleggera is a rolling showcase of what the engineers at Borgo Panigale can do with a street-legal machine.

Our friends at Moto Corsa were lucky enough to get three fine specimens in the first wave of deliveries — the Portland, Oregon shop will receive nine Superleggeras in total — a pretty sizable sum when you consider that less than 200 will make their way across the pond to US soil.

Naturally Arun and his cohorts took the opportunity to examine up-close what $200,000 worth of carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum looks like. Even better, they documented the experience, for our viewing pleasure of course.

Up-Close with the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Race Bike

11/13/2013 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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One of the advantages of actually going to the yearly EICMA show, as opposed to phoning it in like some other outlets do, is that you get see things that don’t find their way into a press release.

Take for example the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP race bike prototype that Randy de Puniet has been developing and Davide Brivio has been heading. On display at the Suzuki stand, it was perhaps the most technologically advanced motorcycle at EICMA, yet you would only know that if you went to Milan last week.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago

11/07/2013 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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What would an EICMA show be without a special commemorative machine from that little company in Varese? Behold the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago, a special edition motorcycle to celebrate one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time, Giacomo Agostini.

On hand for the unveiling of his special edition machine, Mr. Agostini signed the very first model, which sports his signature Tricolore and gold racing livery, and is fitted with copious carbon fiber bits.

No mechanical work has been done to the MV Agusta F3 800, though we think the effect from the paint and carbon is very fetching. A small collection of photos are after the jump.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800

11/06/2013 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta’s big announcement at the 2013 EICMA show was of course its new sport-tourer, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800. Based around the Italian brand’s 800cc three-cylinder engine, the Turismo Veloce is a big step for MV Agusta, though one taken cautiously both in terms of progress and design.

Borrowing heavily from the firm’s F3 and F4 sport bikes, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce feels like its stuck in the Varese company’s past, though in many ways it is MV Agusta’s future.

We are sure that the sport-tourer is just the first of many line-extensions for MV Agusta that will borrow from the same common elements found in all the current MV Agusta motorcycles, but the real highlight of the Turismo Veloce 800 is that it debuts a number of new technologies for MV Agusta, which have all been packaged into the MVICS 2.0 system.

Despite the impressive advancements made with the MVICS 2.0 system, as with all MV Agusta motorcycles, the real connection with the machine is a visual one, and the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 certainly makes an impression.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

11/05/2013 @ 10:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The highlight of the 2013 EICMA show has to be the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, which Ducati formally introduced to the press last Monday night. The “super light” street bike may not have the dynamism of being a completely new machine, as was the case with the Desmosedici RR, but the 155kg (dry) Superleggera is just as impressive when you pause to take a moment and examine all of its details.

With only 500 units being made, Ducati says roughly only 50 are unspoken for as of Sunday morning — a pretty impressive figure considering that up until that moment, only a handful of people had actually seen the Ducati 1199 Superleggera in the flesh. Once the 500th bike is sold, that will be it for the Superleggera, Ducati having learned its lesson from the Desmosedici launch.

The most obvious part about the Superleggera is its orange-red paint scheme, which matches the Rosso Corsa paint found on the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. If you only examined the Ducati 1199 Superleggera skin-deep, this would be your big takeaway from the experience, but the beauty really resides in the details.