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.

Gone Riding: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/22/2017 @ 8:30 am, by Jensen Beeler61 COMMENTS

Good morning from cloudy California. Today’s adventure takes us to one of my favorite race tracks, Thunderhill Raceway Park, to test the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6.

It should be an interesting day, namely since Northern California is getting some much-needed rain, although that makes it tough to test a 120hp+ supersport machine.

On second thought though, maybe these are ideal conditions for the “new” R6 – with its freshly added traction control, riding modes, and anti-locking brake system.

It’s this electronics suite that will be the focus of our testing today, considering that the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 keeps the same frame and engine as its predecessor.

Definitely more evolution than revolution, other changes to the R6 for 2017 include revised suspension and braking components, magnesium subframe, aluminum tank, and bodywork that improves aerodynamics.

Yamaha calls this its “4th Generation” YZF-R6 model, though the spec list is suggesting something closer to a “3.5 Generation” machine…maybe 3.75, if I have had my Mountain Dew this morning and am feeling generous.

Yamaha feels confident that the 2017 model is a “new” bike though, and they even brought a 2016 model to ride, in order to prove the point to us. So, that will certainly be interesting. It looks like Bridgestone W01 full-wet rain tires will be the order of the day, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that things don’t get too moist out there.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have. So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, before even my own proper review is posted.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at Thunderhill. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #RWorld #R6FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

What It Really Means for Harley-Davidson Now That Trump Has Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

03/07/2017 @ 9:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

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Dirt Bikes Persona Non Grata at Pikes Peak

03/07/2017 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

Dirt-focused machines will no longer be welcomed at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), says the race organizers.

With the change in the road surface and race course, the 2017 running of the “Race to the Clouds” will be the last one where competitors can use machinery that was originally intended to operate off-road.

How PPHIC will determine what is a prohibited machine is not really clear, with the press release stating only that “vehicles that were originally designed with the intention of competing on Pikes Peak’s traditional dirt surface” would no longer be allowed to race, after this year’s event.

New MV Agusta Brutale 800 Finally Coming to the USA

02/24/2017 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

It’s been over a year since MV Agusta introduced us to its revised and updated Brutale 800 – the three-cylinder sport bike getting the Euro4 treatment, a mild facelift, and a bevy of subtle technical changes.

The new MV Agusta Brutale 800 is a no excuses bike from the Italian manufacturer, and while moto-journalists like to joke that each new bike from MV Agusta is the “the best motorcycle yet” from the Italian brand, the new Brutale earns the title legitimately in our eyes.

Now, the machine is finally coming to US soil in the coming weeks, as a 2017 model, which means that American riders in the market for middleweight street bike will have a new brand to consider when mulling over their choice (the new Brutale 800 RR should be available later this summer t00).

Pricing on the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 will be set at an expensive but reachable $13,498 MSRP.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #44 – Michael Lock

02/20/2017 @ 10:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Episode 44 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is very special, because we have our very first guest on the show, Michael Lock from AMA Pro Racing.

Some of you might know Lock as the man behind the freshly rebranded American Flat Track series, and he has deep roots in the motorcycle industry, leading the US efforts for Ducati and Triumph, as well as working for Honda in the UK and across Europe.

As such, we had a very interesting time picking Lock’s brain about the current state of the US motorcycle industry, what is wrong with road racing, and what he is doing with flat track (with a bevy of side topics along the way, of course).

You will want to grab some provisions before hitting the play button on this show, because this one is super long (two hours) – we just didn’t want to cut out any of Lock’s insights.

Duration aside, we think you will find Lock’s comments and perspective to be very insightful, especially during these uncertain times for the motorcycle industry. 

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!

Yamaha Motor USA Shakes Up Motorcycle Division

02/17/2017 @ 11:36 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Changes are afoot at Yamaha Motor USA, as the company’s US President Terry Okawa announced a bevy of changes to the company’s motorcycle division, the most notable of which being the ascension of Mike Doughty to the role of General Manager, in charge of Motorcycle Operations.

With that announcement, Doughty announced a restructuring of Yamaha’s motorcycle operations in the United States, along with more personnel changes for the company.

Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

02/07/2017 @ 7:34 am, by Jensen Beeler74 COMMENTS

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles.

The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together.

The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million).

Trump Cancels Harley-Davidson Visit for Fear of Protests

02/01/2017 @ 12:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

President Trump was scheduled to visit Harley-Davidson tomorrow, but those plans have since been scrapped because of Harley-Davidson’s worry about protests at the event.

Trump’s trip was supposed to include a tour of Harley-Davidson’s Menomonee Falls factory, where he would then sign several executive orders that relate to manufacturing in the United States.

With protests continuing over President Trump’s taking office, and the subsequent executive orders and personnel changes he has made to the government, reports are swirling that Harley-Davidson has backed away from hosting the 45th president. 

Harley-Davidson Sales Dropped 1.6% in 2016

01/31/2017 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

As motorcycle manufacturers report their 2016 numbers, we see the continued trend that last year was a tough year for OEMs in the USA. Harley-Davidson reports that its sales dropped 1.6% overall (262,221 units) in 2016, but that number doesn’t paint the full picture for the Bar & Shield brand.

Harley-Davidson sales were down 3.9% in the USA for the 2016 sales cycle (161,658 units), which is a stark contrast to the 2.3% growth Harley-Davidson saw abroad with its international sales.

These losses translated to Harley-Davidson’s balance sheet, with the company posting an 8% decrease in net income, making $692.2 million in 2016. Consolidated revenue remained steady however, at $6 billion.

2017 Honda CBR1000RR Priced at $17,000*

01/18/2017 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

*It should be noted that after the publication of this article, American Honda adjusted the price on the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR to an MSRP of $16,499. American Honda has since also announced pricing on the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR ABS, set at $16,799 MSRP.

I’m not sure if I missed the memo, or if Honda just didn’t make much of a fuss about it, but pricing for the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR and its kin are now showing on the American Honda website.

Prices for the new Honda CBR1000RR seems to be only available in the USA right now, but early indications appear that Big Red is asking for quite the pretty penny for its freshly updated superbike.

As such, current pricing is as follows: Honda CBR1000RR – $16,999; Honda CBR1000RR ABS – TBD; Honda CBR1000RR SP – $19,999; Honda CBR1000RR SP2 – $24,999.