At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Yamaha T7 Concept Hints at a 700cc Ténéré for 2018

11/07/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

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Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

04/20/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles.

As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride.

With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Using a similar chassis and the same motor as the MT-07 (that’s the FZ-07 for us Yanks), the Yamaha Tracer 700 adds a longer swingarm (+50mm), larger fuel tank (+3 liters), revised suspension settings, manually adjustable windscreen, a new seat and headlight, as well luggage options.

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FZ-07 Powered Yamaha Super Ténéré Spotted

04/14/2016 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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It looks like Yamaha is getting ready to bring an updated Tiny Ténéré to market (photos here), giving ADV riders a new middleweight option in the Yamaha lineup. This is because spy photos from Europe show what looks like a adventure-tourer, powered by the 689cc FZ-07 parallel-twin engine.

If we do see a Yamaha XT700ZE enter the market, it would be a welcomed compliment to the 1200cc Yamaha Super Ténéré, and help the Japanese brand compete in the increasingly competitive ADV market, especially against brands that already have a ~800cc adventure model available.

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2016 Yamaha XSR700 – Hip Meets Modern Tech

07/22/2015 @ 1:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Yamaha’s new FZ/MT platform has been a home run for the Japanese brand, with both the Yamaha FZ-09 and Yamaha FZ-07 selling well, here in the United States (the bikes sell around the rest of the world as the MT-09 and MT-07).

So how does Yamaha build on that success? How do they reach riders who aren’t looking for the modern naked aesthetic? Well, you give them what they want.

Meet the 2016 Yamaha XSR700. Underneath that retro-standard exterior resides the basic makings of the FZ-07. It’s the same 700cc parallel-twin engine with its 270° crankshaft mated to a new lightweight aluminum chassis.

The Yamaha XSR700 is the production version of Yamaha’s recently unveiled “Faster Sons” concept, and is an obvious offering to the hipster motorcycle crowd that has come to adore the work of Japanese bike builder Shinya Kimura, who made the concept bike.

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2015 Yamaha MT-07 Moto Cage – For Euro Stunters

09/29/2014 @ 11:14 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Yamaha’s MT platform (that’s the FZ platform to us Americans) continues to spur variations from its three and two-cylinder machines. Called the Yamaha MT-07 Moto Cage, Yamaha’s latest bike seems ready for stunters and street-hooligans.

Think of it as the younger kid-brother to the Yamaha FZ-09 Street Rally, which we saw in the form of the Yamaha Cage-Six concept, and you will have a pretty good idea on what the MT-07 Moto Cage is all about.

At the core of the 2015 Yamaha MT-07 Moto Cage is the same 689cc parallel twin motor, which is good for 74hp, but Yamaha have added engine crash cage, skid plate, radiator guard, and supermoto-style hand protectors. Akrapovic also has a very fetching slip-on for the machine, as an aftermarket item.

Available in November 2014, for the European market, pricing is set at a very cheap €6,690. We doubt very much that Yamaha will bring the Moto Cage to North American soil, since it didn’t do so with the Street Rally…but we can dream.

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Yamaha MT-07 Street Tracker Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

08/29/2014 @ 9:14 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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We have seen a lot of concepts use Yamaha’s new MT line as their starting point. That is probably because the MT-09 (that’s FZ-09 to us Americans) and the MT-07 are very affordable versatile machines.

With rumors abound that Yamaha will use the MT-09 as the basis for a Yamaha TDM revival, the creative juices are certainly flowing. Not one to let the MT-09 have all the fun, Oberdan Bezzi has inked an intriguing street tracker concept from the Yamaha MT-07.

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Don’t Call It the MT-07, Yamaha FZ-07 Coming to the USA

06/05/2014 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Motor USA has confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that the Yamaha MT-07, the twin-cylinder cousin to the MT-09, will be coming to the United States after all, and like its three-cylinder counterpart, the budget-conscious naked bike will get a renaming, known henceforth as the Yamaha FZ-07.

Yamaha has a real trend going with its MT/FZ line, with its three similarly styled bikes (don’t forget about the Yamaha MT-125) bringing some serious bang-for-the-buck to new and seasoned riders alike. For the American market, the Yamaha FZ-07 comes with an MSRP of $6,990, and will be available in July of this year.

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