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.

Report Says Sport Bike Sales in USA Dropped 4.7%

The data continues to support the notion that sport bike sales are contracting, with Powersports Business releasing a report that sport bike sales dropped by 4.7% over a 12-month period that ended in October 2016. According to the dataset put together by Statistical Surveys Inc., 75,469 sport bikes were registered in the United States during last year’s time period, compared to the 79,225 motorcycles that were registered the previous year. While the general trend across the country is a drop in sport bike sales, the research also showed some interesting locations where sport bike sales actually increased dramatically, showing that there may be a location element to the demise of the sport bike.

2017 Yamaha MotoGP Team Launches in Spain

01/19/2017 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

It was billed as the launch of Yamaha’s 2017 MotoGP team, though it read more like a poorly choreographed Telefonica advertisement.

Yet, today was our first chance to see Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales dressed up in their new leathers, and our first chance at seeing the Yamaha YZR-M1 in its new livery.

Of course, the bike on display at the media launch is very different from the one that we will see take to tracks for the 2017, with Yamaha still exploring different aerodynamic packages before the start of the new season.

While the technical changes might be fewer than expected, the addition of Viñales to the Movistar Yamaha garage is sure to shake things up quite a bit. The Spaniard has already shown himself to be a quick study of the YZR-M1, which is sure to create some friction on the other side of the garage.

To his credit, Valentino Rossi looks to be in the form of his life, and has a keen on eye on making it 10 Grand Prix victories in the premier class.

All things considered, this formula is looking to be a potent recipe for a stellar 2017 MotoGP season. Note: the images we have of the Yamaha YZR-M1 are really big. The biggest. They’re yuge!

Some Notes on the 2017 Dakar Rally

01/16/2017 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The 2017 Dakar Rally is done and dusted. The competitors are either already on their way home, or now spending a well-deserved vacation in South America, after tackling what is easily the most difficult motorcycle race on the planet.

The Dakar is of course iconic and well-known for its difficulty, where it is not uncommon to see riders perish on its course, but this year’s rally raid was billed as one of the most challenging editions of the Dakar Rally ever.

When a man like Marc Coma – a man who has won the race five times – tells you that, your default mode is to believe him.

Tackling that challenge were 143 riders, of which only on 96 made it all the way to Buenos Aires. And while KTM has been the dominant manufacturer for the past 15 years, the 2017 edition saw early on that any of the major four brands could have a hand on the trophy in Argentina.

Of course we know that KTM made it to a sweet 16th victory, sweeping the podium no less, but the results sheet betrays what happened on the course. As such, I wanted to share some notes I have from the 2017 Dakar Rally.

10 Things to Look Forward to in Motorcycle Racing for 2017

01/02/2017 @ 11:51 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing.

Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017.

That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight.

If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

Yamaha XSR900 Abarth Adds Some Italian Sports Heritage

11/08/2016 @ 1:28 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

yamaha-xsr900-abarth-static-03

Yamaha has a long-standing relationship with Fiat’s tuning arm, Abarth, with the two brands having collaborated several times in the past.

For 2017, Yamaha and Abarth are teaming up again, creating the limited edition Yamaha XSR900 Abarth – a tricked out three-cylinder café racer – that is debuting at the 2016 EIMCA show.

As the name suggest, the Yamaha XSR900 serves as the basis for this custom model, with Abarth adding a sportier tone to the retro-styled “Sport Heritage” motorcycle.

Abarth’s changes include carbon fiber bodywork pieces, such as the headlight shroud, rear seat cowl, and front fender. There is also a special full titanium Akrapovič exhaust, which looks absolutely exquisite, as to be expected.

Yamaha YZF-R6, Reporting for World Supersport Duty

11/07/2016 @ 3:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

2017-yamaha-yzf-r6-wss-world-supersport-race-bike-09

Yamaha is gearing up to go racing in the FIM World Supersport Championship, finally bringing back once again a factory team to the 600cc class, and it plans to do so with the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6.

At EIMCA today, Team Blue gave us our first glimpse of the bike that factory riders Lucas Mahias and Federico Caricasulo, and factory-supported riders Niki Tuuli and Sheridan Morais, will compete with next season in World Supersport.

World Supersport rules don’t allow much in the way of modification to the Yamaha YZF-R6, so while the bike you see here is still just a gussied-up production bike, the actually race bike that the teams will use will differ in only minute ways.

Changes made to the R6 shown here include a set of race fairings, an Akrapovič Evo full titanium exhaust, 320mm Brembo T-drive front brake discs, 43mm forks with Öhlins cartridges, and Pirelli Diablo DOT race tires.

Yamaha T7 Concept Hints at a 700cc Ténéré for 2018

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

yamaha-t7-concept-details-04

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.

Yamaha Teases a New TMAX Scooter

11/04/2016 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

yamaha-tmax

The Yamaha TMAX doesn’t make too many waves in the US market, but abroad it is one of the most popular scooters on the market, and the TMAX custom scene is as strong as any other “proper” motorcycle.

So it is pretty big news to hear that Yamaha will be updating the TMAX for the 2017 model year, with the new design set to debut at EICMA next week.

It’s not clear if Yamaha will make any technical changes to the TMAX for 2017, or if we simply will see new bodywork and graphics in the coming model year.

Judging from the waves that Yamaha is making abroad though, we expect some good things.

Lin Jarvis on Lorenzo – “It’s Business, Not Charity”

10/14/2016 @ 5:33 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

twin-ring-motegi-2016-jorge-lorenzo-esses-scott-jones

Ever since we found out that Yamaha was only going to release Jorge Lorenzo from his contract to test at Valencia after the last race, but not at a private test at Jerez a week later, there has been much speculation as to the cause.

Had growing friction between the factory and Lorenzo led Yamaha to block the test? Was Yamaha afraid of just how competitive Lorenzo would be on the Ducati? Or, as the more conspiratorially inclined would have it, was this the invisible hand of Valentino Rossi at work?

The massed media had to wait until Motegi to find out. In the pre-event press conference, Jorge Lorenzo acknowledged that Yamaha had told him that the Jerez test was off the cards.

“Well, obviously I would like to make the Jerez test, but it is not a thing that depends on myself. For the moment, looks like I will test in Valencia. Looks like for Jerez, Yamaha is not so keen to permit that.” Lorenzo felt disappointed by the decision.

“I think that for the years we’ve spent together, and for the things we’ve won together, I deserve it. But obviously it doesn’t depend on myself and I will respect whatever decision Yamaha will make, because I am a Yamaha rider.”

Due to the large number of journalists asking to speak to Lin Jarvis to get his side of the story, Yamaha convened a press conference to allow the assembled media to ask questions.

In the space of half an hour, the Yamaha Motor Racing boss laid out in clear terms why the decision had been made. It was a masterclass in the underlying truth of MotoGP: this is a business, with millions of dollars involved, and a tangled web of interest beyond just Yamaha.

Yamaha has a duty to its shareholders and its sponsors to hold Lorenzo to the contract they both signed. Helping Lorenzo to try to beat Yamaha on a Ducati would be to fail their sponsors and Yamaha’s corporate interests.

More Photos of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

10/13/2016 @ 10:00 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

2017-yamaha-yzf-r6-high-resolution-25

Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will know how much we like our high-resolution photos here at A&R, so we wanted to make sure you could get a good high-res look at the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 that debuted today at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida.

Yamaha has left its class-leading bike mostly unchanged for the next model year, when it comes to the R6 motor and chassis, which might disappoint some. But with the addition of R1-inspired styling, traction control, ABS brakes, and better suspension pieces, we think supersport fans will be pleased with this update.

With the bar now set higher in the 600cc realm, hopefully we will see other manufacturers take up the challenge, and the supersport class will have new life breathed into it.

We’ll have to wait and see on that. Until then, enjoy this modest photo gallery.

The Yamaha FZ-09 Gets More Aggressive for 2017

10/13/2016 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

2017-yamaha-fz-09-02

The Yamaha FZ-09 will follow it European counterpart, the Yamaha MT-09, for the 2017 model year – getting an “upgrade” to its styling, along with a few performance enhancements.

Yes, this means the face that only a mother can love is coming to US soil; but on the bright side, it’s bringing with it traction control, fully adjustable forks, and anti-locking brakes.

The new headlight assembly features four LED headlamps, with other styling changes being made to the tail section, radiator shrouds, air scoops, and license plate mount (now on the swingarm).

Yamaha hopes that this styling effort will appeal to younger buyers, while the added features will appeal to more pragmatic buyers. Like on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, a quickshifter can be added as an optional accessory item, at the dealership.