Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Photos: Ducati Desmosedici GP15

The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a machine that has been long in the making. It represents Gigi Dall’Igna’s next step forward for the wayward Ducati Corse MotoGP team, and it is the dubious honor of holding the hopes of Ducati fans around the world, who see the machine as the silver bullet that will return Ducati to the forefront of racing prowess — no pressure. The most obvious change that can be seen on the GP15 is the re-routing of the exhaust, with the undertail pipes collecting on the right-hand side of the machine, rather than coming in from both sides and meeting in the middle. Can you spot any other changes in the high-resolution photos after the jump? Let us know in the comments.

Politics & Corruption: Why There Isn’t a Race in Indonesia

If anyone needed any further proof that Indonesia is important to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the fact the Repsol Honda team chose Bali as the location to launch their 2015 MotoGP project should remove any doubt. But if Indonesia is so important to the manufacturers, and to MotoGP, why is there not a race there? Over the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, I had a few conversations with people on the subject. On the record, the story was always the same: we need a suitable track, and as soon as one exists we will be happy to go there. Off the record, however, they were much less optimistic.

A Requiem for Kenji Ekuan & The Kando of GK Design

Industrial design is not a commonly known, much less well understood, profession. To some it suggests arranging equipment inside factories, to others it means some kind of product engineering. In reality it is the search for, and expression of, human satisfaction in inanimate objects that are mass produced. That’s quite a mouthful, and to the average person it may sound like jiberish written for some pretentious coffee table book, but it is the truth. At least, it is one version of the truth as seen by the GK Design Group of Tokyo, Japan. If you ride motorcycles, then you are intimately familiar with the work of this large and internationally respected studio. Since only its second production bike, the indigenously designed YA-1, every Yamaha motorcycle since 1958 has been crafted by GK.

Are You The MV Agusta F4 RC?

What look to be official photos of the MV Agusta F4 RC have leaked out onto the internet, along with a slide from MV Agusta’s media presentation on the machine. The photos give us our first glimpse into Varese’s homologation special, complete with a special two-can exhaust by Termignoni. The leaked slide confirms some of the numbers being thrown around about the F4 RC, namely that it will have 212hp, 81.86 lbs•ft of torque, weigh 175kg dry, and cost €36,900 (we already know that the MV Agusta F4 RC will cost $46,000 in the USA). Information from a leaked slide last year has already told us that MV Agusta has radically overhauled the F4 RC’s engine, designing a new cylinder heard, new crankshaft, new camshaft, as well as adding bigger fuel injectors, lighter pistons, and titanium connecting rods.

Kenji Ekuan, Designer of the Yamaha VMAX Has Died

Mainstream news is mourning the death of Kenji Ekuan today, as the 85-year-old Japanese industrial designer is one of the most influential artists in Japan’s modern era, and is most well-known for his designing of the iconic Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Ekuan’s lesser-known works though include a number of motorcycle designs for Yamaha, including the now 30-year-old Yamaha VMAX motorcycle, which makes his passing even more meaningful to motorcyclists around the world. Kenji Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design after WWII, and his company helped shape the way Japan rebuilt itself after the world war.

Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

Despite its huge dimensions, not to mention a 30 liter fuel tank, the 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure never looks big or bulky. In fact, it is only when you mount the hard luggage that you can tell this bike can really cover long distances. Apart from a dorky little exposed wire from the heated grips near the throttle, the fit and finish is very high-end, especially the integrated curved lighting in the tank — it is quite a sight. At first glance the Super Adventure doesn’t have the massive personality and stance of its German rival, the BMW R1200GS Adventure, but that is in part due to the white color scheme and the absence of the typical beak as a front mudguard. KTM is going about things differently, and that is something that appeals to many riders…including us.

Yamaha VMAX Carbon – Celebrating 30 Years of VMAX

It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle. The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber. Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

Up-Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike

05/31/2012 @ 7:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Norton SG1, as it is now being called, is the talk of the Isle of Man TT paddock (we presume the SG designation stands for Norton’s new owner, Stuart Garner). Completed just before the TT fortnight, the Norton squad has an enormous amount of work ahead of it to bring the SG1 up to speed. Norton’s rider, Ian Mackman, posted a 112.364 on Tuesday night’s practice, and was out again Wednesday night, scaring the hell of out of elderly Manx women.

What is rapidly becoming the Norton SG1’s defining feature, is the bike’s anti-wildlife system, which is able to produce enough of a intone a sound somewhere between “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out. Scaring virtually anything within earshot, the anti-wildlife system also doubles as the bike’s exhaust, and would be banned twice-over at noise-restricted tracks like Laguna Seca.

Drawing some resemblance to the rotary-powered Norton NRV588 project, the Norton SG1 also features an Aprilia RSV4 motor in a custom Spondon frame. With all the trappings of a CRT bike, it doesn’t take too much imagination to link the SG1 to the rumors about Norton’s return to MotoGP, which makes for some interesting conjecture on the trajectory of the team’s racing future.

IOMTT: John McGuinness Strikes First with a 130 MPH Lap

05/30/2012 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Mr. McPint continues to raise the bar at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, as the #1 plated Honda TT Legends rider was the first, and so far the only, rider to bust the 130 MPH barrier at this TT fortnight. Doing a 130.079 mph lap on his second time around the Mountain Course for the evening, John McGuinness is looking well on the pace to raise the outright lap record of 131.578 mph (a mark he himself set) during the race week.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Not Racing in TT Zero

05/30/2012 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Talking to a few of the Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing mechanics this afternoon in the Isle of Man TT paddock, unfortunately it looks like the the team’s electric entry, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev, is going to be a scratch for the 2012 SES TT Zero race.

When asked why the Kawasaki-Zytek entry would not be racing, the team cited the bike not being ready for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, intoning that the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev’s first laps ever would be on the Isle itself. Considering that the Kawasaki electric racing effort has been in the works for over a year now, the news is a bit surprising that it hasn’t been as extensively tested as its Honda Mugen counterpart.

IOMTT: McGuinness Sends a Message at First Practice Night

05/29/2012 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Monday night marked the first practice session for the returning riders to the Isle of Man TT, and John McGuinness got things started off on the right foot. While most riders at the TT spent the evening shaking off the cobwebs, sorting out new bikes, and generally getting a feel for thing, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner McGuinness went out onto the Mountain Course, dropped a 128.267 mph lap on his third lap of the day, and promptly called it a night.

With the Top 15 riders were lapping in the lower 120’s, McGuinness was the talk of the Isle today, and sent a clear message to his competitors with his lap: the Lancastrian means business this fortnight. Feeling very comfortable on his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR, McGuinness’s time is sure to get into the heads of his TT rivals, as they go out again this evening for the second practice session for the solo classes. McGuinness is the holder of the outright fastest race lap around the Mountain Course, with a 131.578 mph average course speed.

Trackside Tuesday: Soft-Spoken, But Not Broken

05/29/2012 @ 9:57 am, by Daniel LoComments Off

Ian Hutchinson has experienced the extreme highs and lows of racing, from taking the first clean sweep of all five solo class wins at the 2010 Isle of Man TT, to nearly losing his leg in a first lap accident in a British Supersport race at Silverstone later that same season. After sitting out of the 2011 event, “Hutchy” is back at the TT on the esteemed Swan Yamaha team’s Isle of Man debut entry.

It was just after 8pm last night, and Ian was on his final lap of the day. Even after a year off the Mountain Course, he was still able to promptly churn out an average speed of 123.025 miles per hour by the end of the first Superbike practice session.

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT

05/24/2012 @ 5:43 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

For those who have never attended, the Isle of Man TT is truly a special race. I will concede the point that saying that the TT is merely “a special race” is a bit trite, as there is so much that encompasses the full experience one gets during the TT fortnight, that it becomes hard to explain to someone who has never attended the TT, even veteran motorcycle race journalists, what it is that makes the TT so special.

Part of this equation is the racing spectacle itself. Set on a small island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s quaint few towns serve as the venue for tens of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, while the roads between these villages are connected by the island’s lush countryside. It is hard to travel around the Isle without the island’s beauty striking you — something that is captured extremely well with the race’s many aerial shots via helicopter, but not fully grasped until it is witnessed in person.

The fan experience is truly unique as well. Inside the paddock in Douglas, the atmosphere is campy, an almost carnival affair, and while virtually any other racing venue would sequester the teams and riders from the fans, the TT’s paddock is wide-open, with the team garages setup rows, and constructed in an open pavilion layout that encourages passersby to stop, lean on the waist-high barriers that are maybe 10 feet from the mechanics’ bike lifts, and strike up a conversation with any team member that doesn’t seem to have a task at hand.

The experience is tenfold when one of the riders is present, which they often are, and even the greats of the sport are approachable and genuinely engaged with their fan base. Try getting that same experience at the next MotoGP or WSBK event you attend, and even in the AMA paddock you would be hard-pressed to get so much access and interaction to what goes on behind the scenes.

Then there is of course the racing, which all occurs on city streets and mountain roads. In the Superbike classes, the average speeds of the top riders exceeds 130 mph, with top speeds in the fastest sections cracking past 200 mph with regularity. Again I reiterate, this is all occurring on city streets, littered full of telephone polls, houses, trees, and of course fans. Speaking of fans on the course, imagine watching a race from the side of a hedgerow, at worst only 10 feet from the action, and in some cases only a few inches away. Experiencing motorcycle racing at such propinquity will take your breath away, if not figuratively then literally.

In my short time running Asphalt & Rubber, I have had the opportunity to cover motorcycle racing on four continents, and as I travel to my second Isle of Man TT, I know the next two weeks of racing will be unlike anything I have covered before in MotoGP, World Superbike, or AMA Pro Racing.

IOMTT: Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev Breaks Cover with 134hp, Six-Speed Gearbox, & Kawasaki Motors UK

05/22/2012 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

Using one of Zytek’s 100 kW (134 hp) permanent magnet oil-cooled KERS motors for its power plant, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev has the added benefit of a six-speed gearbox, which like the bike’s chassis, is a recycled component from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R donor bike the electric racer is built from. Using the firm’s automotive racing experience to its benefit, Zytek’s motor design has previously been used on the company’s Hybrid Le-Mans 24 hour race-winning car, and uses technology similar to Zytek KERS system used in the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Powering the motor will be four 15Ah LiFeP04 cylindrical cell battery packs, which have been located in the ZX-10R’s fuel tank, airbox, radiator, & exhaust for a total of 11.8 kWh in energy storage. “The shape of the Ninja ZX-10R frame is designed to curve around a conventional engine, and does not lend itself naturally to the fitment of a battery,” said Zytek Project Manager Des Hill. “We have ended up filling the area normally use by the tank, air-box, radiator and exhaust with four sculpted packs. In total we have 240 power cells carefully distributed around the bike.”

Norton V4 Gets Shakedown Test Ahead of Isle of Man TT

05/10/2012 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

More news from Norton, as the British firm has begun track-testing its V4 road race bike, in preparation of the 2012 Isle of Man TT. Focusing on the bike’s handling, Norton has been working hand-in-hand with Öhlins and Dunlop developing the bike’s chassis. The trio has devised the highly sophisticated “165 mph no hands” test, which supposedly checks the stability of the bike, though we imagine Health & Safety would frown upon it.

With the bike’s Aprilia RSV4 motor putting out 195hp at the crank, and with the total race package weighing 419 lbs (195 kg) when it is sopping wet, the Spondon-framed Norton may not be exactly what fans of the famous marques were hoping for after seeing the very appealing Norton NRV 588, though it does seem to be a potent package.

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT – New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor

04/18/2012 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

After a couple failed returns, Norton is set to race in the upcoming Isle of Man TT with a race bike that features an Aprilia RSV4 engine and proprietary chassis (does that remind you of anything?). Sponsored by Monster Energy, at the helm of the still unnamed Norton will be top be the TT Privateer’s Champion Ian Mackman, who will race in the Seniors TT on June 8th (the first time a Norton has been in the Senior TT since 1992).

The new Norton is a bit of a departure from the British company’s last race bike, the rotary motor-powered Norton NRV588. Unable to race the NRV588 in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, the new Norton is surely a byproduct of the firm’s heavily rumored MotoGP entry, as it fits very well within the premier class claiming rule team (CRT) provisions.