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.

Photos from the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

08/16/2012 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is already off the mountain, and onto Indianapolis, but I am still wrapping up my coverage of the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second-oldest motorsport race in the United States, Pikes Peak gets a bit less fanfare than America’s oldest race, the Indianapolis 500 (apropos to my current locale). In general, the hill climb is a campy affair that is full of privateers, with that statement being even more relevant in the motorcycle class. More of a car event, than a bike one, it is the two-wheeled riders who are the real heroes in my mind, as stakes for any crash on the mountain is met with higher stakes, as well as trees, jagged rocks, and long drops.

Ducati is ever-present at the mountain, and brings with it another level of media attention for the motorcycles. The hope this year was that the Italian brand would not continue to race itself to the clouds, as Triumph was expected to arrive in force as well, with rider Joe Kopp giving Carlin Dunne and Greg Tracy a run for their money. This hope failed to materialize, with the 1205cc class hosting four Ducatis in total: the two backed Multistradas, as well as two Streetfighter entries. Now with the fully-paved course to the top, there was a lot of speculation regarding what sort of entries we would see this year in the motorcycle classes, though PPIHC put the kibosh on that fairly quickly, slotting the proper road bikes in the “Exhibition Powersports” class.

Watching the bikes file through, one after another, during the practice sessions, it is clear Pikes Peak is a still a dirt bike race masquerading itself as a road course event. Supermotos and flat trackers rule the entry list; but more so, it is the style of the riders that gives it all away. Foot out with the bike pushed down and under was the status quo, with the occasional rider coming through with a knee out and the bike leaned over. I will probably explore this idea further later, but you can’t help but feel that Pikes Peak is in a transitional state. Stymied in its history, it will be curious to see if the event can evolve into something else. The road certainly has.

PPIHC: Motorcycles Shatter 10 Minute Barrier at Pikes Peak

08/12/2012 @ 9:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With the road to the summit of Pikes Peak fully-paved now, riders not only had to contend with learning the 156 corners that comprise the race to the clouds, but they also had to learn the new asphalt sections that were paved after last year’s race. Getting three days of practice and sunshine on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course, on Saturday the weather hit the reset button, bringing rain down on the mountain, which made the road very green for racing the next day.

The sun returned for Sunday’s set of races though, with the motorcycles leading the charge up Pikes Peak. As with the previous years, the talk of class records falling was again high on the discussion list, which is unsurprising since Pikes Peak has added new pavement sections each year to the course. Though, with the asphalt now going all the way to the summit, the big question this year was by what margin the records would fall, and in the motorcycle category, whether a new class of motorcycle would dominate the mountain.

With most of the field still comprised of supermoto bikes and a handful of flat trackers, the 1205cc class showed the most diversity in entries, with BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, and KTM all represented. The PPIHC crew isn’t keen on full-fledged sport bikes racing on the mountain, relegating those entries that did show up into the exhibition class. Though many thought the sport bikers would dominate this year, it was the adventure-touring bikes in 1205cc class that would lay siege to Pikes Peak, in more than impressive style.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Takes Pole Position at Pikes Peak

08/10/2012 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Wrapping up their third day of practice on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) course, the motorcycles were on the lower section of the mountain, which also serves as the qualifying sector for Sunday’s big race. Repeating his performance from last year, Carlin Dunne took his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak race bike to the pole-position, clocking a 4’17.951 time on the lower section of the course.

Dunne’s teammate Greg Tracy is only a few seconds back on his Multistrada, posting a 4’20.443 time on the lower section, and taking the second-fastest lap time overall for the motorcycles. With Tracy riding stronger in the other sections, come race day the distinction should matter very little. After all, the hill climb is a race against the clock not the other riders, and Tracy has shown himself to be right on pace to give Dunne a hard time in repeating last year’s victory.

PPIHC Rescheduled for August 12th

07/05/2012 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After postponing the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) because of the then raging Waldo Canyon Wildfire, PPIHC officials have now announced that the Race to the Clouds will commence next month, on Sunday, August 12th.

Witnessing the enormous draw of safety personnel and resources to the Waldo Canyon fires, PPIHC official decided to cancel its scheduled July 8th running of the race, as the requisite number of support staff would be unable to attend, as they were battling the nearby blaze. Now with the Waldo Canyon Wildfire nearing complete containment, Colorado Springs officials can turn their attention to other matters.

90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Postponed Because of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire

06/28/2012 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been postponed by the race organizers because of concerns over the wildfire raging in the Colorado Springs, CO area. Originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 8th, PPIHC organizers have pushed back the race to later this summer, and while no alternate date has been given yet, one is expected in two weeks’ time.

“We have been informed by the U.S. Forest Service that conditions are so extreme, along with the inability to forecast the future of the fire, and with access to Pikes Peak in jeopardy that the agency can’t permit the event to go as scheduled, “said Tom Osborne, Chairman of the Board of the PPIHC and President & CEO of the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.

Ducati Announces Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Team with Carlin Dunne & Greg Tracy

02/02/2012 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Ducati has announced its factory team for the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), and the Italian company has secured the services of last-year’s winner and Rookie of the Year Carlin Dunne as well as six-time PPIHC winner Greg Tracy. Ducati has also partnered with the Spider Grips team, who will help prepare the teams Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the “Race to the Clouds” on July 8th.

For 2012, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will be fully-paved to the top of the mountain, which will surely see the speeds of competitors increase, and lap times drop on the 12.42 mile long course that ends at 14,110 feet. Holding the outright fastest motorcycle lap time on the mountain, Santa Barbara Ducati’s Carlin Dunne is eager to defend his title from last year, as well as his status as the fastest motorcyclist on the mountain.