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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

2012 Honda Goldwing Gets Minor Tweaks

02/21/2011 @ 2:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

There must be a new rule in the tourer market segment where “all new bikes” consist of minor revisions to existing machines, as Honda has apparently taken a page out of Harley-Davidson’s playbook, and done an exciting upgrade to the 2012 Honda Goldwing. While rumors were overly-hyped that an all-new Goldwing would be making an American appearance, it appears instead that the Honda engineers have gone on to further improve upon their design of the legendary touring motorcycle.

No longer built in America at Honda’s now defunct Marysville, Ohio plant, the Japanese produced 2012 Honda Goldwing comes with a slightly larger price tag, but boasts some improvements to justify the cost. Revamped bodywork, larger capacity luggage pieces, improved built-in GPS with iPod/MP3 player support, and revised suspension complete the changes for the new Goldwing. It’s hard to impress sport bike guys with a big bike like the Honda Goldwing, but if you’re interested in buying the gold standard (no pun intended) of motorcycle touring, things just got a bit more appealing we imagine.

Rumor: Husqvarna Planning Road Bikes for 2012

01/07/2011 @ 2:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Husqvarna turned more than a few heads at the 2010 EICMA show when it unveiled its Husqvarna Mille 3 Concept. Of course the 993cc asymmetrical v-triple motor was primarily responsible for raising the eyebrows of passers-by, but the idea that Husqvarna would come out with a street-based concept was also more than curious (compounded by the fact that we still can’t quite define what street segment the Mille 3 would fit into). Well the Mille 3 Concept is starting to make a bit more sense now if news from Visordown proves to be correct, as the British publication is reporting that Husqvarna is poised to begin offering true street bikes in 2012.

Ride Review: 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré

11/21/2010 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber was recently one of a few blogs, along with the usual suspects from the American media, to be invited out to Arizona for Yamaha’s press launch of the Super Ténéré adventure-tourer motorcycle (because we know Americans have no idea what to do with an accented “e”, think “tay-nay-ray” for pronunciation…or just cheat like us and say “ten-air-ray”). The earth is orange here in Arizona, and between the mesas and evergreen forests, Sedona makes for a picturesque setting, that’s away from the bustling metropolitans and city life. This serves our purpose well as its an ideal environment to show-off the 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré against the desert’s beautiful backdrop and star-filled skies, but it also serves as the type of destination Super Ténéré owners would likely visit on Yamaha’s new motorcycle, putting us right in the shoes of the target customer.

A market segment based around compromises, adventure-tourers sit somewhere between the juxtaposition of dirt and touring bikes. Based on the idea that the journey doesn’t end where the road does, the adventure-tourer market has taken over from the Harley-Davidson crowd as the next expression of freedom on the open road. Essentially created by the BMW GS series, it is impossible to talk about adventure bikes without mentioning the GS, but other manufacturers as well have entered into this growing market, coming up with different ideas on what riders are looking for when they want to escape from the daily grind.

Built to ride both on and off the street, adventure bikes pose the unique problem of having to decide where to make the trade-offs between these two different purposes, and in this regard we find the 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré, leaning more heavily to the street side of this equation than say the BMW R1200GS. As a publication that centers around street bikes generally (hence the name Asphalt & Rubber), we too lean towards the street side of that equation, making the Yamaha Super Ténéré a strong congruency to what we look for in this motorcycle segment, and a bike we wouldn’t mind adding to our stable of daily riders and long-distance tourers.

Honda VFR Adventure Concept – A Naked VFR1200F?

10/14/2010 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Released in Italy today, Honda has taken the wraps off a concept drawing that shows a new crossover motorcycle, based off the VFR1200F. Super-imposed over the shape of the new VFR, this new concept rendering shows a largely reduced fairing, in anticipation of its more “adventurous” segment orientation. If rumors are to believed on the internet, the bike may not share the same 1237cc displacement as its sport-touring cousin, and instead will sport a middleweight displacement (800cc’s seems to be a popular number).

This new VFR is one (or two?) of eight new models Honda has said it will debut in Milan. One of the other rumored models is a 1200cc concept bike, which will reportedly be a 2012 model year motorcycle with Honda’s dual-clutch transmission, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out the rest of what Honda has in store for us.

Suzuki Cutting a Deal To Run a Single-Bike Team in 2011

10/08/2010 @ 8:26 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Suzuki seems to be edging closer and closer to a single-man team for the next season, despite Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta making the rounds in Japan last week reminding the Japanese manufacturers of their legal obligations. With news that a good portion of the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP crew were told they should start looking for new employment, including long-time Crew Chief Stuart Shenton, Suzuki seems to be culling its ranks for a pull-back in 2011 despite the consequences.

With Dorna already showing that it may be more bark than bite, after letting Kawasaki get away with its 2009 pull-out, the folks at MCN suggest Suzuki may have brokered a deal with Dorna for a larger involvement in 2012, when MotoGP goes back to the 1000cc format, in exchange for an allowance to run a single-bike next year in an effort to cut the company’s racing costs.

Jorge Lorenzo Signs Two-Year Deal with Yamaha

10/01/2010 @ 11:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Yamaha Racing announced this morning in Motegi, Japan that they have finally come to an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo, which sees the Spanish rider signing a two-year contract with the factory team. The announcement isn’t a surprise, as Lorenzo has made it clear over the course of the season that his goal was to remain at Yamaha, with the Japanese company making similar overtures.

Lorenzo is however the last MotoGP alien to sign-up for next year, with the delay likely being due to salary negotiations and other perks within the team, like developing the YZF-M1 to suit his riding style. Lorenzo is currently 56 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa for the MotoGP Championship title, and is heavily favored to win the accolade this year for Yamaha, after finishing second last year to teammate Valentino Rossi.

Suter Unveils S1000RR Powered MotoGP Bike

09/07/2010 @ 10:00 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

When the guidelines for the 2012 MotoGP season were released, a new class of motorcycle was allowed entry into the top series of motorcycle racing. Allowing the use of production-based motors in prototype chassis, claiming rule teams will be able to enter into the series theoretically for much less money than non-factory teams could in the past, which is a move by Dorna to bolster the GP grid size.

One of the first firms to jump on the opportunity is Suter Racing Technology, the maker of one of the more popular chassis being used in Moto2 this season. Using a BMW S1000RR motor as the power plant, the prototype race bike is based heavily off Suter’s MMX Moto2 bike.

Official: Cal Crutchlow to Monster Yamaha Tech3

09/06/2010 @ 6:02 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Filling the void left behind by Ben Spies, who will be riding with the factory Yamaha squad in MotoGP next season, Cal Crutchlow has officially re-signed to a two-year contract with Yamaha, and will begin his MotoGP tenure with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. None of this news should be shocking to the MotoGP and WSBK loyal, as Crutchlow has been linked with a MotoGP/Tech3 seat for some time now.

Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager Hervé Poncharal revealed to Asphalt & Rubber back at Laguna Seca that Crutchlow was one of a few names on a very short list that could replace Ben Spies next season.With the Englishman seen repeatedly around the MotoGP paddock and meeting with Tech3 and Yamaha representatives, it was clear where Crutchlow would land, but the announcement is still a big one for Yamaha all the same.

Norton Returning to MotoGP Racing

08/19/2010 @ 11:18 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

German magazine Speedweek is reporting that Norton will be back in GP racing for the 2012 season with a two-man team. Speedweek‘s highly respected Austrian journalist Gunther Wiesinger has received word that Norton has requested two spots on the 2012 MotoGP grid, and has signed a request to join the series when it returns to the 1000cc format. It’s unclear at this time if Norton will be entering as a claiming rule team (CRT), or be listed as a factory prototype, which could have a dramatic affect on the team’s success in the series.

Moto3 Rumors Continue – The Death of 125GP & Two-Strokes Seems Nigh

06/28/2010 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

After the GP Commission convened at Assen to meet regarding rules for the 2011 season, and other GP affairs, talk quickly began to spread that rumors of a Moto3 class were true. Seeing the success of Moto2 in replacing 250GP, the GP Commission seems to think that a similar race series could successfully replace the 125GP class, making all of GP racing a four-stroke affair as early as 2012 or 2013.