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.

What is Fesh Fesh?

01/29/2013 @ 4:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Kurt-Caselli-fesh-fesh-Dakar

A hallmark of both the African and South American varieties of the Dakar Rally, ask any of the competitors in the 2013 Dakar Rally about what the Arabians call fesh fesh, and you may see their faces turn as ashen as the material in your inquiry.

A very fine and light powdery substance, fesh fesh in large enough quantities can spell instant disaster for an adventure rider or rally racer, as it plumes can quickly obscure the vision, and its quicksand-like properties can instantly envelope tires that tread too deeply or too slowly.

The byproduct of countless years of the erosion process, fesh fesh is sand that has been worn down from its typical granular size, into a dust-like particle that closely resembles talcum powder. When layered thinly on hard rock, fesh fesh can be as slippery as ice, and when accumulated in deep pits, fesh fesh is essentially quicksand, minus the water.

Cyril Despres Claims Fifth Dakar Rally Win

01/21/2013 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Wrapping up two weeks of racing, the 2013 Dakar Rally concluded this weekend in Santiago, Chile. His fifth Dakar win, Cyril Despres once again claimed victory in the iconic rally race, and though he was tipped heavily to win after Marc Coma announced that he would be sidelined due to injury, Despres’s win was anything but a sure-thing as the stages progressed. Seeing strong rides from factory-backed Yamaha and Husqvarna teams, Despres even got pressure from his fellow KTM riders over the 14 racing stages.

Despite finishing the Dakar Rally with a 10 minute 43 second overall lead, Despres found himself on the wrong-side of the time sheets during several stages, and even had to replace his motor during the “marathon” weekend, where riders are not allowed any mechanical help from their support crew (Despres got more than a little help from his fellow KTM teammates though). His second Dakar Rally win in a row, and his fifth career-win, Despres now sports two-more Dakar victories than rival Coma — deficit that surely will be contested next year.

Dakar Rally — Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again

01/16/2013 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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It is a special thing to win a stage at the Dakar Rally, and multiple stage victories are a true accomplishment in a racer’s career. We could leave the accolades there for Kurt Caselli, but taking two stage wins, during his rookie debut at the famous rally race, now that is something truly noteworthy. Filling the very big shoes left behind by the injured Marc Coma, Caselli has proven to be a diamond in the rough for the factory KTM team, which can only bode well for the California natives return to The Dakar in the coming years.

Winning the Baja-like terrain of Stage 11 with a 4:45 margin, Caselli helped lead the way for fellow bannerman Cyril Despres to regain the outright lead of The Dakar, while Despres’ teammate Ruben Faria also consolidated KTM’s 1-2 standings in the overall time slots, 13:16 behind Despres.

Still ranked well below the other factory KTM riders, Caselli’s position moves to 29th, a figure weighed heavily by his navigational errors in Stage 8, which saw him miss several waypoint and checkpoints.

With eleven stages now completed, the 2013 Dakar Rally will head back into Chile tomorrow with the 12th stage, meaning only three stages of racing remain. A Top 10 finish may be a large challenge for Caselli, but it is undeniable that the American has made a strong first impression at his debut Dakar.

Video: Who is Kurt Caselli?

01/15/2013 @ 1:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Kurt-Caselli-KTM-Dakar-Rally-2013

After winning Stage Seven of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the A.S.O. has started to give American Kurt Caselli a bit more love on its made-for-YouTube video updates. Replacing the injured Marc Coma on the factory KTM team, Caselli may be a rookie to The Dakar, but he is no stranger to high-achievements in some of motorcycling’s most brutal events. A WORCS, Hare & Hound, and ISDE winner, Caselli was also part of the second-place finishing KTM team that tackled the Baja 1000 in 2012.

The experience has helped the California native to adapt to the South American race, though not all the learning has been easy. Having a horrible ninth stage, Caselli dropped from 11th in the standings to 39th, with navigational errors costing him dearly. All a part of the learning process for this Dakar rookie, Caselli has several more days to overcome his time penalties and improve his finishing position.

Dakar Rally – Stage 7: American Kurt Caselli Takes First Win

01/11/2013 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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A last-minute replacement to the injured Marc Coma in the 2013 Dakar Rally, the expectations around race-rookie Kurt Caselli were purposefully modest. Filling big shoes at KTM’s factory-backed Dakar team, the Austrian brand started the two-week long race with hopes for competitive finishes from the Ameircan hare-scrambler, but today they got much, much more: a stage win in the seventh day of racing.

The fastest man through Stage Seven, Caselli finished the timed special in 1’51.31 on his KTM 450 Rally race bike, which averaged 117 km/h over the course. The stage win result leaves Caselli in eighth place overall, with second through eighth dominated by KTM riders, save David Casteu who maintains 3rd place for Yamaha. Elsewhere in the KTM camp, race-favorite Cyril Despres suffered mechanical issues, and dropped to fifth overall after his 34th place finish in the stage. He is 14 minutes behind race-leader Olivier Pain.

“Everything for me was fine. I’m learning the navigation better and I can understand it,” said Caselli. “This is my first Dakar so I’m just learning a lot. I didn’t have any idea what to expect when I first came here. It’s fun and I’m enjoying it.” Enjoy it indeed, congrats Kurt! Photos of Caselli from Dakar are after the jump.

RIP: France’s Thomas Bourgin Killed During Dakar Rally

01/11/2013 @ 4:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Thomas-Bourgin

With the jubilation of American Kurt Caselli’s win of Stage Seven in the 2013 Dakar Rally, there comes bad news regarding the passing of race competitor, Thomas Bourgin. Killed during the liaison section of the seventh stage’s special timed section, the French rider was killed when his KTM race bike collided with a Chilean police vehicle.

No other details of the crash have been released by race officials, though the incident highlights the risks that riders undertake while racing The Dakar. At only 25 years of age, Bourgin was competing in his first Dakar Rally, and was in an impressive 68th position at the end of Stage Six. Our thoughts are with Bourgin’s family and friends today.

Dakar Rally – Stage 6: Yamaha Leads KTM into Chile

01/10/2013 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Olivier-Pain-Yamaha-Dakar-Rally

It has been four stages since we checked in with the 2013 Dakar Rally, and a bit has happened since Cyril Despres’s eight-minute gaffe in the rally race’s second stage. Reclaiming the lead the very next day, Despres seemed back on his form, and ready to blow away the competition — Stage Four would say otherwise however.

Shaking up the leader board, it was Yamaha’s Olivier Pain who finished the fourth day of racing roughly three minutes ahead of his teammate David Casteu and KTM’s Cyril Despres, respectively. The fifth and sixth stages had the competitors leave Peru, and make their first crossing into Chile (the 2013 Dakar will leave Chile for Argentina tomorrow during Stage Seven and then re-enter Chile at Stage Twelve through to the finish).

The change of locale proved advantageous for Despres, who gained timed on the Yamahas in front of him, and finally overtook Casteu on today’s Stage Six. Frenchman Olivier Pain remained in the lead through today though, with a 2:22 lead over Despres, and nearly five minutes over Casteu, who is running in danger of being caught by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez and Ruben Faria.

There are two more days of racing in Chile, before the riders will have their one and only rest day, which serves as the halfway mark for the Dakar Rally. Commence onward for full standings and some photos of the top competitors.

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Wrong Turn Costs Despres 8 Minutes

01/06/2013 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Sunday marks the second day of the Dakar Rally, and the first real day of racing. Despite completing only two stages thus far of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the racing has gotten interesting, as race-win favorite Cyril Despres has lost eight minutes to the overall leader, Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda.

Fifth fastest overall thus far, Despres’s lost time was due to navigating around a massive dune, a move that caught several other riders out as well. With Monday’s Stage Three expected to be an even more difficult day, Despres said he was happy to start from behind, and let the other riders tackle the course ahead of him, where he could learn from their mistakes.

The Dakar Rally has been settled by less than the eight minute gap that Despres currently faces, though the Frenchman’s navigational error would have been more critical if rival and teammate Marc Coma was entered in the race this year, instead of sidelined with injury.

Reminder: The Dakar Rally Starts Saturday

12/31/2012 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In case you missed our build-up coverage and didn’t know, the 2013 Dakar Rally officially starts this Saturday, January 5th. Already shaping up to be an interesting race, KTM’s Marc Coma has already had to resign from this year’s rally because of injury, as well as two of the Honda’s factory riders.

Navigating their way through Peru, Argentina, and Chile, riders will compete over 16 grueling days, which will feature some of the most challenging terrain a motorcycle racer can face. A truly epic competition, count The Dakar as one of the great motorcycle races of our time.

To help you get in the mood, we have the official rally trailer and a couple longer highlight reels from last year waiting for your after the jump. Enjoy.

Confirmed: Marc Coma to Miss 2013 Dakar Rally

12/21/2012 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

As expected yesterday, KTM made an official announcement today regarding the participation of Marc Coma in the 2013 Dakar Rally, and simply stated that the three-time winner of the race will be unable to compete due to injuries he sustained to his shoulder in the Rally of Morocco. The news leaves KTM’s Cyril Despres as the runaway favorite for winning this upcoming edition of The Dakar.

“We worked really hard with the doctors and the physiotherapists right up until the last minute but we have to be realistic,” said a disappointed Marc Coma. “One of the muscles in my shoulder is still giving me problems and there is a lack of movement. This is the logical consequence and we must be honest and clear about the situation.”