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.

2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Preview – What Can We Expect As MotoGP Returns To Action?

02/03/2015 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.

And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.

Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.

Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.

The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.

Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.

The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.

Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.

Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?

Ducati 1299 Panigale Mega Gallery

01/31/2015 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1299 Panigale launch is just wrapping up in Portimao, and while Asphalt & Rubber isn’t there to tell you all about Ducati’s new flagship model, we’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos of the new superbike for you.

With 205hp from its bored out v-twin Superquadro engine, the 1299 is said to be beast. Thankfully Ducati has put some of the most advanced electronics on the new Panigale, including one of the first inertial measurement units (IMU) on a motorcycle — an acronym we suspect we will be talking a lot about in the next few years.

Unfortunately, our analysis today is limited to the refined looks of the Ducati 1299 Panigale, which has minor aesthetic changes from the 1199…most notably, the wider front cross-section, for better wind protection and aerodynamics.

We’ll have more to say when we’re finally allowed to swing a leg over one, until then enjoy all 167 wallpaper-ready photos after the jump.

“Scrambler Café Racer” Ducati Scrambler by Mr. Martini

01/29/2015 @ 5:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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The third, and last, Ducati Scrambler concept from the Verona Motor Bike Expo, the “Scrambler Café Racer” by Mr. Martini is exactly what the name implies: a cafe racer styled scrambler motorcycle.

Mr. Martini appropriately added a high-mount exhaust to his “scrambler” and retained the Scrambler’s Pirelli knobby tires. The addition of a cafe racer fairing though is an interesting choice, and leaves this concept straddling the two staples of hipster motorbiking in the custom scene.

We’ll let you decided whether this doubles the “post-authentic” nature of the Scrambler, or if the work is just an overload of the self-ironic.

“Scratch” Ducati Scrambler by Officine Mermaid

01/28/2015 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The second of three custom Ducati Scrambler designs unveiled at the Verona Motor Bike Show, “Scratch” by Officine Mermaid is perhaps closer in design to what we connote when thinking about a scrambler motorcycle, than say the design we first showed you by Deus Ex Machina.

Stripped down to only the bare essential pieces of metal, treated to look more rustic than its birth certificate implies, and complete with taped-over headlight, we have some “Grade A” hipster bait right here from Dario Mastroianni and his crew.

Transform Your Ducati into a Vyrus

01/27/2015 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Italian boutique builder Vyrus has already released a kit to turn your Honda CBR600RR into the fetching Moto2 race bike, and now Vyrus is offering a similar kit for Ducati motorcycle owners.

The offer seems to extend to both air-cooled and water-cooled Ducatis, and typical of Vyrus, the options for your new machine are only limited to what obscene amounts of money can buy you.

“Hondo Grattan” Ducati Scrambler by Deus Ex Machina

01/26/2015 @ 3:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

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At the Verona Motor Bike Expo, Ducati presented the first customized Ducati Scrambler models. As you may remember from our review, this $8,600 machine is pitched with a heavy lifestyle component, and Ducati hopes that fat margins on t-shirts and jackets will overcome the thin margins on the model itself. To that end, the Italian company has gone to great trouble in making the Scrambler “cool” for the younger “post-authentic” crowd.

As such, Dario Mastroianni (Officine Mermaid), Filippo Bassoli (Deus Ex Machina), and Nicola Martini (Mr. Martini) were given the first crack at modding Ducati’s newest model. The results have been interesting, and first up on our pages is the “Hondo Grattan” by Filippo Bassoli and the Deus Ex Machina crew in Milan.

MotoGP: Yonny Hernandez Injures Shoulder in Training

01/23/2015 @ 12:01 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

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Yonny Hernandez is to miss the first Sepang test. The Colombian rider crashed while riding dirt track, falling heavily on his left shoulder, and dislocating the shoulder. As a result, Hernandez will not be able to ride at Sepang, and will be replaced by Ducati’s test rider, Michele Pirro.

The good news for the Pramac Ducati rider is that the damage was mainly microfractures, and the ligaments and tendons were undamaged. The shoulder is a very complex joint, held together by a complicated network of tendons, cartilege and ligaments which allow it to move freely, but is vulnerable to damage.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

01/15/2015 @ 12:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand.

Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

01/14/2015 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface.

First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari, regardless of how much dual-sport experience they actually have.

And more recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines, that have at least some credibility in continuing the trip beyond where the sidewalk ends.

All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

First, let us make some definitions. Adventure-Sport bikes are “middleweight” and “heavyweight” motorcycles, with longer off-road styled suspension. They have an on-road bias, with their 17″ front wheels, and they make sport bike horsepower from their lightweight engines.

Adventure-Sports usually have an abundance of rider aids, which are typically aimed at taming these bikes’ powerful and peaky engines for mixed road conditions.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

01/14/2015 @ 11:48 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February.

In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine.

The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.