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.

How to Watch the Daytona 200 – A Glimpse into the Future?

03/17/2014 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Did you miss this weekend’s Daytona 200? It wasn’t on TV, but instead was streamed on DMG’s new website: FansChoice.tv. The content was pretty standard, for anyone who has watched AMA Pro Racing’s TV commentary before, though it was without a high-defition feed, which irked video snobs like us.

Some readers reported other technical difficulties with the steam itself, though for the large-part of viewers, things seemed to work ok. The only probably up until now, is how to watch the Daytona 200 and other races if you didn’t catch them live. DMG has a fix for that now as well: YouTube.

No TV for AMA Pro Road Racing, But Live Stream for Events

03/13/2014 @ 4:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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So you want to watch AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track this year, but because DMG screwed the pooch on securing any form of TV deal, you think you’re up an apex without a kneepuck, right? Not so fast there speed racer.

To its credit, the Daytona Motorsports Group has created its own live streaming site for AMA Pro Racing, IMSA, and NASCAR content that is not on television: FansChoice.tv, which will be your go-to destination for watching the Daytona 200 live this weekend.

AMA Pro Road Racing Will Race at Laguna Seca with WSBK

03/13/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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When AMA Pro Road Racing released its 2014 calendar, there were no tracks out west, and there were only five race weekends schedule. The folks at DMG hinted a possible sixth round though, with Laguna Seca heavily rumored to be venue.

When Mid-Ohio reshuffled its schedule to accommodate AMA Pro Racing’s desire to race at Laguna Seca on the World Superbike weekend, it seemed like we were only moments away from an update to the provisional calendar. And then nothing happened.

Since then we’ve see John Ulrich put together his still unnamed “Triple Crown” event, which will bring three races, for AMA riders, west of the Mississippi. News of a complete lack of a TV deal has hit the AMA paddock shores, as even the Daytona 200 will be without a TV contract for 2014.

But, today we do have some good news for American motorcycle race fans: AMA Pro Road Racing will compete as the support class for the World Superbike stop at Laguna Seca, this coming July 11th-13th.

AMA Pro Racing Announces Tommy Aquino Spirit Award

03/13/2014 @ 1:27 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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In the wake of the tragic death of factory road racing prodigy Tommy Aquino, AMA Pro Racing has announced the introduction of the Tommy Aquino Spirit Award. In order to honor and preserve Aquino’s memory and positive attitude, the award will be given to the rider “who best embodies the spirit of the paddock during the 2014 season.”

According to AMA Pro Racing, “the paddock will vote for the rider who exemplifies qualities mirroring those of Tommy including passion for the sport, fan engagement and team interaction. The award will be presented on behalf of Cortech and Shoei at the conclusion of the 2014 AMA Pro Road Racing season.”

Watch Benny Solis and His Crew Practice Their Pit Stops

03/12/2014 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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You don’t need a good excuse to watch a motorcycle pit crew practice their pit stop maneuvers, but the upcoming Daytona 200 certainly helps.

Common place in the four-wheeled realm, the pit stop is still a bit of a novelty in two-wheeled racing. Outside of the Endurance World Championship and Isle of Man TT, you would be hard pressed to see a team refuel and change tires on a bike mid-race.

Of course at Phillip Island last year, MotoGP riders had to try their hand at a pit stop. Though the GP riders had a simpler go of things than most, only having to switch bikes instead of servicing one.

Even with that relatively easy task, that Australian pit lane was like armageddon for the MotoGP paddock — so much so, photographers were banned from entering pit lane for that race, and we’ll say nothing about Marc Marquez’s snafu.

So with that all said, enjoy our yearly “pit stop practice video” for the Daytona 200. This year, Benny Solis and his crew show us how it’s done. Looking good boys.

Just So We’re Clear, This is How You Market a Race Team

03/12/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The start of the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar is just around the corner, and that means manufacturers, teams, and riders are getting their PR machines in full swing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get excited about our venerable national racing series (DMG’s shenanigans aside), but duds like this don’t help in whetting our two-wheeled racing appetite here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Just when we were about to lose all hope though, Triumph shows up and saves the day…with a little help from Jason DiSalvo and Elena Myers. Kneedragging, wheelie popping, backwheel drifting two-wheeled fun, all packaged in a well-done YouTube video that even manages to show a little personality from the riders.

We dig it, we dig it hard. A quick warning though: several orange cones were hurt during the filming of this video. Some footage may not be suitable for adult-sized children with a history of brrraaappptitus. Thanks for the tip Matt!

Ulrich’s Pro-Am Motorcycle “Triple Crown” Event Is a Go

03/04/2014 @ 4:42 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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In January, Roadracing World Editor-in-Chief John Ulrich penned an editorial where he outlined his desire to create a three-event road racing series that would take place between the six-week time period of AMA Pro Road Racing’s first and second rounds.

This “triple crown” event would be help bolster the current five — hopefully to be announced six — events on the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar, which in-turn would help AMA Pro Racing teams and riders meet their obligations with their sponsors.

Ulrich also hoped in his article that some sort of tape-delayed TV package could be put together for the three events as well, another item desperately needed by AMA stakeholders, yet seemingly elusive for DMG officials to put together.

Several sources have now confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that the triple crown series is a go, with Sonoma Raceway, Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, and Miller Motorsports Park to host the three rounds on its schedule.

Ulrich’s event will piggyback off the amateur racing schedules at those race tracks, making the triple crown event a proper Pro-Am outing of motorcycling’s best professional and amateur racers.

Yamaha “Spy Footage” to Be “Leaked” Online, By Yamaha

02/27/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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We see our fair share of weird press releases here at Asphalt & Rubber, though usually the strangeness stems around English not being the primary language of the writer — which to be fair, if we had to write something in a language other than our native tongue, it would read pretty strange as well.

Today’s weirdness however comes from Yamaha USA, who sent out a press release with the title: “Yamaha U.S. Road Racing Teams Discover Evidence Of Being ‘Spied On’ While At Recent Track Test”. The email title certainly grabbed our attention, after all who doesn’t like a good spy story? Danger Zone!

What followed of course was utter disappointment, as the whole premise for the release was to tease and setup a future social media campaign from the tuning fork brand — the giveaway is where the company states several times that the footage “may be leaked” onto social media. Le sigh.

You can’t fault Yamaha USA for recently holding a two-day test/media day at Thunderhill Raceway for its AMA Road Racing riders, nor can you fault the last-OEM-standing in the AMA paddock for wanting to promote its racing efforts there. What worries us, especially while looking at how AMA Pro Racing is collapsing in on itself, is how forced this campaign feels. Did The Fonz just jump over a shark on water skis?

Now don’t get us wrong, Yamaha USA has produced some amazing viral media in the past, so we want to give the benefit of the doubt, but this just feels tacky — or genius-level meta. You can read the press release after the jump, and decide for yourself though.

Fund This Documentary: “It’s Something Inside”

02/24/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Last month, our friend John Shofner (you may have seen some of his work on A&R already) sent us a link to a project he was working on, and we couldn’t wait for it to become a reality.

So finally, we can talk about the full-length documentary, It’s Something Inside, that Shofner Films hopes to produce, which will tell the story behind America’s two-wheeled petrol racing culture.

To help raise the $400,000 that the It’s Something Inside project will need to produce the film, John has turned to the crowd-sourcing platform of Kickstarter.

If funded (your contributions only get collected if John meets his fundraising goal), and once completed, Shofner Films will then pitch the film to various film festivals, with the hope of ultimately getting a theater or TV deal for the film.

As you can tell from the trailer above, and the stills after the jump, John has a great photographic eye; and his previous work, including a documentary of the karting scene, shows his immense talent in storytelling as well.

We are pretty pumped to see this project go forward, and if you are too, we hope you will contribute some money towards his Kickstarter fund. Count us in for a couple bucks John!

Daytona 200 Will Switch Back to Superbike Format for 2015

02/11/2014 @ 2:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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AMA Pro Racing has announced that the series’ premier race, the Daytona 200, will once again feature 1,000cc Superbikes, starting in the 2015 season. A bit of an oddity on the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar, the Daytona 200 is America’s longest-running motorcycle endurance racing event, and historically it has kicked off the road racing season in America.

With Daytona International Speedway’s high speeds and long stints, riding the Daytona 200 has been a challenge for riders, for a variety of reasons. This lead to Superbikes being replaced by the strangely formatted Formula Xtreme class for the Daytona 200 race class in 2005 thru 2008. As tire and safety concerns continued, the modified 600cc Daytona SportBike class took over in 2009, and has run the race ever since.

While it has always been seen as an oddity by fans that AMA Pro Road Racing’s premier class didn’t run the series’ headline event, the safety concerns regarding 200+ horsepower bikes chewing through tires on the road course has been a paramount issue — even the Daytona SportBike bikes have had their fair share of tire woes at Daytona.

In order to get the Superbikes through the 69-lap endurance race, the folks at DMG say that the new upcoming rules package, which will reduce the cost of racing in AMA Pro Road Racing, is largely to be thanked.