Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation. Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last. Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Analyzing the MotoGP Michelin Tire Test

The departure of Bridgestone and the arrival of Michelin as the official tire supplier to MotoGP is an extremely delicate operation, in terms of marketing, tire development, and motorcycle set up. This posed problems for the Michelin test, held on the fourth day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the factory test riders had tried the Michelins at the first Sepang test, it was the turn of the MotoGP regulars. With major money on the line, the PR gag-order was enforced rigidly, and observed religiously. No official times were released, nor made unofficially available by the teams. A range of times have seeped out from journalists present, but given that only a few laps were timed by a few people out of practice with using a stopwatch, those times can be taken as guidelines only.

Colin Edwards Part of MotoAmerica’s TV Team

MotoAmerica has announced its lineup of TV announcers for the series’ telecast on CBS Sports Network, and the trio is a mix of familiar faces. Motorcycle racing veteran Jonanthan Green will be calling the races from the booth (many World Superbike fans will recognize his voice), and the man helping Green analyze the race should sound familiar as well, as it will be MotoGP star and two-time WSBK Champion Colin Edwards. While the boys are in the booth, Crisy Lee will continue her role as pit lane reporter, something she did with AMA Pro Road Racing under the DMG administration. While CBS may have to hold its hand over the censor button on Colin’s microphone, we think that fans will be pleased with the Texas Tornado’s addition, and the insight he will bring as a veteran racer.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.
Thus, the 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time. The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle. Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 ABS Comes to America for $14,399

A late announcement to the Suzuki motorcycle lineup, the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 comes with the banner headline of adding anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a bold new “Suzuki Racing Blue” graphics package (BNG) to the venerable superbike. The added safety of ABS is at least a welcomed change to the now seven-year-old model version of the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Meanwhile, the graphics package is designed to make a link between the GSX-R1000 and Suzuki’s MotoGP race bike, the Suzuki GSX-RR — even though the street bike pre-dates its racing counterpart all the way back to when Suzuki was last entered in the premier class.

Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

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.

2015 Aprilia RSV4 RF Spied at EICMA

11/03/2014 @ 7:27 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In addition to the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR that was spied by our friends at Oliepeil, the Dutch sleuths have caught a glimpse of the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RF. What does the “RF” mean, and how is it different from the “RR” model? We really have no idea, to be honest. Leave your best guess in the comments section, and we will give five A&R bonus points to whomever is closest.

First Photo of the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR

11/03/2014 @ 6:57 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Our friends at Oliepeil are at it again this year, sneaking into the EICMA showroom ahead of tomorrow’s official opening. As usual, bikes left out in the open are being spied, and first up is the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR — a model we should have perhaps expected, since Noale already teased us with the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR model this weekend.

No word on specifications yet, though if the Tuono is any indication, we can expect a modest power boost, and additional refinements to the RSV4’s already class-leading APRC electronics package. We should know more tomorrow with Aprilia drops all the news on its 2015 models, officially.

AMA Pro Racing Homologates the Aprilia RSV4 Factory

04/01/2013 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Looking to add more manufacturers to the traveling circus, AMA Pro Road Racing has homologated the Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS for racing duty, though with one interesting caveat. Instead of giving the 999cc Italian V4 a birth in the AMA Pro Superbike class, the RSV4 Factory has been homologated instead to race in the AMA Pro Supersport.

With Aprilia USA lacking a 600cc machine and the budget necessary to race at the factory level in the Superbike class, AMA Pro Road Racing officials have come to a compromise with the Italian company on how it can enter the American road racing scene with its current equipment, and hopefully thus spur its sport bike sales.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK Race Bike Debuts

02/08/2013 @ 10:16 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Fresh from Italy, we get our first glimpse of the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK race bike in its new livery. While the uniforms may look the same, the men wearing them have changed to some extent, and in many ways so has the Italian brand’s racing strategy.

Building its previous team around Max Biaggi, the previous incarnation of Aprilia Racing catered to every whim of The Roman Emperor — read into that as you will. But now with Biaggi’s retirement from motorcycle racing, Aprilia is forced to replace tried-and-true talent with two up-and-coming stars.

Out from behind Max’s shadow, Eugene Laverty is expected to impress this year, having shown himself a formidable rider on the RSV4 Factory last season with his sixth-place Championship finish. Seventh in the Championship himself, Sylvain Guintoli will join the Irishmen, after coming off a tumultuous season with Liberty Racing. With three race wins and six podiums, Guintoli made a definite impression, especially when he was on the slower Ducati.

With both of Aprilia Racing’s WSBK riders starting to come into their own, the Italian brand is showing a lot of growth potential in the premier production-motorcycle racing series. Time will tell on the results, but we expect a bevy of podiums from the Aprilia riders this year, and maybe a win or two. Mas photos after the jump.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition

01/24/2013 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Helping commemorate Max Biaggi’s 2012 World Superbike Championship victory, Aprilia USA has commissioned a limited production run motorcycle: the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition — a model featuring a subtle graphics kit revision that will only come to the North American market.

Sporting the same features and refinements as the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS, owners of the SBK Special Edition will also enjoy the new three-level dual-channel ABS system from Bosch, as well as the  Brembo M430 calipers.

The Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition also has the same chassis and engine enhancements as the 2013 APRC model, which brings the sporty V4 to 181.4 hp at the crank and 86.3 lbs•ft of peak torque @ 10,500 rpm.

If you can distinguish it from the regular model, expect to see the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition on dealership floors in April, with pricing announced on February 1st (next week).

Photos: The 2013 Aprilia RSV4 R ABS in Matte Black Hi-Res

11/13/2012 @ 7:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

We already told you last month that the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 would get a bevy of revisions, not to mention the inclusion of ABS brakes…yet for some reason we had to wait until today to tell you that information again. Yes, it is completely bizarre yet completely normal situation to encounter when dealing with Italians, and especially so with the Noale company. Honestly, it is just one of the perks of working in the motorcycle industry, or not in it, as American Honda seems to think.

What is perhaps more newsworthy than these thinly veiled rants are these first photos of the Aprilia RSV4 R ABS in matte black, which is drop dead sexy in any language. Aprilia is keen to remind us that the RSV4 topped many of the superbike shootouts this year, besting machines like the Ducati 1199 Panigale and BMW S1000RR (we’d be keen to try an RSV4 Factory against the new BMW HP4 though).

Selling the RSV4 has never been a problem of product for Aprilia. The RSV4 is superb, and in its second year of racing, Max Biaggi took it to win the World Superbike Championship. The Roman Emperor repeated that feat again this year, though we doubt it will move that many more units in North America for Aprilia, which sells RSV4’s by the hundreds, not the thousands, in the largest sport bike market worldwide.

If there was ever a brand you wanted to see get its act together, Aprilia, and the Piaggio Group as whole, has to be it. Until that happens though, we will have to view the photos after the jump with a taste of foreboding. Like Eve’s apple, Pandora’s box, and Lindsay Lohan’s driving, the treat is tantalizing, though the headache is probably not worth it. Le sigh.

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT – New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor

04/18/2012 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

After a couple failed returns, Norton is set to race in the upcoming Isle of Man TT with a race bike that features an Aprilia RSV4 engine and proprietary chassis (does that remind you of anything?). Sponsored by Monster Energy, at the helm of the still unnamed Norton will be top be the TT Privateer’s Champion Ian Mackman, who will race in the Seniors TT on June 8th (the first time a Norton has been in the Senior TT since 1992).

The new Norton is a bit of a departure from the British company’s last race bike, the rotary motor-powered Norton NRV588. Unable to race the NRV588 in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, the new Norton is surely a byproduct of the firm’s heavily rumored MotoGP entry, as it fits very well within the premier class claiming rule team (CRT) provisions.

Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

Infographic: Aprilia – Ride Like a Champion

03/20/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Aprilia has the dubious distinction of having some of the most compelling motorcycles in its product lineup, which are mated to some of the worst market communications in the industry, but the Italian manufacturer certainly seems to be trying this year. Getting ready to launch the Aprilia Tuono V4 APRC in the US later this month, Aprilia is trying to expose more riders to the Italian brand and its racing heritage.

While we were less-than-impressed with the company’s more recent strategy of hiring motorcycle blogs to create online commercials for the brand, this latest media effort seems more genuine and original. Find after the jump an ever-so-trendy infographic on Aprilia’s racing heritage, APRC electronics system, and V4 engine, and RSV & Tuono motorcycles. Click on it for an even bigger version, it’s actually pretty interesting.

A New Aprilia RSV4 for 2014?

02/09/2012 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

It seems a bit silly to be talking about the 2014 model year when we are only into our second month of 2012. However, such is the case today because a certain Max Biaggi let it slip during the Aprilia Racing Team’s World Superbike presentation that 2012 would be the penultimate season for the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC. Adding that Aprilia would not be developing its race bike for the 2013 season, the signs would seemingly indicate that a new liter bike model from the Italian manufacturer is on the horizon for 2014.