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.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK Special Edition

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

2013-Aprilia-RSV4-Factory-APRC-ABS-SBK-Special-Edition-01

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).

WSBK: Althea Racing Switches to Aprilia for 2013 Season

12/03/2012 @ 10:37 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

After getting dumped by Ducati Corse, which will be running its own factory team, Althea Racing has made the unsurprising switch to Aprilia hardware for lone rider Davide Giugliano, as they gear up for the 2013 World Superbike Championship season.

A top team in the WSBK paddock, Althea has potent prospects for next season with the Aprilia RSV4 Factory, especially as Giugliano continues to gain experience in World Superbike. This announcement brings the total to four Aprilia machines on the 2013 grid: the two factory bikes of Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli, as well as Red Devils Roma’s entry with Michel Fabrizio.

Official: Sylvain Guintoli to Aprilia Racing for WSBK

11/28/2012 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It has been no big secret that Sylvain Guintoli is riding with Aprilia Racing at the World Superbike test at Jerez this week, in what surely has been an audition for the Frenchman on the Italian team. Coming off a tumultuous season with the Effenbert Liberty Racing team, Guintoli backed out of a contract deal with Crescent Suzuki to take a stab with Aprilia’s factory squad — a move that has seemingly paid off for Guinters.

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.

2013 Aprilia Caponord 1200 with Aprilia Dynamic Damping

11/13/2012 @ 6:30 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Leaked well ahead of the EICMA show, we can now officially talk to you about the 2013 Aprilia Caponord 1200, Noale’s adventure-tourer. Using the chassis from the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 as its basis, Aprilia says it has modified the “robust” chassis to suit the Caponord 1200’s raison d’être, though you would be hard pressed to get a weight figure from the company.

Inside that presumably hefty chassis is a 128hp 1197cc v-twin motor with 85 lbs•ft of peak torque, which isn’t going to blow the doors off on any spec sheet comparisons. Instead, Aprilia is hoping to entice would-be Caponord 1200 owners with the bike’s bevy of electronics.

Max Biaggi Officially Retires from Motorcycle Racing

11/07/2012 @ 8:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

True to speculation, Max Biaggi’s media presentation today announced the retirement of the reigning World Superbike Champion, at the ripe age of 41. A six-time World Champion, Biaggi’s latest stars to his leathers have come from his involvement in the factory Aprilia Racing team in WSBK, with the other four stars coming from his consecutive 250GP World Championships.

Winning his crown by half a point, in what will surely be the narrowest margin ever in World Superbike history, Biaggi’s last season went right down to the wire until the end of the season at Portimao, as the Roman Emperor had to fend off strong contentions from both Tom Sykes and Macro Melandri throughout the 2012 Championship.

“It ‘s been the longest night, but I’m happy to leave now. I do not want to be like politicians attached to the chair. I thought about it a lot, I said to myself continuous 1 or 2 years or I stop? And I decided to leave now,” said Biaggi during his announcement at Vallelunga, the circuit where he started his racing career.

Biaggi to Make an Announcement November 7th – Retire, Re-sign, or Other?

11/05/2012 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Fresh off the heels of him wining the 2012 World Superbike Championship, question marks surround Max Biaggi — will he stay with Aprilia for another season and defend his title? Or, will he end his motorcycle racing career on a high, having just collected his sixth world title?

The crystal ball on this subject is uncertain. Though still not re-signed with the factory Aprilia squad for the next World Superbike Championship season, Biaggi did take part in the latest WSBK test at Aragon, which certainly lead to some believing the Roman Emperor would race for at least another season.

WSBK: Suzuki Slams Sylvain Guintoli for Breach of Contract

10/15/2012 @ 1:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Some more controversy is brooding for World Superbike rider Sylvain Guintoli, as Paul Denning and the FIXI Crescent Suzuki have slammed the British-living French-born rider for backing out of his 2013 commitments with the team. Issuing a statement to the press, Crescent Suzuki states that Guintoli and the team came to a “full and final agreement” at Magny-Cours, which was singed by the Frenchman.

According to Crescent Suzuki, Guinters made significant steps with the team to test at Aragaon starting today, but since that agreement, Guintoli has informed the team that he has to back out of his testing obligation in order to consider a new offer from a rival team. That rival team is heavily rumored to be Aprilia Racing, which may be scrambling to find a replacement rider for the still undecided Max Biaggi, the now-current World Superbike Champion.

For devout WSBK fans, the statements from FIXI Crescent Suzuki sound similar to those made by Liberty Racing, when the Czech team let Guintoli go mid-season, citing a number of reasons, including the Frenchman’s on-track results. Starting strong early on, Liberty Racing’s swan song started at Monza, and ultimately saw the team release its riders one-by-one, before finally missing the last race at Magny-Cours altogether.

For added Drama Llama, the press statement from FIXI Crescent Suzuki and Paul Denning is after the jump.

Trackside Tuesday: The Face of a Champion

10/09/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

Even before I met Max Biaggi in 2011, I had the sense that here was someone who takes himself and his racing pretty seriously. From the immaculately trimmed facial hair, to his manner in the pit box, to his long career as a motorcycle racer, if there is anything he takes lightly, it is certainly not racing.

Some riders are approachable, quick to smile, who naturally put others at ease even on race weekends. Biaggi is not among this group. But I didn’t appreciate just how intense he is when he’s at work until, as one of my contributions to benefit Riders for Health, I decided to ask him to sign a print I was donating at last year’s Miller WSBK round.

I had brought a matted print of Biaggi from 2010 with me, and as I approached the track on Saturday morning I considered that it would likely fetch a higher price, and thus a greater donation to Riders for Health, if it bore Max’s signature. So I set about getting that done with no idea how easy or difficult it might be.

First I approached the Aprilia media officer, a pleasant fellow who worked with me, half in Italian and half in English, to come up with a plan to approach his star rider. He suggested we talk to someone in the pit box, someone who knew Max better than he did in his recently acquired role with the team.

We descended into the Aprilia garage and found someone whose exact role I never understood, but who also liked the idea of doing something for Riders for Health. He did not, however, care to be the one to bring it directly to Max. The three of us considered the situation and appealed to one of the senior mechanics, who gave us a sympathetic look and said in gestures instead of words that he wanted no part of the business.

We stood to the side of the box, waiting for inspiration, and I wondered if the plan were doomed. Max spoke to mechanics as if discussing matters of life and death. Team members approached him respectfully, presented their concerns for his comment, and left him alone. In some garages the guys joke and there is music in the business of racing motorbikes. In Max’s garage, it’s more like a war room, its business deadly serious.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Gets ABS & Other Refinements

10/02/2012 @ 4:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

While the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC may look like the same dominant superbike that has been blowing the doors off at bike shootouts, but the company from Noale has made some subtle changes to its V4 street weapon, the most noticeable of which is a three-level dual-channel ABS system from Bosch. The ABS unit can be completely disengaged, should a rider feel it necessary to retain the ability to lock-up the newly added Brembo M430/M50 calipers (the same brake calipers as the Ducati 1199 Panigale), and brings the Aprilia RSV4 in-line with its other liter-bike competitors.

While Aprilia could have stopped there and called things a day, the Italian brand has made further changes to the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC’s stock engine placement in the chassis, as well as other refinements in the RSV4’s exhaust and ECU. The result is a lower center of gravity, and a mild boost in peak horsepower and mid-range torque, which brings the revised RSV4 Factory up to 181.4hp at the crank and 86.3 lbs•ft of peak torque @ 10,500 rpm.