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.

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.

Report: KTM 390 Duke Coming to the USA in 2014

02/11/2013 @ 12:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

KTM-390-Duke

Speaking to India’s Business Standard, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has confirmed that the KTM 390 Duke will be coming to the US market in 2014 — a full year later than the company’s leaked road map slide projected.

A noticeable absence from this year’s USA model lineup, the KTM 390 Duke is the biggest sibling in KTM’s new entry-level street bike offerings, with the company already seeing the KTM 125 Duke and KTM 200 Duke as successes in the marketplace.

Helping push KTM beyond BMW Motorrad’s yearly sales totals for 2012, the Austrian company is reaping significant benefits from its partnership with Bajaj, which owns a minority stake in KTM. Producing the smaller Duke machines in Bajaj’s Chakan plant, KTM has been able to create a capable, affordable, and enticing motorcycle for new and current motorcyclists alike.

Uh-Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales-Year Ever in 2012

01/11/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

ktm-moto3

If we asked you which Germanic company was the largest motorcycle brand by volume, you would likely guess BMW Motorrad…and you would be wrong. Snap! Displacing the venerable brand from Bavaria, which set its own sales record, KTM’s 2012 sales year of 107,142 units has handed the Austrian brand the distinction of being the best-selling Germanic brand worldwide (by a margin of less than 1,000 machines).

KTM Reconfirms “Faired” and “Travel” Duke 390 Models

12/03/2012 @ 6:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

For some time now, we have known that KTM intended to bring a 300cc-class version of its KTM 125 Duke motorcycle to market, thanks primarily to a leaked product road map that covered the Austrian company’s product line-up clear through the 2014 model year.

Slotted to bring the KTM 390 Duke to the US market this coming spring, the leaked road map has so far proven to be accurate, and has two interesting machines listed for 2014: the KTM Moto3 350 & KTM Enduro 350.

Now confirmed by KTM’s CEO Stefan Pierer, KTM will debut a “faired” model (the KTM Moto3 350) and a “travel” model (KTM Enduro 350), which are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, and will share the bike’s 375cc single-cylinder engine.

2013 KTM 390 Duke – AYBABTU

11/13/2012 @ 4:48 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Officially official now, there isn’t much about the 2013 KTM 390 Duke that we don’t already know ahead of the opening of the EICMA show. Built in India by KTM minority shareholder Bajaj, the KTM 390 Duke is a 373cc single-cylinder bike that shares the same chassis as the KTM 125 Duke & KTM 200 Duke.

Suitable for Europe’s A2 licensing system, the largest baby Duke competes well against bikes like the Honda CBR500R and Kawasaki Ninja 300, and thus finishes out the Austrian’s bid to control the small-displacement market.

Report: More Details on the now KTM 390 Duke

10/25/2012 @ 12:17 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Courtesy of the folks at Zigwheels, details about the KTM 390 Duke (previously of KTM 350 Duke & KTM 375 Duke fame) continue to emerge ahead of the EICMA show in Milan, including what is expected to be the official designation of the small-displacement motorcycle. Coming in a 375cc single-cylinder format, KTM continues its misleading numbering scheme for motorcycles with a “390” designation, though we think you will forgive the Austrian brand, as its American-bound mini-Duke is said to come with 45hp and a 331 lbs curb-weight.

For those keeping score, that means that the KTM 390 Duke will have more power than the Kawasaki Ninja 300, and weigh less than the Honda CBR250R, making it a very formidable package in the small-displacement market. To be made in India by Bajaj (a major stakeholder in KTM’s public stock), the Indian company is expected to make its own version of the model, similar to what it has done with the Pulsar 200NS, which is based off the KTM 200 Duke.

Rumor: KTM 375 Duke – A V-Twin Learner Cometh?

10/17/2012 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Diving through KTM’s 108 page annual report for 2011, the Austrian company lists a couple of interesting developments in its Research & Development section. Partnering with Bajaj on small-displacement street motorcycles, the first obvious fruit of that labor was the KTM 125 Duke, and the subsequent KTM 200 Duke that is available worldwide.

We already know that KTM plans on bringing a 300cc version of the baby Duke to North America, and the Austrian company lists displacements in this project up to 375cc, a strong signal to the final displacement of the much anticipated KTM 350 Duke.

KTM Sells 50,000+ Motorcycles in the First-Half of 2012

07/23/2012 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

KTM has crunched the numbers on it sales for the first half of 2012, and the Austrian company has some very impressive news to share. Selling 50,233 units in the first six months of the year, KTM’s increase in sales is 36% over last year’s figures for the same time period, a gain due mainly to the company’s efforts in emerging markets like India.

Though this is the first time that Bajaj’s selling of the KTM Duke 200 has been included in KTM’s half-year report, the Austrian brand wasn’t fueled solely by its Indian sales, as KTM’s European sales were up 41% as well, giving KTM a total marketshare in the EU of 7%.

Who is the World’s Third Largest Motorcycle Manufacturer?

05/21/2012 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Let’s play a game for a minute. Who is the third largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world? One of the Big Four maybe (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, & Yamaha), that is after all what their name implies, right? Maybe you think it is a European manufacturer, like BMW or Triumph? If these were any of your answers, thank you for playing, but please try again.

Can the KTM 200 Duke Ride Thru Knee-High Water?

05/16/2012 @ 8:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

For some, the KTM 125 Duke is just not quite enough machine to get their two-wheeled juices flowing, and thus the KTM 200 Duke & soon-to-be-expected KTM 350 Duke were born. With the Austrian motorcycle maker KTM partnering with India’s second-largest motorcycle brand Bajaj to make the baby Duke, it should come as no surprise then that many of these models are ending up outside of Europe, and in Asian markets…namely India itself.

While us Westerners might think of the KTM 200 Duke as a fairly practical machine, buyers in India are a bit more skeptical, since their day-to-day travel can be a bit more varied than ours. You see, India right now is preparing for its summer monsoon season, and flooding in certain regions is more of a certainty than a special phenomenon. So while an underslung exhaust might look stylish to us Americans, to an Indian motorcyclist it could look to be more of a liability.

Hoping to purge that thought from Indian riders’ minds, KTM has put together this video outlining its wet-weather survivability testing. If you ever wanted to know whether you can park the KTM 200 Duke in wheel-high water for 30 minutes or more sans snorkel, check out the video after the jump.

Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

04/04/2012 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Slowly but surely, Bajaj Auto continues to gobble up pieces of KTM’s stock. Taking its investment position now to just over 47%, Bajaj has acquired another 6.3% of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, and is projected to continue acquiring stock in the company.

The second-largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, Bajaj is also the second-largest shareholder in KTM, with KTM’s largest controlling position belonging to Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO) and Rudolf Knuenz (KTM Chairman of the Board), whose combined holdings come to just more than 51% of the company.