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.

Markus Hofmann + BMW S1000RR = Vampires?

11/06/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

I struggle with the work of Markus Hofmann, especially as it pertains to his work with BMW. Maybe it is the awkward intersection where high-fashion meets avant garde photography meets German motorcycles that just leaves me wondering what I am looking at with each photo. His work is impressive, don’t get me wrong…I just don’t “get” it…and today is no different.

I dunno, maybe the whole Twilight & True Blood thing is just now taking off in Germany, and this is the product of the world getting just a little bit flatter. Maybe there is a commentary about society lurking underneath the glossy exterior of these fanged photos. Or, maybe…just maybe, vampires are just waaay cooler than I think they are (werewolves baby, werewolves).

BMW HP4 Mega Gallery + Video

09/10/2012 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The international launch of the 2013 BMW HP4 is now over, and while we may not have been in Spain to bring you our thoughts on the pepped-up S1000RR, BMW was at least kind enough to provide A&R with some more photos of its winky-faced superbike. More than just an updated BMW S1000RR, the BMW HP4 features the German brand’s Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) system, a semi-active suspension system that fine-tunes the HP4’s suspension settings on the fly for the road and riding conditions.

Initial reports on the HP4 appear to be very favorable, though expect the pricing here in the United States to be as extreme as the Bavarian motorcycle’s tech specs. BMW hopes that with the DDC and bevy of aftermarket parts, the HP4 will more than justify its expected $20k+ price tag. Will it be enough to persuade riders away from the Aprilia/Ducati/KTM of their choosing? Check out the 126 photos and two videos after the jump and let us know.

BMW HP4 – Your Track-Tuned BMW S1000RR

07/27/2012 @ 11:36 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

We teased you with the BMW HP4 last week, and now the Bavarians have made their tuned-S1000RR officially official. Starting with the top-selling superbike from the German company, BMW has taken the S1000RR and made it the track weapon of choice. The lightest four-cylinder superstock bike on the market at 373 lbs dry (with ABS), the BMW HP4 is also the first motorcycle to get BMW’s Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), a computer controlled semi-active suspension system.

Getting a number of improvements over the S1000RR, the BMW HP4 maintains the same 193hp peak horsepower figure, but gets a boost from more mid-range torque. As we said, the BMW HP4 is also more svelte than its predecessor, as it sits at 439 lbs / 199 kg at the curb with the fuel tank 90% full — a full 13 lbs lighter when wet, and 26 lbs lighter when dry. Other changes include a revised traction control system, launch control, quick-shifter, and a 200/55 ZR 17 rear-tire size.

BMW Consolidates 2013 World Superbike Effort

07/16/2012 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In an effort to reduce costs and focus resources, BMW Motorrad announced today that it would be consolidating its World Superbike racing program for the 2013 Championship. Folding the factory BMW Motorrad team into the current BMW Italia squad, the Italain arm of the German company will run the WSBK program, developing the chassis, finding sponsors, and handling all race-related items, while Munich will develop the WSBK-spec BMW S1000RR’s powertrain and electronics package.

Ride Review: The 2012 BMW World Superbike Race Bikes

07/10/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Lorenzo Gargiulo10 COMMENTS

As often happens when a major manufacturer decides to take a major leap by participating in a World Championship series the media goes crazy, which is exactly what happened when BMW Motorrad decided to descend on the tracks of the WSBK Championship. At the time, there were those who said that the BMW bike would have never been able to win a race, but the majority of the voices in and out of the paddock were pretty united in the concept that “if BMW decides it wants to win, sooner or later it will reach its objective,” something that as we have seen that happened in relatively little time.

After three seasons of “apprenticeship” that were necessary to get all the cogs working smoothly and to acquire the necessary experience on the track, BMW has finally reached the necessary competitive edge to reach the front of the pack, and from the beginning of the 2012 season the S1000RR has established itself as a contender at the top of the leaderboards. BMW Motorrad for the third year in a row, has given its most accredited journalists the possibility to try its racebikes mid-season, and we were clearly not going to let this opportunity slip by us.

The first time we were given this opportunity, it was BMW Motorrad Italy who gave us the handlebars of the S1000RR Superstock bike with which Andrea Badovini dominated the FIM Superstock Cup, and the success of this journalist test was so great that BMW Motorrad proper (the Germans) decided to open up the test to the official team bikes. In the meantime the Italian BMW team had debuted in WSBK, and so in 2011 we had the incredible opportunity to try all three types of racebikes.

So here we are in 2012, with the S1000RR which won its first victories in the WSBK Championship. More competitive and intriguing than ever and as has become a tradition, we are again ready to try the newest racing bikes with the famous BMW propeller on their tanks. The location may be different, as we now find ourselves in Misano Adriatico (which should make the Monza track haters among us quite happy), but everything else remains basically the same.

For the format, there are now four bikes to try. The warm-up laps to learn the track will be done on a stock S1000RR street bike, followed by a ride on the Superstock bike belonging to Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni. Following these we get some laps aboard the BMW Motorrad factory bikes of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, and the day on the BMW Motorrad Italia machines that are campaigned by Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio.

Bimota/BMW Concepts by Oberdan Bezzi

06/19/2012 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We follow Oberdan Bezzi’s work pretty closely here at Asphalt & Rubber, if for no other reason than we like the Italian designer’s ability to fantasize about the endless possibilities available in the two-wheel world — and after, who here doesn’t like to daydream about exotic motorcycles? Lately it seems Bezzi’s imagination has gone to a world where Bimota uses more than Ducati’s v-twin lumps in its exclusive street bikes, with his most recent sketches envisioning a BMW/Bimota collaboration.

Inking the Bimota BB-2 superbike, and it’s naked sibling the Bimota BB-3 “Paura”, the usual Bezzi lines and style are present in the designs. Oberdan’s thought-process on the Bimota BB-3 seems to be well-timed though, as the Bavarian company has recently been caught testing a naked version of the well-selling BMW S1000RR at its facility. Set to be a true Germans streetfighter, BMW could very well succeed in a motorcycle segment that the Japanese have historically struggled with here in the US.

Spy Photo: BMW S1000RR Naked Bike Caught Testing

06/08/2012 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Pictures of a supposedly naked version of the BMW S1000RR have surfaced on MotoRevue, as the motorcycle was caught testing at BMW’s proving grounds by spy photographers. Showing an S1000RR-esque motorcycle with a half-fairing, the motorcycle would be just the second addition to BMW’s true sports bike line, after the S1000RR itself of course.

Expected to be a detuned version of the superbike variant, we can expect horsepower north 160hp, flat bars, and improved ergos from such a design experiment (in order to compete with the Aprilia Tuono V4 R and Ducati Streetfighter 848), though there is some reason to give pause about what these photos actually mean.

Recall: 2012 BMW S1000RR

04/27/2012 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad is recalling 1,414 units of its 2012 BMW S1000RR superbike because of improperly manufactured connecting rod bolts. Due to a manufacturing process error, the connecting rod bolts could become loose during high engine temperatures and/or high engine operating speeds. If the bolts do come loose, the result could be a catastrophic engine failure (their words, not ours).

Video: Lightning Electric Superbike vs. BMW S1000RR

02/29/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

On Monday, we got a chance to swing a leg over the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike at Infineon Raceway. While a full review is till to come, the initial report is basically that Lightning’s bike pulls like a freight train when you get on the throttle, and despite how “big” it is, the electric superbike handles surprisingly well, even around the crucible that is Sears Point Infineon Raceway. During our test, Lightning Motorcycles’ Richard Hatfield tipped us off to a video with Ted Rich at the helm of the Lightning, with AMA Superbike rider Jake Holden giving chase (and video) on his BMW S1000RR race bike.

Lapping around Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Holden and his BMW look like they could have gotten past the Lightning in several spots, though Rich and the Lightning certainly hold their own in the video. The Lightning’s straight-line speed is more than evident, as it pulls away from the 200+hp BMW S1000RR with ease, and as we experienced at Infineon, the bike is now slouch in the turns, and continues to develop in advance of the electric motorcycle racing season. Check out the video after the jump.

The Anatomy Behind BMW Motorrad’s Sales Dominion

01/16/2012 @ 6:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

We already told you that 2011 was BMW Motorrad’s best sales year ever, and that the BMW S1000RR topped the Bavarian brand’s charts here in the United States. Zie Germans must be feeling rather pleases with themselves right now (and rightfully so), as BMW has released more details about its all-time motorcycle sales record. Pushing out 104,286 units in 2011, BMW Motorrad was up 6.4% in 2011 over 2010, with each of the 2011’s twelve months outselling its 2010 counterpart. Toppling its previous sales record from 2007 (the height of the world economy), it says something about BMW’s current business strategy that it can best that figure in an economy that is still exceedingly weak in comparison.

It is interesting to note in which markets, and in which segments, BMW is finding this growth, because the answers are not necessarily our usual suspects. Basically doubling its worldwide 500+cc market share over the past four years, BMW now accounts for 12% of the worlds “big” displacement motorcycles by units sold per annum. This goes counter to the trend that we’ve seen, where small-displacement are being cast as the sales leaders for large brands (namely the Japanese Four).