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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Breaking: Hero MotoCorp Buys 49.2% Stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 Million

07/01/2013 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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A plethora of Indian Financial publications are reporting that Hero MotoCorp has bought a 49.2% stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 million. Hero MotoCorp is India’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, and for a year now has partnered with Erik Buell Racing for technical development, as well as sponsoring the American company’s AMA Pro Road Racing team for the past two seasons.

Today’s news confirms numerous rumors we have heard about the Hero investing in EBR. Acquiring only 49.2% of Erik Buell Racing, Hero has only a minority stake in EBR, and while we cannot confirm the information, we would imagine that the odd 49.2% ownership was done to keep Erik Buell as the majority shareholder in his company.

Scott Wine Elected Chairman of the Board at Polaris

01/31/2013 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Coming off the third-straight record year for Polaris, CEO Scott Wine has just gotten a resounding vote of confidence from the company’s Board of Directors, and has been elected to Chairman of the Board at Polaris Industries. Wine replaces former-Chairman Greg Palen, who had served in the position of chairman for 11 of his 20 years on Polaris’ Board of Directors.

“I would like to congratulate Scott on his election to serve in the additional capacity of Chairman of the Board,” said Palen. “Under his leadership, Polaris has delivered consistent and profitable growth while successfully executing the company’s ambitious strategy, generating record results and shareholder returns.”

Audi Reconfirms Gabriele Del Torchio as Ducati CEO

07/19/2012 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With the acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding by Audi AG, the German car manufacturer was bound to do some shuffling in the Italian motorcycle company’s executive ranks. Announcing that it has formed a new Board of Directors, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has unsurprisingly been name President of the Board, while Horst Glaser and Axel Strotbek (best names ever) from Audi have also been given seats on the Ducati’s Board.

Giving Audi AG a 3-to-2 controlling interest of over Ducati’s Board of Directors, the new board is also comprised of Gabriele Del Torchio and Claudio Domenicali. In an interesting move, Del Torchio has been reconfirmed by the new Board of Directors as CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, with Audi also appointing the Italian to the Board of Directors at Automobili Lamborghini SpA.

Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors – But What Does It Mean?

05/17/2011 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has quietly announced some interesting news: that Mark Blackwell, V.P. of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, will be joining the electric motorcycle company’s Board of Directors. With a plethora of reasons as to why an industry veteran like Blackwell would join Zero’s board, it’s been no secret that the Scotts Valley company has been collecting seasoned industry professionals like pokemon characters, seemingly building a brain trust of people who actually know how to run a motorcycle company.

Blackwell’s addition to Zero is interesting because it could signal a relationship with the Polaris V.P. that goes beyond merely an advisory/visionary position, which is the core responsibility of a companies board. The timing is interesting as well, as Polaris has been on a buying spree, first acquiring the original American motorcycle company brand: Indian Motorcycles, and a few days later electric car manufacturer GEM. With a Polaris executive sitting on Zero’s board almost immediately after these aquisitions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a precursor to some sort of larger arrangement between the two companies.

Officially Official: Gene Banman Steps Down at Zero Motorcycles – Karl Wharton in as CEO

04/05/2011 @ 9:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It’s Tuesday, and in the world of electrics that means another Zero Motorcycles press release, and another weekly confirmation that Asphalt & Rubber is still on the Santa Cruz company’s “ultra double-secret probation” list of publications that no longer get media communiqués and press invites to its media events. That clearly hasn’t stopped us though, as today’s news release confirms what we already knew: Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman has stepped down from his position in the company, although he will continue to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.

Add Another Chair to the Table – Harley-Davidson Creates Board Seat for Levi Strauss CEO

09/22/2010 @ 3:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

Don’t adjust your computer screen, you’re at the right website…and no Harley-Davidson hasn’t taken over A&R, but the Milwaukee company certainly has been busy the past few weeks. To recap, Harley-Davidson recently agreed keep its Monemonee Falls and Tomahawk plants in Wisconsin after the labor unions agreed to workforce concessions (getting paid $215,000 a head for each laid off worker in the process) and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce handed out a $20 million tax break.

That victory was offset by Harley-Davidson getting dumped last month by long-time ad agency Carmichael Lynch, with a classic “it’s not you, it’s me” press release (which if high school dating us taught us nothing, means it really is YOU). Meanwhile this week, Harley was dumped in a different fashion when Interbrand, the world’s largest brand consultancy firm, dropped the Bar & Shield brand 22 places on its T0p 100 brands list, down to 97th, and devalued the Harley-Davidson brand by over $1 billion in brand equity. This is of course nothing compared to the coup de grâce, where Harley-Davidson sold MV Agusta for €1, after buying the bankrupt Italian brand for $100 million two years ago.

Hoping to right the ship, Harley-Davidson announced today that it has created a 13th Board of Directors seat, and filled it with Levi Strauss & Co. CEO R. John Anderson.

Harley-Davidson Will Pay You To Buy Its Stock

09/16/2010 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has just announced that it will be giving out a 10¢/share dividend for the third quarter of 2010. Being paid on October 15th to anyone who owns Harley-Davidson stock (NYSE: HOG) on October 1st, 2010, holders of HOG common stock will get a chance to be rewarded for investing in the Milwaukee brand. It’s not clear at this time if Harley-Davidson intends to keep the cash dividend for future quarters, or if this is one-quarter only event.

With HOG currently trading at $28.43/share, this announcement means essentially an automatic 1.2% investment gain for stock owners, however contact your financial advisor before placing any orders…you shouldn’t take stock advice from a motorcycle blog.

Former AMA Board Chairman Sentenced After Embezzling $100,000 in Travel Costs

02/23/2010 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Dal Smilie is certainly not smiling this week. The Former American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Chairman was sentenced yesterday for embezzling $100,000 in fraudulent travel reimbursement claims to the not-for-profit organization.  Smilie received a sentence of eight months in prison, and two years probation after pleading guilty for his misappropriation of organization founds over the course of years, ending in 2007. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs.

AMA Making Forward Progress: Reduces Corporate-Elected Board Member Positions

02/18/2010 @ 11:51 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The American Motorcyclist Association has announced its plan to reduce the number of corporate-elected seats on its board of directors. If you’re like this author, and don’t follow the politics of the AMA, you’re probably saying to yourself, “there’s corporate-elected seats on the AMA?” Yes, now doesn’t that explain some things? Previously there were six corporate-elected seats on the AMA Board of Directors, which meant that motorcycle companies controlled 50% of the Board’s voting power. This new measure, which was ratified on February 13th, will reduce that number to four seats, or 33% of the voting power.