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.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 9: Honda Continues the Fight

01/13/2015 @ 7:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The last day in Bolivia, Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally was back to business for this weary bunch of competitors. Though the miles are counting down, the terrain isn’t getting any easier, and it’s starting to separate the field.

We’ve already seen the grueling course claim HRC’s Joan Barreda, perhaps dashing Honda’s best hopes of unseating KTM’s dominace of the iconic rally raid race. But HRC responded in-kind on Stage 9, taking four of the Top 5 spots…that lone remaining spot being Marc Coma’s.

While the factory KTM rider may not have much help on the time sheets from his teammates, KTMs well-run racing machine has kept the Spaniard out of trouble.

“It was foggy at the start of the special and I made one small navigation mistake and I lost some time there, but then I tried to push with a high rhythm to come back to my position,” said Coma. “The last part was also tricky navigation and it was difficult to find one of the waypoints. I am lucky because maybe I am faster than some of the others and I can push until the end. It’s okay. It was a good day for us.”

Coma now only has a five-and-a-half-minute lead, ahead of HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. The fellow Portuguese rider has shown fine form over The Dakar, and is perhaps HRC’s best hope of an overall win.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Coma Takes Overall Lead

01/12/2015 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Stage 8 proved to be a big day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, as the riders had to compete on machines that they alone could only work on the day before, as Monday was the riding portion of yesterday’s start to the first marathon stage.

This added challenge by the race organizers likely decided the outcome of this year’s rally, as it left HRC’s Joan Barreda to work on his broken Honda CRF450 Rally without the aid of his mechanics. Losing a monumental amount of time on Stage 8, after suffering electrical issues — Barreda saw an unfitting end to his well fought Dakar Rally.

Those issues can surely be attributed to the wet weather and the Uyuni salt lake that the competitors had to cross, which made for a slurry of salt water and mud. Ultimately the stage would be cut short at the 378 km marker, because of weather, with little complaint from the competitors.

“In the end it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today; to race in a sea. It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan,” said a disappointed Barreda. “To make a decision like that just wasn’t right. Today you couldn’t see a thing; visibility was zero. We were floating around on top of the water. They ordered us to start and this is what happened; my Dakar is over.’

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Coma Halves Time to Barreda

01/12/2015 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Fresh off their rest day on Saturday, the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were back to work on Sunday for Stage 7. A difficult round on the road, riders had to contend with 11,000+ feet in elevation, rain, and snow — all while crossing into Bolivia.

The big news from Stage 7 was Marc Coma halving the difference to Joan Barreda, mainly as a result of the HRC rider breaking his handlebar in two, after a crash during the time special section. The factory KTM rider now trails Barreda by only 6 minutes, and more importantly will have a significant gap on the course from his rival, on Stage 8.

“It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed,” explained Barreda.

“The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.”

Barreda finished the day 10th on the stage, while Coma crossed the line in second, in a close pack with stage winner HRC’s Paulo Goncalves and fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner, who finished third and continues to impress.

As if the route of The Dakar wasn’t hard enough, riders will not have the support of their teams at the end of the stage, as Stage 7 is the start of the first marathon stage for the motorbikes.

The timing of the marathon stage and Barreda’s crash could be fortuitous for Coma, but HRC has proven itself ready for this year’s Dakar, winning the lion’s share of the stages.

2015 Dakar Rally – Rest Day

01/10/2015 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Saturday is a rest day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, giving riders and teams a chance to catch their breath, tune their bikes, and hone the strategies for the next eight stages, one of which is a marathon stage, where the teams cannot help the riders work on their bikes.

For KTM and Marc Coma, the day will be spent trying to figure out how to shake Joan Barreda from the four-time Dakar winner. For HRC and Barreda, the game is simple, cover Coma’s every action and don’t let him eat into the 12-minute gap that the Spaniard has built with his hard riding.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Racing’s Alessandro Botturi has been waiving the banner for the blue and white contingency, which has otherwise had an abysmal Dakar Rally without Cyril Despres in its ranks — Despres is racing this year in the car category. Botturi is 11th overall, having made up some serious time during the shake up on Stage 6.

Other rankings notables are Laia Sanz in 14th, the top female racer in the 2015 Dakar Rally. Alain Duclos of France is the top Sherco rider, which this year has partnered with TVS making the Sherco/TVS team.

With a lot of Dakar still to race, expect these standings to still move around. After the jump is the full listing of all 110 bike entries to The Dakar.

2015 Dakar Rally Details Revealed

11/20/2014 @ 5:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The route for the 2015 Dakar Rally has been confirmed, and details have been dropped on what could be the most grueling motorcycle event on Earth. The 14 day, 13 stage Dakar will take competitors through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and back to Argentina again, making for roughly 9,000 kilometers of terrain to navigate.

The 68 motorcycle competitors will have the added challenge of two marathon stages — stages where only the riders can work on their bikes, and can receive no help from their support crews.

Marc Coma is a heavy favorite for the 2015 edition, especially with rival Cyril Despres making the career switch to race on four wheels with Peugoet. However Coma can expect strong competition from his teammate Ruben Faria, not to mention from the likes of Joan Barreda on his Honda, and Olivier Pain on the Yamaha.

Marc Coma Takes His Fourth Career Dakar Rally Victory

01/19/2014 @ 12:03 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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The 2014 Dakar Rally is finally done, after two weeks of hard racing across Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Despite a slow start to this year’s Dakar, KTM’s Marc Coma took his fourth career win of the iconic rally raid race, aboard KTM’s all new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Finishing almost two hours clear of his nearest competitor, teammate Jordi Viladoms, Coma took the lead on Stage Five and never looked back. The Spaniard’s fourth Dakar win came primarily from consistent riding, which saw Coma slowly rise in the rankings as Despres and Barreda made mistakes and encountered technical difficulties with their machinery.

“Without the right people behind me it would have been impossible to win,” said Coma. “We have worked very well throughout the race and also before. Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me. I am very proud of this victory. What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”

Marc Coma dedicated his win to his late teammate Kurt Caselli, who tragically died during the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000. Caselli filled in for Coma in the 2013 rally, earning himself great praise for his assention in the ranks, and two stage wins. Coma’s victory is a fitting tribute to the American rider.

Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Barreda Chips Away at Coma

01/12/2014 @ 11:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Stage Seven saw the riders of the 2014 Dakar Rally back in the saddle, after having Saturday off as their lone rest day. If the riders thought their re-entry was going to be easy, they were wrong, as Stage Seven marks the first part of another marathon stage — a stage where only the riders can service and repair their machines after the stage’s end. Today also marks the first time that The Dakar has been held in Bolivia, the 28th country to host the iconic race.

First out of the gate, Alain Duclos suffered a navigation error, and lost nearly 20 minutes on the course finding the right route. The mistake cost the Sherco rider his third overall position, as he falls to fourth overall, behind KTM’s Jordi Viladoms.

Halfway through the Dakar Rally now, and Marc Coma has a good cushion over the rest of the field. His advantage isn’t insurmountable though, and today Joan Barreda took his first chip at his fellow countryman’s lead. The HRC rider stole four minutes from his KTM counterpart, with Barreda now 38 minutes back from Coma overall. The deficit isn’t enough to concern Coma yet, but if Barreda can keep up the pressure he might stand a chance for the overall win.

Cyril Despres also had a productive day, as the Frenchman finished third on the stage. This moved him into tenth overall, and while Despres’ bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally is surely done (it would seem the Yamaha PR team has already packed things up, as their site hasn’t updated since their disastrous Stage Five), Despres’ first term on the Yamaha YZ450F Rally could still see him finish in the Top 5. Undoubtedly, a strong pace over the remaining stages on helps build his campaign for the 2015 rally raid.

KTM Readying All-New 2014 Dakar Rally Race Bike

08/05/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The 2014 Dakar Rally is still five months away, but KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has tipped the Austrian company’s hand in an interview with KTM’s official company blog. With the goal of making a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine, KTM has been working on a ground-up redesign of its venerable adventure-racer.

Of course, KTM will still have to use a 450cc single-cylinder engine, per the Dakar Rally’s rules, but Pierer says the chassis will be significantly improved upon over the current iteration.

That goal seems easy enough, as the company CEO disclosed that the current 2013 race bike is essentially using the same chassis when The Dakar had a 600cc engine regulation for factory teams.

Modifying the old chassis to design simply to accommodate the new 450cc lump, KTM’s short-cut to building a new rally racing machine was crude, yet obviously effective.

2014 Dakar Rally Route Replaces Peru with Bolivia

03/21/2013 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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For the sixth year in a row, the Dakar Rally will race in South America, though the iconic rally race is mixing things up, and is dropping its route through Peru for one that includes Bolivia instead. The Dakar will keep Argentina and Chile on its 2014 course schedule, and the two countries will comprise the majority of the race’s torturous test of its competitors.

The 2014 Dakar Rally will have longer special stages, as well as several marathon stages (stages where only the competitor can do mechanical work on his/her machine, not the mechanics). Taking riders  and drivers though Argentina’s northwest canyons and sandy valleys, it should be an especially grueling edition of the historic race.