Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

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.

Brammo Engage – Electric MX & Supermoto from Ashland

05/04/2011 @ 4:02 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

A part of Brammo’s announcement that it will be entering the electric dirt bike scene, the Brammo Engage is the cornerstone of the Ashland, Oregon company’s off-road line. Featuring the S.M.R.E. designed Integrated Electronic Transmission (IET), Brammo is not only getting into the dirt bike and supermoto scene with the Engage (going squarely after players like Zero and Quantya), but is raising the ante by offering a six-speed transmission specifically designed for electric motors.

Details and specifics are still coming together about the Brammo Engage, and even the photos given to the press are of pre-production machines that are based-off S.M.R.E. prototypes. However, early speculation is that the IET system will also feature regenerative braking, another first for the Oregonian company. Photos, video, and more after the jump.

Brammo Encite – Electric Mini Moto MMX Racer

05/04/2011 @ 4:01 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Another model announced during Brammo’s intention to get into the electric dirt bike scene is the Brammo Encite. Like its larger cousin the Brammo Engage, the pre-production Encite is based off the S.M.R.E. prototype electric motorcycle, which features the six-speed Integrated Electronic Transmission (IET). Seemingly designed with racing in mind, Brammo will be entering its Encite MMX into the upcoming AMA Mini Moto SX event being held in Las Vegas — a story we broke last week.

A purpose-built race bike, there is no word on pricing yet for the pint-sized Encite, likely due to the fact that Brammo wants to gauge interest on the machine, and perhaps judge whether the mini-moto can be built in an affordable enough manner. Despite this setback, interested buyers can pre-order a Brammo Encite from the company’s webpage — Christmas is only seven months away after all.

Brammo Launches Dirt Bike Product Line – Features Integrated Electronic Transmission (IET)

05/04/2011 @ 4:00 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Well it didn’t take us long to get to the bottom of the reason as to why Brammo will be racing at the AMA Mini Moto SX in Las Vegas this week, as we speculated the Ashland-based company has got dirt bikes on the mind, and today is launching its dirt/supermoto line of electric motorcycles. Debuting with the full-sized Brammo Engage MX & Supermoto, along with the Brammo Encite MMX mini moto, Brammo has a robust off-road offering to its name now.

Behind the new product launch is another big step in the electric motorcycle industry, as the Oregonian company is debuting its new Brammo Engage and Brammo Encite motorcycles with an Integrated Electronic Transmission (IET). Developed by Italian engineering firm S.M.R.E., the IET is basically a six-speed gearbox designed specifically for use on electric motorcycles, and should help lure current ICE rides to the dark side of electrification. With today’s news, we think someone just put Zero Motorcycles on notice.

Brammo Going Racing at the AMA Mini Moto SX

04/26/2011 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The Asphalt & Rubber Bothan spies were hard at work over the weekend. Taking a break from finding ALL of the Easter Eggs in the A&R office, the Bothans did what they do best, and found the entry list to the AMA Mini Moto SX that’s going on next week in Las Vegas.

Sure enough in the paperwork was our favorite Ashland-based motorcycle company, which isn’t surprising since Brammo likes to go racing, but raises some eyebrows since you might recall the Mini Moto event is an off-road supercross-style race. Since a company doesn’t just decide to go racing on a whim, this surely must mean that Brammo has dirt bikes on the brain.

Brammo Empulse to Race at Infineon with MotorcycleUSA

04/19/2011 @ 7:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotorcycleUSA has let it slip that it will be competing in the first round of the North American TTXGP series on-board the Brammo Empulse RR. Taking to the electric race motorcycle with be MotoUSA editor Steve Atlas, who will get the honors of piloting the Empulse RR in its first race outing (Brammo had to sit out its attempt to race a the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca last year after having a technical issue).

Brammo has been testing its Empulse RR for almost a year now, so the Oregonian company’s race package should be well-polished for the race at Infineon. When we saw the Empulse RR testing at Thunderhill Raceway earlier this year, the electric bike seemed capable of some good lap times, but of course we’ll have to wait and see how it compares to the competition that arrives later this May.

As for Atlas, the last we heard was that he single-handedly changing the well-earned stigma that motorcycle journalists don’t know how to ride motorcycles, which should make for some good racing for the TTXGP/AMA fans. Some photos of the Brammo Empulse RR are after the jump.

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

Gas Prices by County in the United States

03/09/2011 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

In case you haven’t been to a pump recently, gas prices are getting more and more expensive lately, thanks mostly in part to the civil unrest in the Middle East (Libya in particular). While the current sticker shock on gas prices is due to temporary issues, the United States is still bracing itself for $5.00/gallon gasoline this summer, which our friends abroad would love to see in their home countries as they pay nearly double that price for only a litre of fuel. Curious to see how gas prices breakdown by state and by county? Check out this cool widget that Brammo is hosting on its website.

Spy Shots: Brammo Empulse RR Testing at Thunderhill

01/28/2011 @ 4:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Yesterday was a sunny day in the San Francisco/Bay Area, with weather in the mid-60’s. Just recently getting my bike back from a tune-up, I was itching for a ride and decided to pack things up early for the day, and go for a quick jaunt up to Thunderhill Raceway to gatecrash Brammo’s latest testing session with the Empulse RR electric race bike (close-up shots from Laguna Seca last year here).

Using my best ear-to-ear smile at the front gate, I rode into the paddock to see Brammo’s Director of Product Development Brian Wismann shaking his head upon my arrival, and muttering something about someone posting the session’s schedule online. Always a good-sport, Wismann graciously allowed me to stick around for the remaining day’s sessions, while Brammo’s CEO Craig Bramscher definitively removed me from his Christmas card list (you’ll still get a card from me though Craig).

Kawasaki Tests Costco Sales Program

01/04/2011 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Wholesale discounter Costco might be one of the great staples of free-market capitalism, allowing Americans to buy beef jerky in convenient seven gallon portions throughout the seasons (because you need that much jerky in your diet America). Steadfast to the rule that more must be better, it excites us to find out that Kawasaki has been testing a program since November with Costco, which sees the Japanese bike maker selling its motorcycles through 15 Southern California Costco warehouse stores. Taking place in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, several Kawasaki dealerships have been working with local Costco stores on the pilot grogram, which includes having a Kawasaki motorcycle on display (starting with Team Green’s KX dirt bikes) at the Costco stores, along with other promotional materials.

Video: Brammo Empulse RR Testing

11/29/2010 @ 4:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The guys up in Ashland have been busy testing their Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike. Taking some laps around Thunderhill Raceway, and hitting the curves around the Ashland area, Brammo’s Director of Product Development Brian Wismann was at the helm of the Empulse RR in these videos. Surely gearing up for the 2011 racing season, Brammo was testing the Empulse RR’s systems, and from the looks of it, the Empulse RR has some moves. Videos after the jump.