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.

Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Despres Gives Yamaha First Stage Win

01/13/2014 @ 4:22 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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Today’s stage for the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 486 km sprint from Salta, Argentina to Calama, Chile, gave riders quite a view as they glided across parts of the largest salt flat in the world, and up the Andes Mountains as they enter the Chilean section of the rally.

After taking third on yesterday’s stage, Cyril Despres of France took today’s stage win putting up a 5:23:20 on his Yamaha YZ450F Rally, with Joan Barreda of Spain coming in second at 2:09 behind him. This pushes Despres up one position into 9th place overall.

“The idea isn’t really to go looking for stage victories but to try and get back to the front of the rally,” Despres said. “Today, by making up the difference on the tracks between myself and the first riders, I won the special and that’s always a pleasure.”

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.

Dakar Rally — Stage 11: American Kurt Caselli Wins Again

01/16/2013 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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It is a special thing to win a stage at the Dakar Rally, and multiple stage victories are a true accomplishment in a racer’s career. We could leave the accolades there for Kurt Caselli, but taking two stage wins, during his rookie debut at the famous rally race, now that is something truly noteworthy. Filling the very big shoes left behind by the injured Marc Coma, Caselli has proven to be a diamond in the rough for the factory KTM team, which can only bode well for the California natives return to The Dakar in the coming years.

Winning the Baja-like terrain of Stage 11 with a 4:45 margin, Caselli helped lead the way for fellow bannerman Cyril Despres to regain the outright lead of The Dakar, while Despres’ teammate Ruben Faria also consolidated KTM’s 1-2 standings in the overall time slots, 13:16 behind Despres.

Still ranked well below the other factory KTM riders, Caselli’s position moves to 29th, a figure weighed heavily by his navigational errors in Stage 8, which saw him miss several waypoint and checkpoints.

With eleven stages now completed, the 2013 Dakar Rally will head back into Chile tomorrow with the 12th stage, meaning only three stages of racing remain. A Top 10 finish may be a large challenge for Caselli, but it is undeniable that the American has made a strong first impression at his debut Dakar.

The 2013 Dakar Rally – Peru, Argentina, & Chile

03/21/2012 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The Dakar Rally has already released its route for the 2013 Dakar, and the famous endurance race will once again compete in South America (Africa what?). Choosing to do a reversal of its previous routes, The Dakar will travel from north to south by starting in Lima, Peru and ending in Santiago, Chile.

Though this will be the fifth time the Dakar Rally has run in South America, the 2013 edition should be a grueling one right off the bat. Since the race is starting in Lima, it means competitors will be in the sand dunes of Peru right away — the first time the race has ever started in the desert. With all eyes watching to see if Cyril Despres can defend his 2012 victory against rival Marc Coma, racing action for the 2013 Dakar Rally starts Janurary 5th and ends January 20th.

Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally Cancelled

01/06/2012 @ 11:32 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The world’s top adventure riders have been down in South America the past week, competing in the 33rd running of the Dakar Rally. Racing through South America since 2009, the 2012 Dakar will be taking competitors through some of the toughest terrain available in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as The Dakar continues to live up to its name as one of the toughest races in motorsport, and this year’s rally has tragically already claimed its first life, as motorcyclist Jorge Martinez Boero of Argentina died from a cardiac arrest, after crashing during the rally’s first stage.

For Stage 6 (Fiambala-Copiapo), the weather and terrain were apparently too inhospitable, even by Dakar standards. Set to cross the Andes Mountain Range for the seventh time in the rally’s history, snow and rain at the 15,420 foot Paso de San Francisco pass was too inclement for Chilean authorities to keep the crossing open. Accordingly, today’s stage will be a convoy of all the Dakar Rally vehicles, with the rally’s itinerary changed after the border crossing in Chile from Argentina.

2011 Dakar Rally Starts Tomorrow

12/31/2010 @ 12:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Making its third start from South America, the 33rd Dakar Rally officially kicks off on New Year’s Day tomorrow in Buneos Aires. Making a quick trip to Victoria, Argentina (174 mils as the crow flies), the 2011 Dakar Rally competitors will have to contest with what is being considered a more difficult and technical course than last year’s route. In total there are 445 competitors (180 motorcycles, 140 cars, 67 trucks, & 32 ATVs) entering the race, but history tells us a smaller number will finish the course.

KTM’s Cyril Despres is favored in the motorcycle category, after winning the 2010 rally, but he will have to contend with fellow KTM rider Marc Coma and Francisco Lopez Contardo, whose Aprilia has been extensively improved upon over last year’s debut model, and could be a real contender this year in the Dakar. Of course rally purists will still lament the fact the race isn’t taking place in Africa, but the Dakar is getting back to its roots a bit, and has limited the use of global positioning satellites. Photos and video after the jump.

Dakar Rally Releases Route for 2011

04/29/2010 @ 12:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The organizers of the Dakar Rally have released details on the 2011 edition of the adventure race. Dashing hopes that the race would return to its namesake, the Dakar Rally will again be held in Chile and Argentina. With the route going as far north as the Peruvian border, Dakar riders will see many more sand-filled stages, and will have to contend with a number of rule changes. Stage schedule and more, after the jump.

Cyril Despres Wins 2010 Dakar Rally – Aprilia’s Francisco Lopez Finishes 3rd – Marc Coma 18th

01/18/2010 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

It doesn’t seem to matter where the Dakar Rally is located, or what restrictions race officials place on the motorcycle class, KTM continues its dominance of motorcycling’s most grueling and infamous race. After battling with Marc Coma and Aprilia’s Chilean secret weapon Francisco Lopez for stage wins and overall supremacy, Despres took his third Dakar victory, and continued a KTM tradition.

The Best of Dakar from Behind the Lens

01/14/2010 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The Boston Globe is running a series of photos from the Dakar Rally, which we think are some of the best shots we’ve seen of the race to date. A mixture of octane and gorgeous landscape, we think you’ll enjoy these shots as much as we did. You can find the rest of them here at boston.com.

Rally racers are currently on their 12th stage of the race, heading from in San Juan, Argentina to San Rafael. After today, the riders will have to complete two more stages before the rally concludes where it began in Buenos Aires.

Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images