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.

Brammo Gets Investment from TEAM Industries – Forms Strategic Partnership for Design and Production

07/08/2014 @ 4:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The folks in Talent, Oregon have some exciting news today, as electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo has announced a strategic partnership with TEAM Industries, a leading drivetrain technology firm. The partnership with TEAM brings a variety of advantages to Brammo’s production and design process, and it also sees TEAM becoming an investor in the electric vehicle startup.

TEAM’s ability to develop and produce, locally in the United States, will help Brammo not only develop its future products more effectively, but also help lower the cost of its current offering. Talking to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher, he called TEAM Industries “American manufacturing at its finest,” and highlighted TEAM’s commitment to creating jobs throughout Minnesota, and its ability to work on a wide variety of manufacturing stages

Aside from the capital infusion, which is the lifeblood of any startup company, Brammo seems to be getting a wide array of benefits by working with TEAM.

Brammo Eyes IPO for 2014/2015?

11/11/2013 @ 8:58 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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It has long been rumored that Brammo, Inc. CEO Craig Bramscher envisions his company heading to Wall Street for an initial public offering one day, but now we are getting our first public words from Bramscher about how he hopes that his Oregonian company can go public in the next year or so.

Quoting remarks made at the Portland Business Journal Power Breakfast, the Sustainable Business Oregon is reporting that Bramscher is targeting late-2014 to mid-2015 for an IPO, with the figure of a $150 million being banded about as a fundraising goal from the public stock offering.

Brammo Raises $13 Million in Series C Funding Round

07/12/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo announced today that it has raised another $13 million, in a Series C funding round that was lead by Polaris Industries. Hoping to secure a total of $45 million over the course of the entire round of funding, the investment by Polaris is the second one that American company has made into the Ashland-based electric motorcycle company.

Polaris first invested in Brammo back in October, as the Minnesota-based company was rumored to be taking a close look at a number of electric motorcycle firms for a strategic partnership. Ultimately settling on Brammo, Polaris was a part of the Oregonian company’s $28 million Series B funding round, and is said to have lead this current Series C tranche.

2012 Brammo Empulse R – Was It Worth the Wait?

05/09/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Launching last night in downtown Los Angeles, the 2012 Brammo Empulse R & 2013 Brammo Empulse broke their cover and officially debuted. Right off the bat from the designations, you can see that Brammo intends for the Empulse R to be a 2012 model, with the base model Emuplse coming out next year (more on that further down). As we expected, the Brammo Empulse R got quite the price bump after its 22-month marination, and will be $18,995 MSRP. Meanwhile when the Brammo Empulse becomes available next year, it will have a slightly more palatable $16,995 price tag.

Featuring a six-speed gearbox the Brammo Empulse R comes with a 54hp motor, 10.2 kWh battery pack (9.31 kWh nominal), and a bevy of brand-name components like Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks, a Sachs rear shock, and a few carbon pieces (read the full technical specifications here). Getting a revised look, the basic Empulse design is still there with some subtle changes (some for the better, some of the worse, in our humble opinion). Touting 56 highway miles and 120 city miles, the Empulse is going to suffer from the same range-limiting use that other electric bikes on the market are facing, though Brammo has thought to include J1772 Level 2 capability on the bike, which should make for some more rapid charges away from the mothership. We like that.

Brammo Acquires Electric Dirt Bike Park Company Quantyaparx – Aptly Renames it BrammoParx

09/21/2011 @ 11:56 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo has announced its acquisition of Quantyaparx, an electric dirt bike park concept that used to feature rival Quantya’s electric motorcycles. Renaming the venture to suit the company’s brand, BrammoParx will continue with the business model of providing a unique park-riding environment, which will now rent and Brammo’s upcoming dirt bike line comprised of the Brammo Engage & Brammo Encite. Currently available in Germany, Austria, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, Brammo hopes to franchise more locations in the coming months, including some in the United States.

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).

Brammo Raises $12.4 Million in Series B Funds

09/22/2010 @ 10:56 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Brammo Inc. filed the appropriate forms with the SEC yesterday stating that it has raised $12.4 million in Series B funds, in what is still an open round of financing. Brammo hopes to raise a total of $30 million in the Series B offering, with the use of funds likely going towards expanding Brammo’s reach into the Asian and European markets, as well as building out the company’s product line into other target segments.

Also in the Form D filing with the SEC we get a glimpse of the people behind the company’s management, which includes a presence from Brammo’s initial investors Best Buy & the clean-tech venture capital group Chrysalix, as well as Brammo’s CFO Bruce Gilpin. New to the ranks is David Kurtz from Alpine Inc., an oil and gas exploration and development firm that is leading the Series B round with another firm that is so far unknown.

Brammo Taps Flextronics for Global Production and Assembly Strategic Partnership

09/15/2010 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s hard to make strategic business partnership announcements sound sexy. Between all the hyperbole about how two companies are going to shift the industry paradigm and synergize the supply chain matrix, the average consumer’s eyes glaze over, and drool starts seeping out from the corners of their mouths. So bear with us on this one, because the announcement (or is the term Brammouncement?) of Brammo and Flextronics is an important one not only for the Ashland based company, but also for the electric motorcycle industry as a whole.

Some of the biggest problems facing any startup in the motorcycle industry are distribution and assembly. With the demand for electric motorcycles being a global issue, electric motorcycle startups, which are based primarily in the United States, have to not only grow their businesses domestically, but perhaps more importantly they need to foster a presence abroad in foreign markets.

With Europe and Asia easily out-pacing the demand in the US for electric transportation, an issue of contention for cash-strapped startups like Brammo has been how to grow globally and effectively with their limited budgets. The solution in this case for Brammo, is partnering with Flextronics, and using their scalable global production facilities.

Up-Close with the Brammo Empulse RR

07/27/2010 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Although it didn’t take part in the e-Power electric race at Laguna Seca, the Brammo Empulse RR was on display in the Brammo pit area during the weekend, and we got a chance to lay our hands on the bike for the first time. Based off the Brammo Empulse street bike, the Empulse RR comes packed with 12.5 kWh of battery power (same as the MotoCzysz E1pc), which according to Brammo makes it the best bike in the paddock in terms of power-to-weight ratios.

Coming together in just eight weeks, the Brammo Empulse RR still has some kinks to iron out, as the bike apparently cooked off its liquid-cooled motor during testing. While the Brammo team figures out its foray into liquid-cooled electric motors (the Brammo Enertia uses an air-cooled motor), the rest of the Empulse RR package looks very promising.

Brammo TTR-based Sportbike Coming

07/09/2010 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber took a lot of flak last month when we speculated about Brammo working on an electric sportbike. Armed with more than a hunch at the time, we have been told from multiple sources that Brammo is set to debut a TTR-based electric sportbike. For added measure, we’ve also been told that Brammo intends to race the bike, which we’d expect will have various configurations, at the e-Power Championship round at Laguna Seca later this month.