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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

02/06/2015 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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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.

Polaris Trademarks “Victory Charger” – An Electric Cruiser?

02/05/2015 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Trademark applications with the USPTO show that Polaris has registered “Victory Charger” as a mark to be used with “electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

The application is a strong hint that we could see an electric cruiser from the Victory brand, which is owned by Polaris, in the coming future.

The news is especially timely, as Polaris just acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and plans on building electric motorcycles at the company’s facilities in Spirit Lake, IA.

As if there wasn’t already enough fuel for the fire, on a product roadmap for investors, Brammo listed an “eCruiser” as a possible future model — a model that could easily be repurposed for the progressive Victory cruiser brand.

Akrapovič Full Moon Concept – Starship or Cruiser?

12/09/2014 @ 6:49 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Known better for its fine exhausts, Akrapovič is starting to get into the habit of making some intriguing concept motorcycles as well.

So far the Slovenian brand has kept these bikes to a cruiser theme, perhaps to amplify the company’s message to the Bar & Shield realm that other options exist outside of their Screamin’ Eagle©®™ Patriot-Freedom exhaust cannons that are so ubiquitous in that segment.

In contrast to the current trend, Akrapovič’s designs have been sleek, and this weeks’ latest, the Akrapovič Full Moon concept continues that ideal.

Brammo eCruiser & Other Models Spied in Investor Pitch

09/23/2014 @ 4:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Brammo continues to build upon its war chest of investment, and has turned to crowd-funding site EarlyShares for help in that regard. The site is targeted towards Angel-type investors, and is along the lines of a Kickstarter-style site for the wealthy and investment-minded.

The news that a company like Brammo is looking to raise more capital is nothing new, nor is it terribly noteworthy, but the documents provided to EarlyShares investors are certainly worth chewing on by two-wheeled enthusiasts.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is a diagram of Brammo’s planned model lineup, which briefly appeared on EarlyShares; and among other things, shows an eCruiser model from the Oregonian company. Boom goes the dynamite.

Confederate X132 Hellcat Speedster – By Pierre Terblanche

08/15/2014 @ 5:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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The Confederate X132 Hellcat Speedster is the newest motorcycle from the venerable “Southern” brand, and that’s enough of a pedigree for the machine to grace the pages of Asphalt & Rubber, but this latest incarnation of the Hellcat line also happens to be the first work by a certain Pierre Terblanche, who became Head of Design at Confederate not too long ago.

Based around the same 132 cubic inch (2,163cc) v-twin engine as the previous Hellcat models, the Speedster is good for 121hp and 140 lbs•ft of torque. The styling is true to the Confederate canon, though Terblanche’s touches can certainly be seen in the details of the machine.

Confederate C2 P-51 Fighter — Pierre Terblanche’s Latest Motorcycling Creation

12/07/2013 @ 8:12 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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It has been over two years since we saw a new motorcycle from Confederate Motors, but you would be wrong to think that the boutique Southern brand has been sitting idly by all this time.

Earlier this year, Confederate added esteemed motorcycle designer Pierre Terblanche to its ranks, and now we get to see the first fruition of the South African’s influence on the American motorcycle company.

Announcing today the Confederate C2 P-51 Fighter, Terblanche has created Confederate’s second-generation model of the Fighter line — no easy feat to build upon, as Terblanche calls the original fighter one of his all-time favorite motorcycle designs.

2014 Honda Valkyrie — Your Valhalla of Power Cruisers?

11/20/2013 @ 7:11 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

2014 Honda Valkyrie

As our Bothan spies had predicted, Honda has unveiled a new power cruiser for the upcoming model year, the 2014 Honda Valkyrie. Thankfully dropping its F6C designation for the more iconic “Valkyrie” name, Honda’s new machine is based around the 1,832cc flat-six engine of the Honda Gold Wing, and aims to be a stripped-down cruiser alternative to Honda Gold Wing F6B bagger.

A model that first debuted in 1996, this new Valkyrie features an aluminum twin-spar frame, a low-seat height, and will tip the scales at the curb with 750 lbs. An anti-locking braking system (ABS) will be optional for the US market, though pricing is yet to be determined by American Honda. We think the cruiser market will like the new Valkyrie, how about you?

2013 Ducati Diavel Strada – Now We’ve Seen Everything

11/12/2012 @ 9:00 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

What happens when you take a Ducati Diavel and raid the Ducati Performance parts bin? You get the 2013 Ducati Diavel Strada. After seeing the 2013 Ducati Hyperstrada, it is clear that the Bologna Brand has touring on the brain, and thought that the Diavel should get some extra attention at this year’s EICMA show (although, maybe not as much as the 2013 Ducati Hypermotard, 2013 Ducati Hyperstrada, & 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R).

Designed with longer trips in mind, the Diavel Strada features improved wind protection, higher handlebars (15mm) that are also swept farther back (60mm) making for a more comfortable sitting position. Other additions include a gel seat and heated grips, as well as two auxiliary power outlets that are fed by a higher-output generator. For the pillion, a backrest has been included, and of course there is 41 liters of side luggage available.

Not exactly our cup of tea, but then again we have never been a big fan of the Diavel’s styling (riding the beast is a whole different matter though), but we imagine there are some would-be Diavel owners who would jump at the chance to tour on Ducati’s sport-cruiser. Photos and video after the jump for you intrepid souls.

2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B – A Tourer Minus the Touring

11/12/2012 @ 3:00 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

The last of Honda’s six new models for the 2013 model year (checkout our coverage of the 2013 Honda CBR500R, 2013 Honda CB500F, 2013 Honda CB500X, & 2013 Honda CBR600RR), the 2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B is in a class of its own.

If the traditional Honda Gold Wing is the Cadillac of the motorcycling world, then the Honda Gold Wing F6B must be what the bike looks like with a drop-top. Taking the huge weekend touring machine, Honda has made the Gold Wing F6B more of a day-to-day cruiser…but not in a horrible Honda Rune sort of way.

Using the same chassis and 1,832cc flat-six motor that is found in the Honda Gold Wing, the 2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B not only looks like less motorcycle than its predecessor, but it also sports 62 lbs in less heft than the base tourer model, for a “curvy” 842 lbs curb weight.

Coming in two models, the Honda Gold Wing F6B will cost $19,999, while the Honda Gold Wing F6B Deluxe will cost $20,999, and will include a center stand, passenger backrest, and self-cancelling turn signals. Color choices are simple: black or red. Photos and tech specs are after the jump.

The Indian Gambit – Polaris Puts Harley-Davidson on Notice

04/20/2011 @ 6:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Before yesterday afternoon, I had a hard time getting excited about Polaris. I think they make snowmobiles…but I’m not sure. This is how engaged with their brands I was, but of course this has all changed with the news that Polaris Industries, Inc. has acquired Indian Motorcycle for still undisclosed terms. Covering the business strategy side of motorcycling for the past two and a half years, I can tell you that there are few moves or decisions that strike me as truly inspired, but that events of the past 24 hours are surly Mensa-worthy.

Before I can talk about Polaris and Indian, I have to talk about another motorcycle company: Harley-Davidson. Kingdoms are fated to topple, but looking at Harley-Davdion and its dominance in the American motorcycle scene, let alone in popular culture, the legacy of the Milwaukee company seems assured to endure the test of time. So many companies have tried to be the next Harley, and all of their failures reinforce that concept that no company does “Harley” better than Harley-Davidson. Virtually creating the the legacy cruiser segment, and Harley-Davidson’s success in this regard is also the double-edged sword that is slowly prostrating the Milwaukee brand.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a company wanting to compete with Harley-Davidson, it would be real simple: don’t. Seemingly at the risk of painting itself into a corner, Harley-Davidson has refined its marketing message so thoroughly that it has honed in on a particular type of rider, and exhibits such a distinct persona of motorcycling that the company’s identity has found itself heading full-speed down a one-way street of branding. Thus the low-hanging fruit of competing with Harley-Davidson is to go after the brand where it cannot go.