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.

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.

Ariel Ace – A Very Expensive Honda from England

06/25/2014 @ 10:46 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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The wait is over to see the return to two-wheels by British marque Ariel, as the firm has debuted its very exclusive Ariel Ace motorcycle. Built around a clever modular design, something we have talked about at length here, the Ace is really more than just one motorcycle, and Ariel plans on making each bike bespoke to its customer’s wishes.

At the center of every machine is the 1,237cc V4 engine from the Honda VFR1200F, which is good for 170hp, with 95 lbs•ft of peak torque. Because the VFR’s engine is being utilized by Ariel, the British brand offers a dual-clutch transmission as one of the Ace’s many available options.

Would-be owners will have to decide a number of other options as well, most importantly what kind front-end suspension they wish to run. Ariel offers a traditional upside down Öhlins fork setup, but to be truly unique on the road, the Ariel Ace has an available custom girder suspension setup with an Öhlins TTX at its core. Rear suspension is supplied by Öhlins as well.

Holding everything together is a beautiful aluminum trellis frame, comprised of six sections that are machined to life from billet. Anodized to fit a customer’s tastes, the modular chassis design also has mounting points for a variety of options and accessories, such as different bodywork, fenders, fuel tanks, handlebars, rearsets, seats, and wheels.

2014 Honda CTX700 & CTX700N Coming Soon

02/08/2013 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Continuing to blur the lines between established motorcycle segments, Honda has teased out another pair of unique motorcycles, which will formally go-down as 2014 model year machines. Available in Spring 2013. The 2014 Honda CTX700 & 2014 Honda CTX700N use the same 670cc parallel-twin engine found in the NC700 series, which was an engine designed to be a sensible and practical urban power plant for city bikers.

Building something that looks the cross between a street-standard and a cruiser, Honda is offering ABS brakes and an automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) as an available $1,000 option. The hope is clearly that the Honda CTX700N & Honda CTX700 will be an approachable and affordable motorcycle for new motorcyclists, and with prices at $6,999 & $7,799 respectively ($7,999 & $8,799 with DCT and ABS), Honda seems to have achieved that goal.

2012 Honda Crosstourer

11/07/2011 @ 4:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Honda teased us last year with the Honda Crosstourer Concept, but for the 2011 EICMA show, the Japanese manufacturer is making good on its promise to bring the GS-lookalike to market. Based off the VFR1200F, the 2012 Honda Crosstourer comes with traction control, combined anti-lock brakes (C-ABS), and of course an optional dual-clutch transmission. While the Crosstourer shares the VFR’s 1,237cc V4 motor, the adventure bike model puts out a significantly lower 127hp @ 7,750 rpm, while a gluttonous 93 lbs•ft torque @ 6,500 rpm remains on-tap.

Clearly a road-focused adventure-tourer model, the Honda Crosstourer may never have the off-road pedigree as the BMW R1200GS it is meant to emulate, but true to Honda fashion, the Crosstourer has plenty of technical prowess built into it. For instance, the idea of using DCT technology for an adventure bike should prove interesting, as it takes the process of having to manage the clutch/motor over unsteady terrain out of the picture.

700cc Honda Integra Motor for Mid-Sized Motorcycles

09/26/2011 @ 4:27 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Someone at Honda must have forgotten that the company has already used the Integra name, as Honda Motor Co. has released details on its new mid-sized motorcycle motor. A two-cylinder 700cc four-stroke lump, the Integra motor promises to be a class leader in fuel-economy for the Japanese brand.

Boasting 40% greater fuel efficiency from other “sport” motors in the 500cc-700cc class, the Integra motor can do 63 mpg (US) according to our rough calculations of Honda’s consumption figure of 27km/L. Perhaps more interesting than its fuel economy, Honda has also stated that the new motor can be coupled to the company’s second generation dual-clutch transmission, the first generation of which can be seen on the Honda VFR1200F.

MotoGP: Ducati Racing with 2012 Chassis Starting at Assen

06/20/2011 @ 6:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse continues to battle a war on two-fronts: both by trying to market itself out of an otherwise disastorous MotoGP season, and also to rapidly develop and search for answers to the lackluster Ducati Desmosedici GP11. The latest news out of Bologna now leans more towards this latter effort (or is it the prior?), as Ducati Corse has announced that it will bring a version of its 2012 chassis to Assen for Valentino Rossi to use in the Dutch TT.

The Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, as they’re calling it, features a modified motor, and will debut Ducati’s next-generation gearbox: the Ducati Seamless Transmission (DST). Ducati hopes bringing out the new chassis, which has already been given the nod by both Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden, will not only help turn around the season’s results, but also expedite development for the Ducati Desmosedici GP12. Along with a new carbon chassis, the GP11.1 features an inverted swingarm design, which sees the rear shock mounted higher-up with a special rear-subframe assembly.

Honda Denies Using DCT in MotoGP – Admits to Having New Faster Shifting Transmission

02/28/2011 @ 2:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The Honda RC212Vs are fast this year, there’s no denying the point. The top four overall testing times at the second Sepang test were each slotted to one of the four factory Honda riders. The Japanese company is hungry for another World Championship in the premier class, something it hasn’t seen since Nicky Hayden took the honor in 2006, and its fielding of three very capable riders in the Repsol Honda squad is just one of the measures Honda is willing to go to in order to better its chances for victory.

While all of the 2011 MotoGP race bikes are basically improvements upon the 2010 designs, Honda has spent the long winter months developing technology that will trickle down through the coming seasons, as MotoGP heads back to a 1,000cc format.

Accused of developing and using a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) by the Italian press, Honda has come under scrutiny for using a technology that is banned in GP racing. While it’s true that Honda was the first to develop a DCT for a production motorcycle (the VFR1200F), the Japanese company has come clean in order to dispel any rumors that it is cheating in the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. While not using a DCT, Honda says it has developed a new transmission that is in compliance with MotoGP regulations, and produces extremely quick gear changes, like a dual-clutch transmission.

Xtrac Instantaneous Gearchange System – The DCT Killer?

01/05/2011 @ 6:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

British transmission gurus Xtrac is better known for its history in Group A rally racing, and more recently for its work with the Lotus, Virgin, and HRT Forumla 1 teams (resume clients also include teams from IndyCar, Touring Car, Rally, GRAND-AM, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans); but with its latest announcement, Xtrac could add a new bullet point to its laundry list of achievements.

Recently pulling out of stealth mode its newest piece of gearbox madness: the Instantaneous Gearchange System (IGS), Xtrac’s race-bred driveline technology promises to be a lighter, cheaper, and less complex alternative to dual-clutch transmissions (DCT), which have popped up on the Honda VFR1200F & Honda Crosstourer Concept, and is rumored to hit the Honda CBR1000RR and Yamaha R1 in the coming models years. The key to IGS resides in the fact that the gearbox can simultaneously select and engage two gears at the same time, while employing only one set of drive gears, thus resulting in gear changes that have zero power loss to the wheels.

Honda Crosstourer Concept

11/02/2010 @ 3:07 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Not to be confused with the Africa Twin, which would be missing two cylinders, Honda returns to its rugged off-road expedition-style adventure past with the Honda Crosstourer Concept. Based on the Honda VFR1200F’s V4 motor and dual-clutch transmission, the Crosstourer concept is designed to be the rugged off-roader that the Crossrunner and VFR1200F are not.

Ride Review: Honda Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)

07/22/2010 @ 6:05 am, by Tim Hoefer10 COMMENTS

Perhaps bigger news than the bike itself is the Honda VFR1200F’s much-anticipated dual-clutch transmission (DCT) model. What Honda has developed for the sport bike world is an automatic shifting technology to enhance the rider’s experience. Automatic transmissions are a rare breed in motorcycling, and we have no doubt that some of you out there may be asking: Isn’t part of being on the road and on the bike, about feeling personal freedom? Or mastering your machine with skill and control? As kids in high school didn’t we make fun of our friend that couldn’t drive a stick? Is DCT an upgrade or a substitution? Well folks, that was the other reason Asphalt & Rubber got to test ride the new VFR1200F, and we put the DCT through its paces.

Yamaha R1 to Get Dual-Clutch Transmission?

06/08/2010 @ 1:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Visordown is reporting that Yamaha is planning an electronically controlled dual-clutch transmission for a future version of its YZF-R1 superbike. Taking a page from the Honda VFR1200F’s DCT setup (check for our ride report on this in the next few days), Yamaha is looking to implement a simpler DCT system than the one found on the Honda VFR, with a clutch on either side of the motorcycle gearbox.

Yamaha’s DCT is different from the Honda unit, which employs an input shaft the runs through the other input shaft, and has the clutches all on one side of the motor. Instead of this all-in-one arrangement, Yamaha is using a split input shaft that’s half the normal length, with each half attached to an opposing clutch. The overall affect is a much simpler arrangement, but is not as compact or light as the Honda DCT.