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.

Ducati Corse Confirms Carlos Checa & Panigale RS13 in WSBK – Hints at Factory Team for 2013

10/29/2012 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

After the shocking news this weekend that Ducati and Althea Racing would go their separate ways, the Bologna Brand has issued its own press statement about the break-up. Confirming that it has contracted former World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa to its payroll for next season, Ducati Corse also reaffirmed its commitment to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the series.

Ducati Corse has yet to release its official plans to race in the series, but the writing on the wall hints towards a factory team for 2013. Citing its strong ties and good relationship with the Althea Racing team, Ducati’s press release mentions the possibility of a “cooperation between Ducati and Team Althea” that could still be “found in the future,” which suggests that Althea could come on as a satellite team for 2013, or again takeover as the factory-backed effort at a later point in time.

While Ducati’s WSBK racing effort is still very much in the air, names like Liberty Racing and Davide Tardozzi are being banded about, and it is certain that Ducati Corse is exploring every option available. What is perhaps most intriguing in the news is Ducati Corse’s reconfirmation of its plan to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 next season.

WSBK: Althea Racing and Ducati Corse Part Ways

10/28/2012 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

In a surprise move, Althea Racing and Ducati Corse have parted ways in their World Superbike collaboration. The news sees Carlos Checa remaining with Ducati Corse and on the Ducati 1199 Panigale, though the Spaniard has no team behind him. Meanwhile, Althea Racing will retain #2 man Davide Giugliano, but will have to begin a search for a new manufacturer.

The issue under contention is the level of support Ducati Corse was willing to give the team, as Team Principal Genesio Bevilacqua has said to several Italian publications that Ducati was willing to give about as much support in 2013 as it did in 2012, which wasn’t a lot.

Left to develop the Ducati 1199 Panigale on its own, a large feat given the rumors that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not up to par for racing duty, Althea Racing is said to have balked at the idea of having to do all the heavy-lifting while Ducati reaps all the reward, and rightfully so.

Ducati North America Q3 2012 Sales up 24%

10/24/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Ducati North America has some impressive Q3 2012 sales numbers, as the Italian brand is up 24% over the same time period from last year. Its ninth-straight quarter of retail sales growth, Ducati North America owes a great deal of its success surprisingly to the Ducati Diavel, which was Bologna’s strongest model for growth in September. Ducati North America’s sales were up 40% in September.

Ducati hopes that 2012 will be a record year for the company, with sales from the Ducati 1199 Panigale helping fuel that enthusiasm. While Ducati remains bullish about the Panigale’s sales, our Bothan Spies have hinted that the new superbike hasn’t exactly met the initially high-sales expectations.

MotoCzysz E1pc vs. Ducati 1199 Panigale S

10/12/2012 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

When it comes to electric motorcycles, I am not interested in saving the manatees. I don’t stand around in Starbucks parking lots debating the finer points of offsetting my carbon footprint. It is perfectly fine if that is your calling in life, but when it comes to motorcycles, I am really only interested in one thing: going fast. I am not going to berate someone for wanting to save the environment, or decrease our dependency on foreign energy reserves — those are both worthy and important sentiments that I share as well, just not when it comes to my two-wheel decadence.

The only political debate I am interested in hearing during a discussion about motorcycles is the politics of the apex. If you want to talk about “the green movement” on a ride with me, it better be in regards to your Kawasaki, which is why I have a love/hate relationship with the electric motorcycle community. There are two types of operators in this space, and they are seemingly at odds with each other. One group is convinced that petroleum is an imperfect fuel source, while the other thinks that petroleum-burning motorcycles are imperfect machines.

We can reconcile both these factions with the notion that they are both correct in the big picture, but when it comes to adoption of electric vehicles, only the Steve Austin principle applies: better, stronger, and most importantly faster. The modern sport bike is an analog machine, and the electric superbike is its digital successor.

Over one hundred years of riding on the vinyl scratches and distortions of gasoline motors has blinded us to the future. We use words like warmth and character to justify our resistance to the inevitable change coming, but make no mistake that the mainstream will readily adopt the MP3 riding movement once it hits its critical moments in price and performance parity. This does not mean the death of internal combustion, after all you can still find audiophiles with tube amps and vast LP collections — a certain amount of the demographic has to be frozen in time, right Harley-Davidson?

There is this idea though that motorcycles can be better than they currently are now. They can be integrated machines, from fuel source to wheel-spin. Road inputs don’t have to be muted by engine vibrations, throttle adjustments can happen at the speed of light, and fine…we can also save the manatees in the process. The concept being discussed here is the Digital Superbike, and the man who coined the term is Michael Czysz.

Traveling to Portland, Oregon to see Czysz’s latest creation, I got see first-hand how the MotoCzysz E1pc was progressing with its digital revolution. Read-on for that account.

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale – Now in Arctic White

10/02/2012 @ 3:39 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

While the Ducati 1199 Panigale is getting a number of revisions under the skin for its second year on the market, like an improved chassis and suspension setup (more on that later), it seems Ducati has also seen fit to offer its superbike in a color other than red. Behold from INTERMOT, the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale in Arctic White. Apparently this is the new matte black, which is what we’re all really waiting for. Photos after the jump.

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R Coming Soon

09/28/2012 @ 6:36 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

In about six weeks, Ducati will be unveiling its 2013 model line-up. The star of the show will be the new liquid-cooled Hypermotard, but the Italian brand has several other new models it plans on debuting as well. We have already seen the updated 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200, with its implementation of the Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS), as semi-active suspension package developed by Sachs.

The updated Ducati Multistrada 1200 also features the second-generation Testastretta 11° DS engine, which uses a dual-spark configuration to boost mid-range power, as well as clean up some of the v-twin motor’s emissions. At Milan, we will also more than likely see a middleweight displacement Ducati Multistrada, and our Bothan spies confirm to us that a Ducati 1199 Panigale R will also be making its debut at Milan.

Ducati 1199 Panigale Gets Clean Slate for Weight in WSBK

09/27/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

World Superbike is expected to announce after the Magny-Cours round next week that the Ducati 1199 Panigale will not incur the same 6kg weight ballast penalty as the current Ducati 1098R Superbike. A part of WSBK’s fluidic formula for Superbike racing, World Superbike rules allow for the air intake to be restricted and weight ballast to be added to twin-cylinder motorcycles on an prescribed basis, to compensate for the 200cc displacement capacity advantage the twins have over the four-cylinder machines.

With Carlos Checa handily winning the 2011 Championship, the recipe was set for Ducati to continue to incur a 6kg disadvantage this season, which has sent the Spaniard to fourth in the World Superbike Championship standings this season. Mathematically out of the hunt for the Championship in 2012, Checa is expected to re-sign with Althea Ducati for the 2013 season, where he will campaign the Ducati 1199 Panigale, which will race without the 1098R’s restrictions.

Sorry, The Japanese-Spec Panigale is Not a Hoax

08/30/2012 @ 5:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

Never underestimate the power of denial. When we first published photos of the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale, the immediate reaction from readers was that the machine had to be a hoax. Oh no dear Ducatisti, Japan’s v-twin abomination of Italy’s latest superbike is very real.

With Japanese journalists now getting a chance to swing a leg over the machine, we get our first glimpse of the bike in motion. Noticeably quieter than our American-spec version, we still don’t understand the need for such a butchering of Ducati’s design. But then again, we’re bloggers, not engineers.

Featuring a single right-hand-side-mounted exhaust that taps into the under-slung units we are more familiar with, the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale also features an enlarged plastic clutch cover, and a re-worked engine map (the S model also features the base model’s wheels). Check the video out after the jump. If any of our Japanese speakers hear something interesting in the video, post it up in the comments.

Photos: seDUCATIve vs. MANigale

08/29/2012 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

In case you haven’t heard one of my tirades on the subject before, I’m not a big fan of the “girl on a bike” trope that seems so ever-present in the motorcycle world. Yeah, if I regularly dedicated our post list to a few scantily clad women it would probably do wonders to our pageviews report; but honestly, I have zero intentions of ever having Asphalt & Rubber chase and pander to an audience.

In case you didn’t know, if you really need some eye candy of the opposite sex, there are plenty of other websites on the internet that can suit your desires.

So, when we saw Portland-based Ducati dealer MotoCorsa do a photo shoot with a lovely lady named Kylie and a Ducati 1199 Panigale, we passed on running the photos. Then something interesting happened: MotoCorsa did a follow-up photo shoot, this time with men from around the shop, recreating the shots from the photo shoot with Kylie. Perhaps not the most flattering photos we’ve ever seen, it is however a delicious role-reversal, not to mention showing some good humor from the gentlemen involved.

Apparently a successful ad campaign in the motorcycle industry doesn’t have to be all Miracle Bras and ass cheeks…well, at least not in the traditional sense. Who knew?

The Mega Recall Continues: Ducati 1199 Panigale

08/22/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Five recalls in one week, six recalls since its US debut earlier this year…it’s good to know what they say about first-generation Italian motorcycles is still applicable. That’s right folks, the sport bike of 2012 just got two more recall notices today with the NHTSA, just days after three recalls were filed in rapid succession for Ducati 1199 Panigale owners. Again affecting 2,411 units, Ducati’s latest two recalls concern the Panigale’s front-brake master cylinder reservoir hose and swingarm shaft pivot points.

Per S.O.P., Ducati will contact affected owners, and authorized Ducati dealers will remedy the problems free of charge. There is no timeline for the recalls at this point in time, though concerned Panigale owners can contact Ducati at 1-800-231-6696 (reference Ducati recall #RCL-12-006). As always the NHTSA is available at 1-888-327-4236 and safercar.gov. The two additional recalls are listed after the jump, along with the appropriate NHTSA-issued recall number for your referencing.