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 Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

01/15/2015 @ 12:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand.

Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014.

Pierobon’s Take on the Ducati 899 Panigale

11/05/2014 @ 5:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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When the Ducati 899 Panigale came out, there was some pushback from Ducatisti over the middleweight superbike’s double-sided swingarm. Ducati clearly had to water-down distinguish the 899 from the 1199 for would-be owners, especially after giving the Ducati 899 Panigale a near-literbike engine displacement.

We think if Ducati had fashioned the 899’s swingarm after the piece built by Pierobon, then perhaps the Italian manufacturer’s fans would have been less upset. Throw in an aluminum fuel tank, racing fairing stay, and trellis rear subframe, and you have one sharp looking 899 Panigale…and it doesn’t even have all its clothes on yet.

Oh No, Not Again – Ducati 899 Panigale: Japan Edition

01/22/2014 @ 12:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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If you’re in the market for a Ducati 899 Panigale, and have the misfortune of living in Japan, the above is what you will be forced to buy. You see the Ducati 899 Panigale, like the Ducati 1199 Panigale and MV Agusta F3, is too loud in its stock form for the Japanese market.

Compounding the issue, the Island Nation is too small of a market for Ducati to revamp its design to meet homologation in its stock form, so an obvious quick-fix has been implemented instead.

It’s a bit of an eyesore on any model; but on the Panigale, the long carbon fiber pipe detracts from the hard work Ducati designers and engineers put into the attractive under-slung unit on the middleweight sport bike. Also of note is the revised big black plastic clutch cover, for added sound dampening.

We’re told the eyesore can be easily removed, with most dealers taking that liberty for an owner at the time of purchase, but still…somethings just aren’t right. A big hat tip to loyal A&R reader Trane for snapping these photos. The sake is on us.

On-Board Video of the Ducati 899 Panigale at Imola

10/15/2013 @ 12:21 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber may not have been in Bologna for the international press launch for the Ducati 899 Panigale “super-mid” sport bike, so unfortunately we can’t give you any first-hand experience with Ducati’s newest sport bike (newest for a little while longer, at least).

However, we are in luck because Ducati test rider Alessandro Valia was on-hand for the event, and did some hot laps for the camera. A super nice guy and a very talented rider, we met Valia earlier this year at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R press launch, where he helped us find the right lines around the very technical Circuit of the Americas.

Now, Valia takes us for a spin around one of Italy’s most iconic circuits, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari — or as it is better know, Imola. No music, to fast-cuts, just a bike being ridden hard on a sunny afternoon. Enjoy!

2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Mega Gallery

09/12/2013 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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By now you have heard all about the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale, Bologna’s new “supermid” sport bike. You’ve heard about the Babigale’s 898cc Superquadro motor, which produces 148hp  and 73 lbs•ft of torque.

You’ve heard about the Ducati 899’s monocoque “frameless” chassis design and 372.5 lbs dry weight. And of course, you have heard of the 899’s extensive electronics suite that includes ABS, traction control, engine braking control, and ride-by-wire.

But have you seen Ducati’s sport bike, and its double-sided swingarm? We have 117 high-resolution photos of it after the jump for, just in case you haven’t gotten a glimpse.

Remember, pricing starts at $14,995 for the red model, and  $15,295 for the white model.

Video: Ducati 899 Panigale – Your Road to the Track

09/10/2013 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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In case you missed the news, the folks in Bologna have debuted their new “supermid” sport bike, the eagerly anticipated 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale. Like its larger sibling, the Ducati 1199 Panigale, the 899 features a “frameless” chassis design, a suite of electronic rider aids, as well as the new 148hp Superquadro engine.

Putting together a little video to help launch the machine, we figured Ducati fans and non-Ducatisti alike would enjoy the premise of this short clip, as Ducati’s test rider is portrayed as being unable to end his day with the Babigale — hopping back on the bike for one more romp. What a tough job he must have.

2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Breaks Cover

09/09/2013 @ 9:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Confirming rumors that Borgo Panigale has been working on a smaller-displacement version of its namesake superbike, and that the machine would have a double-sided swingarm, Ducati debuted today its new “supermid” superbike, the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale.

Showcased ahead of the IAA International Motor Show, where Ducati will preview its 2014 motorcycle line, the Ducati 899 Panigale features an 898cc Superquadro motor that produces 148hp (73 lbs•ft of torque), a monocoque “frameless” chassis design (372.5 lbs dry), and a bevy of electronics (DQS, DTC, RbW, EBC, & ABS).

Priced at $14,995 (red model) & $15,295 (white model), Ducati hopes that the 899 Panigale will create a more affordable entry for motorcyclists that want to own a Ducati superbike.

2014 Ducati Model Announcement Next Week

09/05/2013 @ 9:10 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Do you like new model motorcycles? Of course you do. Well, this time next week, Ducati Motor Holding will be making a presentation to the motorcycling media at its Bologna headquarters. The invitation in our inbox is light on details (unsurprisingly), though smart money would be on Ducati debuting some of its model refreshes for next year, and possibly its much anticipated 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale.

Ducati, Sometimes It’s Like I Don’t Even Know You

08/23/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

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I had a good chuckle last week, you see one of my Facebook groups posted up some rumors they heard about the upcoming Ducati middleweight sport bike — namely that it would have a double-sided swingarm. “That’s ludicrous,” I said to myself, as I posted an even snarkier reply to the Facebook (oh sweet internet, how you bring the asshole out in all of us).

Hrmm…well, it appears I was wrong, as spy photos of the “Ducati 899 Panigale” surfaced just days later, and sure enough, there is a double-sided swinger bolted onto the Babigale™.

While it surely gets my goat that I was pie-in-the-face wrong on this rumor (on Facebook no less), what really grinds my gears was that the new model from Borgo Panigale flies in the face of my basic understanding of how Italy’s iconic motorcycle brand even thinks.

Are You the Ducati 899 Panigale?

08/20/2013 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

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With the 2013 EICMA show just a couple months away, it is unsurprising to see next year’s bikes cropping up on the internet — case in point, this photo of the Ducati 899 Panigale.

Rumored since the Ducati 1199 Panigale broke cover two years ago, the Bologna Brand’s supersport-class sport bike appears to be mostly as expected, though it is surprising to see Ducati fitting a standard-style swingarm to the machine instead of continuing its iconic single-sided design.