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.

“Scrambler Café Racer” Ducati Scrambler by Mr. Martini

01/29/2015 @ 5:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-Mr-Martini-Concept-03

The third, and last, Ducati Scrambler concept from the Verona Motor Bike Expo, the “Scrambler Café Racer” by Mr. Martini is exactly what the name implies: a cafe racer styled scrambler motorcycle.

Mr. Martini appropriately added a high-mount exhaust to his “scrambler” and retained the Scrambler’s Pirelli knobby tires. The addition of a cafe racer fairing though is an interesting choice, and leaves this concept straddling the two staples of hipster motorbiking in the custom scene.

We’ll let you decided whether this doubles the “post-authentic” nature of the Scrambler, or if the work is just an overload of the self-ironic.

“Scratch” Ducati Scrambler by Officine Mermaid

01/28/2015 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-Scratch-Concept-Officine-Mermaid-Dario Mastroianni-09

The second of three custom Ducati Scrambler designs unveiled at the Verona Motor Bike Show, “Scratch” by Officine Mermaid is perhaps closer in design to what we connote when thinking about a scrambler motorcycle, than say the design we first showed you by Deus Ex Machina.

Stripped down to only the bare essential pieces of metal, treated to look more rustic than its birth certificate implies, and complete with taped-over headlight, we have some “Grade A” hipster bait right here from Dario Mastroianni and his crew.

“Hondo Grattan” Ducati Scrambler by Deus Ex Machina

01/26/2015 @ 3:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Hondo-Grattan-Deux-Ex-Machina-Scrambler-Concept

At the Verona Motor Bike Expo, Ducati presented the first customized Ducati Scrambler models. As you may remember from our review, this $8,600 machine is pitched with a heavy lifestyle component, and Ducati hopes that fat margins on t-shirts and jackets will overcome the thin margins on the model itself. To that end, the Italian company has gone to great trouble in making the Scrambler “cool” for the younger “post-authentic” crowd.

As such, Dario Mastroianni (Officine Mermaid), Filippo Bassoli (Deus Ex Machina), and Nicola Martini (Mr. Martini) were given the first crack at modding Ducati’s newest model. The results have been interesting, and first up on our pages is the “Hondo Grattan” by Filippo Bassoli and the Deus Ex Machina crew in Milan.

Ducati Scrambler Concept by Gannet Design

12/18/2014 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-Concept-Gannet-Design-Blue

The Ducati Scrambler is certainly the talk of the internet right now, no surprise there since Ducati just hosted its international press launch and the bike reviews are starting to roll out from various publications. You can read ours, right here.

All this press, aided by Ducati’s extensive marketing rollout ahead of the launch, has caused the Scrambler to catch the imaginations of many riders. This is of course to design, as Ducati would love to see the Scrambler become a favorite platform for modders and customizers.

The Ducati Scrambler also caught the eye of concept artist Gannet Design, whose work we have shown on a number of occasions.

Ducati Scrambler Mega Gallery

12/13/2014 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-Press-Launch-Mega-Gallery-116

As with every international press launch from Ducati, there comes a bevy of photos from the Italian company’s latest machines — the Ducati Scrambler is no different.

If you didn’t read our review of the Ducati Scrambler, the tl;dr version boils down to the budget-minded machine being a good, though perhaps uninspiring, motorcycle for the money. However, just as important as the motorcycle is Ducati’s focus with the Scrambler Ducati brand, which is clearly aimed at catering to the “younger” hipster crowd…perhaps to a fault.

The key of course is the price, which starts at $8,500 for the red Scrambler Icon ($8,600 for the yellow model we tested), and goes on up to just below $10,000 for the Full Throttle, Classic, and Urban Enduro models.

The clear winner in the “scrambler” segment, if there is such a thing from the OEMs, the real trick with the Ducati Scrambler however will be with the Italian company’s marketing efforts, which we have already discussed ad nauseum.

Today, we are just here to show you some of the gorgeous photos that came about from Ducati’s recent trip to Palm Springs, and the press launch which is still actually underway at the time of this writing.

You will note that we have included the aftermarket and apparel photos, something we usually omit for these mega gallery postings. We figured they were just as integral to the bike’s look/image/aesthetic as the machine itself. You’ll also note there are photos from the press launch as well, to give you an idea of the event and a look behind the scenes.

Over 220 high-resolution photos await you after the jump. Enjoy!

A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler73 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-Icon-launch-Palm-Springs-06

The Ducati Scrambler is the bike from Bologna for 2015. Loyal Ducatisti might be more excited by the upgraded Ducati 1299 Panigale, or the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200, but in terms of company growth and the future of the Italian brand, the Ducati Scrambler takes center stage.

With four waves of 30+ journalists coming to Palm Springs for the international press launch, it’s clear that Ducati is casting a wide net with the Scrambler, especially with the number of non-industry publications present.

The term “lifestyle brand” is often a four-letter word in the motorcycle industry, of course ignoring the obvious that all of motorcycling is a lifestyle choice in the first world, but nonetheless the term has been used liberally with Ducati and the company’s racing heritage.

That being said, the Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even.

This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand.

Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

Ducati Scrambler Begins Production in Italy

12/01/2014 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

scrambler-ducati-production

Production of the Ducati Scrambler began today in Borgo Panigale, marking the rebirth of the model in Ducati’s lineup and the start of Bologna’s new “Scrambler Ducati” brand and line.

As we reported earlier this year, the Scramblers produced at Borgo Panigale will not be arriving in the North American markets, which will instead receive models made by Ducati’s Thailand factory (no word on when that production will begin, if it hasn’t already).

Production strategies aside, the Ducati Scrambler marks many changes for the Italian company, which has been abashed in its pursuit of younger, let’s say more hip, motorcyclists with the Ducati Scrambler line.

Ducati Scrambler Will Be “Made in Thailand”

10/20/2014 @ 2:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

2015-Ducati-Scrambler-design-11

Almost four years ago, we reported on Ducati opening a new assembly plant in Thailand. The move, which peeved Ducati’s factory workers, would see bikes destined for the Southeast Asian market assembled in the Thai plant, thus side-stepping many of the region’s aggressive tariffs on motorcycles.

Nearing the end of 2014 now, and our Bothan Spies report that the Ducati Scrambler models will be the first motorcycles assembled in Ducati’s Thai plant that will then be shipped to the world market (sans the European market, which will get bikes still from Bologna, according to Moto.it) — a move that comes right after Ducati reached a new contract with its workers and unions, which sees the factory employees working fewer hours at higher wages.

Up-Close with the Ducati Scrambler Icon

09/30/2014 @ 1:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Ducati-Scrambler-up-close-38

The 2015 Ducati Scrambler has officially debuted at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany today, in case you missed the news. Before today though, Ducati North America invited us out to get a sneak peak of the new Scrambler Icon, along with a little time in a photo studio.

As a result, we have a bevy of our “up-close” photos for you, as well as some first impressions of the machine.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the Ducati Scrambler is how bare bones the motorcycle is. Ducati did a good job of not over-thinking the Scrambler, leaving the model true to its name.

The dash is a tastefully small round unit, which sits nestled between the high and wide handlebars. This gives the rider a good open feeling from the seat, though the exposed wires and cables are a bit distracting, with nothing else to hide them.

Artfully exposed is the air-cooled v-twin DesmoDue engine, which is borrowed from the Monster 796, and thus is a confusing 803cc. The header shape should look familiar as well, as it mimics those found on the Ducati Diavel.

The seat seems practical for two-up riding, and the Scrambler Icon is fitted with passenger pegs. The cheapest ($8,595 for the yellow one) of Ducati’s four Scrambler variants, the Icon is perhaps the most vanilla model. That’s not a bad thing, but the other three models are clearly present to appeal to certain niche riders.

Ducati Scrambler – For New Riders, Off-Roaders, & Hipsters

09/30/2014 @ 9:36 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

2015-Ducati-Scrambler-Icon-17

The INTERMOT is in full-swing in Cologne, which means that Ducati is ready to drop its new Scrambler model on the world. A highly marketed machine, which has drawn attention from Ducati’s 1299 superbike and new Multistrada, the Ducati Scrambler is another brand extension for the Italian company.

A further foray into the off-road world, as well as a strong offering for new riders, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon in red is priced at $8,495 — making it the cheapest model in the Ducati lineup. The rest of the range is priced as follows: Icon Yellow $8,595, Full Throttle $9,995, Urban Enduro $9,995, & Classic $9,995.

The 2015 Ducati Scrambler comes in four models, which use the company’s 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine design, that is borrowed from the Monster 796. Power thus comes out at 75hp, with peak torque being 50 lbs•ft, but the focus on the Scrambler is really more about the aesthetic of the bike and experience on the machine.