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.

Bultaco Lives Again – Will Debut Electric Motorcycle

05/16/2014 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Reviving old brands for an electric future is becoming the new vogue, as we have already seen the restart of marquees like Voxan and Saroléa in the two-wheeled space.

Well, add a third name to the list (does that officially make this a trend?), as Bultaco has been restarted once again by investors, who wish to see the Spanish motorcycle brand enter the 21st century.

Missing in action for the past 30 years (not including a failed restart in 1998, which lead to the Sherco brand), it is hard to tell what to make of this news; though the continued emergence of new players in the EV arena only further hints towards where the motorcycle industry is headed.

A Better Look at the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218

05/14/2014 @ 5:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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It was only two days ago that Lightning Motorcycles teased its upcoming LS-218 superbike, complete with a shadowy look of the 200hp+ electric machine.

With the official debut scheduled for this Saturday at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California, we don’t have long to wait for the full monty; but with a little Photoshop work, and a little sleuthing, we can have a pretty good idea of what to expect of the final design, or do we?

Raising the exposure and adjusting the levels on the press photo reveals a machine that is about 75% complete. Noticeably missing are the hand controls and instruments, a dash, and it seems some bodywork like the undertail, lower fairing, and windscreen (the photo shows an opaque windscreen, which we have a hard time imagining being a part of the final design).

Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 to Debut at Quail Lodge

05/12/2014 @ 11:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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We shouldn’t have to make too big of a case for your attendance at the The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, so if you’re in Northern California this coming weekend, you owe it to yourself to attend.

But just in case seeing a plethora of unique and beautiful show bikes isn’t your thing (100 years of motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats is on display this year, by the way), we submit to you the upcoming debut of the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 production electric superbike.

A long time in the coming, and based off Lightning’s electric race bike, the LS-218 aims to be the “mot [sic] technologically advanced and highest performing street-legal production motorcycle in teh [sic] world.”

A lofty statement, but then again the LS-218 has some credentials to back it up — and it starts with the electric superbike’s name: LS-218, which is an homage to the machine’s 218 mph top recorded speed at the Bonneville salt flats (a speed reach while setting an official 215 mph land speed record).

We have seen a concept sketch of what the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 should look like, and expect the final version to look very similar; but until Saturday, the above photo is the only glimpse we have of the machine. If the genuine article has the same tastes as the concept sketch, motorcycle fans (even petrol heads) should be in for a treat.

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

05/06/2014 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.

I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.

It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.

It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.

There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.

That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.

The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.

Saroléa SP7 Electric Superbike Debuts Ahead of IOMTT

04/28/2014 @ 6:56 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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After a 50 Year Hiatus, the Belgian brand Saroléa is making a bit of comeback, albeit this time in electric form. Already making its intention to race in the 2014 Isle of Man TT, Saroléa has now finally debuted its racing machine, the Saroléa SP7.

An amalgamation of retro-styling and high-technology, the Saroléa SP7 boasts a carbon fiber chassis, a 174hp (130 kW) motor, and a 422 lbs bulk. All of that is wrapped into a café racer styled machine, which with all the modern equipment has a certain juxtaposition that is both visually pleasing, and visually glaring — we will let you decide which sensation dominates your senses more heavily.

Yamaha To Offer Electric Street Bikes by 2016

04/22/2014 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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You may remember the Yamaha PED1 and Yamaha PES1 electric motorcycle concepts, which the tuning fork brand debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Modest, yet slightly futuristic looking, the overall impression we got from readers was that Yamaha was onto something with its PED1 and PES1 bikes, and it seems the Japanese OEM has heard your excitement.

Announcing plans in its 2013 Annual Report to bring the PED1 and PES1 to market by 2016, Yamaha is yet another major OEM to jump on the electric bandwagon and add legitimacy to this budding powertrain segment.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

04/10/2014 @ 6:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Recall: 2014 Zero Motorcycles S, SR, DS, & FX

04/07/2014 @ 4:09 pm, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

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As you may remember from our previous coverage, things are not looking so good for Zero Motorcycles with several recalls in the past year, including  faulty brake caliper mounting bolts that was issued in August, and a faulty firmware recall that caused certain models to shut down while running.

Now, after an incident with an expert rider in Australia in late February, Zero has discovered that when certain motors are pushed to their limits, the motors rotor may contact the stator, causing the engine to lock up thereby causing the rear wheel to lock up.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

04/03/2014 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni.

You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mission Motors Providing Mugen with Electric Powertrain

04/02/2014 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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One of the more interesting details to come from the Mugen Shinden San electric superbike reveal is that a familiar name is helping power the Japanese motorcycle: Mission Motors.

One of the inaugural racing teams at the first Isle of Man TT electric race, Mission Motors has since focused its business model on providing OEMs with HEV/EV powertrains — you may remember its motorcycle project was spun into a new company, Mission Motorcycles.