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.

Debunking Honda’s Specious Argument Over The Spec ECU

10/17/2012 @ 12:58 pm, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

The battle which has been raging rather politely between Honda and Dorna over the introduction of spec electronics continues to simmer on. The issue was once again discussed at Motegi, with still no resolution in sight. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto reiterated Honda’s opposition to the introduction of a spec ECU in an interview with the Japanese journalist Yoko Togashi, which was published on GPOne.com.

The reasons for introducing a spec ECU – or more accurately, a spec electronics package, including ECU, sensors, wiring harness and data logger – are twofold: the first issue is to cut the costs of electronics in the sport, an area where spending is rampant and where gains can always be found by throwing more money and more engineers at a problem. The second issue is to improve the spectacle; racing in the modern era has become dull, with the electronics and the Bridgestone tires contributing to produce races where it is unusual for there to be more than one pass for the win.

While Nakamoto did not comment on improving the show via electronics – it could be argued that radically changing the tires would have a greater impact on the spectacle than merely introducing a restricted spec electronics system – he did repeat the claim he has made in the past that merely adopting a spec ECU would not help to cut costs, claiming that if anything, it would actually increase costs.

BMW ConnectedRide Could Help Drivers See Motorcyclists

10/15/2012 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

If you have ridden motorcycles for any extended period of time, you likely have had a “moment” with an automobile — it happens to every rider. Motorcycles have a small visual profile when viewed from the front and rear, and we move around in our lanes, favoring the sides or the middle, depending on the road and traffic conditions. We change velocities with ease, accelerate much quicker than a car, and in a predominantly four-wheeled society, drivers are conditioned to look for an automobile in their mirrors, not a motorcycle.

I can barely go a week without hearing a story from a fellow motorcyclist about how he or she was cut-off by some “cager” that was either not paying attention, or worse, intentionally out to injure them. The truth is, there is no great car conspiracy to run motorcycles off the road, though some drivers do let their road rage get ahead of them, not realizing that a car is two-ton rolling weapon. A great component to being a seasoned motorcyclist is riding defensively, which includes understanding that lawful riding doesn’t always mean prudent riding.

A large portion of my “near misses” I saw before they even happened. A driver on a phone, a car hugging one side of the line, a gap forming in a lane during traffic, all these things are enticements to a driver to change lanes rapidly and without caution. These conditions should also be signals to a rider to be weary of the four-wheeled vehicle near them, as the burden is on us as motorcyclists to ensure our own safety on the road — we are silly to place that burden on someone else, especially someone within the relative safety an automobile provides.

When I hear these near-miss stories, what I rarely hear are the events that happened 30 seconds before the incident. Did the motorcyclist change lanes? How long had they been behind / next to / in front of the car in question? Did they see the driver in his or her mirror? If so, what were they doing? Sure, when they came over into your lane, nearly running you off the road, they were legally at fault, but you were in the wrong to think they wouldn’t do such an act.

Motorcycles conform to traffic patterns that are different from those used by automobiles. It is entirely possible for an attentive driver to check for a clear lane, and within the time it takes to signal and move lanes, a previously unseen motorcycle can take that space. All the “Look Twice” campaigns in the world cannot overcome the reality that if a motorcyclist puts him or herself in a rightful, but dangerous position, a bad outcome can still occur. But what if cars and motorcycles talked to each other?

Jonathan Rea Talks About The Differences Between The Electronics in MotoGP and World Superbike

10/02/2012 @ 3:31 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

The chance to substitute in the Repsol Honda team for the injured Casey Stoner was a great opportunity for Jonathan Rea to get a feel for a MotoGP bike and demonstrate his talent and potential, objectives in which he succeeded admirably. But it was also a chance for MotoGP journalists to grill the Ulsterman on the differences between various aspects of MotoGP and World Superbikes, Rea having shown he was both fast enough to feel the difference, smart enough to understand the difference, and articulate enough to explain it to reporters.

At Aragon, the subject turned to electronics, and the difference between the systems used in the two series. The topic was broached as Rea was explaining what had happened to him during the race. He had got caught up cycling through the various electronics strategies the Honda RC213V is equipped with, looking for one that would help him as the tire wore throughout the race. A lack of dry track time getting to understand how the electronics affected the bike as the tires begin to wear left him confused and struggling to find a setting that would work, Rea told reporters.

MotoGP: Riders Give Mixed Reactions to Spec-ECU News

09/27/2012 @ 12:53 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

With the MotoGP paddock assembled at the Motorland Aragon circuit, the press got their first chance to gauge rider reaction to the proposal of a spec ECU which Dorna is looking to introduce into MotoGP, most probably from 2014. The reaction was guardedly positive among the MotoGP regulars, though all five riders questioned in the pre-event press conference raised concerns over safety. Only Jonathan Rea, standing in for Casey Stoner in the Repsol Honda team for probably the last time, dissented, believing that MotoGP should be a pure prototype series.

“If everyone has the same electronics, this will be positive for everyone, more positive for the ones who do not have the best electronics,” Jorge Lorenzo told the press conference. He was the first to voice safety concerns. “I think we have to try it and to see if we still have the same security on the bike. Because now we avoid a lot of crashes, especially highsides, and maybe with the standard electronics the bike is a bit more dangerous. Because now, the bikes are more powerful, we have more than 250 horsepower, so we have to be careful of these things.”

MotoGP: Magneti Marelli Offering Free Electronics in 2013

09/26/2012 @ 8:35 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

MotoGP has taken its first step towards the formal introduction of a standard ECU. Today, Dorna announced that they have reached agreement with Magneti Marelli to supply an electronics system to MotoGP teams for the next four years, starting from the 2013 season. To support the electronics system, Magneti Marelli will set up a MotoGP R&D center at their base in Bologna, Italy.

The system to be supplied is complete, and highly sophisticated. The system will comprise an ECU, a complete sensor package, data logger and all of the various wires and switches to make the system. The ECU on offer is described as being Magneti Marelli’s “highest technological option”. More importantly, the Italian electronics firm will supply full support for the ECU, both on and off the track, helping teams develop and set up the system. The system will be supplied free of charge to any team that requests it.

The system on offer will be supplied on a voluntary basis for 2013, with the teams free to continue to develop and use their own systems should they so choose. To allow teams to compete with the teams electing to use proprietary systems, the Magneti Marelli system supplied to the teams will be fully functional for the 2013 season. The Magneti Marelli system is the de facto standard in the paddock, with both Yamaha and Ducati already using a very similar system on their factory prototypes.

New Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Gets Traction Control for 2013

09/13/2012 @ 11:19 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Officially debuting the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R in New York’s Times Square today, Kawasaki has unsurprisingly brought a stroked-out 636cc machine to a 599cc supersport battle. While the chassis of the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is the same, the motor has obviously been reworked, along with the bodywork. However, the big news from the reveal is the addition of Kawasaki’s three-mode KTRC traction control to the supersport-class motorcycle, once again proving that electronics are the new horsepower.

Other additions to the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R include Showa’s new SFF-BP front forks. Combining Showa’s Separate Function Fork (SFF) with its Big Piston (BP) technology, Kawasaki hopes the suspension units will provide the optimal balance between street and track riding. The new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R motor also gets further improved with the addition of a back-torque limiting slipper clutch.

Electronics Coming to the MV Agusta F4 in 2013?

06/20/2012 @ 2:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Ahead of its yearly gathering of MV Agusta enthusiasts (this year marking 60 years of the famous brand), the Italian company’s CEO Giovanni Castiglioni sat down with Moto.it to answer some questions about the state of the company, the upcoming MV Agusta Rivale, and the future MV Agutsa F4. While Castiglioni confirmed the name of the company’s upcoming street-bike-meets-enduro model, perhaps the most interesting insight was the company’s philosophy on the F4 design, and what the next model year could hold for one of the industry’s most iconic motorcycles.

2012 BMW S1000RR – Tweaks Come to the Liter Bike King

10/21/2011 @ 3:07 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

BMW did an amazing thing two years ago. Not really known for its performance street motorcycles, BMW took the competitive superbike market head-on, bringing out a motorcycle that not only had class-leading performance figures, but was also priced extremely competitively against its Japanese competitors. That lethal combination of price, quality, and performance made the BMW S1000RR the sport bike to have over the past two years, and it shows in the S1000RR’s sales figures, which eclipsed every other liter bike.

Not wanting to rest too heavily on its laurels, BMW has updated the S1000RR for the 2012 model year, and while the bike may look the same, the German company hopes it has done plenty to its halo bike to make would-be buyers give the S1000RR a good looking over next season, despite going into its third year of production. While the same 193hp engine resides at the heart of the S1000RR, and the curb weight remains a paltry 449 lbs (90% fuel), the 2012 BMW S1000RR gets a bevy of suspension, chassis, and electronics for the new model year.

“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.

What MotoGP Racing at Laguna Seca Would Look Like Without Electronic Rider Aids

07/20/2011 @ 12:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Back when men were men…yada yada yada, and all that. You know, the real interesting thing about watching this footage from 1985 is, well…how interesting the racing is to watch, even with the commentary being in Japanese. Front wheels several feet in the air on acceleration, plenty of rider-on-rider corner stuffing, and the only traction control coming from the rider’s right wrist.

Perhaps making this 26-year-old clip such a keeper is how cool racing at Seca used to be is the recurrent wheelies the riders are popping coming down the corkscrew. Jaws dropped when Valentino Rossi passed Casey Stoner on the inside of the most technical corner on the MotoGP track roster, but the MotoGP paddock would have collectively excreted a brick had he done it on one wheel. Now that’s racing. Thanks for the tip Trent!