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.

Harley-Davidson Street 500 & Street 750 – The First Truly “New” Motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in 13 Years

11/04/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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News of “smaller-displacement” Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been percolating for quite some time now, especially after the Bar & Shield brand began taking emerging markets more seriously.

With countries like India viewing 500cc bikes as “big” and Harley-Davidson’s smallest offering tipping the scales at 883cc, something had to give in the company’s strategy, and it looks like it just did.

Announcing two new bikes, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and Harley-Davidson Street 750, the Milwaukee brand is finally ready to go abroad, and its launching its intent to do so this week in Milan, at the EICMA show.

Harley-Davidson Confirms 500cc Model – Electrics Too?

09/03/2013 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Two years ago I lamented on the fact that Harley-Davidson didn’t have a model under 800cc, which among other things, left the company at odds with its efforts to push into the emerging Indian motorcycle market.

Six-months after I wrote that piece, there seemed to be some hope for the Bar & Shield brand, as rumors began to circulate about a 500cc class motorcycle that was being designed with emerging countries in mind. It would seem now, those rumors were true.

Confirming that Harley-Davidson would soon debut a 500cc class motorcycle for the Indian market, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Matthew Levatich revealed last weekend that the Milwaukee-based company had a 500cc model in an advanced stage of development.

Hinting strongly that the machine would be built in India, and be aimed specifically at that market, Levatich also hedged his bets on the possibility of the model arriving on US soil.

WSBK: Indian Round Cancelled for 2013

08/14/2013 @ 4:19 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Confirming rumors going around the World Superbike paddock, the FIM has confirmed that WSBK’s race in India has been cancelled. Citing “operational challenges” as the cause for the cancellation, Jaypee Sports International and Dorna had no choice but to cancel that races to be held on November 17th, though the race will likely remain on the 2015 calendar.

Rumor: Ducati Scrambler Cometh

07/08/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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While I was lounging at the pool this holiday weekend, getting my bronze on, the A&R Bothan Spy network was hard at work dumpster diving, hacking emails, and subscribing to the NSA’s live PRISM feed.

The fruits of that labor was the alarming realization of how many kitten videos the motorcycle industry collectively watches in a single day, and the fact that Ducati is working on scrambler-style motorcycle.

The project itself dates way back when Pierre Terblanche was still toiling away in Bologna, dodging equal portions of labor strikes and carbonara, and at the time was based around the now defunct Ducati Sport Classic.

Shelved, and thought never to see the light of day, we can only imagine this whole Hipstacyclist™ movement has helped Ducati rethink its position regarding a scrambler.

The Most Interesting Slide from Yamaha’s Three-Year Plan

12/18/2012 @ 10:52 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Announcing today its “New Medium-term Management Plan” that will cover the next three years of business operations, Yamaha Motor Co.’s strategy is fairly simple, yet also very ambitious. While fighting against the global currency exchange rate with the yen, the Japanese company is hoping to release over 250 new units over its various product segments.

While this goal encompasses all of Yamaha Motors’ product lines, the most obvious additions for the motorcycle division will be Yamaha’s recently announced three-cylinder motorcycles, as well as the now confirmed Yamaha YZF-R250, a 250cc sport bike that will debut in the Indian market.

Unless you have an MBA, Yamaha’s three-year business strategy is a pretty dull read (it might still be a snoozer, even if you do have an MBA), but one Powerpoint slide struck me as interesting (you can see the full presentation here).

Ducati Forms a Brazilian Subsidiary

10/22/2012 @ 4:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Ducati has announced today that is has created a wholly-owned subsidiary for the Brazilian market, following the news that its current importer, the Izzo Group, has shutdown its business due to current economic situation. Part of a larger issue in Brazil with the Izzo Group, which was the country’s largest motorcycle importer, Ducati‘s move ensures the Italian brand’s ability to sell in the growing South American economy.

Headquartered in São Paulo, Ducati Brazil will be the Bologna brand’s base in Brazil, which has extremely high tariffs on foreign goods. Importing complete knock-down (CKD) kits to Ducati Brazil, Ducati will have a minimal manufacturing presence in the South American country, and will be essentially assembling its motorcycles within Brazilian borders in order to side-step loopholes in the Brazil import regulations.

Triumph’s Proposed Plant in India Could Increase Production 10x – New Small-Displacement Bike Coming

07/17/2012 @ 8:44 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Like many other brands ahead of it, Triumph is getting ready to enter the Indian market in a serious way. Eyeing a piece of property in Narasapur in the Karnataka region of India, Triumph’s initial plan is to build a facility capable of producing 250,000 units per year, with an expansion plan that could double that number. Currently producing 50,000 units a year in its British and Thai facilities, Triumph’s move into India could increase the company’s production ten-fold per annum.

Said to be bringing mostly its full-size premium offerings to the Indian market, Triumph is also rumored to be working on a small-displacement single-cylinder motorcycle that could be developed with the Indian and Southeast Asian markets specifically in mind. With India’s premium motorcycle market still quite small, though growing, the initial quarter-million unit estimates from the British brand are sure to be heavily relying on this new small-displacement model, rumored to be called the Triumph Cub.

India’s TVS is in Talks with BMW Motorrad

07/09/2012 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The big news out of India today is that the country’s fourth-largest motorcycle manufacturer, TVS,  is in talks with Germany’s leading two-wheeled maker, BMW Motorrad. While there are few details on what is occurring between the two companies, it is being reported by the Wall Street Journal that TVS is hoping to get some technical know-how from BMW in making larger-displacement motorcycles.

Likely to end in some sort of strategic partnership, BMW is surely eyeing TVS’s distribution network in exchange for its 500cc+ help, as all the major OEMs are currently jockeying for position in the growing Indian market. Other rumors around the deal suggest that TVS could help BMW create smaller-displacement machines, specifically designed for India, which would presumably also be available in other emerging markets like South America and Southeast Asia.

Yamaha Gets Serious About India with $500 Motorcycle

06/27/2012 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

I wax on about the importance of the Indian market with far too much regularity to regurgitate it yet another time, but its suffices to say that like Ron Burgundy, India is a pretty big deal. With two of the three largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world coming from India, and the country continuing to account for a massive amount of the world’s two-wheeler consumption (India is the second largest consumer of motorcycles in the world, by volume), it should come with little surprise then that Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha wants a bigger piece of the pie.

Yamaha currently accounts for roughly 500,000 of the 10+ million units sold per year in India (read: less than 5% of the total Indian motorcycle market), and the Japanese company is already offering several cheap motorcycle options in India. However, hoping to increase that figure to 600,000 next year, and to continue future growth in the market down the line, the tuning-fork brand has let it slip that a $500 motorcycle is in the works. Game on Honda.

Hero MotoCorp to Be Honda Free by 2014

06/05/2012 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The second largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Hero MotoCorp, says that by 2014 it will be free of its entanglement with the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Honda. Creating a joint-venture in the Indian market, Hero and Honda went their separate ways in December of 2010, after a 26-year relationship.

Despite Honda wanting to go it alone in India, the renamed Hero MotoCorp retained some licensing rights to use Honda technology until 2014, so it makes sense that the company would announce its impending autonomy at this juncture.