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.

How to Watch the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race

07/25/2014 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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UPDATE: Sorry folks, look like race day coverage is live-timing only.

I was trying to think this week how to frame how important the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race is for Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. It’s certainly more prestigious than any single MotoGP or WSBK round, and I would hazard that it is as big of a deal to the Japanese as the Isle of Man TT is to the Manx.

A race known for seeing factory teams staked with the top riders from around the world, this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours sees some of Japan’s finest joined by the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Jonathan Rea, Randy de Puniet, Josh Brookes, and Josh Waters. It can be hard to follow the race in Japan though, but we’ve got you covered for this year’s event.

The Suzuka Circuit puts up a live stream of the racing sessions on Ustream, and the link is right here. There is also an official Twitter feed in English which you should follow. We have embedded the Ustream into this post as well…because the internet is awesome.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — When a Plan Comes Together

07/16/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Shelina Moreda11 COMMENTS

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We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month.

The American Duo are making the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and will be campaigning a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. Race day is July 25th. -JB

If you know me, you know I like new adventures in racing. I want to do as much racing, in as many awesome places as possible, and hopefully find out where my niche is and find a home racing somewhere eventually, but I still hope I get to continue traveling for racing always.

Racing in Japan is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s something that came up about a year and a half ago, and I made it known that I really wanted to do it. We had a strong lead last year, but it couldn’t happen for some valid reasons.

Nobody gave up on it though, we kept pushing for it, and this year, to my surprise and awe, the well known and respected Team Moriwaki expressed a strong interest in putting together a team for the four-hour endurance at Suzuka. Everyone put it in high-gear to get the team together and to figure out all the details that go along with such a high-level event like this, with such a high-level team.

It’s been somewhat top secret, and the excitement, at least for me, has been pretty hard to contain. We’ve all been working diligently behind the scenes, and it seems we were all holding out breaths at this twinkling far-off dream of ours, watching it become a reality, until our test this week, where everything came together, and we all pinched ourselves and realized it’s real. Midori Moriwaki, Melissa Paris and I have spent some time laughing about this this week.

2014 Yamaha YZF-R1 Endurance Race Bike by YART

04/29/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) might not have had a result at the 2014 Bol d’Or that was commensurate with the team’s ability, but ask anyone in the Endurance World Championship paddock who the top teams are, and YART is surely on their short-list.

Finishing 5th in the 2013 Championship, YART’s first goal is to best its French counterpart, the Yamaha Racing – GMT 94 – Michelin squad. Running similar equipment, the Austrians have been making a strong showing in the French-dominated endurance paddock.

So strong is EWC in France, that Honda Racing Europe finally had to give up its TT Legends team, which was comprised of road racing and TT stars, in favor of an all-French rider lineup of endurance specialists.

Featuring some of the most interesting racing equipment, the Endurance World Championship breeds a special kind of racing motorcycle. Bikes are rolling compromises, setup to provide the widest range of usability and riding style for the two, three, sometimes four riders that have to share the motorcycle during an endurance race.

Reliability is key, where a bulletproof bike with superior fuel economy, can be an advantage over the bike with the most horsepower on the grid. The human-factor is huge too, especially as races like the Bol d’Or carry-on into the night. Mistakes from rider and crew can mean time lost, or worse, the end of a race.

That all being said, here is the Yamaha Austria Racing Team’s 2014 workhorse, in all its go-fast glory.

2014 Bol d’Or 24-Hour Race Results

04/27/2014 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The first round of the 2014 Endurance World Championship is in the bag, as the 24 hours of the Bol d’Or at Magny-Cours are now in the bag. Taking the top step on the podium was last year’s Bol d’Or winner, SRC Kawasaki, but the win didn’t come easily for the Kawasaki factory team.

“The week got off to a bad start. With Fabien Foret out and the crash for Matthieu, I wouldn’t have fancied us to win,” admitted SRC Kawasaki Team Manager Gilles Stafler. “The best win we ever had in a 24-hour race was our first in Le Mans in 2010. But this one was the toughest. There was also a luck factor in the choice of the tyres and we had the support of really top-notch technical staff.”

Because of Matthieu Lagrive’s crash during the free practice session, this meant that SRC Kawasaki teammate Gregory Leblanc and Nicolas Salchaud had to pretty much split the racing duties for the 24-hour race. At one point, SRC Kawasaki was in the 20th spot, after an early crash, but the team rallied together, and capitalized on the misfortunes of others to bring home another Bol d’Or win.

Finishing five laps down, in second, was the Yamaha France’s factory-supported team: Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin; and in third was the Superstock Class leader, Junior Team LMS Suzuki, which was 11 laps down at the finish.

Noticeably absent from the finishing board were the usual suspects of Honda Racing, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), all of whom had to retire mid-race because of mechanical troubles, but had strong showings prior to their retirements.

How to Watch the 2014 Bol d’Or 24 Hour Endurance Race

04/26/2014 @ 12:26 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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The Endurance World Championship season is about to start, with the 2014 Bol d’Or 24-Hour race kicking off in just a few hours in Magny-Cours. But woe is you, you have no way of watching the race, right? Pssh…Asphalt & Rubber has you covered, my endurance loving friend.

Well actually, the FIM does…we are just making things putting-on-pants-easy for you in terms of watching the live stream and timing on your computer box. Sit back, relax, and watch 24-hours of motorcycle racing goodness from the comfort of your monitor’s warm glow. Go ahead, take your shoes off. We won’t mind. Racing starts 6am Pacific time, 9am Eastern.

2014 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 Debuts

04/25/2014 @ 1:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

BOL D OR 2014 DAY TEST TEAM SUZUKI SERT BIKE TE TEAM

As usual, the team to beat in the Endurance World Championship is the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Taking the 2013 title by a thin five-point margin though, SERT’s history of dominance in endruance racing is certainly being challenged. Biting at its heels are the factory teams from Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda — all of whom have strong teams for the 2014 season.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same — which applies equally well for the 2014 Suzuki GSX-R1000 which SERT will once again be campaigning in the EWC. The 2014 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 looks like almost a carbon-copy of last year’s machine, and we will just assume that they don’t want to change a winning formula.

At the helm of the SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 are team regulars Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle, who will be joined by Erwan Nigon and reserve rider Damian Cudlin. With 13 Endurance World Championship under its belt, SERT will look for its 14th title this year, and their title defense starts tomorrow with the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race at Magny-Cours, France.

Video: Honda Racing Previews the Bol d’Or 24hr with Its New EWC “Specialist” Team

04/24/2014 @ 3:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

BOL D OR 2014 DAY TEST TEAM HONDA RACING

Honda Racing is back for another season in the Endurance World Championship, replacing the OEM’s lineup of “TT Legends” is a group of French endurance specialists — tipping Honda’s hand to make a serious bid for the Championship title.

Gearing up for the EWC’s first round this weekend, the Bol d’Or at Magny-Course, Julien Da Costa, Freddy Foray, and Sebastien Gimbert will be riding the 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP.

The trio have a bevy of EWC experience under their belts, and HRC seems to finally have its logistics and team sorted out for EWC duty. Endurance fans, expect to see strong results from Honda this year.

TT Legends — Episode 8: The 24 Hours of Le Mans

03/05/2014 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

24 H DU MANS 2012 TEAM HONDA TT LEGENDE

We knew at some point that the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary would have to come to an end, and today is that day. For the last seven Wednesday’s, we have been enjoying the racing antics of the Honda TT Legends team, as they compete in road racing and endurance events.

Our final installment comes from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which also happens to be the final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar. The Honda TT Legends crew is mathematically in the hunt for the Championship victory, but they need a solid result at Le Mans to solidify a Top 3 position.

TT Legends — Episode 7: The Oschersleben 8hr

02/26/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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We don’t know about you, but the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary is really giving us a reason to look forward to Wednesday. In fact it might even be the most popular event at the A&R office since No-Pants Fridays. Sadly, Episode Seven is the penultimate installment, but all good things must come to an end, right?

Today’s video takes us to Germany, for the Oschersleben 8hr. Perhaps not the biggest event on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it was a decisive round for the Honda TT Legends squad for the 2012 EWC title. As usually, it’s a great look into this top-level team, and your favorite TT heroes have more than enough personality to keep you entertained.

TT Legends — Episode 6: The Suzuka 8 Hours

02/19/2014 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Episode Six of the “TT Legends” documentary is out, and it has the Honda TT Legends crew leaving the Isle of Man for Japan. Taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, one of the stops in the Endurance World Championship, the Honda-supported team is racing for the OEM’s glory.

Perhaps not the biggest of races here in the United States or in Europe, but for the Japanese, Suzuka is a huge deal. A place where bragging rights for the Japanese OEMs are born, in the past it hasn’t been uncommon to see OEMs stack their teams with WSBK and GP racers (even Kevin Schwantz raced at Suzuka last year).

Eight hours of racing anywhere is brutal, but at Suzuka, the intense heat and humidity is always an additional factor. Riders cool down in swimming pools, and drink their weight in Gatorade. A truly fantastic event, it should be on any enthusiasts’ bucket list — just be sure to pack a pair of shorts.