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.

Friday Summary at Sachsenring: How a Simple Crash Can Change the Course of a Championship

07/12/2013 @ 7:30 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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There’s an expression in the Dutch language, “een ongeluk zit in een klein hoekje,” which translates literally as “accidents hide in small corners.” It seems particularly relevant at the Sachsenring on Friday, as while there were crashes galore at Turn 11, the fast corner at the top of the long downhill run to the two final left handers, Jorge Lorenzo crashed at Turn 10, the uphill left which precedes Turn 11.

It is not much of a corner, just the last of the long sequence of left handers which proceed from the Omegakurve towards the top of the hill, and the plunge down the waterfall. But it was enough to bend the titanium plate holding Jorge Lorenzo’s collarbone together, and put him out of the German Grand Prix, and maybe Laguna Seca as well. That relatively minor corner may have ended Jorge Lorenzo’s championship hopes.

MotoGP: Lorenzo Damages Collarbone in Crash, Won’t Race

07/12/2013 @ 11:18 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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Jorge Lorenzo’s title hopes have suffered a major setback. The Spaniard crashed heavily during the second session of free practice at the Sachsenring, being thrown from his bike at Turn 10, the final left hander before the fast right hander at the top of the hill. Lorenzo fell on his left shoulder once again, getting up clearly in pain.

The reigning world champion was taken to the medical center, where scans suggested that his collarbone had sustained further damage. He was then transported to hospital, where further tests revealed the plate on his collarbone had become bent, and would have to be replaced.

Unlike Assen, however, Lorenzo will not make a dramatic return to the circuit, and is almost certain to skip both the Sachsenring race and the Laguna Seca round next weekend. That would give the Spaniard over a month to recover, in time for the following round of MotoGP at Indianapolis, in mid-August.

Bending the plate holding a collarbone together is a common occurrence amongst racers, even months or years after the original accident which required the plate to be fitted. A heavy crash on a plated collarbone will sometimes cause it to bend, requiring the plate to be replaced.

Thursday Summary at Sachsenring: On Rossi’s Return, Pedrosa’s Invincibility, & Riding Injured

07/12/2013 @ 12:04 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The big question, of course, is can he do it again? After taking his first win in two-and-a-half years and 45 races (after Assen, there were a lot of tortuous calculations being made trying to squeeze the number ’46’ in somewhere) since his previous one, the question is, was it just a one-off or is Valentino Rossi capable of fighting for the win every weekend from now on?

It’s a tough call to make, but on the evidence so far, things are looking good for the Italian. Rossi’s braking problem appears to have been solved, allowing him to ride in the way he wants to. The front end tweaks which his crew chief Jeremy Burgess found at Aragon seem to have worked, and given Rossi confidence in braking again.

Just what those changes were? Matt Birt, writing over on the MCN website, has a full explanation of the changes made by Burgess, but the short version is that they found a solution to cope with the softer construction front Bridgestone tires introduced last year.

Revised fork innards, including changed shims, has made the first part of the fork travel a stiff enough to compensate for the softer tire construction, allowing him to brake harder, yet still turn the bike. Now able to enter corners as he wishes, he should be able to at least fight with the front runners from the start.

Being competitive and winning at the Sachsenring are two different things, however. While the Sachsenring is a track where Rossi has always done well – not like Mugello, perhaps, but still good enough – there is the small matter of Dani Pedrosa to deal with.

The Repsol Honda man has won the race for the last three years, and would have won a couple more with a little more luck. The man himself has no real explanation for why he is so fast around the circuit, other than remarking that he enjoys the corners around the track, but the fact remains that Pedrosa is nigh-on invincible around the Sachsenring.

“Yamaha is Working with Tech 3 to Try to Keep Crutchlow”

07/03/2013 @ 4:02 pm, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

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With three podiums and a pole position this year, Cal Crutchlow’s stock continues to rise. As the only top rider out of contract, there is much speculation about where the talented Englishman could end up.

All three factories have expressed an interest in Crutchlow, with Ducati and Yamaha the frontrunners to secure his services for next year. Crutchlow has made his preference clear: to remain at Yamaha, either in the factory team or at Tech 3, with the kind of factory support given to Stefan Bradl in the LCR Honda team by HRC.

For Yamaha, the situation is more complicated. With reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo on the books, as well as nine-time former champ Valentino Rossi, Yamaha currently has no room in the factory team.

And with Bradley Smith on a two-year contract, the factory faces a dilemma: hang on to Cal Crutchlow for another year in the satellite team, or go for a young talent like Pol Espargaro, in the hope that they can develop into a rider to take on Marc Marquez for the next few years.

2013 MotoGP Championship Provisional Calendar v.4

12/11/2012 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The fourth time is a charm, as Dorna has released a revised version of the 2013 MotoGP Championship calendar today. As expected, the Sachsenring round has been moved back a week, so as not to conflict with Formula One’s schedule in the region.

Additionally, the Spanish GP at Jerez has been confirmed, and will remain on the schedule through the 2015 season. The Andalucian Government, Jerez City Council, and Dorna came to agreement to keep the popular event financed for the next three years.

MotoGP: Sachsenring Race Date Could Change…Again

12/07/2012 @ 1:29 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

The date of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring is once again surrounded by uncertainty. A minor readjustment of the Formula One calendar means that the German F1 and MotoGP races are once again scheduled for the same date, July 7th, meaning that the Sachsenring race could well be forced to move to the following week, July 14th being an option, according to German-language website Speedweek.

Monday Addendum at Sachsenring: Sometimes, The Winner Gets Overlooked

07/10/2012 @ 12:48 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

There was one glaring omission from the post-Sachsenring roundup I wrote on Sunday night. Well, two actually, but the biggest was that I neglected to give Dani Pedrosa the attention he deserved for a fantastic win, his first in over nine months. Pedrosa managed the race brilliantly, starting on a bike which had seen massive changes ahead of the race, and which he took a few laps to get accustomed to.

He did so by dropping behind Stoner, and following in the wake of the reigning World Champion, until he was comfortable enough to make a pass. He accomplished this with ease, and the pair engaged in some synchronized drifting until the end of the race, when Pedrosa upped his pace and forced Stoner into an error. The Australian may have believed that he had the pace and the moves to beat Pedrosa, but the fact that he crashed would suggest that Pedrosa was forcing Stoner much closer to the limit than the champion realized.

The win was important to Pedrosa, not just because he has not yet put pen to paper on the two-year extension of his Repsol Honda deal, but also because he felt he owed it to his team for all the hard work they have put in, he said. This year, he had felt very comfortable on the bike – chatter notwithstanding, from both the rear with the existing tire and from the front with new ’33’ spec tire – and he felt he had the pace to win. But every time there was always someone else who was faster on the day. Until Sunday.

MotoGP: About Bridgestone’s Tire Failures at Assen

07/09/2012 @ 7:03 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

The tire problems experienced by Valentino Rossi and Ben Spies at Assen, where great chunks of rubber came off the right side of the rear of the tire, slowing Spies up severely and affecting Rossi so badly he was forced to pit for a new tire, have been the subject of much speculation and discussion since the event. Spies was particularly shaken after the race, the tire problems bringing back bad memories of the 300 km/h tire failure and monster crash he had at Daytona back in 2003, which he still has the scars to show from.

Nearly a week on, and after examination by Bridgestone technicians back at the factory in Japan, we can start to draw a few preliminary conclusions as to the cause of the problems. Bridgestone have issued a press release and briefed the press directly, and the riders have weighed in with their thoughts and impressions of what happened. Before pointing fingers and apportioning blame, let us first walk through what we know of what actually happened.

2013 KTM Moto3 250 GPR Production Race Bike

07/09/2012 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Taking advantage of a quasi-home round for the MotoGP Championship at the German GP, Austrian company KTM debuted it latest “ready to race” machine, the 2013 KTM Moto3 250 GPR production race bike. A for-sale-version of its Moto3 Championship contender, the KTM Moto3 250 GPR borrows heavily from its GP-class predecessor, though comes in a slightly lower state of tune.

Featuring forged aluminum OZ wheels instead of magnesium ones, the production racer also comes sans Brembo brakes and WP suspension (items race teams would likely get from suppliers separately anyways). There is however one big technical difference, as KTM has reduced the bike’s maximum engine speed to 13,500 rpm, down from the 14,000 found on the factory bikes. This leaves the 2013 KTM Moto3 250 GPR production racer with just under 50hp on tap.

Sunday Summary at Sachsenring: Of Why He Who Dares, Wins. Sometimes…

07/08/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

Bold and fearless or brash and ill-advised? There was a lot of that sort of thing at the Sachsenring on Sunday, in all three classes. (Spoiler Alert — Ed.) The most obvious example begging that question was what would have been Casey Stoner’s last-corner lunge past Dani Pedrosa, had it not gone horribly wrong as he lined the pass up the corner before. We’ll come to that later, but with a Moto3 race run in drying conditions and a Moto2 race where one of the favorites had to start from well down on the grid, there were plenty more to choose from.