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.

Where Are the Motorcyclists in the USA?

02/18/2014 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

united-states-text-map-2

Talking to a European colleague the other day, I had to remind him that the United States is just as big and diverse as the European Union, with our country’s states being as unique as the sovereigns involved in the EU. The same goes for motorcycling in the US, with our sport and passion taking different shapes depending on your geography of this Great Union.

It tickled my fancy then, when today I saw a breakdown of motorcyclists by state in the United States, especially when the results were displayed on a per capita basis. Of the 8,410,255 motorcycles registered in the United States (D.O.T. figure, as of 2011), which states have the most motorcyclists by volume? The answer shouldn’t surprise you as California, Texas, and Florida take the top honors, likely due to their mild winters and coastal routes.

But which states have the highest concentrations of motorcyclists? Now that is where things get more interesting: South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Iowa. You’re a no good dirty liar if you say you predicted those three states to be at top of the list — with each stating sporting 12, 17, 18 and people per bike, respectively.

Unified Toll System in the Works for the Europe Union

01/23/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Bryan Delohery10 COMMENTS

tollbooth-kiosk-vintage

Since the inception of the European Union in 1993, politicians in the EU have been spouting off about the advantages of a “unified Europe,” claiming that it would bring all of its member states under one economic system with one currency, allowing them to act cooperatively for the “greater good.”

Of the many advantages touted to be included in the EU was the ability to travel freely between member states with no passports, unfortunately one crucial system that was not unified was the toll system.

Because the member states of the EU have been left to implement their own system to collect toll fares, this has left traveling between countries difficult and often expensive, which is why EU is planning to implement the European Electronic Toll Service.

AMA Warns Against Possible Nationwide Helmet Law

11/11/2013 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler89 COMMENTS

Human-Head-Motorcycle-Helmet

The American Motorcyclist Association recently issued a bulletin stating that a federal task force from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is poised to recommend a nationwide mandatory helmet law. True to form, the AMA is opposed to the recommendation.

Citing the organization’s official party line, AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard said that while the AMA strongly advocates helmet use, the organization believes that motorcyclists should have the right to choose whether or not they wear a helmet.

The AMA press release goes on to refute the CDC task force’s claim (one that is backed up by the GAO, we might add) that there could be a meaningful economic benefit from drafting mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, citing that helmets do not prevent motorcycle crashes, that fatalities from motorcycle crashes are too few in number, and that their reduction would have no meaningful impact on the economy.

The AMA then also reiterated one of its main talking points, that the best way to reduce rider fatalities is to not crash in the first place, and thus programs in rider safety and training should be the focus of the government, not a mandatory helmet initiative.

Honestly though, it is about time that the AMA, and we as motorcyclists, got a bit more honest and real about motorcycle safety, and stopped capitulating to a vocal group of libertarian riders who see riding without a helmet as an integral part of motorcycling culture.

California Scraps Anti-Lane Splitting Law

02/27/2013 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

California-State-Flag

No sooner did the California Highway Patrol attempt to demistify its rulebook for lane-splitting in the Golden State, then did California State Senate Bill 350 get drafted and put on the state’s voting docket. A piece of legislation put forth by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), S.B. 350 would have put greater restrictions on motorcyclists’ ability to lane-split on Californian highways.

Introduced on February 20th, Senator Beall’s proposed law would have made lane-splitting legal in only certain circumstances: on divided highways with three or more lanes of travel in the same direction, only when traffic is congested, and only at “a safe” speed.

California Highway Patrol Posts Guidelines for Lane-Splitting

02/15/2013 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Live outside the Golden State, and you realize that California is a special place, in virtually every sense of the word. As a sixth-generation inhabitant of the world’s ninth largest economy, regular readers of A&R will already have made note that I am somewhat militant about California, and one of the many reasons for this is the state’s pro-motorcycle culture.

Land of perpetual sunshine, abundant coastal and mountain roads, and the epicenter of the American motorcycle industry, California has another thing going for motorcyclists as well: you can lane-split here. You motorcyclists in the other 49 states of the Union don’t understand what you are missing with this simple act, and if there was one single law that the AMA/MIC should be pushing to pass in every state in order to help swell the ranks of motorcyclists on the road, it would be laws allowing lane-splitting (also known as lane-sharing, or lane-filtering).

What is driving in a safe and prudent manner though? A highly subjective and poorly defined bit of phrasing, the CHP and state legislature have done themselves a disservice in waiting so long to define exactly how they interpret this provision. After all, there is no provision in the CVC that outlaws steering a car with one’s feet, though one would think the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would certainly, and rightfully, ticket you back to the stone age for such an action.

Lane-splitting in California is no different, with no working definition on what was “safe and prudent” on a motorcycle, common practice and adoption have taken hold of the two-wheeled art of getting through traffic congestion. Thought originally to be a concession to the air-cooled machines of the time, lane-splitting catered well to motorcycle riders whose machines would quickly overheat while sitting in traffic.

Also a relic of a time when highway congestion of was considerably less of an issue than its current metropolitan pandemic, for lack of a better reason, California’s pro lane-splitting stance persists because the state has waited too long to act otherwise, and we are that much better for it.

However, what constitutes “safe and prudent” lane-splitting has always been a mystery box definition for motorcyclists, and when left to the subjective opinion of a CHP officer, the application of “the rules” can be varied, at best.

Have You Signed the Petition to Stop the Funding of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints Yet?

01/28/2013 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

dont-tread-on-me-motorcycle

We are getting to the home-stretch in our campaign to petition the federal government to stop the funding of motorcycle-only checkpoints, so the question is: have YOU signed it yet (and shared it with your moto-loving friends)?

First implemented by the State of New York, inspection checkpoints that apply only to motorcycles have become a more common practice across the United States, and are an act of discrimination that is primarily due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) funding of the practice through special grants.

Implemented under the guise of operating for the public’s safety, states like New York have been able to target motorcyclists at checkpoints for vehicle and passenger inspection, even when the motorcyclists have broken no apparent laws, with no similar checkpoints being setup for automobile drivers.

An alarming trend in the unfair application of the law, some states, like California, have been able to preemptively ban the practice through their legislative branches; however, other states like New York have continue using motorcycle-only checkpoints, with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently affirming motorcycle-only checkpoints as lawful in New York.

Over two years ago, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) urged NHTSA Administrator David Strickland to cease the NHTSA’s funding of motorcycle-only checkpoints. After denying the request, the NHTSA has continued to provide federal funds to state and local police programs for the specific use of these checkpoints (the NHTSA’s response is here).

While the issue will be delayed for years in the courts, there is something that we as motorcyclists can do now in order to enact change. You may have already heard of The White House’s “We the People” website, a site where citizens can petition the federal government for specific actions, and if enough people sign a petition, President Obama and his staff have to take the matter under consideration. Click here to sign the petition.

An FAQ on the Petition Against the NHTSA’s Funding of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

01/09/2013 @ 8:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

dont-tread-on-me-motorcycle

Twenty-four hours after starting a petition to the White House about ending the federal government’s funding of discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints, I am pleased to announce that the first hurdle of signatures has been reached, and the petition now sits on the front-page of the “We the People” website for the Obama Administration.

If in 30 days the petition can reach 25,000 signatures, it will be put before The President of the United States of America for a formal response. There is a long road ahead, but there is a chance here for us as motorcyclists to have some influence on the laws that affect us. To help explain the situation with motorcycle-only checkpoints, the process of petitioning the federal government, and some responses to nay-sayers, I’ve put the following FAQ together. And in case you haven’t already, click here to sign the petition.

Help Petition the Federal Government To Stop Funding Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

01/08/2013 @ 5:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

we-the-people-constitution

Want to take a stand for the rights of motorcyclists? Here is your chance to stop the practice of motorcycle-only checkpoints. First implemented by the State of New York, inspection checkpoints that apply only to motorcycles have become a more common practice across the United States, and are an act of discrimination that is primarily due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) funding of the practice through special grants.

Implemented under the guise of operating for the public’s safety, states like New York have been able to target motorcyclists at checkpoints for vehicle and passenger inspection, even when the motorcyclists have broken no apparent laws, with no similar checkpoints being setup for automobile drivers.

An alarming trend in the unfair application of the law, some states, like California, have been able to preemptively ban the practice through their legislative branches; however, other states like New York have continue using motorcycle-only checkpoints, with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently affirming motorcycle-only checkpoints as lawful in New York.

Over two years ago, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) urged NHTSA Administrator David Strickland to cease the NHTSA’s funding of motorcycle-only checkpoints. After denying the request, the NHTSA has continued to provide federal funds to state and local police programs for the specific use of these checkpoints (the NHTSA’s response is here).

While the issue will be delayed for years in the courts, there is something that we as motorcyclists can do now in order to enact change. You may have already heard of The White House’s “We the People” website, a site where citizens can petition the federal government for specific actions, and if enough people sign a petition, President Obama and his staff have to take the matter under consideration. Click here to sign the petition.

EPA Scrapping Four-Gallon Minimum on E15 Fill-Ups

12/20/2012 @ 1:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

I have to admit, the whole E15 controversy that has been brewing between the EPA and AMA has me a bit confused. Namely, I do not know how the EPA ever thought that a four-gallon minimum purchase requirement solved anything for powersport users who were concerned about putting E15 in the tanks of their motorcycles and ATVs.

Realizing that a solution to the actual problem had to be devised, the EPA has now dropped the four-gallon minimum on fuel pumps that dispense E10 and E15 from the same pump, and instead the government body says it will likely require gas stations to label shared pumps, as well as offer a dedicated E10 pump/hose for vehicles.

Palestine Becomes a Member of the FIM

12/06/2012 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme General Assembly met in Monte-Carlo this past weekend, where 76 of 107 of the member federations were in attendance. Conducting a bit of FIM business, one of the more interesting points to note from the meeting was the FIM General Assembly’s acceptance of two new applications to join the FIM. One of the applications came from Fédération Motocycliste de Côte d’Ivoire (FMCI), which replaces the Ivory Coast’s previous federation, the FISAM.

The second application though is a bit more interesting, as the FIM General Assembly accepted the Palestinian Motor Sport and Motorcycle Federation (PMSMF) as the FIM’s 108th member federation. Able to accomplish what the United Nations has been unable to do in the past 25 years, the FIM acceptance is a growing trend in international politics, and it adds recognition to the the eight-year-old PMSMF, which has already be granted member status in the car realm with the FIA.