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 Much Does a Motorcycle Crash Cost?

11/29/2012 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

In 2010, 439,678 motorcycles were sold in the United States. In that same year, 82,000 motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle crashes, and 4,502 were killed. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the direct cost of these motorcycle crashes was $16 billion or more. Thirty-times more likely to die in a vehicle accident, the typical fatal motorcycle crash costs an estimated $1.2 million according to the report, while non-fatal crashes range from $2,500 to $1.4 million depending upon the severity of the injuries and incidents.

In making its recommendations to curtail the costs associated with motorcycle crashes, the GAO says that only effective measure is the mandatory use of a motorcycle helmet. Citing several studies that say motorcycle helmets reduce the fatality rate of motorcycle crashes by 39%, the GAO also cites the NHTSA, which says that motorcycle helmets prevented 1,550 deaths in 2010. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) says helmets saved the economy $3 billion in those 1,550 instances.

This information seems to confound Jeff Hennie, Vice President of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), who told the Associated Press that his group is “100% pro-helmet, and 100% anti-helmet law,” and went on to state that “putting a helmet law in place does not reduce motorcycle fatalities.” The MRF has the stated goal of promoting motorcycle education and training, but a track record of ignoring the prior, while failing to achieve the latter.

GHSA Praises Report Calling for Motorcycle Safety Changes

11/27/2012 @ 3:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has issued a press release that praises the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for its call to Congress for changes in motorcycle safety.

The GAO’s recommendation basically breaks down into two points: 1) Congress should give states more flexibility in the way they use funds that have been earmarked to tackle motorcycle safety, and 2) that the NHTSA should provide states with more comprehensive information about motorcycle crashes and injuries.

The second point is perhaps the most important, as it has become painfully obvious that the government, both at the state and federal level, has little concrete information about the causes of motorcycle crashes and injuries.

While we are still using information collected almost 40-years-ago from the Hurt Report, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has contended that the motorcycle landscape has changed so significantly in that timeframe that the Hurt Report was conducted that it no longer accurately quantifies the dangers and conditions present for motorcyclists.

The Politics of Racing: Dorna Talks Argentina’s Cancellation

11/23/2012 @ 6:20 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Along with its third iteration of the 2013 MotoGP Championship’s provisional calendar, Dorna has issued a statement regarding the removal of the Argentinian round from the racing schedule for next year. In its brief statement about the “non-inclusion,” Dorna cites the Spanish government’s recommendation in June of this year, which said that Repsol teams and riders should not travel to Argentina for safety reasons.

Dorna also states that on November 20th, the Spanish government rescinded this “no travel” recommendation; however, because the deadline for the calendar was November 18th, the MotoGP rights holder had no choice but to cancel of the Argentinian GP. Read in between the lines as you will, the press release is after the jump.

Marco Melandri Convicted of Tax Evasion in Italy

10/26/2012 @ 10:17 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Marco Melandri has been given a suspended jail term of one year and seven months for tax evasion by a court in his home town of Ravenna. Melandri was found guilty of trying to evade taxes during the period he lived in Derby, in the UK, the court finding that Melandri’s residence for tax purposes should have been in Ravenna, Italy, Melandri’s home town.

Melandri was a resident in the UK to take advantage of the British non-domiciled resident status, which allows wealthy non-UK citizens with large incomes from sources outside the UK to avoid paying tax on that income. Melandri was one of several riders who had elected to have their residence in Britain for precisely that reason.

As California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars, Are Motorcycling’s Days Numbered?

09/26/2012 @ 7:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

The movement of transportation as a commodity continues, as California has become the second state to legalize the use of automated cars on its roadways (Nevada was first).

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today SB 1298, which specifically legalizes the use of autonomous vehicles, as long as a licensed and bonded operator is in the vehicle’s driver seat.

Essentially legitimizing what was a legal grey-area, what the bill does does explicitly is green-light more autonomous vehicle projects in the Golden State.

With applications from the trucking industry to the car-sharing, and everything in-between, the advent of autonomous four-wheelers signals an interesting, yet scary, future for motorcyclists.

According to former Ford/Chrysler/GM-man Bob Lutz, self-driving cars could be the norm in as few as 20 years — an idea the could materially change the driving landscape as we know it.

As autonomous vehicles become increasing the status quo on the road, user-guided vehicles like motorcycles will become greater outliers, and could face a tyranny of the majority.

US Senate Ponders Electric Motorcycle Tax Credit Extension

08/07/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A pivotal moment on Capital Hill for the electric motorcycle segment, as the US Senate Finance Committee has green-lit a bill that would extend tax credits for on-road electric vehicles, which include electric motorcycles. The measure now goes to the full body of the US Senate for voting, and if passed, then$2,500 in tax credits will continue to be given on electric vehicle purchases.

“Without an extension of this tax credit for the purchase of electric motorcycles, we could be stifling this innovative new industry in its infancy,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). A testament to the lobbying power of electric motorcycle manufacturers, Sen. Wyden is at least correct in his assessment that the federal and state subsidies available to electric vehicle manufacturers create a tipping-scale advantage for this fledgling industry.

European Union Approves Audi’s Acquisition of Ducati

07/05/2012 @ 3:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The final rubber stamp of approval to Audi AG’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding, the European Commission has cleared the transaction of any antitrust red tape. A deal that was over a year in the making, the German automaker bought the Italian motorcycle company for a cool €860 million, including debt. Positioning Audi, and its parent-company Volkswagen, to take-on the likes of the BMW Group, the deal was met with mixed-emotions in the automotive and motorcycling communities during its announcement.

CDC Says $3 Billion Saved in 2010 Thanks to Helmet Laws

06/15/2012 @ 7:25 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

The US Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an interesting report regarding the economic impact of motorcycle helmet laws, based on data from 2008-2010. While the takeaway shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it doesn’t take a genius to understand that more riders helmeted means fewer fatal crashes from motorcycles, the figures coming from the CDC with that observation are a bit shocking.

According to the statistical analysis done by the CDC, riders wearing helmets during a motorcycle crash were 37% less likely to receive fatal injuries than riders that were not wearing a helmet. Additionally, states with universal helmet usage laws are estimated to have save 4x as much in economic costs associated with medical, productivity, insurance, legal, and other expenses. For 2010, the total economic impact of having helmeted riders topped $3 billion in savings. Chewy.

California “Liberates” OHV Funds for Non-OHV Purposes

06/04/2012 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Despite being the eighth largest in the world, California is fairly upside-down when it comes to the state’s balance sheet. Looking for places to make up the difference, California has had to make some hard choices with its budgets and cash reserves.

One such choice of course has an effect on our dirt-loving two-wheeled brethren. With roughly $60 million in the Off-Highway Vehicles Trust Fund sitting on the books, the California State Assembly Budget Sub-Committee could not help but vote for a transfer of $31 million from the OHV fund to use for in non-OHV programs. Yay.

Pennsylvania Dealers to Be Allowed to Sell on Sundays?

05/16/2011 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Before I make my customary offensive remarks about states that aren’t California, it should be noted that we here at Asphalt & Rubber are eternally grateful for the fine Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our humble motorcycle news blog. That being said, it’s also good to see that the Keystone State has pulled its head out of its ass long enough to pass a bill (passed in the Senate, with the House still to vote) that would allow motorcycle dealers to sell motorcycles on Sundays, though car dealers will still have to abide by the current legislation.

“I’m not sure why it was ever done,” said State Representative Eugene DePasquale (York County). “I’ll leave it to legislators who were alive when that passed to answer that one.” Talking of keeping the status quo for car dealers, State Senator Richard Alloway II (Adams, Franklin, and York Counties), the bill’s co-sponsor, said, “I have heard a lot of car dealers like to be closed, so it’s a day people can walk lots with no pressure from anyone and window shop.”