Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

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.

Texas Legislature Postures over $25 Million Subsidy for Formula 1 – But What Does it Mean for MotoGP?

04/19/2011 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

A tremendous commotion was started today, as a panel in the Texas Senate decided to cut the $25 million subsidy set aside to help bring Formula 1 to the city of Austin, Texas. Immediately this sent concerns through the motorcycling press as to what it could mean for MotoGP and the Texan GP scheduled to be held in 2013, as it seemed the State of Texas was pulling its support from the still un-built Circuit of the Americas.

The short answer to that question is nothing, as the $25 million was ear-marked to go directly into Formula 1’s pocket, not to MotoGP’s coffers. However, the long answer to the question is a bit more convoluted, as MotoGP’s running in Austin is intrinsically linked to Formula 1 coming to the Texan track, which this budgetary decision seemingly directly affects.

Harley-Davidson the Official Motorcycle of Pennsylvania?

04/18/2011 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Fresh on the heels of Wisconsin’s Harley-Davidson branded license plates, the Keystone State is set to make Harley-Davidson the official motorcycle of Pennsylvania. An honor already bestowed by Wisconsin this past February, Pennsylvania also has a bill in the state’s House of Representatives that would give special status to the Bar & Shield.

Sponsored by Representative William Kortz (D-Allegheny County), the Pennsylvania law would pay homage to the “thousands of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts [who] have trekked to York to witness firsthand the living legacy of Harley-Davidson USA.” The bill continues on with some feel-good patriotic sentiment, saying that “the Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a true-blue American iron horse manufactured in Pennsylvania by American workers using American steel.”

Wisconsin Offers Harley-Davidson Branded License Plates

04/15/2011 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The great State of Wisconsin has begun to offer Harley-Davidson branded vanity license plates to its four-wheeled constituency. With the words “Share the Road” wedged underneath a double-dose of Harley-Davidson branding, the proceeds of the new plates will go to help fund State-sponsored motorcycle safety programs (a worthy cause).

Admittedly, we’re having a hard time with this story. On the one-hand, we love to see that motorcycle safety courses and programs are getting funded. There is a need to educate new riders, and to generally be good stewards for our sport and industry. On the other hand though, we generally frown on the commercialization of public programs, and while Wisconsin is the home of America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the whole thing just feels dirty.

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

04/06/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law.

I should preface that there are two separate proposals being lobbied in Michigan. First there is House Bill 2008, submitted by Rep. Richard LeBlanc, and the Michigan State Senate has its own bill to contend with, Senate Bill 291, which is co-sponsored by five Democrat and twelve Republican State Senators. The bill in the Senate is your typical approach to helmet laws, and holds that anyone who is over 21, and has either passed a motorcycle safety course, or had a motorcycle endorsement for two years, can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

Brno Needs National Support for 2012 MotoGP Race

03/18/2011 @ 6:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The times are certainly tough race circuits right now. On the MotoGP roster the Hungarian Balatonring has become almost the unicorn of the paddock, while the Jerez de la Frontera Circuit is in financial crisis. Similarly back home in the United States, New Jersey Motorsports Park is going through a bankruptcy proceeding that should see the track come out unscathed, but frames the picture nicely none-the-less (not counting the increasingly popular Motorland Aragon).

Add to this list now the Automotodrom Brno, as the Czech track is facing financial concerns of its own. While the Brno round is secure for the 2011 season, talk is beginning if the track can operate in the 2012 season without national support. While the Czech GP brings in substantial revenue for the area surrounding it and the Czech Republic as a whole, the latter entity gives virtually no support to the racing event.

New Jersey to Allow Motorcycle Dealers to Sell on Sundays

03/14/2011 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

If you read Asphalt & Rubber regularly, you’ve likely realized that New Jersey isn’t exactly our favorite state. Really, it’s any state that’s not California that gets some loving jabs from us, and even then we have our preferences on where is the best locale in The Golden State. It’s all good fun to us, and we thank the citizens in the rest of the US for playing with to our humors. That being said, New Jersey is rapidly improving its standing here at A&R (recent office polls place it higher than Iowa!), signing into law today a bill that will allow dealers in New Jersey to sell motorcycles on Sunday. Amen.

Oregon Considers No Helmet Law

02/15/2011 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

I love our neighbors to the north, endless outdoor fun, progressive thinking, and an affinity for things of a more “crunchy” nature. But as a 5th-generation Californian, it is ingrained in my head to fear and mistrust the oppressive dictatorship and hate machine the Oregonians run (the California public school system starts this process in the second grade), as they steal children in the middle of the night and brainwash them into Birkenstock-wearing slave labor and questionable physical hygiene boot camps.

So it comes as some surprise that the Oregon State House of Representatives is introducing a bill to allow motorcycle riders, ages 21 and over, the choice of whether they want to ride with helmets or not (an act that misguided tea party wannabes equate with freedom on the open road).

AMA Spits Some Venom at Gov. Schwarzenegger During AMA Motorcyclist of the Year Announcement

12/08/2010 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

The AMA has announced its AMA Motorcyclist of the Year, and  the organization that represents all American motorcyclists has chosens Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California for its yearly distinction. Using the award as a platform to denounce the outgoing Governor, the AMA in its announcement chastised Gov. Schwarzenegger for his signing of California Senate Bill 435, which brings EPA noise enforcement standards to the Golden State. We’ve already addressed here at A&R how California’s adoption of this law essentially is a moot point legally, but the AMA’s grandstanding on this issue smacks speaks to a larger issue that goes to the core of the organization.

Clearly unable to self-regulate and educate the very people it is supposed to represent, the AMA is instead more concerned with tar and feathering politicians and governmental agencies for addressing a growing issue that negatively affects the relationship between motorcyclists and the general population. The simple truth is that a small portion of our community feel the need to compensate for their short-comings by running straight-through exhaust pipes that not only annoy normal citizens, but other motorcyclists as well. How is this an issue that 99% of motorcyclists can’t get behind?

While the AMA has some good ideas on how to measure and enforce lower sound levels from motorcycles, the organization’s lack of anything resembling efficacy in getting those provisions adopted should not create an open license to lay the blame on others (well except maybe the MIC, which is just as culpable for this problem as the AMA). While it’s easy to chastise Gov. Schwarzenegger for signing a bill into law, we think the AMA should take a harder look in the mirror on how motorcyclists created this problem for themselves, because in the end we’re the ones that ruined a good thing.

AMA press release after the jump, but for the record we would have given the award to Erik Buell…but hey that’s just our opinion.

Making the Better Speed Camera

12/07/2010 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

What gets rewarded, gets done. That’s a concept I learned on my first day of business school (big shout out to Dr. Denny Gioia). While we were being taught in the context of managing a workforce, it applies just as easily to people in general, for example in a government’s influence over its citizenry. This point was clearly not lost on Kevin Richardson, an American who answered Volkswagen’s call to build a better speed camera for traffic enforcement.

A part of Volkwagen’s Fun Theory experiments, Richardson designed, built, and implemented a sort of speed camera lottery. Ticketing motorists it catches speeding, Richardson’s speed camera also rewards people who comply with the posted speed limit, entering law abiding citizens into a lottery whose pot consists of a portion of the fines collected by speeders caught on the camera. Brilliant! But does it work?

Harley-Davidson Turns Down $25 Million Tax Credit

11/15/2010 @ 8:56 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Two months ago when Harley-Davidson stuck an ultimatum to its union workers, the company asked for work force concessions while it threatend to move production out of its Tomahawk and Menomonee Falls. Hoping to help sway the vote and keep Harley put, the State of Wisconsin extended Harley-Davidson a $25 million tax incentive to help lure the company into keeping production at its Wisconsin facilities. While the unions eventually caved to Harley-Davidson’s will, the Bar & Shield company announced today that it will not be taking Wisconsin up on its offer for tax breaks.