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.

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT

05/24/2012 @ 5:43 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

For those who have never attended, the Isle of Man TT is truly a special race. I will concede the point that saying that the TT is merely “a special race” is a bit trite, as there is so much that encompasses the full experience one gets during the TT fortnight, that it becomes hard to explain to someone who has never attended the TT, even veteran motorcycle race journalists, what it is that makes the TT so special.

Part of this equation is the racing spectacle itself. Set on a small island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s quaint few towns serve as the venue for tens of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, while the roads between these villages are connected by the island’s lush countryside. It is hard to travel around the Isle without the island’s beauty striking you — something that is captured extremely well with the race’s many aerial shots via helicopter, but not fully grasped until it is witnessed in person.

The fan experience is truly unique as well. Inside the paddock in Douglas, the atmosphere is campy, an almost carnival affair, and while virtually any other racing venue would sequester the teams and riders from the fans, the TT’s paddock is wide-open, with the team garages setup rows, and constructed in an open pavilion layout that encourages passersby to stop, lean on the waist-high barriers that are maybe 10 feet from the mechanics’ bike lifts, and strike up a conversation with any team member that doesn’t seem to have a task at hand.

The experience is tenfold when one of the riders is present, which they often are, and even the greats of the sport are approachable and genuinely engaged with their fan base. Try getting that same experience at the next MotoGP or WSBK event you attend, and even in the AMA paddock you would be hard-pressed to get so much access and interaction to what goes on behind the scenes.

Then there is of course the racing, which all occurs on city streets and mountain roads. In the Superbike classes, the average speeds of the top riders exceeds 130 mph, with top speeds in the fastest sections cracking past 200 mph with regularity. Again I reiterate, this is all occurring on city streets, littered full of telephone polls, houses, trees, and of course fans. Speaking of fans on the course, imagine watching a race from the side of a hedgerow, at worst only 10 feet from the action, and in some cases only a few inches away. Experiencing motorcycle racing at such propinquity will take your breath away, if not figuratively then literally.

In my short time running Asphalt & Rubber, I have had the opportunity to cover motorcycle racing on four continents, and as I travel to my second Isle of Man TT, I know the next two weeks of racing will be unlike anything I have covered before in MotoGP, World Superbike, or AMA Pro Racing.

Is It Time for the Isle of Man TT Yet?

11/05/2011 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Put together by the TAS Relentless Suzuki squad, this short video about the Isle of Man TT is already getting me pumped up for next year’s races. Beautiful Manx scenery, the clever wit of Guy Martin, and of course true road-racing footage is a trifecta for anything good in the world. I could wax poetic a bit more, but then that would keep you from watching the video after the jump.

What Do IOMTT Riders Talk About After a Red Flag?

08/25/2011 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Rewind back to the 2011 Isle of Man TT and the Monster Energy Supersport 2 race, where a very soggy set of TT riders nearly mutinied against Race Direction for wanting to start the race under torrential conditions. With only the fastest of the riders making it onto their second lap, better discretion prevailed as the red flags came out and called the race cancelled due to weather (aiding that decision was the retirement of Gary Johnson and injury-free crash by Keith Amor).

With the top riders collected at Ballacraine, there were more than a few live cameras on the gathered motorcycles, which brings us to this video of Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, Bruce Anstey, Michael Dunlop, Dan Kneen, and Chris Kinley of Manx Radio discussing the day’s ride. Trading stories on how racer nearly killed themselves on the past lap and a quarter, what surprise sus in this video isn’t the content, but instead the carefree attitude each rider has towards how close they came to meeting their maker. A funny breed these TT racers are (don’t even get us started about the Dunlop brothers).

IOMTT: Come From Behind Win on Delayed Senior TT

06/10/2011 @ 10:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

The weather reared it’s ugly head again for the Isle of Man TT, this time showcasing the island’s unusual propensity for microclimates. While the lowlands baked in the sun (yes, this author got a nice sunburn on Friday), the Mountain saw rain clouds, standing water, and even hail at one point. This caused the main event of the fortnight, the Senior TT, to be delayed for several hours, which put-off many of the sun-blasted fans, but by the time the final TT race got underway, it was under perfect Manx afternoon conditions.

With all of the top riders showing to be in top form for the 2011 TT, good bets could have been placed on any of them. John McGuinness looked again on form after last week’s Dainese Superbike TT race win, noticeable more comfortable in the paddock. Contrast that with Guy Martin, who always a bridesmaid and never a bride, had just one more opportunity in the 2011 Isle of Man TT to find his first ever race win. With eyes on them, and the other top riders, the Pokerstars Senior TT got underway.

Movie Review: TT3D: Closer to the Edge

06/09/2011 @ 11:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Before one starts a review on the new TT3D: Closer to the Edge movie, one should note the film’s underlying purpose. Funded by the Isle of Man government, the hour and a half long movie is designed to promote the Isle of Man as a tourist destination, to promote the controversial fortnight-long TT racing event in a favorable light, and to cultivate potentially new fans of the TT by providing a primer to this year’s racing action. Part documentary, part advertising, there is accordingly an agenda with this film.

Now with that caveat of information brought to light and understood, I can go on to say that TT3D: Closer to the Edge is an enjoyably great film that makes you range the gamut of emotions as it follows John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson, and Guy Martin through the 2010 Isle of Man TT. Though the use of 3D filming is gimmicky at best, the short version of this review is that this is a movie that will end up on my DVD shelf as soon as it becomes available.

IOMTT: First-Time Winner in Supersport Race 2

06/09/2011 @ 3:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

After getting rained out on Wednesday, the Isle of Man TT took advantage of one of its contingency days, and set to racing on a cold but fairly sunny Thursday. Keith Amor surely was enjoying the better weather, as he found himself sliding down the tarmac before the first running of the second Supersport race was red flagged yesterday.

A handful of riders were favored for the top step on the podium in the 600cc class, and they would have four laps to sort out who it would be: King of the Mountain John McGuinness, win-less Guy Martin, or Race 1’s winner Bruce Anstey, just to name a few.

IOMTT: Popular Victory in Superstock Race

06/06/2011 @ 6:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The early morning warm sunshine gave way to cold cloud cover for Monday’s second race, the Royal London 360 Superstock race. Four laps of grand TT racing, the Superstock class is essentially street legal bikes with bolt-on pieces (along with race trim obviously), and thus a fairly analogous representation of what one could do around the Mountain Course…provided of course you have the mettle of a true TT racer. With a number of riders showing promise for the race win, all eyes were on the clock as the green flag dropped.

IOMTT: Video of Guy Martin Crashing at Creg Ny Baa

06/06/2011 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

In this morning’s Supersport race, Guy Martin found himself on the wrong end of the pavement at Creg Ny Baa, crashing into the safety barrier after over-shooting the corner. Unscathed, the TT rider was able to restart the race, after Race 1 of Supersport was red flagged for Derek Brien’s unfortunate crash. In the age of digital media, an Isle of Man TT spectator behind the safety fence of course got the crash on film, and has graciously posted it to YouTube for all to see. Check it out after the jump, as maybe a decade ago, this would have been a fatal mistake for the likable Guy Martin. Thanks for the tip John!

IOMTT: Supersport Race 1 Finishes Despite Red Flag

06/06/2011 @ 7:33 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Despite raining last night, Monday’s Isle of Man TT Monster Energy Supersport race started under promising skies, as the sun was mostly out through the cloudy skies. Though John McGuinness won the weekend’s Dainese Superbike TT, the Padgetts Motorcycles’ rider was not a favorite to win this year’s Supersport races, though still considered a strong competitor. Instead eyes were on Michael Dunlop, Cameron Donald, and Gary Johnson, with Guy Martin always a crowd favorite.

With racing starting well enough, it sadly did not last long as the race was red flagged as the race leaders entered into Ramsey. Though several competitors had crashed in the first lap, news soon spread that Derek Brien had crashed and died on the extremely fast Gorse Lea section of the course, where speeds are in excess of 140 mph.

With the Isle of Man TT officials giving riders a chance to restart the race, several crashers were given a second opportunity to tackle the Mountain Course with their 600cc machinery, one of whom was local hero Guy Martin. Though off to a rocky start, find out how the restarted Monster Energy Supersport Race unfolded after the jump.

TT3D: Closer to the Edge – A Documentary on the IOMTT

03/25/2011 @ 6:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Do you like the Isle of Man TT? Do you like the third dimension? Do you like watching bikes hurl down city streets at imprudent velocities? If you answered “yes!” to these questions, then we have the cinematic experience you’ve been waiting for your whole life. TT3D: Closer to the Edge (Facebook & Twitter) is a new movie coming out that documents the 2010 Isle of Man TT, and is the first feature-length 3D sport documentary to boot.

Packed with not only footage from the TT itself, the documentary also tells the story behind the race with segments on Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Conor Cummins, and Ian Hutchinson. The movie is narrated by Jared Leto, and should be hitting the big screen in April. We can’t wait for the premiere, but more importantly we can’t wait for the upcoming 100th running of the Mountain Course at the Isle of Man TT in June.