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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Matt Levatich Named The New CEO of Harley-Davidson

02/04/2015 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In a surprise press release late-today, Harley-Davidson announced that Matt Levatich will be taking over as the company’s CEO, starting May 1, 2015. Levatich will replace current CEO Keith Wandell, who took on his role in the company on May 1, 2009 — in the middle of the great economic recession.

The news is perhaps less shocking to industry insiders and analysts, who are familiar with the reasons behind Wandell’s tenure as CEO, and where Harley-Davidson stands today.

For sometime now we have been wondering when Harley-Davidson would initiate the next phase of its business plan, and whether Wandell would be a part of the company going forward.

As the symmetry of the tenure shows, today’s news is also a tip by Harley-Davidson that the swap in CEOs is due more to a new company direction than a reflection on performance.

Harley-Davidson Recalls 19,000 Motorcycles

01/01/2015 @ 3:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson has issued a recall for 19,015 motorcycles that may have issues with thread corrosion on the front brake master cylinder brake line banjo bolt (say that five times fast). The recall affects a number of Softail and Dyna models made between August 22, 2011 and February 24, 2012.

Namely, the affected models are 2012 model year FXST103, FLSTC, FLSTC103, FLSTF, FLSTF103, FXDL, FXDWG, FXDWG103, FXDC, FXDB, FLSTN, FLSTN103, FLSTC103Shrine, FLSTFB, FLSTFB103, FXS, FXS103, FLS, FLS103, FLD, FLD103, and FXDF.

Harley-Davidson Continues Search for EV Workers

12/31/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Think the Harley-Davidson LiveWire project was just a stunt for shareholders? No one can say for certain, of course, but the Bar & Shield brand is continuing its search for experts in electric vehicle production…which we doubt anyone would have believed 10 years ago.

Right now Harley-Davidson has two positions posted on its career portal — a Staff Technical Engineer and a Advanced Manufacturing Project Engineer — both of which refer to an EV/Electrical project at Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire to Cost $50,000? Not So Fast

12/09/2014 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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News is going around the internet that Harley-Davidson COO Matt Levatich has pegged the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric cruiser at costing roughly $50,000. The price tag comes from a piece by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was in attendance at this year’s Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s yearly meeting.

While no direct quote is given by the Journal Sentinel, Levatich is paraphrased and inferred to be saying that the LiveWire would go about half the range that consumers desired, at a price tag double what they were willing to pay — $50,000.

Many sites have latched onto that $50,000 price announcement, but Harley-Davidson quickly corrected the Journal Sentinel, saying that no personnel at Harley-Davidson has put a potential price on the LiveWire, if it were to go into mass production.

Though a bit of a SNAFU, a quick back-of-the-envelope analysis of that number should have revealed the inaccuracy of that figure.

Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider Recalled for Resonance

08/04/2014 @ 12:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The following is perhaps one of the more interesting recalls to come across our desk, and it affects the 2014 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider. It seems that if owners install “certain optional performance electronic control module calibrations” the bike’s ignition switch can go from “IGN” to “ACC”, thus causing the motorcycle to shutoff mid-operation.

The reason for this though is because the aftermarket ECU upgrade allows the 2014 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider to rev its motor beyond the stock 5,600 rpm redline, where at 5,800 rpm a resonate frequency with the ignition switch occurs. Held at this frequency, the key can turn to the accessories position — a dangerous, if not fascinating, show of physics.

US Motorcycle Sales Up 4.0% in Q2 2014

08/01/2014 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The US economy has been slow to recover, and so too has the US motorcycle market. With first-quarter sales down 0.3% this year though, it looked like the US motorcycle market was about to flatline.

Thankfully, that has not been the case in Q2 of 2014, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is proud to report that US motorcycle sales are up 4.0% in the second quarter of this year.

Selling 169,111 units in Q2 2014 (6,585 more than in 2013), motorcycles sales in the US so far this year are now up 2.6%, with 263,833 units sold so far in 2014.

66,000+ Harley-Davidsons Recalled for Front-Wheel Lockup

07/10/2014 @ 8:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Bad news for 2014 Harley-Davidson Touring and CVO-Touring motorcycles with ABS installed, as the Bar & Shield brand has issued a recall with the NHTSA for 66,421 motorcycles that could potentially see their front-wheel lockup unexpectedly during normal operation.

The problem comes about because the affected motorcycles may have been assembled with the front brake line positioned in such a way that it could be pinched between the fuel tank and frame, causing the front brake fluid pressure to increase. If the fluid pressure does increase, it could cause the front wheel to lockup, and possibly cause a crash. To-date, five such crashes have occurred, with thankfully only minor injuries being reported.

The One Overlooked Detail on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/20/2014 @ 10:44 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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At the time this article will be posted, it will make the sixth article relating to Harley-Davdison’s Project Livewire that is on the Asphalt & Rubber homepage. The Motor Company’s first foray into electric motorcycles made its way into not only every motorcycle publication around the world, but it also hit mainstream media like wildfire.

A topic more heavily saturated at this point than Kentucky Fried Chicken, and yet everyone of the publications carrying the story, including A&R, overlooked one critical thing about Project Livewire’s launch. The attached graphic is the five-day stock price of Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), and that large spike is the Livewire’s unveiling time.

Leaked: Tech Details on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler56 COMMENTS

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Thanks to our network of Bothan spy tipsters, we posted today the still-unreleased photos of the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire. Details were light from our sources though, but Bothans are a tireless breed (note: for new readers, we sort of have this whole Star Wars motif on leaked stories…just roll with it, we already know we’re nerds).

While the consensus on Project Livewire seems to be that it’s a looker, the devil is in the details…and now we have those as well. Featuring a three-phase induction motor with 55 kW of power (just under 74hp) and 52 lbs•ft of torque, the Harley-Davidson Livewire is packing more power than both the Brammo Empulse R (54 hp) and Zero SR (67 hp). That’s the good.

The bad is that despite its hefty casing size, the Harley-Davidson Livewire motorcycle is a little light in the loafers when it comes to battery capacity. Our guesstimate on battery pack size, judging from Harley’s quoted charge time and parameters, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 kWh nominal, a bit less than the 9.3 kWh and 10.0 kWh of the Brammo and Zero.

That means the Harley-Davidson Livewire is good for just over 50 miles of mixed city and highway riding that is limited to 92 mph (we’re not really sure how Harley-Davidson came up with that figure). Expect to go 0-60 in around 4 seconds.

Leaked: First Photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 7:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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The folks in Milwaukee didn’t invite Asphalt & Rubber to the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire launch and subsequent press embargo, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over publishing the latest find from our Bothan spy network (for the record, A&R has never broken a press embargo that we were invited to).

That all being said, here are the first official photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle — the Bar & Shield brand’s foray into electric motorcycle scene — for your viewing pleasure.

Details are still spotty of course (update: you can read the tech specs here), so we will leave that bit of journalism to the publications that Harley-Davidson deemed worthy (maybe it was something we said?). For our part though, we can see a full-glass dash though, which is another first for Harley-Davidson, as well as an LED headlight.

The big kickers will be the price and range, of course. South of $20,000 and north of 100 miles would really make Project Livewire a strong contender on the market. It will remain to be seen if Harley-Davidson can get under/above those two metrics, respectively, though.