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.

Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

09/13/2014 @ 11:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round (Tavullia, Rossi’s home town, is only a few kilometers from Misano), and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event.

This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”.

A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano.

You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

On the front row for the start of the San Marino GP, Rossi has made it no secret that he hopes to win this weekends’ race. As such, expect to see him to fighting hard for that top podium step.

Photos of Colin Edwards’ Camouflage Leathers at Indy

08/09/2014 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The 2014 Indianapolis GP will be the last American race for Colin Edwards, as The Texan Tornado will be hanging up his spurs at the end of the MotoGP season. The help commemorate his departure from Grand Prix racing, Edwards has picked a special helmet and leather design for the Indy GP, and unsurprisingly, it has a military theme.

Edwards has always used the Indianapolis GP to debut his helmets that honor the branches and people of military service, and the American rider told us that this weekend’s camouflage livery is an homage to that tradition.

Saying goodbye to his home crowd on Sunday, the Texan will for sure also race at Silverstone and Valencia, though the rumor is that Alex de Angelis will rider the NGM Forward Yamaha at the rest of the year’s races.

Valentino Rossi’s Special Mugello Helmet Explained

05/31/2014 @ 6:32 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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It’s the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, and that means another special AGV helmet from Valentino Rossi. A wonderful tradition from the nine-time World Champion, Rossi’s helmets can however at times be enigmatic, especially to non-Italians.

Thankfully, the folks at AGV have helped us understand Aldo Drudi’s latest work, which we assume will popularly be called the “Di Vale Helmet” hence forth. We decode the receipe, with photos, after the jump.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

04/05/2014 @ 8:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend.

Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon.

The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Australia Gets New Detailed Helmet “CRASH” Rating System

01/09/2014 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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I have been jealous of our British readers for sometime now, as the government in the UK has seen it fit not only to have one of the best helmet safety rating systems known to man, but they have made their test results incredibly accessible to the two-wheeled going public. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s worth taking a look at Britain’s SHARP website before buying your next lid.

SHARP takes impact analysis from five regions of the helmet, and then based on analysis from which points on the helmet are statistically more likely to be hit during a crash, assigns a weighted score to the helmet’s safety score.

Basing laboratory analysis with real world probabilities, SHARP  is perhaps the most pragmatic rating system available for motorcyclists, but more importantly it is the most transparent and accessible.

Well know it looks like we can be jealous of Australia as well, as our riding brothers and sisters down under have their own public database of helmet crash statistics, appropriately called CRASH, which like its British counterpart, does away with some of the guess work in helmet safety, and makes that data available to consumers.

Skully Helmets Debuts Integrated HUD Helmet

01/03/2014 @ 1:09 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

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Bay Area based startup, Skully Helmets, has a unique solution for the future motorcycle heads-up display (HUD) market. While other players like Nuviz and Bike HUD are developing add-on solutions for your existing helmet, Skully intends to introduce a fully integrated, standalone helmet system that internally incorporates the HUD display tech, in addition to other features.

In addition to normal HUD information features such as turn-by-turn navigation, smartphone integration, and Bluetooth connectivity, the Skully AR-1 features a 180-degree rear-view camera that affords the rider a digital representation of what’s going on behind them. Along with the fully integrated system, the rear-view camera is a major feature that sets Skully apart from its competitors.

AMA Warns Against Possible Nationwide Helmet Law

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

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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.

Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Pink Floyd Helmet at Misano

09/16/2013 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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True to tradition, Valentino Rossi debuted another unique helmet design for his home crowd at the San Marino GP in Misano, Italy. Themed to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, Rossi has added the last stanza of the song to his livery as well.

“How I wish, how I wish you were here. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year, running over the same ground What have we found? The same old fears, wish you were here.”

While we’ll let you decipher the meaning to Rossi’s Pink Floyd reference and how it applies to his time in MotoGP, we have to say that this is one of our favorite designs from Aldo Drudi that Rossi has sported at an Italian round.

So, it should come as no surprise that a bevy of photos are after the jump, for your viewing pleasure — since we know that there are some diehard fans of The Doctor that read the pages of Asphalt & Rubber.

Be forewarned though collectors, we think AGV is going to have a tough time getting the rights to make replicas of this design.

Photos: Nicky Hayden’s Laguna Seca Helmet

07/21/2013 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, fan favorite Nicky Hayden will be sporting a new lid. Themed after Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, the Arai helmet has another clever use of Nicky’s face in the livery, giving the impression that the Kentucky Kid is wearing a combat helmet while on his Ducati Demsosedici GP13.

When we asked about any meaning behind the helmet design for the US GP Hayden said he simply liked the camo paint scheme, and that his helmet designer, Roby Marchionni of Starline, had thought of the design for the race. However, it is hard not to make some connections between Nicky’s time at Ducati Corse and some of the themes portrayed in Full Metal Jacket. After all, the former World Champion certainly has that thousand-yard stare down pat.

Well, That’s One Way to Sell a Helmet

04/16/2013 @ 1:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The laws of physics are a funny thing — simple on paper, yet complex in practice. When designing a motorcycle helmet, taking in all the factors and forces is a daunting task, which is why helmet manufacturers do such rigorous tests on their samples.

One test that we are pretty sure never occurs in the laboratory is the simulated Newton’s Cradle, for reasons that should become abundantly clear in a few short moments. Take this for the entertainment that it is, and hope to God that Mythbusters gets ahold of it and tests the science involved.