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.

This is the Mugen Shinden (神電) TT Zero Electric Race Bike

03/02/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Added more information & technical specifications from Mugen’s press release.

This morning we learned that John McGuinness will be Mugen’s rider in the team’s bid to break the 100 mph barrier at the 2012 TT Zero. Heavily speculated to be a stealth project by Honda (無限 / Mugen was started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda), much speculation has been done over what sort of bike Mugen would be bringing to the Isle of Man TT, and now we have that answer.

Called Shinden (神電), meaning “God of Electricity” in Japanese, the machine may not have the same exquisite lines of the Honda RC-E electric superbike concept, but upon closer inspection, Mugen’s electric race bike seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Breaking cover at a press conference in Suzuka, the Mugen Shinden features a brushless three-phase 90 kW (120hp) DC motor, carbon fiber swingarm, and a carbon fiber twin-spar frame design.

John McGuinness to Ride Mugen/Honda in TT Zero

03/02/2012 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

When it was announced that Mugen would be racing at the Isle of Man TT in the TT Zero event, a bevy of speculation began to hit the newswires. Of course, the biggest topic of conversation was that Mugen’s entry was really a front for Honda to race its electric bike unofficially against the privateer efforts of teams like Lightning, Mission Motors, and MotoCzysz.

With the entire electric motorcycle racing community believing there to be a connection between Mugen’s entry and Honda’s recently debuted RC-E electric race bike concept, it seemed that an established motorcycle OEM would finally have some sort of presence in electric motorcycle racing this year.

Of course if Honda is involved with the TT Zero race, then surely the company would tap its main man, seventeen-time Isle of Man TT race winner and King of the Mountain, John McGuinness. McGuinness hasn’t been shy about his desire to get on an electric bike after watching MotoCzysz’s Michael Rutter and Mark Miller narrowly miss the 100 mph average speed mark at last year’s TT.

Confirming his entry in the TT Zero race during a video shot in what looks to be the Morecambe FC locker room (yeah, we have no idea), McGuinness also lets it slip that he will be in Japan next week testing the Mugen/Honda electric bike — boom goes the dynamite. Video is after the jump, skip to the nine minute mark.

Mugen Will Compete in the 2012 Isle of Man TT Zero

02/16/2012 @ 3:42 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

As of today, famed Honda tuning house Mugen will be tackling a new kind of project: the 2012 TT Zero. Announcing and confirming their entry into the Isle of Man TT’s electric motorcycle race, Mugen will be showcasing not only the company’s lesser-known motorcycle tuning chops, but also its hand at prepping electric vehicles for racing duty. Found in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda (son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda), Mugen has previously made its name mostly on the automotive side of things, though the company offers a bevy of prepared Honda motorcycles as well.

Said to be campaigning an all-new original electric motorcycle, if we had to take a stab at what Mugen could be bringing to the Isle of Man TT, we doubt we’d have to dive too deep into our imagination. While it may not be quite as big of news as Honda itself racing in the TT Zero, we can expect Mugen to bring a very competent and polished machine to the Isle of Man, and we can also officially begin the speculation between Mugen’s entry and its connection to a certain Japanese motorcycle manufacturer.

More Photos of the Honda RC-E Concept

11/30/2011 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Judging from our internal metrics, you love the Honda RC-E concept…you really love it. And what’s not to love about the electric superbike concept? The stylish design doesn’t stray too far from the basic shapes and lines that we think of when we conjure up a motorcycle in our minds; and if we’re really honest with ourselves, we all expect Honda, with its engineering prowess, to knock a project like this out of the park.

We still don’t have any real details about the Honda RC-E concept, but it’s probably safe to steal a line from KTM, when the Austrian manufacturer debuted the KTM Freeride E, it said that as a market leader, it could not afford to let competitors and new-comers explore the electric space by themselves. Rumored to have one of Honda’s hybrid automobile motors housed inside, the overall electric drivetrain package looks to be quite bulky, making us wonder how much battery power is on-board (or would be on-board, assuming Honda has even installed batteries on the concept).

What does Honda plan to do with the RC-E exactly? Well that is anyone’s guess really. Is the bike purely an experiment and display of what’s been going on in the Honda labs? Is the RC-E concept a precursor to a soon-to-be realized production model? Will we see one at an electric racing event soon? Only time will tell.

Honda RC-E Concept to Debut at Tokyo Motor Show

11/10/2011 @ 8:55 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

The Tokyo Motor Show is next month, and Honda has something special for two-wheeled enthusiasts. Fresh on the heels of KTM debuting the first major OEM electric dirt bike, Honda has an electric concept of its own: the Honda RC-E. The japanese company is being fairly terse about the RC-E’s details, simply stating that the bike is “an EV version of a super sports bike that pursues the joy of riding. A powerful and smooth ride unique to an EV model is achieved with the 250cc-class compact body.”