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.

Husqvarna Nuda 900R in Race Trim

04/16/2012 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Racing in the Bol d’Argent, the three-hour endurance race that supports the Bol d’Or 24 hour race, we get our first glimpse of the Husqvarna Nuda 900R in racing-trim. Not exactly designed to go road-racing, the Nuda still held its own at the French endurance race, finishing ninth overall. Making the feat even more impressive was the team of French journalists that raced the Husqvarna Nuda 900R, and we all know that moto-journalists can ride for beans…let alone French ones.

Husqvarna’s first true sport bike, the Swedish brand hopes that the street-going Nuda, Strada, and Baja/Moab concepts will help turn around its failing dirt-centric business. Not exactly the first thing that comes to our minds for a track bike, let us know what you think of the Nuda 900R in track form. Photos after the jump.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

The Business Case for the Husqvarna Nuda

09/20/2011 @ 2:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Not too different of an analysis from the one I did regarding the Ducati Diavel, the business case surrounding the Husqvarna Nuda is all about extending brand attributes, reaching new demographics, and putting more volume into sales figures. While I will reserve judgment on what the Nuda 900 is as a motorcycle for when A&R actually gets a chance to swing a leg over one, the positioning and reasoning behind Husqvarna’s first true-blooded street bike can be analyzed by us before the Nuda hits dealership floors early next year.

A Swedish brand based in Italy and owned by German company, there can be little wonder as to why Husqvarna suffers from an identity crisis. When the small, but eclectic, dirt bike manufacturer was brought into the folds of BMW, many loyal to the Husqvarna brand wondered and were concerned about what was in store for the company.

If brand loyalists were waiting for the first shoe to drop, then surely the release of the Husqvarna Nuda 900 & 900R is that moment. A departure from a history of motorcycles that like to get grime under their fingernails, the Nuda 900 represents Husqvarna’s attempt at a pure-street offering — a move both Husqvarna and BMW hope will pave the way for more street models, and thus more sales volume. The positioning and branding of the Nuda 900 is also especially interesting, as adding a street dimension to the Husqvarna name is certainly a new dynamic to the brand, but how to do so with parent company BMW looking over one’s shoulder is another affair all together.

Husqvarna Nuda 900/900R Technical Details

09/02/2011 @ 9:40 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Our favorite German-owned, Italian-based, Swedish brand has released some more images of its Husqvarna Nuda 900 and Husqvarna Nuda 900R street motards, and also disclosed some of the bikes’ technical specifications in the process as well. Using a fully-revamped BMW motor, Husqvarna has taken F800’s parallel-twin motor, and bored it out by 2mm (84mm total), as well as lengthened the stroke by 5.4mm (81mm), taking the 798cc motor to an 898cc displacement. Originally built as a 0º crank motor, Husqvarna has altered the crankshaft to a 315º configuration, which the company says creates a more aggressive feel to the bikes’ power delivery.

The compression ratio on the motor has also been raised from its BMW-spec, and comes with modified head gasket, camshafts, pistons, and conrods (along with a re-designed crankshaft). Additionally the intake and exhaust valves have been increased by 1mm, making them 33mm and 28.5mm respectively. With these modifications, both the base model Nuda 900 and higher-spec Nuda 900R will make 105 hp and 73.8 lbs•ft of torque. Still listing the curb weight for the Nuda 900R as sub-175kg (385 lbs), expect the Nuda 900 to weigh-in a few kilos heavier.

Husqvarna Nuda 900 Base Model Breaks Cover

08/12/2011 @ 6:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Husqvarna’s foray into true-blue street bikes has unsurprisingly taken a two-pronged approach (for an “R” version to exist, a base model must exist as well, right?), as the Swedish brand has unceremoniously dropped photos of the base model Husqvarna Nuda 900. Sporting lower-spec components, and having a noticeably absent “R” missing from its nomenclature (that’s called product differentiation), the Husqvarna Nuda 900 is no doubt going to be Husqvarna’s more affordable version of the Nuda 900R.

Though we can only discern the differences that are skin deep at this point in time, it would look like the base model sees the R’s Öhlins rear-suspension, Brembo monoblocs, and carbon-accented exhaust exchanged for lesser models. The base model’s rear shock is now a Sachs unit (matching the fully-adjustable Sachs forks Husqvarna says it will be using on the Nudas), while the exhaust can is aluminum stem-to-stern. Noticeably still present though is the Nuda’s anti-lock brake pick-up discs (in fact, the entire wheel/fork package looks to be the same), which could also suggest that a traction control system is available on the base model.

It will be interesting to see how Husqvarna prices the Nuda 900 against the higher-spec Husqvarna Nuda 900R. Unless there is significant differences between the two bikes’ motors, the R-variant will have a hard time commanding more price tag for a shock and carbon fiber-tipped exhaust, especially considering the latter will be one of the first things owners will be replacing. 21 photos of the Nuda 900 base model after the jump, including the mysteriously really bad ones where you can see the photographer’s turntable in every photo…go fig.

Video of the Husqvarna Nuda 900R Makes Us Feel…Bleeh!

07/06/2011 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

The straw vote in the A&R office is that the jury is still out on the recently unveiled Husqvarna Nusa 900R. We like that BMW is setting up Husqvarna to be the more edgy on-street brand in its two-wheeled house, and the maxi-motard is a safe street entry for the otherwise dirt-based company. A narrow, fairly light, and peppy twin should be fun to blast from stoplight to stoplight, lane-split between traffic-packed cars, and generally just hoon about town. Price of course will be an issue for the Nuda 900R, as its components don’t suggest a cheap price tag, of course we don’t think Husqvarna (read BMW) is too concerned with that issue, as they’re likely focusing on the more exclusive side of the market continuum.

Speaking of select target markets, the looks are not the most generally palatable, with our office’s spectrum of reception ranging from drool-worthy praise to motions of people hanging themselves with their belt (and not in that good auto-erotica asphyxiation sort of way). One thing we can agree on, as far as promo videos go…this one doesn’t really achieve any of the goals we’d think Husqvarna would set out for its first street bike.

23 Photos of the Husqvarna Nuda 900R

07/01/2011 @ 7:32 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Well it didn’t take long for Husqvarna to release some official photos, after showing the 2012 Husqvarna Nuda 900R street bike to the assembled press. The Nuda definitely has a unique look to it, which is already growing on us in a weird way…the name however, well…that’s a different story. Based around the BMW F800GS parallel-twin, Husqvarna has bumped the power plant up to 900cc, making over 100hp with the red-topped lump.

With a 385 lbs dry weight, the Husqvarna 900 should be a potent animal on the street, and promises to be quite the hooligan machine (if you’re into that sort of thing). Until we get a chance to explore our inner-child while on the seat of a Husqvarna Nuda 900R, we’ll have to tide ourselves over with the 23 photos found after the jump.

Husqvarna Nuda 900R Revealed

07/01/2011 @ 6:46 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Find 23 Official Photos of the 2012 Husqvarna Nuda 900R here.

These are the first images of the Husqvarna Nuda 900R motorcycle (taken by our good friends at OmniMoto), the Swedish brand’s first foray into the street bike scene. Making over 100hp and weighing less than 385 lbs, the new Husqvarna will hit dealer floors by the end of the 2011 (hopefully by then they’ll have the spec-sheet ironed out a bit more). What technical specifications we do is this: 320mm Brembo disc brakes, fully adjustable 48mm Sachs forks, and a fully adjustable Öhlins rear shock. Check out the photos and video from the unveil after the jump.