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 TR 650 Terra – An Off-Road Strada

07/12/2012 @ 10:00 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna TR 650 Strada, our favorite German-owned Italian-based Scandinavian-branded motorcycle company has released a 21-inch-wheeled version of the Strada that is destined for more off-road use. They call it the Husqvarna TR 650 Terra. Using the same 652cc water-cooled single-cylinder DOHC motor, the Husqvarna Terra also makes 58hp and 44.25 lbs•ft of torque, just like the Husqvarna Strada.

Tipping the scales a bit lighter than its road-going sibling, the Terra has a dry weight here in the United States of 368 lbs (410 lbs wet). Available with ABS as an option in other markets, it appears our more feature-reluctant American riders will only be given the non-ABS variant of the pseudo off-road machine (apparently Husky isn’t a part of BMW’s pledge for universal ABS). While the Terra shares many components with the Strada, BMW Husqvarna hopes that the minor changes between the two bikes will help facilitate the Husqvarna Terra’s more off-road oriented purpose in life.

Husqvarna TR 650 Strada – Now Officially Official

07/11/2012 @ 8:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

It has been eight months since Husqvarna took the wraps off its second road-going model, but the Husqvarna TR 650 Strada is now officially official ahead of fall’s motorcycle bike shows. A big displacement thumper to compliment the only moderately civil Husqvarna Nuda 900, the Strada is an interesting model to go alongside its parallel-twin street counterpart.

Featuring a 652cc water-cooled single-cylinder DOHC motor, the Husqvarna Strada puts out 58hp and 44.25 lbs•ft of torque (Husqvarna offers a de-tuned version of the Strada with 48hp for countries with graduated license schemes). At 375 lbs dry (414 lbs wet), the Strada has a strong power-to-weight ratio for its class, and is the on-road variant in Husqvarna’s dual-pronged single-cylinder motorcycle attack plan.

Touratech’s Husqvarna Nuda-X-Cross

06/08/2012 @ 5:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

I imagine that for some, despite the business case to the contrary, a Husqvarna should always play well in the dirt, which seems to be the mantra with the folks over at Touratech. Taking Husky’s first true-born road bike, and baptizing it with mud, the Touratech Nuda-X-Cross looks perfectly capable going where the sidewalk ends.

Shod with a set of knobbies, some purpose-built bodywork from Touratech’s line, and a new attitude, we dig what the ADV-touring parts company has done with Swedish brand’s latest offering. Not just a looker, Touratech intends on racing two Touratech Nuda-X-Cross bikes in the grueling Erzberg Rodeo, held in the Austrian Alps. Even that makes our street-bound hearts skip a beat. More photos after the jump.

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.

BMW Motorrad Posts Best Quarter Ever…Again

04/10/2012 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Writing about BMW Motorrad’s quarterly sales announcements is starting to become an exercise in mad libs, and I really should just create a template that is full of praise and positive comments, leaving blank only the spots where the figures of units sold and percentage growth should go. Since I have no such template at my disposal, here we go again with the back-slapping about BMW’s sales juggernaut. Read onward for more sales news from Zie Germans.

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarna’s Year?

03/08/2012 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

For the past day I have been plunking away at a spreadsheet, adding in values found in several years’ worth of press releases. You see, while most motorcycle manufacturers go out of their way to hide sales information in their media communications, they still leave enough clues that allow one to decipher these pieces of information in their entirety. A monthly figure here, a quarterly result there, a percent gain over last year mentioned, and you’ve got your self five or more months of sales data extrapolated.

That being said, there is no need to go through this much work to know that Husqvarna has been having a rough couple of years. Even by just taking a straw poll from any of the BMW Group’s many glowing sales reports, you’ll find a three to four sentence paragraph outlining the continued disappointment that the Italian-based Swedish brand has brought the German company. Often not even cracking four-digit monthly sales figures, Husqvarna has been on a sales decline that has spawned BMW Motorrad’s decision to push the once dirt-only brand into the street bike scene.

In its most recent media communication, the BMW Group has praised Husqvarna’s sales success over the past two months. With the subsidiary posting a 50% gain in January, and a 2% gain in February, Husqvarna has thus far this year posted a 15% gain over the first two months of 2011. All is well for Zie Germans, no? You know the setup, continue reading for the take-down.

Concept: BMW F900S by Luca Bar Design

02/24/2012 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

To build the Husqvarna Nuda 900, the Swedish brand started with the 798cc motor from the BMW F800 series, and then bored and stroked the parallel-twin motor to a 898cc displacement. Through its marketing of the Nuda 900 & Nuda 900R, BMW has been sure to include itself, making sure that the connection of BMW’s trusted road-going heritage is tied to the previously dirt-only brand of Husqvarna. It’s been an interesting process for both brands to say the least, the product of which we haven’t even begun to fully realize.

Taking a reversal on the process between BMW and Husqvarna, our friend Luca Bar (check out his site here) is back with another concept bike. Designing what he calls a BMW F900S, Luca has taken the F800S aesthetic and imagined it with the newly-revised 900cc motor from the Husqvarna Nuda. Not stopping just at the revised motor though, his F900S also gets some trellis-frame love, which the Nuda used in lieu of the F800’s twin-spar frame design. Adding in some updated bodywork, the total package looks very clean. More photos after the jump.

Husqvarna Baja Concept Breaks Cover

01/20/2012 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Husqvarna continues its push into the on-road market, and has debuted another concept while at the New York IMS show today. Already showing us the Husqvarna Moab Concept in Milan, the folks at Husky have continued the thought process with the Moab, and built a more off-road capable dual-sport, which they are calling the Husqvarna Baja Concept. Another modern-take on retro design, the Baja concept carries over with it many of the Moab’s bigger design features, while sporting a 19″ knobby front tire for better off-road use.

Husqvarna simply states that the concept uses a four-stroke liquid-cooled 650cc single-cylinder motor (same as the Moab), which surely will be sourced from BMW’s G650GS. The Baja is also being fitted with a five-speed wide-ratio transmission, fuel-injection, perimeter frame, and Brembo brakes. The design from Husqvarna looks fairly polished, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some form of the Baja or Moab made it into production (or a fusion of the two).

With the Swedish brand already releasing the Husqvarna Nuda 900, and set to bring the Huqvarna Strada into production sometime this year, BMW’s want-to-be rogue street bike company could have a robust line-up if it brings the Baja and/or the Moab into produciton. We hope they do, because out of all the street bikes we’ve seen from the brand, these two seem the most intriguing, and also happen to better fit the Husqvarna name as well. Photos after the jump.

BMW Motorrad Had Its Best All-Time Sales in 2011

01/09/2012 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The BMW Group has released its 2011 sales numbers, and the results for BMW Motorrad are very impressive indeed. Posting its best yearly sales figures ever in the brand’s nearly 90-year history, BMW Motorrad surpassed its previous high-water mark, set in 2007, of 102,467 units by selling 104,286 units in 2011 (Q1, Q2, & Q3).

Accordingly, sales for 2011 were up 6.4% over 2010, which saw the brand sell 98,047 units last year. Helping spur that sales growth was BMW Motorrad’s strong performance in December 2011, as the German motorcycle manufacturer delivered 4,232 units worldwide in the last month of the year alone, a 12.4% increase over sales in December 2010.

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.