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.

ICON Launches Raiden Clothing Line for ADV Riders

02/18/2015 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Your favorite squid-biking / StuntLife apparel brand is expanding from its hooligan roots into the adventure-touring market, as ICON announced its Raiden line of clothing this past weekend at Portland’ One Motorcycle Show.

The Raiden brand extension is just the latest expansion from ICON, which has already pushed into the café hipster crowd with its ICON 1000 line of clothing, with much success.

While the Raiden line’s bright colors and designs will likely attract a younger demographic, it is just one of many steps that ICON is going through in order to breakaway from its “squid gear” reputation and cast a wider net on the two-wheeled demographic.

Ducati Scrambler Mega Gallery

12/13/2014 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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As with every international press launch from Ducati, there comes a bevy of photos from the Italian company’s latest machines — the Ducati Scrambler is no different.

If you didn’t read our review of the Ducati Scrambler, the tl;dr version boils down to the budget-minded machine being a good, though perhaps uninspiring, motorcycle for the money. However, just as important as the motorcycle is Ducati’s focus with the Scrambler Ducati brand, which is clearly aimed at catering to the “younger” hipster crowd…perhaps to a fault.

The key of course is the price, which starts at $8,500 for the red Scrambler Icon ($8,600 for the yellow model we tested), and goes on up to just below $10,000 for the Full Throttle, Classic, and Urban Enduro models.

The clear winner in the “scrambler” segment, if there is such a thing from the OEMs, the real trick with the Ducati Scrambler however will be with the Italian company’s marketing efforts, which we have already discussed ad nauseum.

Today, we are just here to show you some of the gorgeous photos that came about from Ducati’s recent trip to Palm Springs, and the press launch which is still actually underway at the time of this writing.

You will note that we have included the aftermarket and apparel photos, something we usually omit for these mega gallery postings. We figured they were just as integral to the bike’s look/image/aesthetic as the machine itself. You’ll also note there are photos from the press launch as well, to give you an idea of the event and a look behind the scenes.

Over 220 high-resolution photos await you after the jump. Enjoy!

A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler73 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is the bike from Bologna for 2015. Loyal Ducatisti might be more excited by the upgraded Ducati 1299 Panigale, or the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200, but in terms of company growth and the future of the Italian brand, the Ducati Scrambler takes center stage.

With four waves of 30+ journalists coming to Palm Springs for the international press launch, it’s clear that Ducati is casting a wide net with the Scrambler, especially with the number of non-industry publications present.

The term “lifestyle brand” is often a four-letter word in the motorcycle industry, of course ignoring the obvious that all of motorcycling is a lifestyle choice in the first world, but nonetheless the term has been used liberally with Ducati and the company’s racing heritage.

That being said, the Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even.

This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand.

Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

Ducati Scrambler – For New Riders, Off-Roaders, & Hipsters

09/30/2014 @ 9:36 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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The INTERMOT is in full-swing in Cologne, which means that Ducati is ready to drop its new Scrambler model on the world. A highly marketed machine, which has drawn attention from Ducati’s 1299 superbike and new Multistrada, the Ducati Scrambler is another brand extension for the Italian company.

A further foray into the off-road world, as well as a strong offering for new riders, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon in red is priced at $8,495 — making it the cheapest model in the Ducati lineup. The rest of the range is priced as follows: Icon Yellow $8,595, Full Throttle $9,995, Urban Enduro $9,995, & Classic $9,995.

The 2015 Ducati Scrambler comes in four models, which use the company’s 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine design, that is borrowed from the Monster 796. Power thus comes out at 75hp, with peak torque being 50 lbs•ft, but the focus on the Scrambler is really more about the aesthetic of the bike and experience on the machine.

Kawasaki ZX3-RR Concept by ICON

08/22/2014 @ 6:00 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Icon might not be the first brand you think of when you talk about road racing apparel, but the Oregonian company is certainly trying to evolve from its Stunt Life roots, into other aspects of two-wheeled culture.

Pushing into the more lifestyle, adventure, and sport segments of the industry, we have already seen Icon’s penchant for concept bikes, which I can atest haven’t really resonated with our sport-bike focused readers. I think today will be a little different though.

Teaming up with Kawasaki, Icon has built what it calls the Kawasaki ZX3-RR concept. Based off the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the Kawasaki ZX3-RR sees new bodywork and a slew of performance parts added to make a spec-series cup bike for young riders. It looks the business.

Iron Lung by Icon 1000

12/10/2013 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Oregon’s favorite motorcycle apparel brand has a custom motorcycle build for the holidays, the Icon 1000 “Iron Lung” Sportster. An homage to the bikes that Harley-Davidson used to build in the 1970’s, you know when the Bar & Shield brand did real racing, and was fairly good at it too.

Based around a 1991 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 engine, the Iron Lung sees its lump bored out to 1,200cc, with a Supertrapp exhaust helping things breathe a bit better as well. The front-end has been lowered and widened with wide-glide forks and custom triple clamp. Similarly, the rear features a custom subframe with Progressive 970 shocks.

To make Iron Lung work visually, Icon widened the fairings, which gives the machine a bulldog like stance: low and wide. Fitted with the company’s own variety of Portlandian hipster chic, the Iron Lung sports paint by Garage 31 and a custom seat by New Church Moto — two local outfits in Portland, Oregon.

The design isn’t really our usual fare here at Asphalt & Rubber, but you have to appreciate the honesty in Icon’s retelling of the Iron Lung’s performance assessment:

“Once completed, we headed down to an oval in Southern Oregon and kicked ‘er in the guts to be featured along side of our Spring 2014 ICON 1000 apparel collection – coming soon. Her handling was as questionable as the grandstand snacks, but she bore the brunt of torture with aplomb. It wouldn’t be an ICON 1000 bike without a true trial by fire. In Iron Lung’s case this was literal as she burst into flame after her initial shakedown run just a few weeks prior.”

We find that worryingly appealing. Party on boys and girls.

Icon Ties Arai in 2011 J.D. Power & Associates Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study

05/26/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

J.D. Power and Associates have released their 2011 Helmet Satisfaction Study, and the results are pretty interesting. The study takes an 11-point approach on helmet satisfaction, having helmet purchasers rank their lid on the following attributes: quietness; ventilation/air flow; de-fogging performance; face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out; face shield resistance to scratching; ease of replacing face shield; scratch resistance of shell; color/graphic design; weight; ease of fastening the strap; and fit and comfort.

Perhaps unsurprising to many, Arai topped the list as having the highest rating (this makes the 13th year in a row for the Japanese helmet manufacturer), but this year will carry an asterisk, as Icon tied Arai in customer satisfaction with a score of 852 out of 1,000. According to JDPA, Arai’s scores across all 11 attributes were strong, with a particular strength in “fit & comfort” and “face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out”. Similarly, Icon scored especially well in “color/graphic design”, while Shoei got strong marks for “ease of replacing the face shield”.

Video: Introducing Ernie, Jason, Eric, & Nick

08/05/2010 @ 5:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

As our tipster noted in his email, we’re not really into stunting that much here at the A&R office. However, we are big fans of awesome, and this video of Icon sponsored stunt riders Ernie Vigil, Jason Britton, Eric Hoenshell, and Nick Brocha during their thing has plenty of awesome in it. Great stunts, great music, great videography, Icon continues to find “win” in its ongoing video series. Keep them coming guys.

The Hoenshell Shutter – “It’s Time to Go Home”

06/02/2010 @ 4:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

There aren’t a lot of stunters in the A&R office, but when Icon sent us this video a few minutes ago you could here our collective jaws dropping in the San Francisco/Bay Area. In this stunt video out take, Eric Hoenshell helps out fellow stunter Jason Britton close the tailgate on his truck after a long day of stunting, and the rest pretty much writes itself. Thanks for the tip guys!

Arai Tops J.D. Power & Associates Helmet Rankings

05/21/2010 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

For twelve years in a row, Arai Helmets has topped J.D. Power & Associates motorcycle helmet rankings for customer satisfaction. This is important because J.D. Power also found that highly satisfied owners are more likely to buy their brand of helmet again (that’s a no brainer, right?). The kicker though is that the likelihood of a repeat customer is nearly 10x more likely when they are highly satisfied with their helmet. In a world where it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one, a 10x multiple is a staggering figure on how product quality plays into a company’s sales and growth strategy.