Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

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.

India’s TVS is in Talks with BMW Motorrad

07/09/2012 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The big news out of India today is that the country’s fourth-largest motorcycle manufacturer, TVS,  is in talks with Germany’s leading two-wheeled maker, BMW Motorrad. While there are few details on what is occurring between the two companies, it is being reported by the Wall Street Journal that TVS is hoping to get some technical know-how from BMW in making larger-displacement motorcycles.

Likely to end in some sort of strategic partnership, BMW is surely eyeing TVS’s distribution network in exchange for its 500cc+ help, as all the major OEMs are currently jockeying for position in the growing Indian market. Other rumors around the deal suggest that TVS could help BMW create smaller-displacement machines, specifically designed for India, which would presumably also be available in other emerging markets like South America and Southeast Asia.

Yamaha Gets Serious About India with $500 Motorcycle

06/27/2012 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

I wax on about the importance of the Indian market with far too much regularity to regurgitate it yet another time, but its suffices to say that like Ron Burgundy, India is a pretty big deal. With two of the three largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world coming from India, and the country continuing to account for a massive amount of the world’s two-wheeler consumption (India is the second largest consumer of motorcycles in the world, by volume), it should come with little surprise then that Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha wants a bigger piece of the pie.

Yamaha currently accounts for roughly 500,000 of the 10+ million units sold per year in India (read: less than 5% of the total Indian motorcycle market), and the Japanese company is already offering several cheap motorcycle options in India. However, hoping to increase that figure to 600,000 next year, and to continue future growth in the market down the line, the tuning-fork brand has let it slip that a $500 motorcycle is in the works. Game on Honda.

Official: World Superbike Heads to India for 2013

06/18/2012 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

World Superbike has a serious venue problem, as only two of its fourteen races are outside of Europe — a market with a significantly depressed sport bike market. With both WSBK and MotoGP fighting for venues in developing regions, it looks like World Superbike is first to score the lucrative Indian market.

Signing an agreement with Jaypee Sports International Ltd (JPSI), a subsidiary of the private Indian engineering and construction conglomerate Jaypee Group, the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) will host a round on the World Superbike Championship Calendar.

Hero MotoCorp to Be Honda Free by 2014

06/05/2012 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The second largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Hero MotoCorp, says that by 2014 it will be free of its entanglement with the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Honda. Creating a joint-venture in the Indian market, Hero and Honda went their separate ways in December of 2010, after a 26-year relationship.

Despite Honda wanting to go it alone in India, the renamed Hero MotoCorp retained some licensing rights to use Honda technology until 2014, so it makes sense that the company would announce its impending autonomy at this juncture.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Who is the World’s Third Largest Motorcycle Manufacturer?

05/21/2012 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Let’s play a game for a minute. Who is the third largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world? One of the Big Four maybe (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, & Yamaha), that is after all what their name implies, right? Maybe you think it is a European manufacturer, like BMW or Triumph? If these were any of your answers, thank you for playing, but please try again.

Can the KTM 200 Duke Ride Thru Knee-High Water?

05/16/2012 @ 8:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

For some, the KTM 125 Duke is just not quite enough machine to get their two-wheeled juices flowing, and thus the KTM 200 Duke & soon-to-be-expected KTM 350 Duke were born. With the Austrian motorcycle maker KTM partnering with India’s second-largest motorcycle brand Bajaj to make the baby Duke, it should come as no surprise then that many of these models are ending up outside of Europe, and in Asian markets…namely India itself.

While us Westerners might think of the KTM 200 Duke as a fairly practical machine, buyers in India are a bit more skeptical, since their day-to-day travel can be a bit more varied than ours. You see, India right now is preparing for its summer monsoon season, and flooding in certain regions is more of a certainty than a special phenomenon. So while an underslung exhaust might look stylish to us Americans, to an Indian motorcyclist it could look to be more of a liability.

Hoping to purge that thought from Indian riders’ minds, KTM has put together this video outlining its wet-weather survivability testing. If you ever wanted to know whether you can park the KTM 200 Duke in wheel-high water for 30 minutes or more sans snorkel, check out the video after the jump.

30% of Honda’s Business to Come from India by 2020

05/16/2012 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

As several of our readers pointed out in the latest financial report from Honda, The United States, and North America as a whole, represent just a very small portion of Big Red’s total volume of motorcycle sales. For Honda’s 2011 fiscal year, North America sold a whopping 1.6% of the company’s total motorcycle inventory, while Asia accounted for nearly 79% of Honda’s total sales.

While Honda and other motorcycle manufacturers certainly makes better margins on the units they sell in North America and in Europe, the volume opportunities abroad in emerging markets are far more lucrative for OEMs.

With 1.2 billion people (17% of the global population) and still growing, India is the shining star in emerging markets, so it should come as no surprise that Honda is forecasting that 30% of its business will come from India by 2020, as the Japanese company further increases its presence in Asian markets.

MotoGP: Jerez Remains on 2013 Calendar, But Only Three Iberian Races Next Year

04/16/2012 @ 2:10 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

Jerez is to remain on the MotoGP calendar for at least one more year. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta announced the extension during the official presentation in Madrid of this year’s Spanish GP at the iconic Jerez circuit, stating that Jerez will stay on the calendar for 2013. He also confirmed that from next year, there will be just 3 races on the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), with Jerez and Aragon certain to stay, while Barcelona and Valencia could alternate, as is currently being proposed for Formula 1. Meanwhile, the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril appears destined to disappear from the calendar.

Rumors surrounding the fate of the Jerez Grand Prix had been circulating for a while, with the circuit still in financial problems over non-payment of debts to the consortium that carried out remodelling work at the circuit back in 2001. It was widely expected that Jerez would be dropped from the calendar, but sources close to the circuit owners were confident of being able to continue. Though the official confirmation is only for 2013, the chances of the race remaining at the track for the next five years look very good.

Hero MotoCorp Partners with AVL for Engine Design – Ponders Global Domination

03/19/2012 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Seeing its 27-year-long joint-venture with Honda come to an end last year, Hero MotoCorp has been picking up technology partners with an intense pace. With its 2014 rapidly approaching, Hero already counts Erik Buell Racing as one of its technical partners (as well as a potential acquisition target), and now Hero has now announced that the Austrian engineering design firm AVL will help the Indian company with a new range of larger-dipslacement motorcycle motors.

The move towards larger displacement engines is surely a sign that Hero MotoCorp has its eye on the export market, as it already accounts one of every two motorcycles sold in India. Surely seeing the work that rival Bajaj has done with KTM and the Duke series of motorcycle, we can expect Hero to go after a similar position in Europe, with even larger models for the American market.