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.

Google Wants Broader Autonomous Vehicle Law – Are You Ready for Riderless Motorcycles?

08/14/2014 @ 11:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.

Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.

“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”

In the Future, You’ll Wear Leathers That Are Grown in a Vat

06/27/2014 @ 8:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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A lot of things will change in the future. Cars will drive themselves. Motorcyclists won’t wear helmets (as we know them), and your leather jacket will be grown in a vat…at least, that’s what a new company named Modern Meadow hopes. Having just received $10 million in Series A funding, the New York-based company hopes to change the way we interact with our beloved bovines.

Getting its roots from the bio-technology sector’s research into “bioprinting” organs in a petri dish, Modern Meadow is looking for consumer-level applications to this still young technology, which right now focus on creating grown-in-the-laboratory beef and leather.

Obviously the FDA has a few things to say about creating food products from bioprinting, so Modern Meadow’s first foray will be into creating real leather with stem cells.

When Did Apple’s Siri Turn into My Mother?

06/17/2014 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Not too long ago I had to replace the clutch on my track bike, as I had a track day rapidly approaching that weekend. Driving around to get the parts I needed, I turned to Siri on my iPhone for help in finding a nearby Yamaha dealer, as I knew that the clutch plates would need to be ordered that day (with only a couple hours left in the work day) and overnighted to me, if I was to get my R1 ready in time.

A couple verbal commands later (along with a couple chuckles over how Siri pronounces “Yamaha”), and something funny happened. Siri decided to give me a little life advice on my two-wheeled inclinations, with a “now, you be careful on that thing” comment.

Californians, Apply Now for Your Self-Driving Car License

05/28/2014 @ 1:04 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Californian motorists should brace themselves, as the Golden State is poised to let autonomous vehicles onto its roadways, en masse. Announcing that it will begin taking applications for driverless vehicle licenses starting in July, California will begin granting autonomous vehicles access to its roads in September of this year.

The decision is part of a larger nationwide push for autonomous vehicles, a topic we have covered at length here on Asphalt & Rubber, and accordingly something that the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) have finally taken an interest in participating on an advisory level.

Honda’s Forgotten “Frameless” Chassis Design Patent

03/27/2014 @ 5:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Before Ducati’s monocoque chassis design was all the rage in superbike design, the folks at Honda were busy toying with the same idea.

Outlining a patent in 2006 for a motorcycle whose engine would be fully utilized as a part of the chassis, Honda’s design, which differs in minutiae, predates Ducati’s patent by almost a year and a half.

A noticeable departure from Honda’s MotoGP design, one can argue whether Honda’s monocoque chassis was destined for the next iteration of the CBR1000RR or the next generation VFR at the time of its conception.

Inoveli – A New Way to Throttle?

01/22/2014 @ 4:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with the twist-grip throttle design found on motorcycles, after all millions of motorcyclists each year manage to use this simple design with great efficacy.

This, however, does not mean that the current iteration of throttle design is perfect for its application; after all each time you twist the throttle, you are compromising the angle of your wrist in relation to the handlebar. Maybe it is time for another way?

That is the thought process behind the Inoveli throttle concept. Using a rider’s thumb, instead of their wrist, the Inoveli throttle allows one to keep a constant grip on the handlebar throughout the entire throttle range of motion, which translates into less rider fatigue and more rider safety.

Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design

08/12/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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It seems Erik Buell Racing has been thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, as the company from East Troy had filed and received a patent for a hybrid drive motorcycle design.

There is nothing particularly astonishing about EBR’s patent, after all with hybrids being all the rage in the four-wheeled world, it was obviously only a matter of time before that same trend transitioned to motorcycles as well.

However, what is interesting about Erik Buell Racing’s patent is that it doesn’t set forth the Prius-inspired setup that you would expect, where an electric motor takes over or assists an internal combustion engine.

Instead, EBR’s setup is more like the Chevy Volt, with a small petrol-fueled generator being on-board to charge the bike’s batteries once they have been depleted by the electric motor, and thus killing the range anxiety that is prevalent in current EV bike designs.

Taylormade Carbon2 – Life Outside the Moto2 Box

07/10/2013 @ 7:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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David spent some lines of text yesterday talking about the lack of chassis innovation in the Moto2 Championship — a series whose spec-engine rules were supposed to be a playground for chassis engineers. As we know now, Moto2 has become a race of common denominators, with twin-spar aluminum frames ruling the day.

Company’s like Vyrus have threatened to enter Moto2 with their very stylish Vyrus 986 M2 race bike, with its hub-center steering design; but as David pointed out, the work involved to train racers for the new inputs these machines provide is perhaps the bigger boulder to carry when compared to developing the motorcycles themselves.

That doesn’t mean that innovation is lacking though, as we bring you another intriguing design, this time one built right here in sunny California: the Taylormade Carbon2.

Where’s the Innovation? Why Moto2 Spurs Identikit Bikes

07/09/2013 @ 1:39 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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After the initial disappointment at the death of the 250cc two strokes, the advent of the Moto2 class raised hopes that Grand Prix racing would enter a new era of chassis innovation, as the teams spent the money saved on engine development on exploring novel solutions to the problem of hustling a motorcycle around a circuit is the shortest time possible.

The first set of designs unveiled did little to feed that hope, with most bikes being of the aluminium twin beam variety which is standard in most sports and racing machinery, with a couple of tubular trellis frames thrown in for good measure.

Even that variety did not last. The trellis frames were the first to go – mostly as a result of the extra weight the design created – and the number of chassis manufacturers dropped from 13 in the first year to 6 in 2013.

Even that figure gives an inflated picture of the variety in the paddock: 28 out of the 32 permanent entries form Moto2 this year use either the Kalex, Suter or Speed Up chassis. The bikes vary in stiffness, in aerodynamic detail and in aesthetics, but other than that, they are virtually identical.

So why is there no real innovation in the Moto2 paddock – or MotoGP or Moto3, for that matter? The answer is simple, and has been discussed here many times before. The attitude which characterizes the paddock in technical terms is not one of the fearless pursuit of knowledge and innovation.

It is not a hotbed of blue sky thinking and adventurous engineering. It is a place of conservative evolution, of cautious refinement, where proven concepts are polished to as near perfection as possible.

Good Idea: BEARTek Bluetooth Motorcycle Gloves

12/03/2012 @ 9:45 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Having used a number of bluetooth headsets over the years, I can tell you that I generally loathe the technology. For starters, it usually means an add-on item that involves wires snaking around my head and neck, with some sort of cumbersome box precariously latched to the side of my helmet (or worse, permanently affixed). Over the past decade, the technology has gotten better, especially with the popularity and compatibility of bluetooth devices, but I have yet to see an elegant solution in this space. Most of this boils down to the UX.

With leather riding gloves, hopelessly small buttons become impossible to manage, and heaven forbid I am wearing thicker winter gloves. Voice-activated controls are sketchy as well, especially when on a revving motorcycle, and somehow my audible commands to change an MP3 track have me instead accidentally calling ex-girl friend, which only leads to more frantic fumblings for the right button/command combination — keep in mind, this is all while riding a motorcycle at speed on a freeway, an endeavor already with its own set of perils.

At this point in time, I have pretty much given up on a good integrated solution. Established manufacturers don’t seem to be answering the call (pun intended) by upgrading their offerings to keep pace with technology, and add-on systems are still cumbersome and inelegant solutions. Yet, I still have the desire for intercity rides where I can listen to turn-by-turn directions, and long highway treks where my Pandora stations could make the miles pass a little quicker.

One small company is helping me keep the faith a this point, as the motorcycle gloves from BEARTek are showing some promise. Devising a glove-based bluetooth controlling system, BEARTek has devised a clever way of controlling one’s smartphone while on a motorcycle, making at least part of the connected-rider equation look promising. I have some business notes though…of course.