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.

Honda Trademarks “RC213V-S” in Europe

11/03/2014 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Adding more fuel to the fire, concerning Honda’s long-awaited V4 production superbike, the Japanese manufacturer has registered the trademark “RC213V-S” with the European Union.

As MotoGP fans should already know, next year’s production race bike will be called the Honda RC213V-RS, which should make the more plain “S” designation sound suspiciously like a street-going model.

Not exactly the most glamorous name for a road bike, especially one of this stature, one could not fault Honda for wanting to draw a link between the production model and its GP-racing lineage.

Is Ferrari Working on a Motorcycle?

10/07/2014 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Lately we have seen a lot of car manufacturers taking an interest in the two-wheeled world — Audi bought Ducati from Investindustrial, and MV Agusta is expected to announce that Mecerdes-AMG is taking a minority stake in the Italian motorcycle company.

These collaborations and consolidations make a lot of sense from a business perspective: economies of scale, common four-stroke technology, shared R&D, and CAFE standard benefits, just to name a few.

So that’s why the latest news that Ferrari has filed a patent on a motorcycle engine doesn’t surprise us in concept. Nor does the press’ intensity of the subject.

A Yamaha FZ-09 Based Sport-Tourer – A TDM Cometh?

08/12/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Trademark applications with the European Union have revealed a new sport-tourer model from Yamaha, which uses the FZ-09 / MT-09 three-cylinder standard as its basis, and looks very similar to the old Yamaha TDM models.

The model seems to be very similar to what was envisioned by designer Oberdan Bezzi, which saw the MT-09 / FZ-09 platform turned into a pair of convincing adventure-touring motorcycles, with a TDM variant as well.

Yamaha has made no secret about its plans to develop more three-cylinder machines, as the Japanese company tries to breath life back into its sales figures and model lineup, post-economic meltdown. With this new sport-touring triple now out of the bag, could the writing be on the wall for loyal FZ1 owners?

Harley Trademarked “Livewire” for Electric Motorcycle

06/18/2014 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson is releasing an electric motorcycle tomorrow, did you know? Something that we were put onto two years ago, alluded to last year, and spied last week, a quick stroll through the US Patent and Trademark filings shows that the “Livewire” name was registered by Harley-Davidson, for use on “motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

Honda Super Cub Becomes the First Vehicle to Obtain a Three-Dimensional Trademark in Japan

05/28/2014 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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The Honda Super Cub is a rolling definition of an iconic motorcycle. The centerpiece to the famous “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” ad from the 1960’s, the Super Cub has gone on to be the best selling motorcycle in the world, with Honda recording its 60 millionth sale back in 2008…just three years after it notched its 50 millionth sale to the company’s corporate sales belt.

Perhaps getting the recognition it finally deserves, the Honda Super Cub is the first vehicle to receive a three-dimensional trademark in its home country of Japan. Three-dimensional trademarks are an uncommon thing in the intellectual property realm, and are virtually unheard of in the consumer product space, making the news that much more special for the Super Cub.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

04/08/2014 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes.

The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model.

The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW — the thought is that the “M” model could be a MotoGP inspired bike, however that is just conjecture at this point.

Honda V4 Superbike Engine Outed in Patent Photos

03/12/2014 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Honda’s road-going V4 superbike project has seemingly stalled, for the umptenth time in the past decade. While the bike has been rumored for years, the project just a year and a half ago was confirmed by Honda CEO Takanobu Ito.

Since that confirmation, the project’s delivery time has been pushed back, thought the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has committed itself to building the MotoGP-inspired road bike.

With reports speculating on a possible price tag well into the six-figure range, the rumormill is on the rev limiter regarding this superbike, so if there is one thing we actually know about the machine, it is that we don’t actually know much about it.

A 1,000cc displacement is of course expected, along with a four-cylinder v-angle cylinder configuration. If we can presume a setup similar to what is found on the Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, then make that a 90° cylinder head arrangement.

If we had really been on the ball though, we likely could have told you all this, six months ahead of Ito’s confirmation, as patent documents discovered by Spanish magazine SoloMoto shows the V4 superbike engine in line-drawing form, from as early as March 2012.

Honda CB300F Single-Cylinder Spotted in Trademark Docs?

03/10/2014 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Just last week, Yamaha’s US trademark filings tipped off a possible three-cylinder sport-tourer from the Japanese OEM, and in that article we noted how intellectual property filings are becoming an important element in spotting new models from motorcycle manufacturers.

The irony of course is that patents and trademarks are designed to protect the intellectual property of applicants; but in our case, they often give notice to things OEMs would like to keep secret. Such is the case with what we believe is the Honda CB300F, a single-cylinder naked bike that is based off the Honda CBR300R small-displacement sport bike.

Terra Motors & Zero Motorcycles – A Cautionary Tale

01/31/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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It must be hard to be a legitimate motorcycle manufacturer, because the market seems to be flooded with ripoff artists in every corner. Every year at the EICMA show, we see the Italy’s Guardia di Finanza haul out scooters and motorcycles that the trade regulator deems are too close to those of Italian brands.

Now granted, we suspect there is more to that story than meets the eye (if you were an Italian OEM, wouldn’t you want to keep out the budget-priced scooters from your market?), and some of these confiscated designs truly don’t seem infringing to my eye, but I digress.

With the case of the Terra Motors Kiwami though, what it seems we have here is that the Japanese brand has repurposed a Zero S electric street bike from California’s Zero Motorcycles for its own purposes.

We had a couple people in the industry email us about this gem of a story, wondering if Zero had licensed its design, or even sold an excess of inventory. to the Japanese company,  which plans on selling the Kiwami in the Indian market. However, before we could do some digging though, our good colleague Domenick Yoney at AutoBlog Green got the scoop on what is up.

Yamaha Trademarks “YZF-R3″ & “R3″ Name for Motorcycles

01/16/2014 @ 4:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Could the next Yamaha sport bike be a triple? That’s been the rumor for some time now, but there hasn’t been too much evidence to support the matter. Just last week, Yamaha Motor Corporation filed for trademarks in the European Union and United States that include “YZF-R3″ and “R3″ names for motorcycles.

The first reaction to the news is that Yamaha is finally reading a three-cylinder versions of its popular YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 machines; however, with some understanding of Yamaha’s naming conventions, the more likely assumption to make from this trademark filings is that Yamaha is readying a 300cc class sport bike, likely along the same veins as the Yamaha YZF-R25 concept that was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show.