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.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 3: KTM Responds

01/06/2015 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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In response to a difficult Stage 2, Dakar officials shortened Stage 3 of the 2015 Dakar Rally, but the picturesque course was still enough to shake up the standings a bit. Winning the stage was Dakar newcomer, MX3 World Champion Matthias Walkner — the first Austrian rider in The Dakar since the 1990’s.

“I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day. But at the end I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes,” explained stage-winner Walkner.

“It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure I didn’t expect this. It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”

A Factory KTM rider, Walkner added some orange to the stage podium, and was joined by KTM’s Marc Coma, who finished second for the day, 40 seconds behind his teammate. Managing the gap though, Honda’s Joan Barreda finished the day third, only a minute and change behind Walkner.

As such, Barreda stays in control of the overall standings, but Coma is within a comfortable 11-minute gap of the HRC rider.

2015 Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Thinning the Herd

01/05/2015 @ 11:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Hosting the second longest special stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally (518 miles), Stage 2 between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan was especially grueling because of the added heat; and as such, The Dakar has already started to separate the top riders.

To that end, the HRC riders find themselves weighed and measured at the top, thus far. Joan Barreda rode to a solid stage win, and finishes the day with over a four-minute interval to his closest competitor.

“In the end we set off with a game-plan to not make any mistakes and arrive safely at the finish-line,” said Barreda. “The result has been amazing. In the first part, Sunderland and Coma pushed really hard and I overtook Paulo to try and stop them running away with the stage.

“In the end, it was more about survival than anything else. We had to measure the pace and keep focused on the navigation as there were some extremely tricky spots, plus another stretch towards the end, that really put a strain on the body,” he continued.

Dakar Rally – Stage 13: Fifth Stage Win for Barreda

01/18/2014 @ 10:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.

“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”

Dakar Rally – Stage 12: Joan Barreda Out of Dakar Podium

01/17/2014 @ 3:39 pm, by Bryan Delohery2 COMMENTS

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As riders finished the last majorly sandy stage of the rally, the 699 km run from El Salvador to La Serena for Stage Twelve, leaders have shuffled yet again and disaster has struck, leaving some shaking their heads.

Marc Coma is breathing a bit easier today after opening up the gap between himself and his closest competitor, Joan Barreda, to 3:4:54. Barreda suffered a serious setback after having electrical problems and losing nearly two and half hours, dropping to seventh place overall.

“I had electrical problems. The bike wasn’t working well and the battery gave up. It was very difficult. I just had to try and get to the finish. All is lost. I’m going to finish the rally. And that’s all,” said Barreda.

Coma, finishing second on todays’ stage, has put nearly two hours between him and now second place overall, Jordi Viladoms of Spain, making his 15 minute penalty for an engine swap a non-issue for the overall standings.

Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Barreda Racks Up 4th Stage Win

01/15/2014 @ 4:50 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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Stage Ten of the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 688 km ride from Iquique to Antofogasta, started with a descent down the dunes towards the Pacific, where more dunes and plenty of fesh fesh lay ahead — for those unfamiliar with Rally or Baja, fesh fesh is a sticky, talcum fine sand that has been eroded over time, leaving surfaces extremely slippery and at times, acting like a sand trap.

Undoubtedly the Factory Honda Team is celebrating today as teammates Joan Barreda and Helder Rodrigues took the first and second place victories on today’s tough stage.

Despite a 15-minute penalty yesterday for speeding, Joan Barreda continues to gnaw away at his fellow Spaniard and overall leader Marc Coma, giving him his fourth stage win of this year’s rally and closing the gap between them to 44:24.

Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Despres Gives Yamaha First Stage Win

01/13/2014 @ 4:22 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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Today’s stage for the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 486 km sprint from Salta, Argentina to Calama, Chile, gave riders quite a view as they glided across parts of the largest salt flat in the world, and up the Andes Mountains as they enter the Chilean section of the rally.

After taking third on yesterday’s stage, Cyril Despres of France took today’s stage win putting up a 5:23:20 on his Yamaha YZ450F Rally, with Joan Barreda of Spain coming in second at 2:09 behind him. This pushes Despres up one position into 9th place overall.

“The idea isn’t really to go looking for stage victories but to try and get back to the front of the rally,” Despres said. “Today, by making up the difference on the tracks between myself and the first riders, I won the special and that’s always a pleasure.”

Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Barreda Chips Away at Coma

01/12/2014 @ 11:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Stage Seven saw the riders of the 2014 Dakar Rally back in the saddle, after having Saturday off as their lone rest day. If the riders thought their re-entry was going to be easy, they were wrong, as Stage Seven marks the first part of another marathon stage — a stage where only the riders can service and repair their machines after the stage’s end. Today also marks the first time that The Dakar has been held in Bolivia, the 28th country to host the iconic race.

First out of the gate, Alain Duclos suffered a navigation error, and lost nearly 20 minutes on the course finding the right route. The mistake cost the Sherco rider his third overall position, as he falls to fourth overall, behind KTM’s Jordi Viladoms.

Halfway through the Dakar Rally now, and Marc Coma has a good cushion over the rest of the field. His advantage isn’t insurmountable though, and today Joan Barreda took his first chip at his fellow countryman’s lead. The HRC rider stole four minutes from his KTM counterpart, with Barreda now 38 minutes back from Coma overall. The deficit isn’t enough to concern Coma yet, but if Barreda can keep up the pressure he might stand a chance for the overall win.

Cyril Despres also had a productive day, as the Frenchman finished third on the stage. This moved him into tenth overall, and while Despres’ bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally is surely done (it would seem the Yamaha PR team has already packed things up, as their site hasn’t updated since their disastrous Stage Five), Despres’ first term on the Yamaha YZ450F Rally could still see him finish in the Top 5. Undoubtedly, a strong pace over the remaining stages on helps build his campaign for the 2015 rally raid.

Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Leads, Despres Penalized

01/09/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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Stage five of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw  riders battling  some very inclement conditions. With temperatures soaring to well above 100 degrees and poor visibility due to last week’s rain, Stage Five  took its toll on all the riders as they covered the 912 km jaunt between Chilecito and Tucumán.

“It was another tough day and it was really hot out there,” explained Marc Coma. “To get to the end of the stage I rode for 10 km lost in a river bed.” Coma and his KTM 450 Rally rode to the stage lead with Jordi Viladoms taking second nearly 13 minutes behind Coma, while Kuba Pryzgonski finished third.

Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick

01/07/2014 @ 10:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Day three of the 2014 Dakar Rally sees the beginning of the first marathon stage, where only riders will be allowed to work tonight on their racing machines. Making it three stages in a row for HRC, Joan Barreda won his second stage of this year’s Dakar, and extended his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Stage Three saw the return of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma to their riding pace, as the pair finished second and third for the day, respectively. The day also moved them into the same positions overall, behind Joan Barreda of course.

A tough and technical stage, the Honda CRF 450 Rally is proving itself to be a capable machine, and Barreda is showing himself to be less of an underdog, and now the man to beat on the race course.

Dakar Rally – Stage 2: Sunderland Takes First Stage Win

01/07/2014 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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After Joan Barreda’s Stage One win, Honda is continuing to make its presence felt in the 2014 Dakar Rally. This time Britain’s Sam Sunderland took the stage win honors (his first stage win in his career), though the HRC rider was followed closely in time by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez of Chile, who was just 39 seconds back.

Two minutes back from his teammate, Barreda continued his pace (despite hitting a cow), and was third fastest for the day.

Noticeably absent from the front of the pack were Dakar favorites Marc Coma (9th) and Cyril Despres (10th), as they battled the 359 km from San Luis to San Rafael. Coma attributed his result to a stone that got wedged between the gearbox and the shift — as a result he is now seven minutes back overall.

Meanwhile Despres’ difficulties stemmed from the Frenchman taking a crash in what was likely the fastest stage of the rally. Unhurt from his tumble, Despres will have to overcome a six minute eighteen second deficit overall.