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.

Uh-Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales-Year Ever in 2012

01/11/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

ktm-moto3

If we asked you which Germanic company was the largest motorcycle brand by volume, you would likely guess BMW Motorrad…and you would be wrong. Snap! Displacing the venerable brand from Bavaria, which set its own sales record, KTM’s 2012 sales year of 107,142 units has handed the Austrian brand the distinction of being the best-selling Germanic brand worldwide (by a margin of less than 1,000 machines).

Rumor: KTM 375 Duke – A V-Twin Learner Cometh?

10/17/2012 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Diving through KTM’s 108 page annual report for 2011, the Austrian company lists a couple of interesting developments in its Research & Development section. Partnering with Bajaj on small-displacement street motorcycles, the first obvious fruit of that labor was the KTM 125 Duke, and the subsequent KTM 200 Duke that is available worldwide.

We already know that KTM plans on bringing a 300cc version of the baby Duke to North America, and the Austrian company lists displacements in this project up to 375cc, a strong signal to the final displacement of the much anticipated KTM 350 Duke.

Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

04/04/2012 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Slowly but surely, Bajaj Auto continues to gobble up pieces of KTM’s stock. Taking its investment position now to just over 47%, Bajaj has acquired another 6.3% of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, and is projected to continue acquiring stock in the company.

The second-largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, Bajaj is also the second-largest shareholder in KTM, with KTM’s largest controlling position belonging to Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO) and Rudolf Knuenz (KTM Chairman of the Board), whose combined holdings come to just more than 51% of the company.

KTM Sales up 22.4% in 2011 Thanks to India

02/17/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

If you want a quick synopsis of how the European motorcycle brands performed in 2011, they killed it. BMW, Ducati, Triumph, and now KTM have all reported double-digit sales growth figures for 2011, a stark contrast to the still struggling sales of Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.  Reporting a 22.4% sales increase last year, KTM made a cool €20.7 million in the process of selling its 81,200 units in 2011 (KTM sold 66,327 units in 2010).

Leading the Austrian company’s growth was the KTM 125 Duke, which has been a huge hit in India, its country of origin, but has also helped grow KTM’s market share in Europe. KTM is also reporting that its latest EXC models have helped spur sales, but we suspect it is the new small-displacement Duke, which was made with developing markets in mind, that is really responsible for the surge in sales growth. KTM says that it expects sales in Europe and North America to remain flat, while the company expects to see growth in emerging markets continue (no surprise there).

Video: Rok Bagoroš & KTM Stop Time

11/28/2011 @ 2:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

We’ve featured Slovenian motorcycle stunter Rok Bagoroš and his KTM 125 Duke before, and we’ve talked at length about how the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer makes some of the best promo videos in the biz…needless to say, you can see where this post is headed. In the interest of time, let’s assume I’ve already written enough hyperbole about how great this video is, and also enumerated a sufficient number of points about how current motorcycle industry marketing offends me on a variety of visceral levels.

With only a few more weeks remaining in 2011, let’s instead shift the discussion and begin the countdown as to when KTM will bring a larger displacement Duke to the US market. Already building a 200cc version for select markets, KTM is set to bring a 350cc Duke to the US for the 2013 model year. That gives us roughly 350 days before the bike’s public debut (unless of course we see some “spy photos” of the machine ahead of time). If you don’t get excited about a more powerful version of what Bagoroš is riding after the jump, then check your pulse…you might be dead.

KTM 350 Duke in 2013 – India Only?

07/13/2011 @ 8:45 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After first announcing that KTM would build a 200cc model of the new KTM 125 Duke for the Indian market, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has been quoted as saying that a larger, 350cc, model is in the works, and will debut as a 2013 model year motorcycle. It would seem that the 2012 KTM 350 Duke is also slated as an India-only model, though rumors and plans for a larger displacement Duke for the US market were banded about when the 125cc Duke launched at EICMA last year.

KTM seems set to take the 125 Duke platform as versatile bike for the global markets, matching configurations with localities. Since the 125cc format makes little sense in the United States (do you hear that Aprilia?), expect at least a 250cc version of the Duke to debut later this year, and likely a larger format (450cc?) as well for the US at a later point in time.

Rok Bagoroš Meets the KTM 125 Duke

04/28/2011 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

We thought we had the good life here at Asphalt & Rubber, blogging in our pajamas until noon, no rent, and mom making us an endless supply of cookies. This was of course before we got an email from KTM Factory stunt rider Rok Bagoroš. The young Slovenian probably has the dream job of more than few motorcyclists. Traveling the world, riding bikes all day, and teaching Spanish cops how to wheelie are just some of the perks of his job.

Now that Bagoroš has a gig with the KTM squad, he’s taken possession of the company’s latest motorcycle, the KTM 125 Duke. Tasked with making the entry-level Duke appeal to its target market, KTM has marketed the 125 Duke mostly as a hooligan machine for teenage boys, which is like trying to sell a magnifying glass to a 14 year-old sitting on an ant hill. Enter Bagoroš with his bag of tricks, and the list of things we’d probably break trying to replicate them (getting old is tough).

Anyways…check the videos after the jump, and keep counting the days until KTM releases are larger displacement model of the new Duke to the American market.

KTM 200 Duke Caught Testing

02/09/2011 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Is this the KTM 200 Duke? The folks at OverDrive.in were fortunate enough to encounter in Pune what looks like a pre-production KTM Duke destined for the Indian market. Taking the photo above, OverDrive wasn’t certain if this was the KTM 125 Duke that the Austrian company launched at Intermot this year, or if it was a larger displacement version that’s been rumored to be coming from the minds of Bajaj & KTM.

Luckily the guys at IndianCarsBikes.in were able to get Rajiv Bajaj on the line and ask him about the photo, and the son of the Bajaj empire confirmed that what we see here is the 200cc KTM 200 Duke that will be an India-only model. Reportedly a deal hatched between KTM and Bajaj, the Indian market will get a slightly larger version of the new Duke, which will be liquid-cooled, have DOHC, and be positioned on the premium side of the market equation.

KTM 250 Duke in 18 Months

12/06/2010 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Perhaps our only gripe with the 2011 KTM 125 Duke (besides of course that it’s not coming to America), is the too small for American roads 125cc displacement. With no graduated licensing programs to be found, unlike our European brethren, the 125cc learner format just doesn’t seem to work in our “can travel anywhere by car” society here in the United States. Not to fret says KTM though, as a 250cc or even 300cc version of the orange pocket rocket is under development at the Austrian company.

We think 250cc/300cc would be an ideal size for blasting from stoplight to stoplight on city streets, both for new riders and veteran hooligans alike, and it won’t take much to place the outwardly similarly sized motor in the KTM 125 Duke frame. Thinking along those same veins, KTM says an 18 month trail time is expected from the 125 Duke launch to when we’ll see the next larger iteration.

Bajaj Gobbles Up Some More KTM Stock

11/30/2010 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj must be celebrating a late Thanksgiving (we might be talking about the wrong Indians here) as the Pune-based automotive group has gobbled up some more shares of Austrian company’s stock. Strengthening the two companies’ strategic partnership, Bajaj has modestly increased its 35.67% interest in KTM, becoming a 38.08% shareholder. Also coming out of the orange brand is news that Stefan Pierer will continue on as CEO of the company through 2015, and Friedrich Roithner, formerly of DGF Cross Industries, will take on the role of Financial Director in the new year.