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.

Husqvarna To Release Three Street Models at EICMA

10/22/2014 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna brand will be returning to the street, as the now KTM-owned motorcycle company will release three street models at the upcoming EICMA show. Husqvarna says that the new models will “give a clear understanding of the future of the brand” — which hopefully means how Husqvarna will define itself differently that being just rebadged KTM.

Already releasing the the Husqvarna FS 450, a 450cc class supermoto, Husqvarna says that one of the three models will be a new large-displacement single-cylinder street bike, and will feature premium components and state-of-the-art technology (traction control?).

Friday Summary at Phillip Island: Special Tires for a Special Circuit, & The Rules for 2016

10/17/2014 @ 8:13 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Phillip Island is a very special race track. That has an upside – it rewards courage and talent, and has provided some spectacular racing – but it is also special in the more pejoratively euphemistic sense of the word. It challenges not just the riders, but motorcycle designers and racing teams as well.

Above all, it challenges tire manufacturers: with wildly varying temperatures, strong winds blowing in cool and damp air off the ocean, an abrasive surface, high-speed corners, more left handers than right handers, and the most of the lefts faster than the rights. It can rain, be bitterly cold, be bathed in glorious sunshine, or in sweltering heat. Try building a tire to cope with all that.

After last year’s fiasco, both Dunlop and Bridgestone tried to do just that. They came to the track in March to test tires and gather data to build tires for this weekend. The only minor problem is that the test came at the end of Australia’s long summer, and temperatures were much more congenial than now, as the country emerges from its Antipodean winter.

The tire selections brought by Dunlop and Bridgestone are much better than last year, but they are not quite perfect. At any other track, that wouldn’t be a problem. At Phillip Island, even being not quite perfect can land you in trouble.

Report: KTM Abandons Electric Scooter Project

10/15/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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KTM seems to have a tumultuous relationship when it comes to electric vehicles. The Austrian company was the first OEM to announce an electric product, back in 2011.

Then in 2013, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer announced that the timing wasn’t right for electrics…and then promptly debuted the company’s E-Speed electric scooter, several days later.

KTM has since revamped its electric dirt bike program, showing three new Freeride E models at EICMA (MX, Enduro, and Supermoto).

So maybe then it’s without surprise that word is going around that KTM is canning its E-Speed project, ahead of its expected 2015 debut.

KTM 1050 Adventure Outed by…KTM?

10/01/2014 @ 10:30 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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At INTERMOT, we just saw the KTM 1290 Super Adventure — a model that KTM is calling “the safest motorcycle in the world” thanks to the machine’s use of the Bosch MSC “cornering ABS” module, and KTM’s robust traction control system.

Basically a 180hp off-road couch, the 1290 Super Adventure is the pinnacle of KTM’s ADV offerings. But, it seems another Adventure model is coming from zie Austrians.

Spotted by one of our readers on KTM’s website, the Austrian company makes reference to a KTM 1050 Adventure model in its owners manual download page. A KTM 1050 Adventure model has been rumored leading up to the INTERMOT show, so the reference is likely to be more than just a typographical error.

2015 KTM Freeride E-SM — A Proper Electric Supermoto

09/30/2014 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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KTM is the first major motorcycle manufacturer to release an electric motorcycle, and it’s been a long road coming for the Austrian company.

KTM first debuted the Freeride E at the EICMA show three years ago, and since then has been perfecting its design. Now ready for primetime, KTM’s electric dirt bikes broke cover a few weeks ago.

Today, the KTM Freeride E-SM debuted at INTERMOT, giving the Austrian brand three distinct electric offerings within its core competency.

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure – Even with 180hp, Is This the Safest Motorcycle in the World?

09/30/2014 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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KTM wasn’t bashful about wedging the 1301cc lump from the KTM Super Duke R into the company’s ADV offering, as the Austrians were fairly frank about 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure debuting at INTERMOT. There may not be too many surprises about the adventure-tourer then, but it certainly is a stout package from KTM.

Obvious is the massive horsepower that the KTM 1290 Super Adventure is putting down, but KTM has also infused control into the ADV bike. Bosch’s MSC “cornering ABS” system is standard, as is traction control, cruise control, and semi-active suspension from WP. LED cornering headlights are also standard, while an electronic hill hold control (HHC) can be fitted as an option.

Of note is that the 1290 Super Adventure does not use the exact same engine as the 1290 Super Duke R. The two machines use the same cylinders, connecting rods, and pistons, but KTM’s engineers built a special crankshaft and cylinders for the 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure, which also has a heavier flywheel than the Super Duke R.

Electric Supermoto Coming from KTM Too?

09/18/2014 @ 5:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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We already showed you KTM’s two electric dirt bike models, the KTM Freeride E-XC and KTM Freeride E-SX, which feature a 21hp / 31 lbs•ft electric PMAC motor and a swappable 2.6 kWh lithium-Ion battery pack.

The models represent KTM’s rethinking on its electric range, especially when it comes to the current limitations of electric motorcycles, and what the current state-of-technology is in this space.

While the new Freeride E-XC & E-SX show KTM is moving in the right direction, the two models didn’t do a lot for our asphalt-loving hearts here at A&R. Never fear though, as rumors from Italy’s Moto.it peg a supermoto version will debut at INTERMOT.

An Analysis of KTM’s MotoGP Entry for 2017

09/18/2014 @ 11:33 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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The news that KTM would be building a MotoGP machine has been public since the beginning of August. In an interview with the German website Speedweek, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer confirmed that the Austrian manufacturer would be building a V4 MotoGP machine ready for the 2017 season.

KTM’s MotoGP plans were confirmed again last weekend at Misano. KTM’s head of motorsport Pit Beirer told the MotoGP.com website that they would indeed be building a MotoGP bike, and that work on the machine had already started.

The bike, Beirer told MotoGP.com, would be a V4, would use a steel trellis frame, just as their Moto3 machines do, and would be kitted with WP suspension. Design work on the bike was already underway, with the bike scheduled to make its debut on track “at the end of next summer,” Beirer said.

There would be no prospect of an early entry, however. The bike is to be prepared for the 2017 season, with testing going on from late 2015 onwards. The bike would be designed around the Michelin tires, which will be replacing Bridgestone as the spec tire from 2016 onwards.

The bike would also be designed with the spec electronics and unified software package in mind, which is also to be compulsory from the 2016 season.

Electric: The KTM Freeride E is Finally Ready for Primetime

09/17/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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KTM is finally ready to bring its electric dirt bike, the KTM Freeride E, to the general public, after pump-faking the machine at EICMA three years ago. During that rather large time gap, KTM has realized the errors of its initial design, and has since opted for a liquid-cooled PMAC electric motor, which puts out 21.5hp and 31 lbs•ft of torque.

The Lithium-ion battery pack has also been refined, and is now easily swapable (lift-up the seat, and unscrew four screws). With about an hour’s worth of riding time, according to the KTM wristwatches, the integrated battery and BMS unit has 2.6 kWh on-board, and fully charges in 80 minutes (80% in 50 minutes) when hooked up to the KTM quick charging system.

The Austrians are making two electric models available: the enduro KTM Freeride E-XC and the supercross KTM Freeride E-SX. So far, it looks like the machines are only available in Europe, where KTM has its electric E-Park riding parks. A supermoto is expected as well for the 2015 model year. Pricing for the Freeride E-SX is set at €10,995 in Germany (VAT included), while the Freeride E-XC will cost €11,295.

KTM Sets Sales Record During First-Half of 2014

09/08/2014 @ 6:20 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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KTM continues to challenge BMW Motorrad as the top European motorcycle manufacturer (by sales volume), and has set a company record for sales in the first half of this year.

Selling 70,469 units in total, KTM is just shy of the 70,978 mark left by BMW Motorrad during the same sales period, so it will be interesting to see if the Austrian brand can close the gap in the final six months, as it has done the previous two years.

Friendly competition aside, the news is quite positive for KTM. The six-month sales figure represents a nearly 28% increase in unit volume, while top-line revenue is up 17.6% (€410.3 million, a record as well) and bottom-line income (EBIT) is up whopping 82.6% (€33.6 million). KTM has also increased its ranks by 204 people during the first half of 2014.