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.

Lightning Motorcycles Announces Street-Legal Electric Bike for Sale – We Have Reservations

08/27/2012 @ 11:57 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles is getting set to offer a street-legal version of its electric race bike. Featuring the same 240+ hp Remy motor as the racing stead, Lightning will have two battery packs available for street-riders: 12kWh & 14kWh — while the team continues to develop the 22kWh pack it unsuccessfully campaigned at the Isle of Man TT.

Basically the Lightning’s electric race bike with lights, signals, and new fairings, we have yet to see the new bodywork from Lightning, but if it looks anything like the concept sketch from Glynn Kerr Design (of Fischer, Boxer,  & Mondial fame), it should be quite stunning — as is the $38,000 price tag.

IOMTT: Michael Rutter Makes “The Ton” Official – Wins TT Zero with a 104.056 mph Lap

06/06/2012 @ 8:33 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

With water reported at various points on the track before the start of the 2012 SES TT Zero, there was serious concern from the riders about the racing conditions, though they would prove to be over-stated as the bikes took to the Mountain Course. With Miller, McGuinness, and Rutter all hungry to get the £10,000 bounty on the 100 mph lap barrier, the riders and teams also had serious concerns over whether the weather could prevent making the feat official.

Getting it done with “dodgy” conditions, Michael Rutter rode out to a commanding lead on his Segway MotoCzysz E1pc, and never looked back. Posting 126 mph at the Sulby Straight speed trap, Rutter made good time over the mountain, and set an official 100+ mph lap for electrics at the Isle of Man TT, with an average speed of 104.056 mph.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

Video: Lightning Electric Superbike vs. BMW S1000RR

02/29/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

On Monday, we got a chance to swing a leg over the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike at Infineon Raceway. While a full review is till to come, the initial report is basically that Lightning’s bike pulls like a freight train when you get on the throttle, and despite how “big” it is, the electric superbike handles surprisingly well, even around the crucible that is Sears Point Infineon Raceway. During our test, Lightning Motorcycles’ Richard Hatfield tipped us off to a video with Ted Rich at the helm of the Lightning, with AMA Superbike rider Jake Holden giving chase (and video) on his BMW S1000RR race bike.

Lapping around Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Holden and his BMW look like they could have gotten past the Lightning in several spots, though Rich and the Lightning certainly hold their own in the video. The Lightning’s straight-line speed is more than evident, as it pulls away from the 200+hp BMW S1000RR with ease, and as we experienced at Infineon, the bike is now slouch in the turns, and continues to develop in advance of the electric motorcycle racing season. Check out the video after the jump.

Video: 200+ MPH with Paul Thede & Lightning Motorcycles

08/22/2011 @ 7:57 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles had a busy week last week, as the San Francisco Bay Area company was hard at work at Bonneville setting the fastest speed ever on an electric vehicle, and then later shattering that record. Though the team wasn’t able to break past 220 mph as they had hoped, rider and multiple LSR holder Paul Thede is probably still happy with the fact that he spent the better part of the week going faster than he has ever gone on two-wheels before, let alone on an electric.

Becoming the newest inductee to the 200 MPH Club, Thede and his red hat made two more stabs at their 215.907 mph land speed record. Though they wouldn’t get past the mark, they did send us this video of their last run which showed 216 mph on the GPS at one point during the five mile pass. Be sure to note the perceivable lean angle capture by Lightning’s camera due to the Bonneville’s crosswinds. Would you be able to go 200+ mph cocked over 15º or more? Video after the jump.

Bonneville: Lightning Raises the Electric Motorcycle LSR Up Another Peg with a 215.907 mph Record

08/17/2011 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles is still on the salt flats at Bonneville, looking for the ultimate in speed on an electric motorcycle. After already on Sunday setting the fastest speed recorded for any electric motorcycle, the Lightning crew set back to work on crushing its own 206.079 mph land speed record. Posting a 214.209 mph speed yesterday, Paul Thede had to once again back up the team’s accomplishment with another wicked fast run today, in order to get into the record books. Battling gusty cross-breezes, Thede put in an astonishing palindromic 217.712 mph time to set another LSR for Lightning, which officially comes in at 215.907 mph in the APS-Ω class.

Bonneville: Lightning Motorcycles Sets a New Land Speed Record for Electric Motorcycles

08/15/2011 @ 7:46 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

News from the salt flats is that Lightning Motorcycles was successful in achieving a land speed record for electric motorcycles. Making a pass of 206.981 mph during Sunday’s sessions, the speed averaged from Saturday’s pass of 205.238 mph creates a land speed record of 206.079 mph for electric motorcycles (class APS-Ω). As a capper to the weekend, the Lightning team posted a top speed of 208.386 mph through the speed trap on its record run, showing that the “Flying Banana Mk. II” (as we like to call it) had a bit more pep left in it during its run.

Bonneville: Lightning Motorcycles Becomes the First Electric Motorcycle to Break 200 MPH

08/13/2011 @ 4:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

We just got a phone call from Richard Hatfield of Lightning Motorcycles saying that the “Flying Banana Mk. II” just put down a 205.238 mph pass at the Southern California Timing Associations’ Speed Week at Bonneville. This pass makes Lightning the first electric motorcycle manufacturer/competitor ever to break the 200 mph mark, whether it be on the tarmac or at the salt flats. If verified during tomorrow’s second pass, the speed would shatter the outright land speed record of 176.434mph, which was set by Riches Nelson and his fully-streamlined Airtech Lightning Bolt electric motorcycle.

Lightning currently holds the AMA and FIM land speed records for the APS-Ω LSR class (A=special chassis, PS=partially streamlined, Ω=electric) for electric motorcycles weighing between 150kg and 300kg, after Paul Thede (of Race-Tech fame) took the Flying Banana Mk. I to 173.321 mph at Bonneville last year. This year according to SCTA protocols, Lightning’s bike has been impounded for the night, and the team will have another run tomorrow to solidify its record. The average of those two speeds will then stand as Lightning’s official speed, and if everything goes according to plan, Lightning will have raised the LSR mark for electric motorcycles into the 200 mph bracket.

The Rappture Comes to Laguna Seca – Mission Motors Wins Electric Bike Showdown

07/24/2011 @ 2:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

With the micro-weather climate that is Laguna Seca, the skies cleared in time for the FIM e-Power/TTXGP Championship race. Fast throughout the week, Steve Rapp stood on the pole position riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike supersport. Qualifying second was Michael Barnes on the Lightning entry, and rounding out the front row was Michael Czysz on the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc. With eleven motorcycles on the starting grid, Laguna Seca proved to be one of the most well-attended grids for electric motorcycle racing; but perhaps more importantly, it was host to some of the most professional entries we’ve seen to-date from electric racing.

With 11 seconds covering the top six riders, the gaps between teams has narrowed in the two short years of electric motorcycle racing. Most of that gap caused by Mission’s scorching pace, a margin of just three tenths of a second covered the second row of the grid, making a battle for fourth almost assured from the get-go. Though the qualifying times were far apart overall, there was still some close racing to be had at Laguna Seca.

How is Steve Rapp Like Moses? They Were Both on a Mission to the Promised Land

07/23/2011 @ 11:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The joint e-Power/TTXGP round at Laguna Seca saw its second round today, with virtually all the riders improving upon their times from yesterday’s free practice. Once again at the top was Supersport-paced Mission R, which was piloted by Steve Rapp to a 1’31.376 pole-position time. One of the only shake-ups on the grid position, Lightning Motorcycles bested last year’s winner MotoCzysz for the second starting position, as the company from San Carlos found some more cornering speed from its previous Isle of Man suspension setup.

MotoCzysz also improved upon its unique suspension design, looking very strong down the straight-away. Hopefully Czysz can find some more speed and make the battle for second a close one, while the battle for fourth should be a hot contest with Germany’s Münch Racing just five hundredths of a second ahead of Oregon’s Brammo. Qualifying results are after the jump, and check back tomorrow for our full coverage of the Laguna Seca electric round.