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.

Sepang 1 Test Summary – Day 2: A Tale of the Tape?

02/05/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

jorge-lorenzo-motogp-sepang-day-2-yamaha

The first day of the first Sepang MotoGP test is always a revealing of secrets. It’s not that the factories tell the media everything they are doing, but with everyone on the track, there is nowhere left to hide. The timesheets tell the tale.

The story of the second day is always a little more complex. Initial impressions from the first day are absorbed, the data examined and analyzed, and engineers and mechanics come up with new ideas.

That means that riders are working on different ideas and in different directions, some changes work, others don’t. Times become much more difficult to assess.

So what did we learn today? A lot. Not so much from the lap times – Jorge Lorenzo is fastest, and looking as good as ever, Andrea Dovizioso is incredibly quick, especially on a new soft tire, and the Hondas have chosen a direction to follow – but more about the underlying state of play.

It was a fascinating day, despite the fact that the standing barely changed much after noon.

Photos: Rossi’s “Ugly Xmas Sweater” Helmet at Sepang

02/04/2015 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-Ugly-Xmas-Sweater-Helmet-AGV-VR46-01

Valentino Rossi is sporting a new winter test helmet design, as is tradition for the nine-time world champion. Looking like a riff on something you would find at an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party, Rossi’s new lid design is certainly…festive.

Perhaps that’s too harsh of a critique for The Doctor, but you can’t mistake the snowflake’s design as something straight from J.Crew’s yule-log holiday catalog.

Ugly Xmas sweater or not, Rossi put a bow on Wednesday’s lap times — second-fastest overall, and by far the most comfortable looking on a MotoGP bike.

Rossi said at Sepang that he is hunting for his 10th World Championship this season, and we believe him. Only a man with that level of confidence could rock a helmet with a snowflake on it, after all.

Sepang 1 Test Summary – Day 1: How the Factories Fared

02/04/2015 @ 12:05 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Marc-Marquez-Sepang-Test-1-HRC

There is something about the sound of a MotoGP bike that stirs the blood once again. After a long winter, in which one reflects on the many negatives of following motorcycle racing – hard work for little money, endless trips through faceless airports to faceless hotels, and long periods away from home.

A few milliseconds of the sound of a MotoGP bike being warmed up is enough to make you forget all that, and melt away the misery of business travel on the cheap under the fierce heat of passion for the sport. There is nothing that excites like motorcycle racing.

It was an intriguing first day back, with highs and lows, strong performers and real disappointments. The finishing order is not completely indicative of the real strength of the field, but it offers some sound clues as to who stands where.

2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Preview – What Can We Expect As MotoGP Returns To Action?

02/03/2015 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Living-The-Dream-Sepang-Malaysian-Grand-Prix-Isle-of-Man-Road-Racing-Tony-Goldsmith-20

The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.

And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.

Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.

Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.

The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.

Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.

The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.

Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.

Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?

The Season Begins – Private MotoGP Tests Start at Sepang

01/31/2015 @ 11:24 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

casey-stoner-Sepang-1-test-HRC

Officially, testing for 2015 MotoGP season starts in five days time, on Wednesday, 4th February. Unofficially, it started yesterday, when Yamaha and Honda’s test teams gathered at Sepang to pre-test a number of parts and prepare the way for the arrival of the factory riders, who arrive in Malaysia next week.

Normally, test teams test in secret – a local journalist and photographer was told in no uncertain terms he would not be welcome at the track – which means their work goes unnoticed. Unfortunately for Honda – or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective – HRC had a very high-profile test rider at Sepang.

Casey Stoner spent a couple of days on the 2015 Honda RC213V, and he made a couple of posts on his Instagram and Twitter accounts gave a few clues about the test.

The Biggest Crashes from the 2014 Malaysian Cub Prix

12/30/2014 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

malaysian-cub-prix

One of the highlights for me this year was getting to travel to Malaysia, for the Malaysian Grand Prix. A tremendously diverse country, Malaysians come together for many things, but one of the biggest is motorcycle racing.

The Malaysian economy hasn’t quite caught up with the country’s appetite though, so large-displacement machines are more of a rarity than a norm on the city streets.

Instead, you will see Malaysians riding these small-displacement bike that no matter the manufacturer, looks suspciously like the iconic Honda Cub.

Naturally the racing desire conquers all, and these “cubs” are raced, en masse, on Malaysian “race courses” — some of which are more professionally put together than others.

The speeds might not be MotoGP-level, but the riders are going 10/10ths, and the crashes are just as intense. For your cringing pleasure, here are the biggest crashes from the 2014 Malaysian Cub Prix, after the jump.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Malaysia

11/26/2014 @ 2:47 pm, by Tony Goldsmith5 COMMENTS

Living-The-Dream-Sepang-Malaysian-Grand-Prix-Isle-of-Man-Road-Racing-Tony-Goldsmith-15

From the cool of Melbourne it was on to the heat and humidity of Malaysia, for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit.

Clare and I arrived into Malaysia on Tuesday evening. For our first two nights we had decided to stay in downtown Kuala Lumpur, and picked a hotel close to the Petronas Towers to give us easy access to the rest of the city.

We had treated ourselves to a room with a Twin Towers view and what a view it was. I think you would struggle to find a better view of the towers anywhere in the city.

After spending Wednesday exploring Kuala Lumpur, we met up with Stephen and Trev who arrived from Melbourne. Trev and Clare stayed in the city for a bit more sightseeing and Stephen and I headed to track to collect our credentials.

I’d not found the heat of downtown Kuala Lumpur to bad, it was hot but I was coping okay. The area of the track was a whole different ball game.

Destination Malaysia – Day Eight: Thanks for the Fish

11/03/2014 @ 1:20 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Destination-Malaysia-Day-Eight-09

It’s our last full day on the island of Langkawi, as tomorrow all of us will disperse back to our corners of the globe…making close to 24hrs of travel in the process. Today is perhaps the first day where we didn’t have much to do, a welcomed sight on our itinerary, and finally the adoption of the slower pace that comes with island living.

We took to the mangroves via a powerboat, where we explored the stalagmites and stalactites that have taken a millennium to grow. Ducking low, so as to avoid an unintended souvenir, we also had to contend with a side of bats hanging from the ceiling. Langkawi is teaming with wildlife at this natural preserve, and we can spot mudskippers below, as well as small crabs scurrying through the mud.

The nature tour continues with the monkeys that greet us along our path (looking for a handout, those cheap bastards), and later we would watch eagles feeding off the fish skins we left them in the estuary. Our trip is cut short though, as we’re having lunch at another resort on the island, The Datai (totally staying here, if I ever come back).

Our official schedule ends there, and the unofficial schedule finds us at the pool the rest of the day. The ample time under the sun gives us plenty of duration to chew on the trip as a whole, and take in everything we have experienced in the past seven days.

Destination Malaysia — Day Seven: Langkawi

10/31/2014 @ 6:58 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Destination-Malaysia-Day-Seven-20

Today is perhaps the day I have been looking forward to the most. Not that I don’t like a good MotoGP race, especially at a venue I’ve never been to before, but come on…a couple days on a tropical island? That’s tough to beat.

Our itinerary before we left the USA originally had us flying to Borneo these few days, but the aftermath of tropical storms there meant we would visit island of Langkawi instead.

While I had heard much talk of Borneo, Langkawi was an unknown to me. My worry was for naught though, as the once “cursed” tropical locale was just as decadent as we had been told — of course, staying at the five-star Danna Langkai resort helped in that regard as well.

Destination Malaysia – Day Six: Race Day

10/28/2014 @ 11:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Destination-Malaysian-Day-Six-06

Time of day is no escape from the heat and humidity of Malaysia, and it’s no different here at Sepang on race day. I could wax-poetic about how the extreme temperatures here at the track change the smell of the four-stroke exhaust fumes.

Or, how the humidity, which leaves you with a constant layer of sweat on your skin, changes the thunderous sounds of the 1,000cc MotoGP engines, but it would be a lie. It’s just hot here, and your body braves its exposures to the outside world only if you make it the future promise of air conditioning.

I have no idea how the fans pack the stands here at Sepang International Raceway on race day, but they do. They come in droves, and many ride here. Large convoys of bikers make the trek from nearby countries even.

Southeast Asia is rampant for GP racing, and it shows. Attendance on Friday is non-existent, Saturday is modest, at best, but the come Sunday, 80,000+ Malay, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Burmese, and countless other ethnicities line the track. It’s a spectactle, to be certain.