Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

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.

MV Agusta to Focus on Growing US Market

07/31/2014 @ 3:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta has announced its plan to grow the Italian motorcycle manufacturer’s presence in the USA, which includes strengthening the US dealer network, “enhancing connections” with existing customers, and increasing marketing investments.

To help implement these goals, MV Agusta has turned to E.I.M. for interim and permanent executive management solutions. MV Agusta also announced its intention for similar plans in Brazil, Asia, and select European counties (read: Germany, France, and the UK).

MotoGP: Alberto Puig No Longer Dani Pedrosa’s Manager

12/03/2013 @ 11:24 am, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

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Alberto Puig is to take on a new role inside Honda. Brought into HRC as advisor to Dani Pedrosa, the former 500cc race winner is now to focus his efforts more on talent development for Honda, starting with the Asia Talent Cup.

Puig has a long and very successful history of spotting and developing talent. The Spaniard was the driving force behind the MotoGP Academy, the forerunner of Red Bull Rookies Cup, and before that, had worked with Telefonica Movistar in the Spanish championship.

That work had produced a string of highly successful riders in various classes, including several world champions. Alongside Dani Pedrosa, Puig was responsible for Casey Stoner, Julian Simon, Bradley Smith, Joan Lascorz, and Leon Camier.

Gigi Dall’Igna Replacing Bernhard Gobmeier at Ducati Corse

10/10/2013 @ 3:44 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Bernhard Gobmeier hasn’t even spent a full-year at Ducati Corse yet, though the German’s time in Borgo Panigale will officially come to an end at the end of the MotoGP season. Taking a “prestigious and strategic position within the Motorsport organisation of the Volkswagen Group,” Gobmeier will be replaced by Aprilia Racing’s Luigi “Gigi” Dall’Igna, as was rumored earlier this week.

Dall’Igna brings with him an arsenal of experience in managing Aprilia’s World Superbike and MotoGP efforts, and his first task at Ducati Corse is an obvious one: right the ship.

With Ducati Corse listlessly floating in MotoGP for the past few years, and now hitting a wall in WSBK as well, Dall’Igna’s move to Bologna may be a small one from Noale, but the task at hand is monumental. Ducati Corse explains the move and new hierarchy in its press release is after the jump.

Report: Massimo Bordi Out at MV Agusta

06/24/2013 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Cycle World is reporting that Massimo Bordi has  retired from his post as CEO of MV Agusta, as his contract has not been extended by the Italian motorcycle maker. If you recall, Bordi was brought into MV Agusta by the late Claudio Castiglioni, after the Castiglioni family bought MV Agusta from Harley-Davidson.

Making his son Giovanni Castiglioni President of the company, and Bordi the CEO of MV Agusta, many saw Claudio Castiglioni’s choices in management appointments as a way to help ensure that there was a steady hand was on the wheel as the young Giovanni learned the ropes of his father’s business.

So, for many involved with the company in Italy, Bordi’s departure is perhaps less of a surprise than it is a natural and expected evolution at MV Agusta. For many outside of Italy, who are not caught up in the romanticism of the brand, the news could require a bit more than a casual glance though.

Zero Motorcycles Finds New CEO After 16-Month Search

07/24/2012 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that for over a year now (16 months by our count) that Zero Motorcycles has gone along without a hand on the rudder. Well…that’s not entirely true of course, as we hear that Zero’s COO Karl Wharton has been calling the shots at the Scotts Valley company in the interim, but the duration certainly has been done without a formal leader at the electric motorcycle manufacturer. That all ends today though, as Richard Walker has been appointed as the new CEO of Zero Motorcycles.

Walker comes with references from Hewlett Packard & Control4 (a home automation controller company). At HP, Walker was the VP and General Manager of the Consumer Desktop Business Division, which was responsible for the HP Pavilion, Compaq Presario, and HP Touchsmart product lines. While at Control4, Walker was the Executive Vice President of Product Development and Product Operations, so we are guessing he knows a thing or two about bringing a product to market.

Audi Reconfirms Gabriele Del Torchio as Ducati CEO

07/19/2012 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With the acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding by Audi AG, the German car manufacturer was bound to do some shuffling in the Italian motorcycle company’s executive ranks. Announcing that it has formed a new Board of Directors, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has unsurprisingly been name President of the Board, while Horst Glaser and Axel Strotbek (best names ever) from Audi have also been given seats on the Ducati’s Board.

Giving Audi AG a 3-to-2 controlling interest of over Ducati’s Board of Directors, the new board is also comprised of Gabriele Del Torchio and Claudio Domenicali. In an interesting move, Del Torchio has been reconfirmed by the new Board of Directors as CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, with Audi also appointing the Italian to the Board of Directors at Automobili Lamborghini SpA.

Zero Is Working on a Brammo-Killer for 2013

04/20/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The nearly two-year wait for the Brammo Empulse is nearly over, as the Ashland-based company is set to debut the Brammo Empulse and Brammo Empulse R in Los Angeles (and online) May 8th. It should come as no surprise then that the A&R Bothan spy network is picking up on murmurings from Zero Motorcycles, and that the Californian company is working on an Empulse-killer for the 2013 model year.

Said to be building a proper electric sport bike, as well as suitable electric dirt bike package, Zero is seemingly finally on the verge of sunsetting its current motorcycle designs for more mature motorcycle offerings, and is putting companies like Brammo and BRD squarely in its sights.

Officially Official: Neal Saiki out at Zero Motorcycles

03/08/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

You can file this one under “news we broke a month ago,” but Zero Motorcycles has finally officially announced the departure of company founder Neal Saiki, despite sending an email to its employees last week that Saiki had not been sacked from his position.

According to Zero Motorcycles, Saiki is leaving his position to enter into the Igor I. Sikorski Human Powered Helicopter Competition, which Saiki first competed in while attending Cal Poly as aeronautical engineering student in 1989. However, our sources have told us Saiki’s departure was prompted by a fundamental shift in the company, precipitated by the Zero’s financial backers.

Management Shake-Up at Zero Motorcycles – Neal Saiki Out

02/11/2011 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The news coming out of the Santa Cruz area today is that there’s been a management shake-up at Zero Motorcycles, as multiple people at the top of the company’s leadership have been given pink slips, including company Founder & CTO Neal Saiki. Recently talking to PlugBike.com‘s John Adamo, Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman denied that Saiki had been let go from the company, saying that Saiki’s absence at the company was due to his child’s recent birth and Saiki’s desire to spend time with his newborn.

However multiple sources close to the company have confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that Neal Saiki was a part of a larger management shake-up that was precipitated by the company’s lead investor. With many of the terminations expected to be finalized next month, and spanning more than one division at the California-based startup, there appears to be a considerable personnel and culture shift occurring at Zero at this point in time.

Royal Enfield Appoints New CEO

02/02/2011 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The world’s oldest motorcycle brand is about to get some new blood, as Dr. Venki Padmanabhan has been named Royal Enfield Motors new CEO. Serving Royal Enfield for the past two years as COO under then CEO R.L. Ravichandran, Padmanabhan has a bevy of management experience, which has seen him serve as the Managing Director of Chrysler’s South East Asia Global Sourcing Office, along with other positions at General Motors and Mercedes-Benz. While Padmanabhan has been at Royal Enfield, the company has posted 21% growth in sales volume, 54% growth in sales turnover, and double-digit profitability (that’s the business equivalent to a triple-double).

Reporting to Siddhartha Lal, the Managing Director of Eicher Motors Limited (Royal Enfield’s parent company), we imagine Padmanabhan’s marching orders will be to continue the strong growth the company saw under Ravichandran, and to continue to expand into emerging markets, while solidifying Royal Enfield’s position in India against outside producers.