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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Dakar Rally – Stage 11: Yamaha Takes Day’s Top Honors

01/16/2014 @ 11:42 pm, by Bryan Delohery5 COMMENTS

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Stage Eleven, from Antofagasta to El Salvador, proved to be the most challenging stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, and saw riders pushed to their limits as they spent nearly seven hours on their bikes, battling rivers and the infamous Dunes of Copiapo.

As we enter the final stages of the 2014 Dakar rally, this is still anyone’s game as the stage and overall leaders have begun to shuffle.

The two French teammates of the Yamaha Factory Racing took today’s stage, placing first and second. Cyril Despres took first with a stage time of 6:38:59 with his teammate, Olivier Pain, following a close second at 2:37 behind.

Dakar Rally – Stage 10: Barreda Racks Up 4th Stage Win

01/15/2014 @ 4:50 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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Stage Ten of the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 688 km ride from Iquique to Antofogasta, started with a descent down the dunes towards the Pacific, where more dunes and plenty of fesh fesh lay ahead — for those unfamiliar with Rally or Baja, fesh fesh is a sticky, talcum fine sand that has been eroded over time, leaving surfaces extremely slippery and at times, acting like a sand trap.

Undoubtedly the Factory Honda Team is celebrating today as teammates Joan Barreda and Helder Rodrigues took the first and second place victories on today’s tough stage.

Despite a 15-minute penalty yesterday for speeding, Joan Barreda continues to gnaw away at his fellow Spaniard and overall leader Marc Coma, giving him his fourth stage win of this year’s rally and closing the gap between them to 44:24.

Dakar Rally – Stage 9: Coma Leads, Problems for Duclos

01/14/2014 @ 10:22 pm, by Bryan DeloheryComments Off

Dakar Rally Iquique

As the sun rose this morning over the Andes Mountains in Chile,  the riders of Stage Nine prepared for the long ride through the Atacama Desert. 150 km of sand dunes were followed by a three kilometer descent into Iquique, which lay ahead.

Although starting in third place behind Despres and Barreda, Marc Coma managed to pilot his team Redbull KTM 450 Rally to first place on today’s stage, solidifying his overall lead to 40:19 ahead of his closest competition, Joan Barreda.

“It was a complicated stage in the Atacama Desert. Very nice and very fast at the beginning, but we found some dunes at the end,” said Coma. “I tried to catch Joan because he started two minutes in front of me. When I caught up with him I tried to follow to ride together to the end. It was a good day for me.”

Today’s stage win for Coma not only marks his second special stage win of this year’s rally, but his 23rd special stage victory in the Dakar.

Dakar Rally – Stage 8: Despres Gives Yamaha First Stage Win

01/13/2014 @ 4:22 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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Today’s stage for the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 486 km sprint from Salta, Argentina to Calama, Chile, gave riders quite a view as they glided across parts of the largest salt flat in the world, and up the Andes Mountains as they enter the Chilean section of the rally.

After taking third on yesterday’s stage, Cyril Despres of France took today’s stage win putting up a 5:23:20 on his Yamaha YZ450F Rally, with Joan Barreda of Spain coming in second at 2:09 behind him. This pushes Despres up one position into 9th place overall.

“The idea isn’t really to go looking for stage victories but to try and get back to the front of the rally,” Despres said. “Today, by making up the difference on the tracks between myself and the first riders, I won the special and that’s always a pleasure.”

Dakar Rally – Stage 7: Barreda Chips Away at Coma

01/12/2014 @ 11:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Stage Seven saw the riders of the 2014 Dakar Rally back in the saddle, after having Saturday off as their lone rest day. If the riders thought their re-entry was going to be easy, they were wrong, as Stage Seven marks the first part of another marathon stage — a stage where only the riders can service and repair their machines after the stage’s end. Today also marks the first time that The Dakar has been held in Bolivia, the 28th country to host the iconic race.

First out of the gate, Alain Duclos suffered a navigation error, and lost nearly 20 minutes on the course finding the right route. The mistake cost the Sherco rider his third overall position, as he falls to fourth overall, behind KTM’s Jordi Viladoms.

Halfway through the Dakar Rally now, and Marc Coma has a good cushion over the rest of the field. His advantage isn’t insurmountable though, and today Joan Barreda took his first chip at his fellow countryman’s lead. The HRC rider stole four minutes from his KTM counterpart, with Barreda now 38 minutes back from Coma overall. The deficit isn’t enough to concern Coma yet, but if Barreda can keep up the pressure he might stand a chance for the overall win.

Cyril Despres also had a productive day, as the Frenchman finished third on the stage. This moved him into tenth overall, and while Despres’ bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally is surely done (it would seem the Yamaha PR team has already packed things up, as their site hasn’t updated since their disastrous Stage Five), Despres’ first term on the Yamaha YZ450F Rally could still see him finish in the Top 5. Undoubtedly, a strong pace over the remaining stages on helps build his campaign for the 2015 rally raid.

Dakar Rally – Stage 6: Coma Maintains, Chaleco Withdraws

01/11/2014 @ 12:44 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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At the time of this writing, racers in the 2014 Dakar Rally are now officially halfway through their ordeal, but before they could lay claim to their rest day on Saturday, they first had to contend with the 400 km of Stage Six. Thankfully temperatures weren’t as hot as they were on Thursday, but that did not make the day any easier.

It was a good outing for Sherco, as another of its riders took the top honor’s for the day, this time it was Alain Duclos who finished first for Sherco; which helped the French rider move into third overall in the standings, and bring some publicity for the small French/Spanish brand.

His movement in the rankings was also helped by the withdrawal of Chaleco Lopez, as the factory KTM rider wreaked his bike, and injured himself in the process. In contention for a podium in this year’s Dakar, his presence will be missed at the front, though he is not the only top contender absent in the rankings, as its seems impossible for Cyril Despres to overcome his mistakes on Stage Four and Stage Five.

Trailing Duclos by one minute on Stage Six, Marc Coma solidified his top spot in the overall rankings, and now leads HRC’s Juan Barreda by over 42 minutes. Not an insurmountable lead for Barreda to overcome, but the Spaniard on his Honda will have his work cutout for him if he wants to bet his fellow countryman and KTM’s well established game plan.

Riders will take Saturday off, as it is their rest day, and while the day will be a much welcomed reprieve, we are sure many will have their thoughts on Eric Palante, whose body was found today on the Stage Five course. No word yet on his cause of death, but with the 100 degree whether yesterdat, heat likely played a factor.

Dakar Rally – Stage 5: Coma Leads, Despres Penalized

01/09/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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Stage five of the 2014 Dakar Rally saw  riders battling  some very inclement conditions. With temperatures soaring to well above 100 degrees and poor visibility due to last week’s rain, Stage Five  took its toll on all the riders as they covered the 912 km jaunt between Chilecito and Tucumán.

“It was another tough day and it was really hot out there,” explained Marc Coma. “To get to the end of the stage I rode for 10 km lost in a river bed.” Coma and his KTM 450 Rally rode to the stage lead with Jordi Viladoms taking second nearly 13 minutes behind Coma, while Kuba Pryzgonski finished third.

Dakar Rally – Stage 3: Honda Makes It a Hat Trick

01/07/2014 @ 10:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Day three of the 2014 Dakar Rally sees the beginning of the first marathon stage, where only riders will be allowed to work tonight on their racing machines. Making it three stages in a row for HRC, Joan Barreda won his second stage of this year’s Dakar, and extended his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Stage Three saw the return of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma to their riding pace, as the pair finished second and third for the day, respectively. The day also moved them into the same positions overall, behind Joan Barreda of course.

A tough and technical stage, the Honda CRF 450 Rally is proving itself to be a capable machine, and Barreda is showing himself to be less of an underdog, and now the man to beat on the race course.

XXX: 13 Photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally Buck Naked

12/31/2013 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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How rude of us. All this talk about KTM’s new 450cc race bike for the Dakar Rally, and we haven’t properly introduced the machine to you. Well, we did bring you some of the first photos of the 2014 KTM 450 Rally race bike a few months ago, but they hardly do the purpose-built race bike any justice.

KTM’s goal with the 450 Rally was to build a lighter, slimmer, and better handling machine than the previous machine, which was basically a 600cc-class chassis with a 450cc motor wedged into it. Now building a new bike around a brand new motor, all from the ground-up, KTM believes it has the ultimate adventure-racer in its arsenal.

More like a motocross bike in its design than the bulky 2013 model was, the 2014 KTM 450 Rally is a stunning piece of kit, and for as odd as it sounds, we have never lusted after a fairing stay / headlight housing more in our lives. Luckily KTM supplied us with 13 hi-res photos of the new KTM 450 Rally…totally naked. If you’re a gearhead, the following might not be safe for work.

Video: KTM Readies for the 2014 Dakar Rally

12/31/2013 @ 1:55 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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Cyril Despres might be the man to beat at the upcoming Dakar Rally, but the boys at KTM aren’t going to let Despres’ defection to Yamaha Racing stop them from keeping the Austrian brand’s winning streak alive. Gearing up for the 2014 Dakar Rally, which starts January 5th in Argentina, KTM factory riders Marc Coma, Ruben Faria and Francisco Lopez talk in a video about the upcoming race and their new KTM 450 Rally race bike.

Debuting the purpose-built 450cc machine, Coma et al will have a potent weapon this year, especially in the more technical stages. However, with two marathon stages (stages where the riders must perform all their own maintenance and mechanical work), as well as five separation stages (stages where motorcycles and quads will tackle a different and more technical routes of the course than the cars and trucks), the 2014 Dakar Rally is looking especially hard compared to previous years.

With Coma looking to tie Despres’ current tally of five wins, we can expect strong competition from the Spaniard. Missing last year’s event due to injury, Coma will be keen to regain his momentum, and equal his Dakar rival. Of course, the KTM Factory Red Bull Team enters this year’s rally with heavy hearts, mourning the loss of American Kurt Caselli, who died this year while competing in the SCORE Baja 1000. KTM is dedicating their race in this year’s Dakar to their fallen teammate.