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.

IOMTT: Team Mugen is Back for the 2013 TT Zero – New Lighter “Shinden 2″ & Same-Sized John McGuinness

02/07/2013 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

mugen-shinden-tt-zero-21

Runners-up in the 2012 TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, newcomer Team Mugen made quite the stir with its Shinden (神電) electric race bike, which was piloted by none other than TT great John McGuinness.

Announcing its intention to return for the 2013 TT Zero event, Mugen again confirms McPint as the team’s rider, and boasts of an even lighter and more refined Shinden Ni (神電弐つ), or Shinden 2, electric motorcycle.

Light on details with its new race bike, Mugen only mentions that the team has developed the Shinden Ni from the original Shinden, which has resulted in the weight of the motorcycle body and electric systems being reduced (read: less battery mass).

Mugen also says that the electric motor and aerodynamics of the motorcycle have also been analyzed and modified to make the Shinden Ni a more potent adversary.

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.

Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

John McGuinness Tests the Mugen Shinden Electric Bike

03/22/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Right after it was made official that John McGuinness would race in the 2012 TT Zero on the Mugen Shinden, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner was whisked off to Motegi to test the electric superbike. McGuinness’s involvement with Mugen’s racing effort has only added further credence to the notion that the team is a front for Honda’s foray into full-size electric motorcycles (Mugen was also started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda).

Debuting the Honda RC-E concept last year, A&R has also heard reports that the Japanese OEM has been playing with electric motorcycles in various forms for almost a decade now. Despite continued reports that the Mugen Shinden is a rebadged Honda RC-E, the two bikes share almost no similarities, except of course for this whole running on electricity thing.

More Photos & Video of the Mugen Shinden

03/05/2012 @ 11:21 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Thought to be a Honda in disguise, the Mugen Shinden (神電) broke cover this weekend at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Suzuka Circuit. While the Shinden leaves a bit to be desired visually when compared to the Honda RC-E concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, underneath the bland white fairings is a carbon fiber chassis with 122 hp on tap, and a curb weight of 573 lbs. With that much weight on board, Mugen’s electric superbike is sure to have a massive battery pack, which should give MotoCzysz, Lightning, and other 2012 TT Zero contenders a run for their money…the £10,000 that is still up for grabs to the first team to crack a 100 mph lap.

Piloting the Mugen Shinden around the 37.733 mile TT course will be none other than “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness. The seventeen-time TT race winner has been keen on racing the electrics for some time now, and his involvement with the Mugen squad only adds more credibility to the belief that Honda is using the tuning outfit as a front to race its electric in a low-pressure situation (McGuinness is a contract Honda rider with the Honda TT Legends squad). Interviewed at the Morecambe Football Club, McGuinness added even more linkage between the two Japanese companies when he refered to the project as the “Mugen/Honda” electric bike.

This is the Mugen Shinden (神電) TT Zero Electric Race Bike

03/02/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Added more information & technical specifications from Mugen’s press release.

This morning we learned that John McGuinness will be Mugen’s rider in the team’s bid to break the 100 mph barrier at the 2012 TT Zero. Heavily speculated to be a stealth project by Honda (無限 / Mugen was started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda), much speculation has been done over what sort of bike Mugen would be bringing to the Isle of Man TT, and now we have that answer.

Called Shinden (神電), meaning “God of Electricity” in Japanese, the machine may not have the same exquisite lines of the Honda RC-E electric superbike concept, but upon closer inspection, Mugen’s electric race bike seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Breaking cover at a press conference in Suzuka, the Mugen Shinden features a brushless three-phase 90 kW (120hp) DC motor, carbon fiber swingarm, and a carbon fiber twin-spar frame design.

«