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.

Cameron Donald on the Norton SG3 at the Isle of Man TT

03/21/2014 @ 2:39 pm, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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With the start of the qualifying rounds for the 2014 Isle of Man TT just two months away, Norton Motorcycles has confirmed that Cameron Donald will be riding for the British company in is this year’s TT. As such, Donald will be straddling a Norton SG3 for the Dainese Superbike and Pokerstars Senior TT events, starting in 19th position.

Both manufacturer and rider are looking to make a comeback as Norton has not seen a TT victory since 1992 and Donald saw his last victory in 2008. That is not to say that the Australian does not have an impressive track record with 10 career podium finishes, including second place in last year’s Superbike race, just behind Michael Dunlop.

Stan Dibben, No Ordinary Passenger

10/14/2013 @ 9:37 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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With all the negative attention that motorcycling has been receiving in the mainstream consciousness lately, we are looking at you Hollywood Stuntz, we thought it would be prudent to highlight some positive press our beloved sport has received recently. As such, here is a great video-short by the New York Times that features Stan Dibben, winner of the World Sidecar Championship in 1953.

Mr. Dibben personifies just about every sidecar driver and passenger we have ever met: brazen, fearless, and slightly daft. You would have to be a combination of those three elements to do the things sidecar racers do on the motorway, even more so to do it on 1950’s machinery. Take seven minutes from your day, and enjoy this well done production from the NY Times.

Crighton Racing CR700P – Because Pistons Are So Passé

10/09/2013 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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At 300 lbs dry and producing 200hp, the Crighton Racing CR700P should catch your attention right away. Diving deeper into the machine, the CR700P’s 700cc twin-rotor rotary engine should further pique your interest — and then of course there is the Crighton Racing’s interesting past.

Astute observers will note that the Crighton Racing CR700P looks exactly like the Norton NRV588, and that is because of the involvement of Brian Crighton in both projects. A continuation of the project that started out in the Norton Motorcycles R&D laboratory in 1986, the Crighton Racing CR700P is the realization of Crighton’s dream to build a rotary-powered motorcycle that can top the very best racing bikes in the world.

Is Norton Using Semi-Active Suspension for the IOMTT?

04/09/2013 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Norton Motorcycles is gearing up for another entry into the Isle of Man TT, and while the British company’s project has been sequestered in Donington Park during the off-season, the team has released one very interesting photo of the now named Norton TT Racer.

Giving us a glimpse of the bike’s front wheel area, we can see that Norton is using BST carbon fiber wheels, six-pot ISR calipers, Dunlop tires, and Öhlins suspension.

However, the interesting thing with the Öhlins FGR forks is that they are clearly beyond WSBK-spec, and there appears to be electrical connections going to the forks’ rebound and compression damping adjusters.

The electrical leads can only mean one thing, a racing setup with semi-active suspension.

Up-Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike

05/31/2012 @ 7:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Norton SG1, as it is now being called, is the talk of the Isle of Man TT paddock (we presume the SG designation stands for Norton’s new owner, Stuart Garner). Completed just before the TT fortnight, the Norton squad has an enormous amount of work ahead of it to bring the SG1 up to speed. Norton’s rider, Ian Mackman, posted a 112.364 on Tuesday night’s practice, and was out again Wednesday night, scaring the hell of out of elderly Manx women.

What is rapidly becoming the Norton SG1’s defining feature, is the bike’s anti-wildlife system, which is able to produce enough of a intone a sound somewhere between “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out. Scaring virtually anything within earshot, the anti-wildlife system also doubles as the bike’s exhaust, and would be banned twice-over at noise-restricted tracks like Laguna Seca.

Drawing some resemblance to the rotary-powered Norton NRV588 project, the Norton SG1 also features an Aprilia RSV4 motor in a custom Spondon frame. With all the trappings of a CRT bike, it doesn’t take too much imagination to link the SG1 to the rumors about Norton’s return to MotoGP, which makes for some interesting conjecture on the trajectory of the team’s racing future.

Norton V4 Gets Shakedown Test Ahead of Isle of Man TT

05/10/2012 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

More news from Norton, as the British firm has begun track-testing its V4 road race bike, in preparation of the 2012 Isle of Man TT. Focusing on the bike’s handling, Norton has been working hand-in-hand with Öhlins and Dunlop developing the bike’s chassis. The trio has devised the highly sophisticated “165 mph no hands” test, which supposedly checks the stability of the bike, though we imagine Health & Safety would frown upon it.

With the bike’s Aprilia RSV4 motor putting out 195hp at the crank, and with the total race package weighing 419 lbs (195 kg) when it is sopping wet, the Spondon-framed Norton may not be exactly what fans of the famous marques were hoping for after seeing the very appealing Norton NRV 588, though it does seem to be a potent package.

Norton Returns to Racing at the Isle of Man TT – New Bike Features Aprilia RSV4 Motor

04/18/2012 @ 7:10 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

After a couple failed returns, Norton is set to race in the upcoming Isle of Man TT with a race bike that features an Aprilia RSV4 engine and proprietary chassis (does that remind you of anything?). Sponsored by Monster Energy, at the helm of the still unnamed Norton will be top be the TT Privateer’s Champion Ian Mackman, who will race in the Seniors TT on June 8th (the first time a Norton has been in the Senior TT since 1992).

The new Norton is a bit of a departure from the British company’s last race bike, the rotary motor-powered Norton NRV588. Unable to race the NRV588 in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, the new Norton is surely a byproduct of the firm’s heavily rumored MotoGP entry, as it fits very well within the premier class claiming rule team (CRT) provisions.

FTR Entering MotoGP with a Kawasaki ZX-10R Based CRT Machine – Also Helping Norton’s MotoGP Effort?

06/21/2011 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

FTR, the Moto2 chassis manufacturer, has released a Q&A with its Moto Director Steve Bones. In the exchange, Bones talks about FTR’s involvement in making a claim-rule team chassis for the Spanish BQR team, who will use the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R motor as the basis for its CRT entry.

FTR’s racing ambitions don’t end there though, as FTR plans to mimic its success in Moto2 by building a Moto3 offering that will likely use the Honda NSF250R four-stroke 250cc motor. Lastly, FTR has been linked to Norton’s MotoGP V4 race bike, with the engineering firm developing the chassis, while Pr1mo handles building the engine for that machine. But some doubt is starting to be generated around that project.

Norton Working on 1,000cc V4 for MotoGP

01/28/2011 @ 11:02 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Norton, the Lazarus of motorcycling, continues to gain steam with its MotoGP project, as the latest news is that the British company is working on a 1,000cc V4 for its racing platform, which will debut in 2012 when the pinnacle of motorcycle racing reverts back to a liter bike capacity. Rumors had swelled that Spanish MotoGP hopeful Inmotec, who consistently fails to get its bike on the GP grid, could link up with Norton, likely in helping the British firm design its motor.

We don’t know if that partnership ever materialized, but MCN has snagged a CAD drawing of a Norton V4 motor that presumably is for the new GP bike. Initially the MotoGP race bike was expected to lay the tracks for a production sportbike, which could bode well for Norton fans who wanted something more than just a run-of-the-mill inline-four.

Pierre Terblanche Leaves Piaggio for Norton

01/13/2011 @ 9:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

While Norton Motorcycles finds itself currently in the middle of a relaunch period, having recently resurrected the brand at its Donington Park headquarters, being widely rumored to contend in MotoGP for the 2012 season, and just a month ago announcing that it would return to the North American motorcycle market, more changes seem in store for the historic British company. Announced today was the surprise move that sees famed South African motorcycle designer Pierre Terblanche moving from Piaggio, where he was working on revamping the Moto Guzzi line, to Norton Motorcycles.