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.

Photo of the Week: True Grit

06/20/2011 @ 10:25 am, by Scott JonesComments Off

Tech 3’s other rider is in the spotlight this week, after Colin Edwards turned some attrition up front into a broken-collarbone-podium for the French team at Silverstone. Cal Crutchlow’s collarbone, fractured in a cold-tire crash in Qualifying, has been repaired, but only after a delay of a couple of days to assess possible damage to several vertebrae.

Crutchlow is known as one of the toughest competitors in motorbike racing. Given Edwards’s attempt to ride the day after breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Cal will surely want to make the next race two weeks after his own injury, the aforementioned operation delay and the fact that his fracture required reassembling four separate pieces of collarbone not withstanding.

Accordingly, he will test the waters on Thursday to see if he feels well enough to compete in Saturday’s GP at Assen. The recent collarbone epidemic’s first victim, Dani Pedrosa, will miss the Dutch TT after a second operation to repair his Le Mans injury. Many fingers will be crossed in the hopes that we can complete a GP weekend without anyone on the sparse GP grid breaking a collarbone, or worse.

Photo of the Week: Unbreakable

06/13/2011 @ 10:07 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

The ups and downs of racing are sometimes quite amazing. After breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Colin Edwards had his flights booked to return home and skip the British GP. But he felt well enough after his operation to pin the break that he stayed. Seeing his teammate, Cal Crutchlow, break his collarbone in qualifying, Colin then went on to claim a podium for the beleaguered Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.

Boss Herve Poncharal told me when I congratulated him in the paddock that yesterday he’d been ready to commit suicide (not literally of course), and a day later he has two riders on the box, as Bradley Smith snagged second place in the Moto 2 race. Congratulations to all the Tech 3 folks!

Photo of the Week: No Looking Back

06/06/2011 @ 11:28 am, by Scott Jones20 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi is not happy. His tone had clearly changed in Catalunya when speaking to the media about the state of the Ducati GP11’s development. Though probably not expecting a repeat of his debut success on the Yamaha at Welkom, Rossi was also probably not expecting to be as far off the pace as he is five races into the season. Word around the paddock is that Ducati has until Mugello to sort the bike out, and change it to a machine that Rossi can win with. If the mysteries of a carbon fiber chassis can’t be solved in time for Rossi’s home Grand Prix, the 2011 season is likely to become very interesting indeed.

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose

05/31/2011 @ 12:19 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.

A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.

Photo of the Week: It’s Not Easy Being Max Biaggi

05/23/2011 @ 10:16 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

With World Superbike coming to Miller Motorsports Park next weekend, many eyes are on reigning champ Max Biaggi. Will Max be able to recover from a rocky season’s start to keep the title in Aprilia’s trophy case? Or will a charging Carlos Checa and upstart Marco Melandri continue to show no respect for Max’s greatness? Since his early days as a fantastic 250cc two-stroke rider, Max has had his share of disrespectful rivals.

Last year he, and the dominant Aprilia, added another star to his dorsal display of world titles. But in 2009 he ran into some trouble with Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga. You can never fault Max for not trying hard enough–in qualifying Max held onto the throttle as he dumped the RSV4 in the Attitudes, though Spies would win both races that weekend. Whether you love him or hate him, Max gives it all he’s got.

Photo of the Week: King of the Hill

05/16/2011 @ 11:19 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

In the not so old days of AMA Superbike, Mladin or Spies won on a factory Suzuki, and the question was who would finish third. In 2010 Josh Hayes and Tommy Hayden finished the season only 14 points apart, Hayes claiming the number one plate for Yamaha with 466 points. But 2011 got off to a different start altogether with Hayden’s teammate, Blake Young, winning both Superbike races at Daytona and leaving Hayes and Hayden to swap places in the lower regions of the podium.

The second event of the season took place at Infineon Raceway this weekend, and Yamaha rider Josh Hayes won the first Superbike race by over seven seconds. Tommy Hayden took second, now the only one of the three yet to win. On Sunday he followed Hayes until five laps from the end before passing the Yamaha and holding on for the win. Young claimed third place, though he’d allowed Martin Cardenas to ruin the 3-way monopoly the day before, as the M4 Suzuki rider claimed third in Race One.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Tommy, the eldest of the three Hayden brothers. Though I don’t photograph much AMA, I do see Tommy at MotoGP races where he often comes to support his brother, Nicky. Always cordial in spite of his shyness, Tommy graciously deals with Nicky’s success and notoriety. I would really like to see Tommy follow in younger brother’s footsteps to win the AMA Superbike title this year.

Photo of the Week: The Passing Scent of Two-Strokes

05/09/2011 @ 6:00 am, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

I love the smell of two-strokes in the morning…or the evening, or the afternoon. But just as Hiroshi Aoyama became the final 250cc two-stroke champion in 2009, at the end of this season we’ll have one last 125cc world champion. Most money is on Spaniard Nicol Terol, who without last season’s rival Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro to get in his way, has dominated the 125cc season so far.

Rumors that his current competitors let him get far ahead so they don’t have to look at the color scheme of his livery are untrue: Terol is just that fast on a tiny 125cc machine. Next season, the kids and odd grown-up who don’t move on to Moto2 will be on the replacement Moto3 class bikes. In a nutshell these are 250cc 4-strokes, but for all the details look here.

MotoGP will of course be leaving the 800cc engines behind to return to liter engines, so many changes are in store for 2012. One of the most notable will certainly be the absence of the approaching bee swarm sound as the little bikes and little riders approach on their out lap, the 2-stroke whine growing louder as the wind carries it across the track, and the pleasant odor of the oil and gas mix as the crowd goes by for the first time. Another chapter in the history of Grand Prix motorbike racing is coming to a close in 2011.

Photo of the Week: Physician, Heal Thyself

05/02/2011 @ 3:53 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi managed a fifth place at Estoril this weekend, barely missing fourth as Andrea Dovizioso nipped him at the line after tailgating most of the race. The Doctor continues to have his hands full with the GP11, despite a nearly recovered shoulder and the ability to ride closer to his own personal potential. As graceful as Lorenzo looks on the Yamaha that Rossi and Jeremy Burgess developed, Rossi looks just as awkward at times on Casey Stoner’s old ride.

In response to Rossi’s complaints about all that is wrong with the Ducati, Stoner was quick to point out that the bike was good enough to win three of 2010’s final six races, suggesting that Rossi simply needed to adjust his riding style in order to go faster. The Doctor would rather heal the patient than himself however, and he and his team will continue to work on major changes to the GP11.

In the mean time, from images like the one above, we can see how Rossi struggles with his body position as he tries to get the Ducati to keep up with the Hondas and Yamahas. The switch to Ducati is looking like perhaps the greatest challenge of his career.

Photo of the Week: Head of the Class

04/25/2011 @ 6:01 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Part of the interest of the first race of the MotoGP season relates to the class photos, where the riders come out first for the 125cc group shot, then Moto2, and last the MotoGP riders appear. The 125 riders are mainly kids, so there is a lot of joking around in high voices that haven’t dropped yet. Moto2 is a mix of young and not as young, but it’s still a large field so the phrase “herding cats” is likely to be uttered a few times as the Dorna folks try to get everyone into position for the photograph.

The MotoGP riders are much fewer in number, but the group makes up for its smaller size with proportionally larger egos, and the premier class’ mind games are already well under way when it comes to which individuals will appear to sit down first, and wait for those who chose not to wait for anyone else.

Photo of the Week: Hands of Perseverance

04/18/2011 @ 7:04 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Sometimes I make an image which, at the time, seems fairly ordinary, but later emerges as something of an unexpected interest. When I saw Toni Elias about to mount up to begin his Moto 2 title chase, I thought it interesting that someone who had been in the premier class for five seasons couldn’t manage to take to the track with matching gloves. When Elias went on to become the first Moto2 champ, I included this image in the MotoMatters.com calendar, thinking it even more ironic that the future class champion had begun the season with this odd equipment choice.

During a speaking appearance at the San Francisco Dainese D-Store, I spoke to assistant manager Mike J. who shed some more insight on the photo. While holding a copy of the calendar open to the October page, Mike pointed out that while Elias had an Alpinestars glove on his right hand, the glove on his left was by Dainese. Due to Elias’ contract with A-stars, Elias had the logo and brand references covered up. I had not recognized the brand, only that the design was different from his Alpinestars glove.