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.

Trackside Tuesday: Third Time’s the Charm?

07/31/2012 @ 6:33 pm, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Only a select few men in the world can say they have defeated Valentino Rossi in a last lap duel in a MotoGP race. On that very short list is one Toni Elias, who bested the Italian legend to the checkered flag for his first and only premier class victory at Estoril in 2006, on a satellite machine no less. Championship-deciding repercussions aside, the win granted Elias a contract extension at a time when his GP career was in doubt.

However, the onset of the 800cc era, coupled with the introduction of control tires the following year, would prove to be the start of a rough roller coaster ride for Tiger Toni. Five seasons, a Moto2 World Championship title, and two MotoGP exits later, Elias was given an extremely rare third shot at a premier class ride this past weekend as a replacement rider for the Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera. True to the up and down nature of his career in recent years, this opportunity came just a week after he parted ways with the Mapfre Apspar Moto2 team at the previous round in Mugello, after being unable to replicate his title-winning form back in the GP middleweight class.

Unfortunately, his latest attempt at challenging the fastest motorcycle racers in the world came to an abrupt and disappointing end after crashing out of the US GP on only his second lap. With no further confirmed top class appearances on the horizon, Toni’s tenure at the pinnacle of the sport appears to have ended in the gravel trap at Laguna Seca. However, a MotoGP race win will always be on his curriculum vitae, and that’s no small feat.

Hitchhiker.

07/30/2012 @ 5:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Photo: © 2012 Rick Grayston – All Rights Reserved

Trackside Tuesday: The Summer of Our Discontent

07/24/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Scott Jones36 COMMENTS

The view from pit lane into Ben Spies’ garage has been fairly grim in 2012, and today’s announcement that Ben is leaving the factory Yamaha team at the end of the season sheds some new light on this gloomy situation. If you have watched Ben since his AMA days, where he learned from, and then triumphed over, the formidable Mat Mladin, you may not have been surprised by Spies’ rookie season WSBK Championship, or his success at Tech 3 when he entered MotoGP, or his being the first non-alien to win a dry race since the Rossi-Lorenzo-Pedrosa-Stoner lockout. His move to Rossi’s spot alongside Lorenzo made perfect sense, as did Ben’s good results last season.

Surely after a season of adjustment, in 2012 he would repeat his success at Assen, by adding more wins and taking his rightful place among the elite riders. His difficulties in 2012 could be chalked up to the pressure of being at the very top for the first time in his career. Or could they?

Trackside Tuesday: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

07/17/2012 @ 3:43 pm, by Jules Cisek13 COMMENTS

The somewhat thin crowds at Mugello this past weekend were in a way reflective of the lack of Italian domination in Grand Prix racing over the last few seasons. With Spaniards taking all 3 GP Championships in 2010, three non-italian nations doing the same in 2011, Valentino Rossi unlikely to win a race for the second season in a row, and inconsistent results for Italians in the lower classes, things look bleak for Italia in 2012 as well.

And while this didn’t stop those present from showing the energy and passion that this racing mecca is so well known for, it shouldn’t be too surprising that despite the incredible Moto2 win by Andrea Ianonne and the endearing swagger and impassioned ride to 2nd of Romano Fenati in Moto3, I pick a non-Italian rider to spotlight after attending the Gran Premio D’Italia TIM.

That rider is the reigning Moto2 World Champion, and MotoGP rookie sensation Stefan Bradl.

Trackside Tuesday: A Requiem for Better Days

07/03/2012 @ 3:28 pm, by Scott Jones49 COMMENTS

We could write a long list of what those involved in the Valentino Rossi-Ducati partnership have lost. Money, reputation, time, all have been lost in large quantities and on behalf of some of the most important people in motorbike racing. Smaller losses of various kinds have been incurred by many more people whose livelihoods are tied to Rossi’s success. But a huge number of people have lost something intangible but nonetheless important because of the inability of Rossi and Ducati to produce a winning package.

As fans of motorsport, we have been fortunate to be present to watch and participate in, even if only as spectators, the career of a truly remarkable sportsman. World Champions gain entry into an elite club, but multiple World Champions whose careers span many years, formulas, and sets of rules, are rare indeed. And among those few individuals, the even rarer sort who not only win and win and win on the track but also inspire millions of fans across boundaries of nationality, gender, brand loyalty, and so on are even more remarkable.

Rossi is one of those supremely rare people, and he holds that distinction regardless of having his detractors. Whatever a minority chooses to feel about him, he has accomplished more as a motorcycle racer than anyone since Agostini, and in some ways he has accomplished much more. One of those ways is in his ability to charm millions of people via his skills in the media.

Agostini raced before the internet, before today’s massive TV audiences, and simply didn’t have the opportunity to reach as many people as Rossi has. Those many people who were attracted to motorcycle racing because first they felt an attraction to Valentino Rossi have lost something since his switch to Ducati. They have not felt much of the joy that his style and success thrived on during the Honda and Yamaha years.

Trackside Tuesday: Patience is a Virtue

06/27/2012 @ 10:44 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.

Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.

Trackside Tuesday: Seeing is Not Always Believing

06/19/2012 @ 2:13 pm, by Scott Jones17 COMMENTS

For the first quarter of the British Grand Prix, there was a Ducati racing at the front  in a dry race, something we’ve not seen for some time. Almost as soon as Nicky Hayden crossed the line with 15 of 20 laps to go, his GP12 changed from something that could match the pace of the leaders into something else entirely.

Hayden lost fourth place to Lorenzo, then fifth to Dovizioso, both times going wide as his bike suddenly wouldn’t turn like it had been doing for the previous four laps. Hayden said in his post-race media scrum that the bike had been great until it destroyed the soft rear tire.

Earlier, when I’d walked onto pit lane and headed for the grid, we felt sprinkles in the air and wondered if the volatile weather was about to change from cool-but-dry to wet-and-even-colder, as it had several times over the weekend.

It seemed unlikely that it would start raining hard enough to begin the race on wet tires, but up and down pit lane crew chiefs appeared from their boxes, looking up at the skies, wondering what to do. Soft or hard tires? Dry, cool, warm, damp, what would the track be like over the course of twenty laps?

Trackside Tuesday: Good Man

06/12/2012 @ 12:14 pm, by Daniel Lo6 COMMENTS

The stage was set for Guy Martin to take his first ever TT win in 2012, with the popular fan favorite returning with the same team with which he scored four podium finishes in the previous year’s contest. Top-level crew, competitive machinery, and one of the fastest men to ever lap the Mountain Course teaming up again for another assault. Reaching the top step of the podium should be all but a forgone conclusion — or at least in theory.

What resulted instead was truly a week to forget, starting with Guy getting nudged off the podium in the opening Superbike race when his crew was unable to change his rear tire for the final two laps. The first Supersport race ended prematurely after his engine gave out, forcing a retirement into the pits, after just a single lap. The Superstock race that followed was barely an improvement, with Guy taking an anonymous eighth place finish, after being off the pace from the start. Further engine problems in the second Supersport race again saw him off the podium, finishing down in fifth. To cap it off, a final shot at a good result was thwarted by the first ever cancellation of the Senior TT race. Things did not go according to plan, to say the least.

Spy Photo: BMW S1000RR Naked Bike Caught Testing

06/08/2012 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Pictures of a supposedly naked version of the BMW S1000RR have surfaced on MotoRevue, as the motorcycle was caught testing at BMW’s proving grounds by spy photographers. Showing an S1000RR-esque motorcycle with a half-fairing, the motorcycle would be just the second addition to BMW’s true sports bike line, after the S1000RR itself of course.

Expected to be a detuned version of the superbike variant, we can expect horsepower north 160hp, flat bars, and improved ergos from such a design experiment (in order to compete with the Aprilia Tuono V4 R and Ducati Streetfighter 848), though there is some reason to give pause about what these photos actually mean.

Trackside Tuesday: Bump in the Road

06/05/2012 @ 12:32 pm, by Daniel Lo1 COMMENT

Bruce Anstey comes in for another nose-dive landing at Ballaugh bridge during the Superstock TT race. The 42-year-old had just won the Supersport event earlier in the day by the second smallest margin of victory in the history of the TT, a mere .77 seconds over Cameron Donald. His TT wins tally is now up to nine.

Despite having photographed road racing for the last few years this was my first time witnessing road bikes going airborne, at least intentionally. While Ballaugh bridge is a relatively slow part of the course, the added element of a jump alone was enough to provide a substantial challenge to me as a first-time visitor to the TT.