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.

Chip Yates to Defend Electric Motorcycle Record at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with Lightning Motorcycles

04/15/2013 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As the kids in the arcade used to say, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Upon hearing the news that Greg Tracy and Amarok Racing would be making an appearance at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Chip Yates has set aside his tinkering with electric airplanes for the time being, and come out of two-wheeled retirement to defend his title.

Trading in the world’s fastest pizza delivery bike for the Richard Hatfield’s Flying Banana (there really is no good way to write that, sorry Richard), Yates will compete on one of Lightning Motorcycle’s electric superbikes at the 91st running of the Race to the Clouds.

Greg Tracy to Race the Electric Amarok P1A at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

04/10/2013 @ 5:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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When Greg Tracy isn’t flipping cars for Hot Wheels, or busy on a Hollywood set doing stunts for filmmakers, you can find him racing to the clouds on two wheels and dominating the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. A six-time winner at Pikes Peak, Tracy can attribute more than a few of those wins to his time on the mountain with the Spider Grips Ducati team. But for 2013, Tracy will take on a new venture and race an electric bike with Canada’s Amarok Racing.

The announcement is a surprising one, considering that the last we heard from Greg, he was leaning towards a four-wheeled excursion up the mountain, if even competing at all. With high-altitude courses like Pikes Peak playing to the advantages of an electric motorcycle though, and Tracy’s formidable knowledge of the course’s now-paved 156 turns, the Amarok entry has the potential to top Chip Yates’s mark as the fastest electric motorcycle up Pikes Peak.

69 Photos of the 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200

10/03/2012 @ 5:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

The new Ducati Multistrada 1200 is a lot like the old Ducati Multistrada 1200, but we figured there are enough Ducatisti trolling the pages of A&R that a little moto porn wouldn’t hurt things too much. Gone is the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Sport, which has essentially be replaced by the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak bike (which looks a-mazing).

The whole line benefits from the Testastretta 11° DS engine, which features a dual-spark ignition system that gives the MTS1200 a slight mid-range power boost, as well as the LED low-beam headlights. However, the real changes occur at the “S” trim level, which are the first bikes from Bologna to get the Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) semi-active suspension package.

The last big change to the Multistrada line is the addition of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Grantourismo, which has some more kit for you if the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring isn’t touring enough for you. One-hundred-twenty-one liters of panniers and top case, the Grantourismo also has crash bars, LED fog lights, and a larger windscreen for its extra $2,000 over the Touring model.

We were thoroughly impressed with the original Multistrada 1200 when it came out in 2010, and the updates to the 2013 line seem compelling enough to keep Ducati in the mix for adventure riders who are looking for something a little bit more sporty than the 2013 BMW R1200GS and 2013 KTM 1190 Adventure.

While both the BMW and KTM are attractive machines in their own right, it is hard to beat that Italian sense of style. As such, sixty-nine high-res photos of the 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 model line are waiting for you after the jump.

Are You the New 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak?

09/17/2012 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

When Ducati USA unveiled a new (stunning) livery for the team’s two Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak race bikes, there was some good gossip that the red and white paint scheme could find its way into production. The rumor is now gaining some more steam, as the folks at Moto.it have gotten their hands on a photo of a road-going version of the Multistrada 1200 S with the Pikes Peak livery adorning its Italian lines.

Video: Greg Tracy’s Sub-10 Minute Run up Pikes Peak

08/23/2012 @ 11:51 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Carlin Dunne and I might go back nearly a decade, but when it comes to Pikes Peak racers, Greg Tracy is sorta my hero. A six-time winner in the Race to the Clouds, when Greg isn’t racing in America’s second-oldest motorsporting event, he spends his off-hours as a major-production stuntman. You’ve probably seen him before, but just didn’t know it. Despite his blockbuster resume and besides being a boss on two-wheels, Greg also happens to be one of the nicest and down-to-earth people you will ever meet in motorcycle racing, let alone Hollywood.

Maybe it’s because when your job involves risking it all on a daily basis, you don’t take for granted the little things in life. Also at the same time, you probably don’t sweat the small issues that cloud what is really important at the end of the day. You would only have to spend a few minutes around Greg to find an anecdote to support that hypothesis. For as nice of a guy as Greg is in person, I would hate to be one his motorcycles in competition.

Racing up Pikes Peak with fractured vertebrae (Greg had a big crash the weekend before, filming a promo video for Audi & Ducati at Pikes Peak), Tracy was the fourth-fastest competitor ever, in any class, at the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Putting down a jaw-dropping 9’58.262 time up the 12+ mile course, with its 156 turns, Greg was just six seconds shy of Carlin’s class-winning time of 9’52.819. We would be hard pressed to imagine what that race would have looked like had Greg been 100% fit. Respect.

A video of that sub-10 minute run is after the jump.

Photos from the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

08/16/2012 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is already off the mountain, and onto Indianapolis, but I am still wrapping up my coverage of the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second-oldest motorsport race in the United States, Pikes Peak gets a bit less fanfare than America’s oldest race, the Indianapolis 500 (apropos to my current locale). In general, the hill climb is a campy affair that is full of privateers, with that statement being even more relevant in the motorcycle class. More of a car event, than a bike one, it is the two-wheeled riders who are the real heroes in my mind, as stakes for any crash on the mountain is met with higher stakes, as well as trees, jagged rocks, and long drops.

Ducati is ever-present at the mountain, and brings with it another level of media attention for the motorcycles. The hope this year was that the Italian brand would not continue to race itself to the clouds, as Triumph was expected to arrive in force as well, with rider Joe Kopp giving Carlin Dunne and Greg Tracy a run for their money. This hope failed to materialize, with the 1205cc class hosting four Ducatis in total: the two backed Multistradas, as well as two Streetfighter entries. Now with the fully-paved course to the top, there was a lot of speculation regarding what sort of entries we would see this year in the motorcycle classes, though PPIHC put the kibosh on that fairly quickly, slotting the proper road bikes in the “Exhibition Powersports” class.

Watching the bikes file through, one after another, during the practice sessions, it is clear Pikes Peak is a still a dirt bike race masquerading itself as a road course event. Supermotos and flat trackers rule the entry list; but more so, it is the style of the riders that gives it all away. Foot out with the bike pushed down and under was the status quo, with the occasional rider coming through with a knee out and the bike leaned over. I will probably explore this idea further later, but you can’t help but feel that Pikes Peak is in a transitional state. Stymied in its history, it will be curious to see if the event can evolve into something else. The road certainly has.

2012 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike

08/09/2012 @ 7:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Ducati is in Colorado this weekend, taking part in the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second oldest motorsport race in the United States (the first being the Indy 500), 2012 is the first year that the Race to the Clouds will take place on a fully-paved road course, which is sure to bring a new chapter in this historic race.

Asphalt & Rubber made the great trek out to Colorado (braving the far-too-early mornings), and we are here mostly to heckle our boy Carlin Dunne, who won the race last year in his rookie debut (setting a course record no less). Riding with the Ducati Spider Grips Team this year, Dunne will be joining Greg Tracy, as the pair will again ride the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S up to the 14,000+ foot finish line.

Ducati hopes to continue its dominance on the mountain this year, and the Ducati has rolled out another iteration of its Multistrada 1200 S race bike, which we gushed over last year. It is hard to believe that the previous bike feels a bit dated now (though, we still wouldn’t mind a Pikes Peak edition MTS 1200 in our garage), but this year’s machine brings added refinery to the race bike, as well as an understated and classy, yet beautiful paint job.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2011 – The Ducati Story

02/02/2012 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Grab some popcorn, because this video from Ducati North America is over 14 minutes long. Telling the story of Ducati at the 2011 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), DNA has put together a great video that really captures how special the racing is at Pikes Peak, and how gorgeous the scenery is of the Colorado Mountains. With Santa Barbara Ducati’s Carlin Dunne winning the overall motorcycle category on his dealership’s Multistrada 1200 demo model, Alexander Smith from the Spider Grips Ducati Team made it a double podium for Ducati in the 1205cc class.

If you’re new to racing at Pikes Peak, or wanted a quick re-cap of last year’s race, Ducati’s video pretty accurately sums up racing on the mountain and the anxiety around last year’s race. A&R was on-hand at the 2011 PPIHC (cameo at the 12:00 mark), and I can still remember the collective breath that was held while we waited for news about Greg, and the jubilation of our good friend Carlin setting an outright record, on his rookie outing no less. If you haven’t been, you owe it to yourself to see Pikes Peak first-hand.

Ducati Announces Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Team with Carlin Dunne & Greg Tracy

02/02/2012 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Ducati has announced its factory team for the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), and the Italian company has secured the services of last-year’s winner and Rookie of the Year Carlin Dunne as well as six-time PPIHC winner Greg Tracy. Ducati has also partnered with the Spider Grips team, who will help prepare the teams Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the “Race to the Clouds” on July 8th.

For 2012, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will be fully-paved to the top of the mountain, which will surely see the speeds of competitors increase, and lap times drop on the 12.42 mile long course that ends at 14,110 feet. Holding the outright fastest motorcycle lap time on the mountain, Santa Barbara Ducati’s Carlin Dunne is eager to defend his title from last year, as well as his status as the fastest motorcyclist on the mountain.

Joe Kopp & The Fastest Triumph at Pikes Peak

12/19/2011 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

As 2011 winds down, I’ve been going through some of my folders of old material that I wanted to publish earlier this year, but for some reason or another the article didn’t grace the front page of Asphalt & Rubber. One such story was the fastest Triumph ever to run at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), which in 2011 was a Triumph Speed Triple raced by professional flat track star Joe Kopp.

If I were to say politics were at play with Kopp campaigning the Team Latus Triumph Speed Triple in the exhibition class of the PPIHC (along with Chip Yate’s electric superbike), then surely the metaphor would extend to the redrawing of the district lines at Pikes Peak, and may or may not have had something to do with the Ducati-dominated 1200cc class, where surely the Triumph properly belonged.

Read in between the lines as you will with that explanation of events, but at the end of the 2011 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Kopp, on his Triumph, was the overall second-fastest rider up The Mountain, winning the exhibition class in the process. Meanwhile Ducati, the official motorcycle of PPIHC, maintained its 1-3 double podium in the 1200cc class, which was lead by rookie rider, and A&R hetero-life partner Carlin Dunne.