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.

Polaris Trademarks “Victory Charger” – An Electric Cruiser?

02/05/2015 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

victory-charger

Trademark applications with the USPTO show that Polaris has registered “Victory Charger” as a mark to be used with “electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

The application is a strong hint that we could see an electric cruiser from the Victory brand, which is owned by Polaris, in the coming future.

The news is especially timely, as Polaris just acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and plans on building electric motorcycles at the company’s facilities in Spirit Lake, IA.

As if there wasn’t already enough fuel for the fire, on a product roadmap for investors, Brammo listed an “eCruiser” as a possible future model — a model that could easily be repurposed for the progressive Victory cruiser brand.

“Stop Sale & Stop Ride” Issued for the Polaris Slingshot

01/17/2015 @ 10:22 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

polaris-slingshot

Polaris Slingshot owners should take note, as Polaris Industries issued a “Stop Sale & Stop Ride” this week for two issues found on the Slingshot.

As the name implies, this special recall advises all Slingshot owners to stop riding their three-wheelers, and all Slingshot dealers to stop selling the vehicles, until the two issues are resolved.

Analyst Predicts Indian Will Outsell Victory in 2014

01/08/2014 @ 4:03 pm, by Bryan Delohery14 COMMENTS

2014-Indian-Chief

According to an analyst from UBS Investment Research, Indian Motorcycles is on track to outsell its sibling company Victory Motorcycles in 2014, its first full year of sales since the company’s recent rebirth.

If this prediction turns out to be accurate, this will be a huge feat for Indian, considering the fact that the American brand only sells three models since its relaunch in August of last year, compared to Victory’s current 15 model lineup.

Polaris Buys Back Company Stock from Fuji Heavy Industries

11/13/2013 @ 10:06 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

polaris-industries-logo

Polaris Industries has announced that it has bought back 3.96 million shares of the company’s stock from Fuji Heavy Industries, for the tidy sum of $497.5 million — roughly 6% of Polaris’ total market capitalization.

Paying for the stock purchase with roughly $247 million in cash, and $250 in credit, the move is a response to Polaris’ continued push to develop its own engines in-house.

For some background, Fuji Heavy Industries was the sole-engine supplier to Polaris from 1968 until 1995, at which time Polaris began developing its own power plants.

Despite that shift nearly 20 years ago, Fugi has had an integral part of Polaris’ business up until this point, and in 2013 one in four engines in the Polaris model lineup was built by Fuji Heavy Industries.

For 2014 onward though, the use of Fuji engines is expected to drop as Polaris produces more of its own units.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Brammo Raises $13 Million in Series C Funding Round

07/12/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Brammo announced today that it has raised another $13 million, in a Series C funding round that was lead by Polaris Industries. Hoping to secure a total of $45 million over the course of the entire round of funding, the investment by Polaris is the second one that American company has made into the Ashland-based electric motorcycle company.

Polaris first invested in Brammo back in October, as the Minnesota-based company was rumored to be taking a close look at a number of electric motorcycle firms for a strategic partnership. Ultimately settling on Brammo, Polaris was a part of the Oregonian company’s $28 million Series B funding round, and is said to have lead this current Series C tranche.

Polaris Invests in Brammo’s $28 Million Series B Round

10/26/2011 @ 7:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

After being courted by several major OEMs according to our sources, electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo received a minority investment by  Polaris Industries today. The move will give Polaris access to Brammo’s proprietary electric powertrain technology, and positions the large OEM to enter further into the electric motorcycle market as a strategic partner to the Oregonian company. In the process of this investment, Brammo has also closed a $28 million Series B round of funding that also included contributions from repeat investor Alpine Energy and first-time Brammo investor NorthPort Investments, LLC.

Polaris has already been aggressively expanding into new market segments this year by buying both Indian Motorcycles and electric car manufacturer GEM. Polaris’s investment in Brammo, the two companies will form a strategic partnership that will presumably see Brammo’s electric drivetrain in different Polaris Industry products, which gives the American company a formidable ally in the move to electric-powered vehicles. For Brammo, the news bodes well as it not only means an infusion of fresh capital, a roadmap to further funding, and a step closer to a possible exit, but Polaris will also be sharing its vast array of technical, sales, and support knowledge to the electric startup.

Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors – But What Does It Mean?

05/17/2011 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has quietly announced some interesting news: that Mark Blackwell, V.P. of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, will be joining the electric motorcycle company’s Board of Directors. With a plethora of reasons as to why an industry veteran like Blackwell would join Zero’s board, it’s been no secret that the Scotts Valley company has been collecting seasoned industry professionals like pokemon characters, seemingly building a brain trust of people who actually know how to run a motorcycle company.

Blackwell’s addition to Zero is interesting because it could signal a relationship with the Polaris V.P. that goes beyond merely an advisory/visionary position, which is the core responsibility of a companies board. The timing is interesting as well, as Polaris has been on a buying spree, first acquiring the original American motorcycle company brand: Indian Motorcycles, and a few days later electric car manufacturer GEM. With a Polaris executive sitting on Zero’s board almost immediately after these aquisitions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a precursor to some sort of larger arrangement between the two companies.

Polaris Acquires Indian Motorcycle

04/19/2011 @ 3:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Polaris Industires has just announced its acquisition of the historic Indian Motorcycle company. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the deal sees one of the most historic names in American motorcycling finding a home with a major player in the motorcycle industry. The move is an interesting one for Polaris, as the company already owns cruiser and touring motorcycle manufacturer Victory Motorcycles.

According to the company press release, Indian will function as an autonomous business unit, but will likely gett help from Polaris’s engineering department, along with the obvious supply chain and purchasing power of the larger brand.

Victory Sales Up 42% in Q2 2010

08/24/2010 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

According to Polaris Industries, Victory motorcycle sales were up 48% in the second quarter of 2010. Polaris’ on-road division, which is essentially the Victory cruiser brand, posted sales of $15.5 million, up from the $10.5 million in sales the company did in Q2 2010. In North American, sales for Victory cruisers were up 10% over last quarter, the third quarter in-a-row of sales growth for the brand.