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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak

06/28/2013 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

carlin-dunne-lightning-motorcycles

In its second year of having a fully paved road course to the summit, it should come as no surprise then that qualifying for the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb saw the quickest time ever set by a motorcycle.

It should also come as no surprise that the man setting the record was Carlin Dunne, the 2011 race winner and rookie of the year, and 2012 race winner and outright motorcycle record holder.

Qualifying on the lower section of the Pikes Peak course, Dunne put down an astounding 4’13 lap time — putting him five seconds clear of his nearest two-wheeled competition.

While it is impressive that Dunne was able to beat out the Ducati Multistrada 1200’s in the 1205cc class, what is perhaps the most intriguing piece of news is that Dunne set the qualifying record while riding the Lightning Motorcycles Flying Banana*.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Sets Outright Best Motorcycle Time at Pikes Peak Tire Test on a Lightning Motorcycle

06/13/2013 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

carlin-dunne-lightning-motorcycles-thunderhill-track-test

The competitors for the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have just concluded a two-day tire test at the Colorado road course, and it should perhaps come as no surprise that our boy Carlin Dunne has posted the outright fastest lap for a motorcycle during the tire test (the Santa Barbara native set the outright two-wheeled course record last year on his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S).

What is surprising about Carlin’s result at the tire test is that he was on the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike. That’s right, the fastest bike so far for 2013’s Race to the Clouds is a 200+ hp electric superbike that is refueled with solar energy. Petrol heads, eat your heart out.

Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles for Pikes Peak

06/04/2013 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

carlin-dunne-pikes-peak-international-hill-climb-jamey-price

While our attention is currently focused on the 2013 Isle of Man TT, the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is just around the corner. Perhaps the closest thing to the TT that we have here on American soil, Pikes Peak is the second-oldest motorsport race in the United States (the first being the Indy 500), and features riders and drivers who risk it all during the Race to the Clouds.

With that in mind, our boy Carlin Dunne is returning to Pikes Peak again this year, though he is trading in his gorgeous Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the “Flying Banana” of Lightning Motorcycles. A two-time winner, and outright fastest man ever on two wheels at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Dunne will be gunning for the race record for an electric motorcycle at this year’s event.

“I have a chance to be a part of something even bigger, to prove something to the rest of the world by riding this amazing electric bike. And I have to say, I’ve been testing it for a month, and it’s insane. It’s power and acceleration is like nothing I’ve ever ridden. When you light that fuse, hang on,” said Dunne.

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

Chip-Yates-Pikes-Peak-electric-superbike

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

Amarok-Racing-P1A-electric-motorcycle

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.

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.

PPIHC: Motorcycles Shatter 10 Minute Barrier at Pikes Peak

08/12/2012 @ 9:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With the road to the summit of Pikes Peak fully-paved now, riders not only had to contend with learning the 156 corners that comprise the race to the clouds, but they also had to learn the new asphalt sections that were paved after last year’s race. Getting three days of practice and sunshine on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course, on Saturday the weather hit the reset button, bringing rain down on the mountain, which made the road very green for racing the next day.

The sun returned for Sunday’s set of races though, with the motorcycles leading the charge up Pikes Peak. As with the previous years, the talk of class records falling was again high on the discussion list, which is unsurprising since Pikes Peak has added new pavement sections each year to the course. Though, with the asphalt now going all the way to the summit, the big question this year was by what margin the records would fall, and in the motorcycle category, whether a new class of motorcycle would dominate the mountain.

With most of the field still comprised of supermoto bikes and a handful of flat trackers, the 1205cc class showed the most diversity in entries, with BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, and KTM all represented. The PPIHC crew isn’t keen on full-fledged sport bikes racing on the mountain, relegating those entries that did show up into the exhibition class. Though many thought the sport bikers would dominate this year, it was the adventure-touring bikes in 1205cc class that would lay siege to Pikes Peak, in more than impressive style.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Takes Pole Position at Pikes Peak

08/10/2012 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Wrapping up their third day of practice on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) course, the motorcycles were on the lower section of the mountain, which also serves as the qualifying sector for Sunday’s big race. Repeating his performance from last year, Carlin Dunne took his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak race bike to the pole-position, clocking a 4’17.951 time on the lower section of the course.

Dunne’s teammate Greg Tracy is only a few seconds back on his Multistrada, posting a 4’20.443 time on the lower section, and taking the second-fastest lap time overall for the motorcycles. With Tracy riding stronger in the other sections, come race day the distinction should matter very little. After all, the hill climb is a race against the clock not the other riders, and Tracy has shown himself to be right on pace to give Dunne a hard time in repeating last year’s victory.

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.