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.

Honda Restarting Motorcycle Production March 28th

03/25/2011 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Honda has announced that it will be restarting motorcycle production at its Kumamoto factory as of Monday, March 28th. Initially closing all its facilities in Japan after the devastation caused by the Sendai earthquake, Kumamoto will be one of Honda’s first facilities to re-open in almost two weeks’ time.

While the company’s Sayama, Saitama, and Suzuka facilities will remain closed through April 3rd, Honda will make a decision on when to restart production at those locations as that date becomes closer. Honda will continue to make decisions on its operations from this date forth, keeping a close eye on its supply chain and the good of the country as whole as the situation in Japan continues to change and evolve.

Honda, Suzuki, & Yamaha Halt Production After Earthquake

03/15/2011 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The fallout from the now upgraded 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan, which saw a massive tsunami and nuclear meltdown follow in its wake, has devastated the island nation — for which the true lasting damage will likely take years to fully assess and understand. While the international community continues to rally around Japan, offering support and resources, the resolute country is showing its unwavering calmness and preparedness as it handles an event that many are comparing to those of World War II.

Paled in comparison to the events surrounding it, the Japanese motorcycle industry has naturally been affected by the natural disaster, with Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha releasing press releases describing what measure their business are undertaking in these changing conditions.

Japanese Tsunami Kills One & Injures 30 at Honda R&D Facility – Could Disrupt Motorcycle Shipments

03/11/2011 @ 8:24 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

If you’re just starting your routine this Friday morning, you’ve likely already seen that a massive earthquake struck Japan about 230 miles offshore from Tokyo. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is one of the top seven most powerful quakes in recorded history, and the largest to hit Japan in over 100 years. Occurring relatively close to the surface, the Sendai Earthquake, as it’s being called, triggered a tsunami, with waves as tall as 30 feet. Since the initial quake, a series of aftershocks have hit Japan as well, with many of those having a magnitude of 5.0 or greater on the Richter scale.

While Japan has more serious issues to contend with at the moment, the immediate ramifications for the motorcycle industry appear to be the now expected delays in shipping motorcycles from Japan to other countries. So far Honda has confirmed that it has shutdown production at its Saitama factory, while production at its Suzuka factory has resumed. Honda has also confirmed that one worker died and 30 others were injured when a wall collapsed in its research and development facility in Tochigi.

Update on the MV Agusta F3 – Available Fall 2011

02/24/2011 @ 9:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

After unveiling the MV Agusta F3, the Italian company’s new three-cylinder supersport model, at the 2010 EICMA show with virtually no concrete specifications, MV Agusta has been quiet about its new motorcycle ever since. Expected to arrive as a 2012 model, the wait from unveiling to production has been excruciatingly long for those who fell in love with the F3’s take on Massimo Tamburini’s classic design.

Since its launch, the only progress we’ve seen is Castiglioni’s quoted target price steadily rising, so MV Agusta wants to make sure would-be buyers (and the press) remain intrigued by the model the newly liberated company is counting on for its future profitability. As such, MV Agusta has sent out a press release giving a status update on the 2012 MV Agusta F3, and the news bodes well for Italian motorcycle fans, as it suggests things are ahead of schedule in Varese.

Watch the Ducati Diavel Get Built in 1 Minute

02/23/2011 @ 10:28 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Here’s a cool time-lapse video put together by MCN that follows the 2011 Ducati Diavel power cruiser getting built at Ducati’s Bologna factory. Ducati is currently building 40 Diavel’s per day on its rolling assembly line, but that number is set to increase by 50% in the coming weeks as the Italian company predicts strong sales in the summer months. As was seen last year with the Multistrada 1200, Ducati expects the Diavel to lead the company’s sales in 2011.

US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding

01/20/2011 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Six months after US Highland lost three members of its executive team in a tragic small-plane accident, the American company has announced that it will be idling its Tulsa plant while it continues to finish its latest round of funding. Despite this news, US Highland is reportedly close to achieving its fundraising goals, and hopes to have production rolling again once the fundraising is complete.

The Southbridge Advisory Group (SAG) has been brought in to help find a new executive team for US Highland, and is also helping the motorcycle manufacturer find new investors. While any one of these goals would be a large undertaking on its own, having to contend both with raising capital and finding a new executive team is a daunting task.

Vyrus 986 M2 – Soon to Infect Moto2 & Showroom Floors

01/13/2011 @ 7:16 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

You remember Vyrus right? The company that makes the Vyrus 987 C3 4V…the Bimota Tesi look-alike with a Ducati 1198 motor, hub-steering, and a supercharger? Not willing to rest on its laurels as having “the most powerful production motorcycle in the world” (211hp gets you that title), the small Italian boutique firm seems set to enter Moto2 racing with its new Vyrus 986 M2 race bike, whose preliminary concept photo has just leaked out of the Rimini factory.

Taking the idea of prototype racing to its fullest dimension with its hub-center steering design, perhaps the only thing more exciting than the prospect of seeing a few of these Vyrus 986 M2’s at 18 of motorcycling’s best venues, is the prospect that a road-based version of the machine could be siting in our garage later this year (assuming we could afford such things). Details after the jump.

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand

01/06/2011 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

Get ready to pour some peanut sauce on your spaghetti as Bologna Bullets destined for the Southeast Asian markets will soon be produced in Ducati’s newly planned factory in Thailand.

Being called a “final assembly” plant, the move is similar to the one that Harley-Davidson undertook late last year, where the Bar & Shield brand setup an assembly plant in India in order to side-step the extremely high tariffs the country puts on foreign-made motorcycles.

In addition to Harley-Davidson, Ducati will be joining the likes of Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Brembo, all of whom have increased their presence in the Asian markets within the past year to capitalize on the growing economies of India, China, and Southeast Asia.

Harley-Davidson Turns Down $25 Million Tax Credit

11/15/2010 @ 8:56 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Two months ago when Harley-Davidson stuck an ultimatum to its union workers, the company asked for work force concessions while it threatend to move production out of its Tomahawk and Menomonee Falls. Hoping to help sway the vote and keep Harley put, the State of Wisconsin extended Harley-Davidson a $25 million tax incentive to help lure the company into keeping production at its Wisconsin facilities. While the unions eventually caved to Harley-Davidson’s will, the Bar & Shield company announced today that it will not be taking Wisconsin up on its offer for tax breaks.

Erik Buell Racing 1190RS Street Bike Announcement Hype Machine Gets Under Way

09/08/2010 @ 7:40 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing has quietly been “tipping” sites off to the fact that Buell’s record label, Rat Pak Records, is selling t-shirts for a Erik Buell Racing 1190RS motorcycle. What is the 1190RS you ask? “The 1190RS will be the new street bike from Erik Buell Racing! The design is currently in the pre-production / testing stage and is not yet available for public sale,” says the website (Asphalt & Rubber brought you the first teaser of the 1190RS way back in July). However, a video of the pre-pre-production 1190RS will be up on September 14th, officially making this a teasing of a teaser video (are you still with us?).

Before you Buell fans start getting all in a tizzy, we have to break the news that the hype being generated about the EBR 1190RS is more about raising money for Erik Buell Racing, than announcing an upcoming motorcycle. Erik Buell & Co. have been making the rounds to investors looking for capital to build-out its production line, reportedly with little success. With a company built around a “never say die” attitude, Erik Buell hasn’t given up looking for cash (buy more t-shirts people!), and the 1190RS announcement is a way for EBR to show that there is a market demand for its motorcycles. Once the market is proven to exist, EBR is hoping investors will then open up their wallets.