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.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

02/23/2015 @ 5:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle.

The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015.

Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

KTM Announces Plans to Enter MotoGP in 2017 with a V4-Powered KTM RC16 Race Bike

07/31/2014 @ 3:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Speaking to Speedweek, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer announced that the Austrian company will be entering the MotoGP World Championship in 2017. KTM will race with a brand new machine that features a V4 engine and will be called the KTM RC16.

Pierer said that KTM will debut the V4 engine in May of 2015, and begin testing and developing the RC16 later that year — KTM may even wild-card the race bike during the 2016 season. Perhaps the biggest news though is that KTM plans to produce up to 100 units of the KTM RC16 race bike, which will be available to the public for a cool €150,000 to €200,000 (likely in the same way privateers can purchase a lower-spec machine than KTM’s Moto3 racer).

Harley-Davidson XR1200TT by Shaw Speed & Custom

06/16/2014 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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While we collectively take a ponder on what to do with the electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle that will be in the next Avengers movie, here’s another interesting twist involving the Bar & Shield brand.

We’re not usually ones for cruisers, but the Harley-Davidson XR1200TT from Shaw Speed & Custom tickles our racing inclinations the right way, and makes us remember when Harley-Davidson’s name was synonymous with road racing.

As the name implies, the project started from a Harley-Davidson XR1200. SS&C then added its own custom-built exhaust, along with a Screamin’ Eagle tuner and breather — good for roughly 100hp at the rear wheel.

Completing the look is suspension from Öhlins, wheels from Dymag, brakes from Brembo, while the bodywork is a conversion from SS&C’s own Bonneville streamliner design. Add a custom tail and seat, and you have the XR1200TT.

It all sounds rather simple, but the finished product deceives the time and energy that Shaw Speed & Custom put into the design. This bike looks like it could have rolled right out of Milwaukee, and it puzzles us as to why Harley-Davidson recently stopped selling the XR1200, let alone never built upon the model’s popularity after its debut.

We will keep pondering all that, but in the meantime, enjoy photos of the Harley-Davidson XR1200TT by Shaw Speed & Custom. It might be a Harley we’d have to have in our own garage.

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike

07/12/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Another year, and another Pikes Peak race bike from the Falkner Livingston Racing crew to frustrate current Ducati Multistrada 1200 S owners. This gorgeous machine was quick all throughout practice week in the hands of Micky Dymond, but being the first runner out of the gate on race day, with a very green track that had endured two heavy rainstorms, Micky hit the tarmac on several occasions during his Race to the Clouds — a herculean effort in its own right.

Certainly not the result the team deserved, but as Nicky Hayden is found to remind us, that’s why we line-up on the grid on Sunday. Taking the “official” fastest time up the mountain on a motorcycle was Bruno Langlois, with the Frenchman riding a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S as well. Of course, we all know Carlin Dunne was the fastest up the course on his electric superbike from Lightning Motorcycles, but the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb doesn’t count the exhibition class in those results.

Each year I wax on about how gorgeous these Multistradas are, and this year is no different. In the pictures after the jump you will find yet another mouth-watering Ducati, with a new race livery, a custom-built exhaust from Akrapovič (only six were made), carbon brakes, a dry slipper-clutch conversion, and a bevy of other interesting modifications to the Italian adventure sport-tourer. Enjoy!

FTR M211 Moto2 Bike – The Ultimate Christmas Gift?

11/30/2012 @ 10:52 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

UPDATE: This bike is no longer available, though though the FTR Moto2 bike that Alex de Angelis used to win the Sepang round this year has just found its way back to the FTR shop.

Trolling the internet for things I can’t afford, but which my credit card can, I think I may have discovered the perfect gift for the motorcyclist who has everything: a 2011 FTR M211 Moto2 race bike that has been upgraded with 2012-spec components.

Featuring a Spanish CEV Moto2-spec Honda motor with 186 miles on it, this FTR M211 has plenty of tasty other bits that also justify its €39,000 (+VAT) price tag, such as the Öhlins suspension (FG366 forks, TTX36 shock), magnesium OZ wheels, AP brakes, Akrapovic exhaust, carbon fiber bodywork (Yonny Hernández’s Blusens livery), and titanium fastners.

Rumor: Race-Only 450cc BMW/Husqvarna Bike Coming?

11/28/2012 @ 1:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Italy’s motorcycle publication of record, Motociclismo, is reporting that BMW Motorrad is developing a 450cc race bike for youth racers. Said to be a ground-up design that centers around a single-cylinder motor that will likely be prepared by Husqvarna, the BMW race bike would feature a frame built in Bologna, Italy with “racing” suspension, forged wheels, and carbon fiber bodywork.

With pricing to be in the €20,000 range, BMW hopes that its 450cc cup bike will appeal to 15 to 18-year-old riders, and is formulating a racing series that will piggyback off six select World Superbike and British Superbike rounds. As such, BMW’s proposal appears to be in direct competition with the European Junior Cup (EJC), which will use the Honda CBR500R as its spec-machine for the 2013 season.

First Look at the Honda CBR500R Race Bike

11/13/2012 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

With the debut of the 2013 Honda CBR500R street bike, Honda has somehow managed to get the 500cc parallel twin budget bike to be the weapon of choice in the European Junior Cup — displacing the KTM 690 Duke from its racing duty. A grooming series for World Superbike Racing, the EJC series is a cost-effective way to get young future stars on bikes and in front of the people that could make or break their careers.

Hoping to give the CBR500R a bit more performance cred, something the 47hp machine might need to appeal to new riders who have to adhere to the A2 License requirements, but still want a proper “sport bike” for their first ride. As such, the Honda CBR500R race bike was debuted at EICMA today, and even got a little star power from one Jonathan Rea. Photos and video after the jump.

HRC’s Honda CBR250R Cup Bike

06/08/2012 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

In Japan, Honda has a nice spec-series brewing that features the new Honda CBR250R sport bike. Naturally for the cup race there needs to be a racing version of the CBR250R, and HRC has happily obliged. Nothing too fancy, after all this is supposed to be an entry-level series, but the HRC CBR250R racer features race bodywork sans lights and signals, as well as a fully-adjustable ECU that has come pre-loaded with various HRC fuel and ignition maps.

First Look: KTM Moto3 Race Bike

10/06/2011 @ 6:52 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

KTM has finally given us a glimpse into its Moto3 class race bike, showing renders of the bike to journalists assembled at the company’s Hangar 7 press event. The Austrian company also officially showed its Moto3 race motor, and for those expecting to see a repurposed SX motor for the 250cc four-stroke Grand Prix racing series, abolish that thought. For the inaugural 2012 racing season for GP racing’s entry-level series, the Austrian company has started from scratch when approaching its Moto3 development.

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance: 1978 Ducati 900 NCR Mike Hailwood Race Bike

08/23/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The story of Mike Hailwood’s 1978 comeback season cannot be told without mentioning the 1978 Ducati 900 NCR that he rode to victory both at the Isle of Man TT and Mallory Park. Taking an 11 year break from motorcycle racing, the 38-year-old Hailwood made a triumphant return to two-wheeled racing on-board an NCR prepped Ducati 900 SS.

Making 87hp, Hailwood’s NCR was underpowered compared to the favored Honda of Phil Read, but that didn’t stop “Mike the Bike” from racing one of the most legendary races in history of the sport. Bringing out the same bike that Hailwood road on the TT course (a quick thank you to Steve Wynn and Ron Winder for the clarifications in the comments), this 1978 Ducati 900 NCR shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is comprised of the Hailwood’s race bike with a rebuilt motor from that season.

A true contender for the superlative “Greatest of All Time”, this ’78 NCR is truly special machine for racing enthusiasts as it comes from one of Hailwood’s all-time best races. Accordingly, the judges at Pebble Beach awarded it Third in Class at this year’s Concours d’Elegance.