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.

Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

02/25/2015 @ 1:02 pm, by Mark McVeigh27 COMMENTS

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When the R1 was first launched it became an instant icon. A tri-axis engine with a GP style chassis was cutting edge technology back in 1998.

The bike has evolved through the years with fuel injection, a crossplane crank, and electronic systems amongst the hundreds of development upgrades.

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.

A team of 50 design engineers worked closely with Yamaha’s MotoGP team and test riders from divisions in Japan, Europe, and the US, including Valentino Rossi and US rider Josh Hayes, to come up with perhaps the most technologically advanced electronics package on a motorcycle ever made available to the riding public.

Many of the senior engineers were in attendance at Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek in Australia for the R1 world launch, providing excellent technical support for the test riders and a unique insight into the challenges they each faced creating the new R1.

The 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time.

The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle.

Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about. 

Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

02/07/2015 @ 5:47 pm, by Iwan van der Valk27 COMMENTS

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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. The standard pannier racks look great too, but that means you are stuck with the OEM luggage options which – on the 1190 anyway – were not that great.

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.

A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler73 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is the bike from Bologna for 2015. Loyal Ducatisti might be more excited by the upgraded Ducati 1299 Panigale, or the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200, but in terms of company growth and the future of the Italian brand, the Ducati Scrambler takes center stage.

With four waves of 30+ journalists coming to Palm Springs for the international press launch, it’s clear that Ducati is casting a wide net with the Scrambler, especially with the number of non-industry publications present.

The term “lifestyle brand” is often a four-letter word in the motorcycle industry, of course ignoring the obvious that all of motorcycling is a lifestyle choice in the first world, but nonetheless the term has been used liberally with Ducati and the company’s racing heritage.

That being said, the Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even.

This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand.

Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

Review: Dainese Made to Measure Leather Racing Suit

09/23/2014 @ 12:29 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Do you ride like Valentino Rossi, or maybe just want to look like him? I ask, because that’s the premise behind Dainese’s Made to Measure program. Giving everyday riders the same opportunity and attention to detail as the company’s sponsored racers, who compete at the heightest level of the sport, Dainese’s Made to Measure program allows you to order custom-fitting racing leathers, jackets, and pants from the trusted Italian brand.

If you have ever had the desire to get a custom-tailored business suit, the concept is pretty similar. Some riders want a custom fit in their leathers for its extra comfort, or the ability to add a custom design, or even to choose the materials. Meanwhile other motorcyclists look to Made to Measure because they have proportions outside of the norm, and don’t comfortably wear off-the-rack suits.

Similarly, enthusiasts who spend a lot of time in their leathers, like hardcore track riders or amateur racers, choose to go the custom route as well, in order to use team colors on their suits. I have even heard of a transgender rider who used the Dainese Made to Measure program in order to fit her unique needs and body dimensions.

To summarize what I’m trying to say here, we certainly are a diverse community in the motorcycling world, and that’s the thought behind what Dainese is doing with Made to Measure.

Getting a chance to try this service first-hand, you may have noticed recently that I was sporting some new leathers at the Energica Ego electric superbike press launch. They were the product of my participation in Dainese’s Made to Measure program last year.

The following is my experience in making a race suit with the Italian company’s custom apparel program, and since the bulk of Made to Measure orders are custom racing suits, it seems an appropriate measure for its service.

Ride Review: TerraCorsa – A 195hp “Dirt Bike”

08/05/2014 @ 12:09 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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I have made a number of bad decisions in my life, some of which have come hand-in-hand with my duties here at Asphalt & Rubber. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I can certainly think of a couple machines that I have naively swung a leg over with enthusiasm. Unsurprisingly, the word “prototype”, used in only the loosest of definitions, has been involved in these endeavors.

With rare occasion though, I have been able to see trouble coming ahead of time, and have either had the prudence to step out of its way, or the foolishness to forge ahead with a “what could go wrong” attitude. I would add MotoCorsa’s TerraCorsa project to that latter category.

A proper 195hp superbike, designed by Italians to win road races, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is an alphabet soup of features designed to make a rider go as fast as possible on asphalt.

So when MotoCorsa’s Arun Sharma gave me an opportunity to ride his “track bike” Panigale S, which he painted in Desert Storm beige and shod with Continental TKC 80 tires, well…I of course uttered “what could go wrong?” and graciously accepted.

On its face, the whole idea of taking a superbike off-roading is preposterous. No doubt, you are already making a list of all the things wrong with this idea, while pouring a cold glass of Hatorade in the process. And you’d be right in doing so.

The suspension travel is too short, the Panigale’s 1,199cc Superquadro v-twin engine has too much power, the riding position is all wrong, and let’s just skip over mentioning that the machine is a rolling bone fide crime against motorcycling. Ducatisti, pour out an espresso for this fallen Bolognese, but be forewarned that Arun and the TerraCorsa feed off the hate that this concept brings.

Before you sharpen your pitchforks and storm the castle gates at Borgo Panigale though, let me explain briefly how putting knobby tires on a purebred superbike isn’t as bad of an idea as you think. If anything, the gods must be crazy, because it is surprising how well the whole thing works. These crazy Oregonians are onto something…

Ride Review: Energica Ego

07/19/2014 @ 8:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Born out of Italy’s automotive epicenter in Modena, CRP Racing is a well-regarded engineering firm, whose roots can be firmly found in car racing’s premier class, Formula One. This year marks 45 years of CRP Racing’s tradecraft, and it also marks the public launch of the company’s Energica Ego electric superbike.

A project we first saw first-hand at the 2011 EICMA show, and later in the FIM eRoadRacing electric series, the company’s Energica Ego electric motorcycle seemed like an over-reach. The design was…umm, different…the naming was tough for English-speakers who were familiar with the Austrian school of thought regarding psychoanalysis, and CRP Racing’s experience with electric drivetrains was a huge question mark.

Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, where the Energica Ego project showed its resilience. The small Italian firm had found a drivetrain partner, its concept bike had been flushed out into a runner, and the folks from Modena were pushing forward with their plans to release a production model. However, we have seen plenty of electric motorcycle startups reach this point before, with the term “production” being used only by the loosest of definitions.

Arriving then at Alice’s Restaurant, a local motorcycle hangout near A&R HQ, I had plenty of skepticism packed with my leathers, helmet, boots, and gloves. However, the design of the Energica Ego had begun to grow on me — it wasn’t the same lustful wanting that I had with the lines of the Mission RS though, nor the racing-bred techno-orgasm that comes with the MotoCzysz E1pc — but it was a certain appreciation that the bird-like nose no longer rubbed me the wrong way.

Just as the Ego had evolved into something more refined and polished over time, so too had the company. After riding the Ego on a modest trip down one of the SF Bay Area’s favorite twisty roads, the impression was solidified —  if I arrived a cynic to the bike launch, I left Alice’s as a convert.

Ride Review: Honda CB650F ABS

04/09/2014 @ 10:05 am, by Iwan van der Valk14 COMMENTS

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For 2014, Honda broadens its range of affordable, smart looking, middleweights further with the new Honda CB650F ABS, and together with the Honda NC750 series, the brand now has covered virtually all types of riders in the street-naked segment.

The brand new (not-terribly-exciting) four-cylinder engine forms the trusty basis of a whole new series of motorcycles, as previously demonstrated with the NC models. Thankfully though, the 649cc motor picks-up extremely smooth from very low revs, and fills a round and creamy torque curve.

Apart from some vibrations in the bars and footpegs, there is nothing much going on below seven-grand; but once you pass this threshold, there is quite some lovely acceleration on tap. Still, we found the on-off reaction of the fuel injection to be harsh though: it was quite hard to get on the throttle smoothly on corner exit.

Here Are Five Essential Mobile Apps for Motorcyclists

03/17/2014 @ 2:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Chances are that if you are a regular Asphalt & Rubber reader, that means you are a pretty tech savvy person. So first of all, congratulations on your choice to get your motorcycle news and opinions in digital form, rather than waiting three months for the print guys to get their act together. Huzzah!

Of course, this also means that you have had to suffer through the endless onslaught of “Top 5″ lists that have inundated motorcycle “journalism” the past year or so. I’m pretty sure that in a few years, we will look back at the whole BuzzFeedification of news as the second worst idea to hit motorcycle journalism, right behind the idea of a content paywall — but I digress.

That being said, I did want to share with our A&R readers five apps that I use on my iPhone everyday, that maybe you haven’t stumbled upon. So in the interest of  better living through technology and all that jazz, I’ve created my own little Top 5 list — Yes, I’ve died a little bit on the inside because of this article.

Hopefully though there are couple apps on my list that you haven’t heard of, which will cause the overlap of your Venn diagram of “motorcycles” and “technology” to grow just a little bit more, and those make my personal ethical sacrifice worthwhile.

I realize in advance that this list leans towards iOS users. I’m hoping commenters will leave a few apps in the comments section that I might have missed (especially on other platforms), so we can spread the love around.

Ride Review: Ducati Monster 1200 S

02/23/2014 @ 5:59 pm, by Iwan van der Valk22 COMMENTS

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Over the last 20 years Ducati sold more than 275,000 Monsters, and now the Italians introduce an all-new 1,200cc version, which will make it not only the most powerful but also the heaviest Monster of the past couple of decades.

The 461 lbs (wet with a 90% tank of gas) beast will replace the aging Streetfighter 1098, and Ducati hopes it will sell a whole lot better. Mind you, there is currently a fierce competition in the Super-Naked segment so time will tell if they succeed.

We rode the Monster 1200 S model on the press introduction in Tenerife, so it’s worth noting that this bike has $2,500 worth of upgrades over the base model, such as Öhlins suspension, Brembo monoblocs, and lighter aluminum alloy wheels. It also does away with the 10hp restriction of the non-S version, bringing the total output to 145hp.

motoDNA: Bimota Tesi 3D E Track Test

02/21/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Mark McVeigh15 COMMENTS

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The Emilia Romagna region of Italy is a melting pot for the Italian motorcycle industry. Positioned in the middle of this province, also known as the “terra dei motori” or the land of engines, sits the motorcycle company known as Bimota.

In September 1972 the now famous designer Massimo Tamburini crashed his Honda 750 Four at Misano racetrack — the stack left him with three broken ribs. While recovering from his unfortunate incident, he constructed a tubular steel frame to handle the horsepower then being produced by the Japanese bikes.

The frame he constructed lowered the centre of gravity and reduced the weight of the original Honda. Called the HB1, the first Bimota was born. Bimota’s name is derived from its founders’ initials: Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini.

Bimota has a rich racing heritage and has carried such great names as Virginio Ferrari, Davide Tardozzi, and Randy Mamola. Also who could forget Anthony ‘Go Show’ Goberts awesome WSBK victory at a wet Philip island in 2000 aboard the Bimota SB8R!

Born from a young university graduate’s mind, it was Engineer Pierluigi Marconi’s university thesis (Tesi in Italian) that directly led to the Bimota Tesi 1D hub-center steered motorcycle in 1990, the 1, 2 and 3D standing for the various Ducati engines used in the models.