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

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.

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.

motoDNA: Emergency Braking Techniques

05/19/2014 @ 6:10 pm, by Mark McVeigh8 COMMENTS

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Nothing causes as much confusion or trepidation in riders as emergency braking. How hard can I brake? Will the front wheel lock? Will I go over the handlebars? How far can I lean over on the brakes?

As a Motorcycle Instructor I am continually amazed at how many of our students, who have generally had some training and are licensed, come to us with inadequate braking skills. It’s super important to understand and regularly practice emergency braking on your bike. Normally I recommend a quiet car park with a slight up-hill.

To understand braking we must first understand grip. The main contributor to grip is the weight or load on each tire. The ratio between the maximum possible grip and the vertical load is called the coefficient of friction (μ). To understand this, slide an eraser across your kitchen table. Now try the same thing pushing down hard on the eraser.

This same thing happens when you brake on a motorcycle. The bike pitches forward transferring weight onto the front wheel, increasing front tire grip. More so with sports bikes, tall with short wheelbase compared to cruisers, which are long and low.

Kevin Schwantz’s Schwantz School on Hiatus for 2014

03/11/2014 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The Schwantz School will be on hiatus for the 2014 riding season, says the riding instruction school. The press release for the track school lists Kevin Schwantz’s “travel/racing schedule and other factors” as the reason for the school’s hiatus. Schwantz is slated to compete in the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race with the Yoshimura Suzuki Legends team in July.

The MotoGP Legend also is to be a “Guest of Honor” at the Classic Motorcycle Festival at Donington Park in August, and there is possibility Schwantz will be racing in England in September as well. As for the “other factors” mentioned, Schwantz is quoted as wanting to spend time in his recently remodeled home in Austin, Texas.

Keith Code: The Art of Cornering

03/11/2014 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Keith Code is right, riding a motorcycle is all about learning the art of cornering. Any idiot can grip a ton of throttle, and blast down a straightaway; but when it comes to tipping a bike over into the corner entry, hitting the apex, and gassing out of the exit, a bit more finesse is required.

That is why the California Superbike School curriculum focuses so much on taking a motorcycle through a race track corner. Making a short video at the Willow Springs Raceway, Code gives a preview into his classroom and two-wheeled philosophy.

It’s an interesting watch, even if it is a glorified commercial. After all, we are pretty sure the “Twist of the Wrist” author has forgotten more about motorcycle control than we will ever learn.

motoDNA: Getting a Grip on the Mechanics of Trail Braking

03/07/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Mark McVeigh18 COMMENTS

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On the track, racers are either on the throttle or on the brakes – no free wheeling – this wastes time. Trail braking is a technique which racers use to slow the bike as quickly as possible from one speed (on the straight) to another (corner apex speed).

In applying this technique, a racer will approach a turn and at their braking marker, apply full braking force, normally with the bike being upright.

As the rider begins to turn in, they reduce brake pressure, easing off the brakes. Decreasing or “trailing” the brake lever force as the bike lean angle increases until they gets to the apex, the rider then releases the brake and applies the throttle.

Sounds easy enough in theory, but proper execution is complicated because it comes down to feel — and remember these guys are doing this seamlessly, every lap on the limit.

As Freddie Spencer once said, “fast riders have slow hands” so all this is done smoothly, progressively and powerfully.

motoDNA: The Importance of Vision & Connecting the Dots

02/28/2014 @ 3:43 pm, by Mark McVeigh6 COMMENTS

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Look where you want to go! Steer the bike with your eyes! You go where you look! How often have we motorcyclists heard these phrases?

Looking where you want to go obviously relates to vision, an important sense for everyday life; however when we introduce motorcycles, the importance of vision increases dramatically, not just as an essential tool for high performance riding and racing, but also for survival on the road.

The fact is most of us are damaging our vision, namely our peripheral vision, with our modern lifestyle of sitting in front of TV and computer screens. Compared to our ancestors, our visual field has narrowed dramatically.

If we get into the habit of looking directly at objects while restricting the awareness of our surrounding field of view, it’s comparable to not fully using other areas of our body.

For example if we routinely only bend our knee ten degrees, you could imagine this bad habit of restricted movement would ultimately lead to poor function, soreness, and long-term damage.

It’s safe to assume that our vision also follows the familiar “use it or lose it” rule that is evident in other areas of our body. In other words, if we only use one part of our visual field, the rest of our visual circuitry will begin to go inactive. So how important is peripheral vision to our riding and what can we do to increase our visual performance?

PSA: Please Reconsider Using Your Rear Brake

12/06/2013 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

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There is a weird phenomenon as one gains experience on a motorcycle in regards to the usage of the rear brake. As novice riders, we are taught to use the rear brake in conjunction with the front brake, and in rider training courses like the one put on by the MSF, this is a skill that is practiced out on the range. Out on the road, it is not uncommon then to see the rear brake light of a new rider dance with light, as a foot covering the rear brake toggles the brake light switch on and off.

As we progress and gain some more experience as motorcyclists, the trend is to stop using the rear brake entirely — relying solely on the front brake for our stopping needs. Go to enough track days and eventually you will see a motorcycle fail a tech inspection because the rider thought the rear brake was so unnecessary as to remove it completely from the machine — for the weight savings, of course.

As a rider’s skill set on a motorcycle improves though, a new love affair is found with the rear brake. Talk to any professional motorcycle racer about their rear brake, and you will begin to realize there is a huge role that the rear brake plays in bike stability, which at times makes no sense to a layman — something exemplified by Casey Stoner’s frequent use of the rear brake while also hard on the throttle.

Not quite diving that deep, Scott Russell (of Mr. Daytona fame) and Nick Ienatsch (of FasterSafer.com) explain why you should fall in love again with your rear brake, as well as giving some tips on how to modify your bike to get the most out of braking with both the front and rear tires. Enjoy!