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.

In the Future, Will You Even Wear a Helmet?

01/07/2013 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Human-Head-Motorcycle-Helmet

Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we spend some pixels talking about the finer points of helmet usage, especially when it comes to the debate regarding mandatory helmet laws. Looking at helmets from 50 years ago, and the basic concept hasn’t changed all that much in the time since.

A hard shell, some impact material, and a soft lining mated to a visor and chin-strap system, over the last half-century most of the improvements to the basic helmet design have been for added fit and comfort, or cheaper and lighter materials — even the more creative and innovative designs that are being hocked around the internet right now don’t stray far from the current concept.

Think 50 years ahead though, and it is hard to imagine the same shapes and designs staying constant. In fact, it becomes possible to imagine motorcyclists wearing no helmets at all. No, I am not talking about some sort of libertarian movement that will rush through our political system, freeing us from the shackles of big government.

Instead, I am talking about the true next-generation of safety devices for the gray matter that resides between your ears, which might put the mandatory helmet law debate to rest (well…probably not).

GHSA Praises Report Calling for Motorcycle Safety Changes

11/27/2012 @ 3:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has issued a press release that praises the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for its call to Congress for changes in motorcycle safety.

The GAO’s recommendation basically breaks down into two points: 1) Congress should give states more flexibility in the way they use funds that have been earmarked to tackle motorcycle safety, and 2) that the NHTSA should provide states with more comprehensive information about motorcycle crashes and injuries.

The second point is perhaps the most important, as it has become painfully obvious that the government, both at the state and federal level, has little concrete information about the causes of motorcycle crashes and injuries.

While we are still using information collected almost 40-years-ago from the Hurt Report, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has contended that the motorcycle landscape has changed so significantly in that timeframe that the Hurt Report was conducted that it no longer accurately quantifies the dangers and conditions present for motorcyclists.

The Mega Recall Continues: Ducati 1199 Panigale

08/22/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Five recalls in one week, six recalls since its US debut earlier this year…it’s good to know what they say about first-generation Italian motorcycles is still applicable. That’s right folks, the sport bike of 2012 just got two more recall notices today with the NHTSA, just days after three recalls were filed in rapid succession for Ducati 1199 Panigale owners. Again affecting 2,411 units, Ducati’s latest two recalls concern the Panigale’s front-brake master cylinder reservoir hose and swingarm shaft pivot points.

Per S.O.P., Ducati will contact affected owners, and authorized Ducati dealers will remedy the problems free of charge. There is no timeline for the recalls at this point in time, though concerned Panigale owners can contact Ducati at 1-800-231-6696 (reference Ducati recall #RCL-12-006). As always the NHTSA is available at 1-888-327-4236 and safercar.gov. The two additional recalls are listed after the jump, along with the appropriate NHTSA-issued recall number for your referencing.

Trackside Tuesday: A Victim of History?

08/21/2012 @ 4:43 pm, by Jules Cisek35 COMMENTS

In a weekend filled with intrigue, subtle sword play in the pre-race conference, and the heartbreak of not seeing Nicky Hayden start the race on Sunday, it was the venue itself that received the most attention, unfortunately of a mostly negative sort.

Without a doubt, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway received a spot on the MotoGP calendar in 2008 because of its iconic status in the world of motorsports. Sure, Laguna Seca has a great reputation as well, but you can ask pretty much anyone the world over if they have heard of Indianapolis, and the answer would be in the affirmative — and unlike Laguna, they don’t have to ride a motorcycle or own a Porsche to be familiar with the track.

And so, despite an uninspiring infield course purpose built for the ill-fated Formula One rounds, the famous Brickyard became part of the MotoGP calendar and has a contract to run through 2014.

In the last two visits to IMS, Casey Stoner has complained more and more vocally about his dislike of the circuit, primarily due to the surface makeup, which changes several times per lap. Dr. Martin Raines, the official statistician for MotoGP calls the section from T10 to T16 “a mickey mouse track” and certainly watching the bikes make their way slowly though there and through T2-T4 on the circuit, one can see what he means.

Even if the circuit were run the other direction (as originally designed – and impossible for motorcycles because there would be no runoff available in T1) the racing would still not be awe-inspiring, due to the tight corners, and almost total lack of elevation changes.

Until this year, however, no matter how processional the racing may have been, no matter how much complaining there may have been from the riders about the nature of the circuit, the general consensus between fans, teams, and media alike has been that it was an amazing event. Let’s face it, Indianapolis knows racing.

Indianapolis knows how to put on a show for race fans and for the traveling circus as well, and they did not disappoint this year either. The infield was packed, attendance was in the same ballpark (possibly higher) than last year, and the atmosphere downtown (especially along the meridian) was hard to describe to non-attendees.

And yet there came a point this weekend where the Indianapolis GP needs to receive criticism, and hopefully investigation, to fix or at least understand three serious points.

Reminder: Monday is Ride to Work Day

06/17/2012 @ 9:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

While Sunday is providing us with excellent two-wheeled racing, Monday brings yet another mundane work day. The start of this work-week should be a bit better than usual though, as it is the 21st annual Ride to Work Day, which sees commuters abandon their four-wheeled cages, and instead take to the streets via the liberation that two-wheels provides.

Video: Motorcyclist Caught Texting While Riding

05/31/2012 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

It is hard to imagine that people actually text while riding a motorcycle, though a quick Google search shows that the phenomenon is not as rare as you think. That being said, an Australian motorcyclist was caught doing this very thing by a bus passenger in Sydney; and for bonus points, the rider was still on his learner’s permit.

Ultimately, the 21-year-old rider turned himself into the police after the photo taken by the bus passenger went on the internet. Hopefully someone gave him a stern talking to about his lack of gloves, ankle-cover shoes, or general lack of any proper motorcycle gear beyond a helmet. Pssh, Ducati riders.

WSBK: Race 1 at Monza Cancelled for Safety Concerns

05/06/2012 @ 11:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Race 1 for World Superbike at Monza proved to be an interesting affair this Sunday, as the race was ultimately cancelled for safety reasons. Starting normally under dry conditions, riders took to the track on slicks, only to have the race red-flagged two laps after its start.

While the WSBK paddock scrambled for a restart under wet conditions, riders lead by Carlos Checa had a meeting on the starting grid after the sighting lap. Realizing that parts of the track were damp, while others were dry, concerns returned whether the Pirelli rain tires would be able to go the race distance, as they had lasted for only several laps during Saturday’s Superpole.

Do You Have 20/20 Vision?

01/11/2012 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Because motorcycles can move from lane to lane with ease, and even vary their position in a single lane with regularity, motorcyclists are sadly hard to spot when automobile drivers are accustomed only to looking out for larger slow-to-move cars that take up an entire lane’s width. Yes, as motorcyclists we impose a special duty on automobile drivers, a duty which more often than not gets pushed back onto us. This then requires motorcyclists to ride defensively. It requires us to assume a cage doesn’t see us, and is gong to move into our lane.

Harden the F*ck Up America – Australia Knows How to Promote Motorcycle Safety

10/14/2011 @ 6:06 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

You have to spend some time around Australians to fully appreciate the culture that has been fostered on the ass-end of the world. Having spent more years than I can count competing in sports against Australians, I already had an appreciation for the direct no-bullshit approach to personal communication that comes from the land down under. It is the same trait that gets Casey Stoner in trouble with fans, as when the former (and soon-to-be?) World Champion calls a spade a spade, well…it rubs them the wrong way, especially us Americans (case in point, the 2011 Indianapolis GP asphalt debacle).

You see, Americans in a broad-stroke generality don’t like to be told our babies are ugly, or that the Emperor has no clothes. Similarly, when it comes to our highway safety campaigns, we are coddled with cute public service announcements that do little to speak honestly about the reality of situations. That’s not the case in Australia however, as for the past month I’ve been assaulted with healthy & safety messages concerning motorcycles that do anything but mince words.

MSF Graduates 6,000,000th Student

09/19/2011 @ 9:11 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) recently graduated its six millionth RiderCourse student (can we get a collective A&R booyah!). WIth over 10,000 coaches and 2,000 locations, MSF has been helping make new riders into competent motorcyclists since 1973, and partners with Federal, state, and military groups in providing basic motorcycle skills to new riders.

Though known best for its introductory course, MSF offers 23 different RiderCourses designed to meet the requirements and needs of riders of any skill level.

Training more than a handful of Asphalt & Rubber writers in the art of two-wheel transportation, we’d like to give the Motorcycle Safety Foundation a special congratulations and thank you for all its hard work. Post up in the comments if you too have been through an MSF course.

Source: Motorcycle Safety Foundation