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.

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.

BRD Motorcycles CEO Starts Unique Crowd-Funding Model

04/01/2013 @ 7:37 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Looking to close its Series A round of financing, San Francisco EV startup BRD Motorcycles has had to rethink its investor-appoach strategy, as the venture capital market in California has gone through a reset as a result of the past economic recession.

“It has been brutal this past year talking to investors,” explained BRD Motorcycles CEO Marc Finegstein. “In fact, it was actually easier to raise capital during the recession than it is currently right now. For the last few years, you just had to be bullish…you know, polish your PowerPoint deck, shift your paradigm, and make sure you were best in breed. But now, with all the bad paper that has been going through the market, the traditional funding sources have all but dried up.”

Countless dinners and evenings wasted, Fenegstein often returned to the office the next day with nothing to show for his hard work from the night before. Facing increasing production and development costs, it was clear that something had to change in the company’s funding strategy.

So, when asked what sort of measures BRD was taking to close its funding objectives for the Series A round, the young CEO exhaled slowly, sat back in his chair, and only hinted at BRD’s new investor-pitch strategy. “Let’s just say our funding strategy is more ‘hands on’ than it was before with our investment circle,” he said while staring blankly out his office window.

Layoffs Reported at Mission Motors

10/10/2012 @ 2:36 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word that Mission Motors has let go of a significant portion of its staff, both on the engineering and non-engineering sides of the San Francisco based startup. With the layoffs presumably the result of a lack of funding, the news comes interestingly just a few months after the departure of Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Moe, who made his return back to Vectrix in July of this year.

The bulk loss of its workforce is certain to be a blow to Mission Motors, which according to our sources, still has a core team in place to continue basic business operations. Making the switch from being an electric motorcycle company to supplying electric drive components to OEMs in Q1 2010, it wouldn’t surprise us if some of the now former Mission Motors employees found their way into other electric motorcycle manufacturers, and today’s news paints an interesting picture for the future of the Mission R electric superbike.

Lit Motors is Runner-Up at TechCrunch Disrupt Conference

09/14/2012 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

One of my daily stops in the blogsphere is a little tech blog called TechCrunch, which is known for its pretty firm grasp on the pulse of Silicon Valley, and balances its coverage of this fantasy ecosystem we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area with the appropriate amount of irreverence. As much as I like the site, the two-wheeled coverage of TechCrunch is fairly abysmal in its analysis and superficial in its depth, but that is probably a good thing, since it keeps me gainfully employed.

That being said, we should all be thankful for any coverage outside of motorcycling’s very small footprint, as when a tech blog behemoth like TechCrunch covers motorcycles, it exposes our little industry to a new audience of potential future motorcyclists. Such is the case with Lit Motors, which before this week was an obscure EV startup with a novel idea, but now after being named the first runner-up of the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco conference, the Lit Motors C-1 has significantly more buzz about it.

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

08/02/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven.

I suppose we could frame our discussion about the Mission R in the same tone that we would talk about other ultra-exclusive motorcycles, like for instance the Moto2-only Bimota HB4 or the connoisseur’s NCR M4 ONE SHOT. That kind of analysis would in essence read more like an art critique, since the closest any real motorcyclist would get to one these bikes is via a computer screen (perhaps the pages of a magazine, if that is your thing) or on display at some sort of public event, no doubt inside a corral of faux-velvet ropes. In that case, I could wax-on some of the best hyperbole possible, building the dream of riding such fantasy machine as far as possible. After all, the Mission R at the moment is complete unobtainium, and that only serves to fuel our product-lust further.

Just as equally, we could have a nitty-gritty discussion about the weights and measures of the Mission R. We could explore every technical detail that Mission Motors has available, and extrapolate everything else that the San Franciscan company would rather not disclose to the general public. We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps.

Simply the best electric motorcycle with a license plate, I suppose when pressed we could talk about the future of motorcycling, how electrics are coming of age, and how the Mission R is the embodiment of what performance parity looks like in a two-wheeled electric vehicle. Make like the Pope, get out the holy water, and let us convert some petrol-loving heathens, right? I think there is about as much of a Mormons-on-your-doorstop chance in hell of convincing any internal-combustion riding motorcyclist to see the light when it comes to electrons being the fuel of the future, so why don’t we just spare ourselves that sermon as well. So where does that leave us?

Instead, let us play an exercise in mental cognition. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal motorcycle. The design is fresh and edgy, but also refined and timeless. The motorcycle has all the right go-fast parts and brands: Öhlins WSBK-spec suspension, Brembo beryllium brake calipers, 10-spoke Marchesini forged-magnesium wheels, custom carbon fiber bodywork, and a bevy of other top-shelf components and accents. On the dynamometer, the torque curve on this mythical machine is shaped like a plateau, and the power comes on immediately, but is still smooth and linear. The motor has no flat spots, and there are no pits or falls on its dyno graph; and best of all, at the end of the day, this exercise in fantasy packs twice as much torque as your typical liter-bike. The cost for a day’s worth of fuel? About one dollar.

Hold all these elements in your mind for a moment, and then open your eyes. The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. Click past the jump for our account about riding San Francisco’s motorcycle playground on the Mission R electric superbike.

LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl Rides thru San Francisco

07/25/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

LCR Honda and team rider Stefan Bradl are in town early this week, doing a little promo work for US GP title sponsor Red Bull. Before heading down to Laguna Seca tomorrow (a track Bradl already scouted out with a local track day earlier this year), Bradl was in San Francisco yesterday, popping wheelies on Treasure Island and trying not to crash while going down Lombard Street (any SF motorcyclist could have told you the treachery of the iconic San Franciscan street).

MotoGP.com’s video of the event might be a little less than inspiring, but let us all just be thankful that the folks are Dorna actually made one of their YouTube videos web-embeddable for a change. Meanwhile, the photos from Red Bull are quite a treat. 23 of them await you after the jump.

Video: Ken Block Gymkhanas San Francisco — Awesomeness Tenuously Linked to Motorcycles

07/10/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber readers are an eclectic group of men and woman, and I am not going sully the romance we have going on here by lying to you guys with some sort of convoluted web of reasoning as to how a nearly team minuted Ken Block / DC Shoes / Ford Focus video is related to motorcycles — because well frankly, it’s not. Yeah sure, there is a 12 second Travis Pastrana cameo tucked-away in there somewhere, and that might be enough material to spin-doctor the snot out of this puppy, but here’s the deal:

First, the video is awesome in that 12-year-old boy discovering bottle rockets sort of way. Second, the video is set in my home town, and we all know how militant I can be about the Golden State, whose border I draw somewhere just south of Ojai. And third, the video is an example of great marketing, and it is such an easy example of what can crossover into motorcycles, it pains me that we here in the two-wheeled world haven’t answered back with something even better. Enjoy after the jump.

Mission R Spotted in Street-Legal Trim

03/01/2012 @ 10:31 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

To be filed under the heading: “right place, right time,” I had the good fortune of catching Mission Motors’ Mission R out on the streets yesterday, as one of the San Franciscan company’s engineers took the bike out while doing errands at the SF Dainese Store. Stopping by the store myself to show off the Zero S that’s been camping in my living room for the last two weeks, I quickly found my thunder stolen by Mission’s two-wheeled masterpiece.

Of course, any opportunity to see the Mission R is a treat, as the electric superbike is not only a delicious dish in person, but it also happens to have no problem doing supersport lap times at Laguna Seca when Steve Rapp is on-board. However, what made this sighting of the Mission R extra special was the fact that Mission Motors has outfitted the Mission R with a headlight, mirror, and most importantly, a California license plate.

Other choice pieces include an Android-powered Samsung tablet that fills in as the Mission R’s digital dash, which is sure to tickle the fancy of our geekier readers. If you are an SF native, keep an eye out for the Mission R on the city streets, the rider you see might be a Mission Motors engineer, a Hollywood celebrity (we hear Ryan Reynolds has been jonesing for a Mission R like something fierce), or a Fortune 500 executive.

Video: BRD Proves Electrics Can Hoon Too

02/13/2012 @ 5:46 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

BRD Motorcycles continues to make progress with the company’s first electric motorcycle: the BRD RedShift. Asphalt & Rubber thoroughly enjoyed our time on BRD RedShift SM prototype when I rode it around the Infineon karting track, which makes me confident that the San Franciscan company’s small legion of wait-listed buyers will be pleasantly surprised by the electric motorcycle’s pep when it becomes available later this year.

Producing now a quick video of the BRD RedShift SM hooning around San Francisco, it could be that the guys at BRD want to build a little buzz about the RedShift before the company goes to Indianapolis to woo potential dealerships at the Indy Dealer Expo. Or maybe, the over-aged children at BRD couldn’t help but have a little fun between their 25hr work days. Either way, stunt rider Ryan Moore finds a way to put his creative and electronically-powered stamp on all the fine neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Bonus points for the pan-around shot in front of the Broadway strip clubs guys…not that we’ve been there.

SF Premiere of Fastest Raises $1,500 for Riders for Health

12/14/2011 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

I just got the box office and donation results in from our screening of Fastest last Thursday night, and I’m very happy to report that we raised $1,500 for Riders for Health that evening. Hosted in conjunction with the San Francisco Dainese Store (thanks D-Store Crew!), we had a packed house of over 250 MotoGP fanatics for the SF premiere of the sequel to Faster. Director Mark Neale even drove up from Los Angeles, and signed posters, DVDs, and t-shirts, in addition to participating in the Q&A after the screening.

Those in attendance had a chance to win a signed Randy Mamola illustration by Rich Lee Draws, a Marco Simoncelli Photo Tribute by Scott Jones Photography, and a signed Valentino Rossi VR|46 hat, among other items. A big “thank you” to everyone that came out to watch Fastest with us, and for helping raise so much money for one of motorcycling’s great charities. Hopefully we can do it again soon (more on that to come).

Photo: Glen Coddington