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.

Yamaha MT-125 – Europe Gets Another MT

05/07/2014 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Need a small-displacement naked bike for your urban commute? Yamaha has something for you then, as the tuning fork brand has announced the Yamaha MT-125 for the European market today. Based off the Yamaha YZF-R125 platform, the MT-125 is essentially the R125 stripped of its fairings.

Featuring the same steel delta box frame, and 124.7cc single-cylinder thumper as the Yamaha R125, the big changes to make the MT-125 are the obvious ones, namely the “MT” styling that we have seen on the Yamaha MT-09 (that’s the Yamaha FZ-09 to us Americans) and the Yamaha MT-07.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja RR – A 250cc Single-Cylinder for Asia

02/16/2014 @ 6:29 pm, by Aakash Desai16 COMMENTS

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Let’s see, what would be an ideal motorcycle for tackling the treacherous roads, unending traffic and inclement weather conditions of a typical Asian city?

You want a bike that is lightweight, easy to maneuver and doesn’t put too much of a traction burden on mounds of slippery cow manure. You also want a bike that is torquey to get you out of the way of juggernaut garbage trucks that won’t stop no matter what gets in their way.

With these characteristics in mind, the newly revealed Kawasaki Ninja RR (or Kawasaki Ninja 250SL in some markets) seems tailored made for these environments.

The Japanese company took their popular twin-cylinder Kawasaki Ninja 250R, changed it to a single-cylinder thumper, and built the bike around a new steel trellis frame.

Kawasaki to Release a Single-Cylinder 250cc Sport Bike?

01/06/2014 @ 11:33 am, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

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According to TMCBlog (more photos on their site), Kawasaki may be planning to release a new entry level sport bike as a cost effective option for the Southeast Asian market. Rumor has it that this 250cc, single-cylinder bike is under construction and would be the more economical cousin to the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and its parallel-twin engine, while providing more competition for the Honda CBR250R.

While none of this can be confirmed, for time being it is a safe bet that if Kawasaki wants to remain competitive in its Asian markets, and it would be a good business strategy for Kawasaki to produce a bike that is comparable to many of the other single-cylinder bikes in the region, which are being produced by Honda, Suzuki, and KTM.

2014 KTM RC200 & KTM RC125 — The More the Merrier

11/07/2013 @ 7:36 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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For the American market, its all about the 2014 KTM RC390 and its single-cylinder sport bike format. But for the rest of the world, especially emerging markets, the talk of the 2013 EICMA show is focusing on the KTM RC200 and KTM RC125 — the smaller siblings in KTM’s “Race Competition” line.

Like the RC390, the RC200 and RC125 share engine designs with their Duke model counterparts. Both bikes feature the same aggressive styling as the KTM RC390, courtesy of Kiska Design, and are ideally situated for markets with tiered licensing programs and heavily segmented small-displacement categories. For us, we just think these motorcycles look hot.

2014 Honda CBR300R – Small-Displacement Warfare

11/07/2013 @ 5:11 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The battlefront in the small-displacement motorcycle war is heating up, as Honda has responded to last year’s debut of the Kawasaki Ninja 300 with its own 300cc sport bike, the 2014 Honda CBR300R. Departing from the looks of the Honda CBR250R, the Honda CBR300R instead gets its styling from the Honda CBR500R that debuted last year at this time.

Finally giving us some details since its preview last month, we now know what Honda has added another 37cc to its entry-level spot, as the Honda CBR300R has a 286cc single-cylinder engine, which makes 30hp and 20 lbs•ft of torque.

Honda says the CBR300R has an improved throttle response, and will come with ABS as standard. From the way the Japanese are talking, the Honda CBR300R is set to replace the Honda CBR250R worldwide, which means we will see this bike in the United States.

Officially Official: 2014 KTM RC390

11/05/2013 @ 6:37 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Even though the 2014 KTM RC390 leaked ahead of its EICMA debut, the KTM stand at the Fieramilano was packed full of attendees who were eager to get a glimpse of the single-cylinder sport bike from Austria.

The logical progression from the KTM 390 Duke, the RC390 shares many of its brethren’s features and specifications, though has a uniqueness all of its own.

Triumph Confirms 250cc Motorcycle is Coming for 2015

11/05/2013 @ 6:01 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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At Triumph’s EICMA press presentation today, the British brand confirmed that it would have a small-displacement world market bike for the 2015 model year.

Showing a very sporty concept sketch of the machine, Triumph also confirmed that the model would have a single-cylinder engine, be 250cc in displacement, and be manufactured at the company’s new India facility.

2014 KTM RC390 Cup – A Glimpse of What’s to Come

07/14/2013 @ 1:21 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Helping cultivate road racing’s future talent, KTM has teamed up with ADAS to bring you the “ADAC Junior Cup powered by KTM” series. Along the same vein as the Red Bull Rookies Cup for MotoGP, and the European Junior Cup for World Superbike, the ADAC Junior Cup is a spec-bike series aimed at developing young riders — good stuff, but not exactly a new concept.

What is exciting though is the “powered by KTM” part because zie Austrians have basically just unwrapped their new small-displacment street bike that is based off the KTM 390 Duke, you know it as the KTM RC390, and for the ADAC series, we know it as the 2014 KTM RC390 Cup Racer. Missing only a headlight, signals, and a license plate, the cup race bike is essentially what KTM will debut at EICMA in a few months’ time. We like.

Rumor: Ducati Scrambler Cometh

07/08/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

ducati-scrambler

While I was lounging at the pool this holiday weekend, getting my bronze on, the A&R Bothan Spy network was hard at work dumpster diving, hacking emails, and subscribing to the NSA’s live PRISM feed.

The fruits of that labor was the alarming realization of how many kitten videos the motorcycle industry collectively watches in a single day, and the fact that Ducati is working on scrambler-style motorcycle.

The project itself dates way back when Pierre Terblanche was still toiling away in Bologna, dodging equal portions of labor strikes and carbonara, and at the time was based around the now defunct Ducati Sport Classic.

Shelved, and thought never to see the light of day, we can only imagine this whole Hipstacyclist™ movement has helped Ducati rethink its position regarding a scrambler.

KTM RC4 Concept by Luca Bar Design

05/06/2013 @ 3:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

KTM-RC4-690-concept-Luca-Bar-Design

KTM is shaping up to be the brand of 2013. Surpassing BMW Motorrad in outright unit sales, and becoming the largest motorcycle brand in Europe, zie Austrians have been on a tear with their small-displacement machine strategy. Most of that move has been buoyed by KTM’s partnership with Bajaj, which in-turn owns a very sizable minority stake in the Austrian company, but KTM also has been making other moves as well, like the acquisition of Husqvarna by CEO Stefan Pierer and his company Pierer Industrie AG.

Surprisingly, what has been occurring in KTM’s boardroom is almost overshadowing what is occurring in the company’s model line-up, with the KTM 1190 Adventure set to finally come to the USA later this year, almost a year after its European debut, as well the upcoming release of the KTM 390 Duke and its sport bike and adventure variants. Perhaps lost in the wash is the 2013 KTM 690 Duke, which is a new machine for the US market this year.

A single-cylinder hooligan-maker, the KTM 690 Duke is 330 lbs (curbside without fuel) and 67hp of two-wheeled fun, and we hope that the Austrians bring the KTM 690 Duke R our way as well. While we are on the topic of things missing from KTM’s American line-up, a decent supersport is painfully obvious, yet we can’t see the folks at KTM following the paths of other brands. That’s where our friend Luca Bar comes to mind with his latest concept: the KTM RC4.