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.

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.

Harley-Davidson Street 500 & Street 750 – The First Truly “New” Motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in 13 Years

11/04/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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News of “smaller-displacement” Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been percolating for quite some time now, especially after the Bar & Shield brand began taking emerging markets more seriously.

With countries like India viewing 500cc bikes as “big” and Harley-Davidson’s smallest offering tipping the scales at 883cc, something had to give in the company’s strategy, and it looks like it just did.

Announcing two new bikes, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and Harley-Davidson Street 750, the Milwaukee brand is finally ready to go abroad, and its launching its intent to do so this week in Milan, at the EICMA show.

First Photos of the KTM RC125 & KTM RC200

10/27/2013 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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If it is connected by a series of tubes, we will find it; and thus here are photos of the still unreleased KTM RC125 & KTM RC200 street bikes — the kid-siblings to the recently leaked KTM RC390. Like the RC390, the RC125 & RC200 are visually similar, and share a common vein in their Made-in-India single-cylinder engines.

No word on specs, but we foresee the 125cc and 200cc iterations sharing similar technical listings as their Duke counterparts. We should know more at EICMA, where all three of these street bikes are expect to debut. More photos after the jump.

2014 KTM RC390 Details Drop with Photos

10/25/2013 @ 12:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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The 2014 KTM RC390 has been a long-time coming, as news of the bike has been in circulation since a leaked slide at the KTM North American dealer meeting hit the internet over two years ago. Built off of the KTM 390 Duke street bike, KTM said the RC390 would have “Moto3 inspired” bodywork when it debuted.

We got our first glimpse of the machine earlier this year, when KTM took the covers off the KTM RC390 race bike, a cup-series machine based off the still unreleased street machine. Well now the wait is over, as we have our first glimpse of the new KTM RC390, thanks to a leak on the KTM Canada website.

2014 Honda CBR300R Breaks Cover in China

10/17/2013 @ 4:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Not content to have only the Honda CBR250R as its small-displacement offering, Honda Motor Corp. announced at the China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition in Chongqing yesterday that the 2014 Honda CBR300R would be its latest “world model” motorcycle, with production set to start at Honda’s Thailand factory.

Details on the small-displacement motorcycle are next-to-nonexistent, with Seiji Kuraishi, Chief Operating Officer for Honda China simply stating that “Honda is exhibiting the world premiere of the CBR300R, a global motorcycle model for which Honda is planning to begin production in Thailand in the future. The market introduction of this model in China will be discussed in the future.”

Harley-Davidson Confirms 500cc Model – Electrics Too?

09/03/2013 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Two years ago I lamented on the fact that Harley-Davidson didn’t have a model under 800cc, which among other things, left the company at odds with its efforts to push into the emerging Indian motorcycle market.

Six-months after I wrote that piece, there seemed to be some hope for the Bar & Shield brand, as rumors began to circulate about a 500cc class motorcycle that was being designed with emerging countries in mind. It would seem now, those rumors were true.

Confirming that Harley-Davidson would soon debut a 500cc class motorcycle for the Indian market, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Matthew Levatich revealed last weekend that the Milwaukee-based company had a 500cc model in an advanced stage of development.

Hinting strongly that the machine would be built in India, and be aimed specifically at that market, Levatich also hedged his bets on the possibility of the model arriving on US soil.

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.