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.

Ducati Scrambler Will Be “Made in Thailand”

10/20/2014 @ 2:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Almost four years ago, we reported on Ducati opening a new assembly plant in Thailand. The move, which peeved Ducati’s factory workers, would see bikes destined for the Southeast Asian market assembled in the Thai plant, thus side-stepping many of the region’s aggressive tariffs on motorcycles.

Nearing the end of 2014 now, and our Bothan Spies report that the Ducati Scrambler models will be the first motorcycles assembled in Ducati’s Thai plant that will then be shipped to the world market (sans the European market, which will get bikes still from Bologna, according to Moto.it) — a move that comes right after Ducati reached a new contract with its workers and unions, which sees the factory employees working fewer hours at higher wages.

Kawasaki Working on a 250cc Four-Cylinder?

06/24/2014 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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According to the Indonesian publication TMC Blog, Kawasaki is working on a performance-oriented 250cc four-cylinder…and they have the supposed photos to prove it. The news should be well-received by those who remember the high-revving small-displacement Japanese machines of just a few decades ago.

Southeast Asian markets, like Indonesia’s, are driven by graduated taxes on motorcycle displacement. For the Indonesian market, machines 250cc to 500cc in displacement receive a 60% tax rate, while machine over 500cc are taxed at 75%. Unsurprisingly then, bikes under 250cc are accounting for the lion’s share of motorcycle sales.

Working against that taxation plan is the growing middle class in these regions, with consumers able to purchase more expensive motorbikes, and looking for more performance in the process. This trend is what helped bring the Yamaha R25 to market (and production) in Indonesia, along with the slew of other ~250cc machines we’ve seen from Honda, Kawasaki, and KTM.

Yet Another Solid Photo of the Yamaha YZF-R25

04/30/2014 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Unfortunately, the Yamaha YZF-R25 isn’t slated to debut until May 2014; but as luck would have it, the month of May starts tomorrow. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the R25 is leaking like a sieve all over the internet.

We brought you some very nice photos of Yamaha’s 250cc sport bike earlier this morning, and now we have another good glimpse of the Yamaha R25 from the front.

In this shot we get a good glimpse of the YZF-R25’s headlight, which reminds us of the redesign Honda did to the CBR600RR. Clearly visible on the side fairing is the “R25″ logo, so we know we are dealing with the real thing. Unfortunately though, the photo is pretty low-resolution, so it’s hard to gauge fit and finish.

Yamaha Tricity – A Three-Wheel Leaning Scooter with CVT

03/25/2014 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Yamaha is trickling out its Thailand-built models, and while we wait for the debut of the Yamaha YZF-R25 250cc sport bike, the tuning fork brand has an interesting new scooter for the world market: the Yamaha Tricity.

A three-wheeled leaning scooter, the Yamaha Tricity features a 125cc motor with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Designed to sell primarily in Thailand, the Tricity is a fairly premium and feature-packed scooter for that market, and Yamaha hopes to sell over 10,000 of them in Southeast Asia, Japan, and Europe.

Triumph Expands Its Lineup in India – Hopes to Sell 1,000 “Super-Premium” Motorcycles in 2014

02/07/2014 @ 11:37 am, by Aakash Desai1 COMMENT

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As the West gradually loses its grip on world economic and political power, it’s only natural that global industries refocus their efforts to market and develop products for the new guards of the economic order.

As this decade nears middle age, we are seeing more and more motorcycle companies seeking a foothold in South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian markets.

The reasons are simple: larger, more populous markets with higher percentages of prospective riders that are rapidly gaining economic and social standing means more people to sell to.

Thus as two-wheelers become more of a commodity of choice as well as commodity of necessity, it opens up opportunities for heretofore unattainable brands to begin marketing to newly affluent demographics.

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.

Triumph Distributor Confirms 250cc Model for Asia

01/08/2013 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Shedding more insight on our previous news that Triumph is working on a small-displacement model for India and Southeast Asia, we now get more details on the project from the British company’s distributor in Indonesia, Rudhy Siswanto of PT Global Motorcycle Trading.

Expected to be a 250cc twin-cylinder machine that will play heavily on the styling cues of the Triumph Street Triple, the new model will begin production in 2014 at Triumph’s planned new plant in Narasapur, India, and go head-to-head with the KTM 200 Duke.

The Killing Season – A Motorbike Trip Through Vietnam

01/01/2013 @ 9:29 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Congratulations and welcome to 2013. We imagine that there are a few of you who aren’t firing on all your cylinders yet today, so we will ease you into a new year of motorcycle news with a nice little video, which was made by the folks at Skateboarder Magazine. No, your hangover is not making you see things, we are in fact talking about skateboarding on a motorcycle site.

You see, there is an interesting intersection between the skateboarding and motorcycle subcultures — something about the desire to go one’s own way, to engage in some activity of questionable safety, and to enjoy life in the present, much to the chagrin of everyone else. The crossover may no be as obvious in practice, but it’s there.

For instance, when Harley-Davidson finally figured out that it needed to start appealing to consumers under the age of 40, the first demographic it targeted (with some success) was the skateboarding crowd. Take a look at some of the earlier Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight ads, and see if you can’t pick up on the LBC living, Airwalk wearing, grinder vibe that’s going on there.

So as we already said, for your viewing pleasure today we have a nicely done video by the folks at Skateboarder Magazine, which covers their motley crew riding and skating through Vietnam. The whole piece is a great example of what it is like to travel in Southeast Asia, and puts a lot in perspective as to just how massive the market is there. The traffic is a bit insane as well, especially for these novice riders.

Harley-Davidson Made-for-India Model by 2014?

12/18/2012 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

According to the folks at Indian auto site Zigwheels, Harley-Davidson is finally ready to get serious about the Indian market, and plans on developing and selling a made-for-India model. The entry-level machine would slot in below the current 883cc Sportsters, and be ground-up manufactured locally in India as well.

Zigwheels goes on to say that its sources peg Harley-Davidson executives from the US and India as meeting with Indian vendors and dealers in order to setup distribution of the new model(s). Expected to debut at the 2014 New Delhi show, the India-specific line will arrive in the 400cc-500cc range, feature a v-twin motor, and cost Rs 3.5 lakh ($6,381).

MotoGP: Two Rounds in Malaysia?

12/05/2012 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

According to MCN, Yamaha Racing’s Lin Jarvis is keen for more rounds in the Asian market — he is so keen in fact, that Jarvis has even suggested that s second round be held in Malaysia. With southeast asia proving to be an important market for the big motorcycle OEMs, the idea of doubling up on Malaysia for the MotoGP calendar is certainly not the worst idea ever proposed to Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta.

For Yamaha Racing in particular, a second round in the southeast asian territory would dovetail nicely with the team’s already extensive connection to the region’s markets. While everyone in the paddock would seem to be in agreement on MotoGP’s needs to get out of Europe and into other markets, Jarvis’s request to Ezpeleta is still a tall order, as it is a tough proposition for the MotoGP Championship to double-dip not only a small country, but also the same venue.