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.

2013 Team Icon Brammo Empulse RR – Zebra vs. Cheetah

03/25/2013 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Team-Icon-Brammo-Empulse-RR-Eric-Bostrom-07

Fresh with its “zebra” and “cheetah” racing schemes, Team Icon Brammo is back racing the Brammo Empulse RR for the 2013 season. Taking part in the new electric motorcycle racing series jointly created by the FIM and TTXGP (a name is coming forthwith), Brammo has also gotten the green light to race the Empulse RR in the AFM amateur races (we hear Steve Atlas will be doing the honors against the gas bikes).

While Atlas and his teammate Eric Bostrom will hopefully be turning heads with their on-track prowess, there is little doubt that the dynamic duo will be getting some attention with these eye-catching race liveries. Atlas will race the red “cheetah” bike, while Bostrom will campaign the white “zebra” machine (our favorite). There is no word yet if they will wear matching animal costumes, but fingers crossed. Moar photos after the jump.

Gas vs. Electric: AFM Homologates the Brammo Empulse

03/05/2013 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2012-Brammo-Empulse-RR-Sears-Point-01

While the FIM & TTXGP have put aside their differences, when it comes to managing an all-electric motorcycle racing championship, other established racing organizations are starting to warm-up to the idea of electric motorcycles lining up on their previously petrol-only starting grids.

We already saw Chip Yates take on the dino-fueled entries in WERA’s Heavyweight Twins class, with a substantial amount of success, and now more EV racers will get a chance to take a charge (ahem) at the competition, as the American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) has allowed the various iterations of the Brammo Empulse to race in its racing classes.

Video: Brammo Gets Ready to Dominate in Daytona

10/11/2012 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The 2012 TTXGP World Series Final is about to go down in Daytona the weekend after next, and if you are like us…you probably didn’t know that, and now that you do, you probably still don’t really care. Plagued with inconsistent grids, considerable performance gaps between machines, and small grid sizes on race day, the North American TTXGP Championship was less than memorable this year for spectators. However, for Steve Atlas and the folks at Brammo, 2012 meant another championship victory.

Putting together a nice promo video for the upcoming World Series Final at Daytona, you can’t fault the Brammo crew for celebrating their Championship win — after all, all the Ashland team can do is show up, and hope that the competition does as well. Still, it goes without saying that everyone involved with the series would have liked to see some more competition in the victory. Maybe when the top teams from the other regional championships arrive in Daytona we will have a better show. Probably not though.

Photos: One Crashed 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/06/2012 @ 1:25 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Retaining the same basic shape as last year’s bike, the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR is still a looker, due mainly to its very “Iconic” livery scheme. Keeping things an Oregonian affair, the addition of Portland-based Icon as a sponsor to the Brammo racing effort bodes well for the team, and brings more validity to the budding electric motorcycle racing scene. It’s just a shame the color scheme lasted all of a few hours for Team Icon Brammo at Sears Point Raceway this weekend.

Crashing in yesterday’s first TTXGP practice session, Steve Atlas was diagnosed with six fractured vertebrae. With a thrashed bike, the Brammo squad managed to cobble together the race bike again, and thanks to its busy black & white design, one could barely see the black gaffer tape and white electrical tape that was keeping things together. Now with 130 hp at the rear wheel, as well as 35 lbs less poundage on its bulk, the revised Empulse RR clearly has a problem with people named Steve, as the electric motorcycle once again bucked a rider off, also again in Turn 7 at Sears Point.

Highsiding Steve Rapp during Saturday’s qualifying session, it is not clear what caused the rear wheel of the Empulse RR to spool up, as Rapp said he was still straight up and down with the bike when he went airborn. With fluid dripping from the bike afterwards, and Rapp stopping a lap earlier or two earlier because of the bike cutting out, the Brammo team is surely still pouring over the data as we type. That effort will do little to change the fact that Rapp has likely broken his hand from the incident, and will be out of racing the rest of the weekend, much to the chagrin to the Attack Performance AMA Superbike team, which Rapp took to a sixth place finish that same day in Superbike Race 1.

As you can see from the photos after the jump, the damage does not look too extensive to the bike — though, our assessment is only skin deep. Two riders, two highsides, one corner…no bueno. Surely not the result the Ashland-based crew wanted before it launches the street-bike version of the Brammo Empulse on Tuesday next week, it’s not clear if Brammo will try and race tomorrow, or if they even can race sans a healthy rider who lapped during Saturday’s qualifying.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

Up-Close with the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/04/2012 @ 11:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brammo is back for electric motorcycle racing in the North American TTXGP series, as the Ashland-based company is set to defend it’s #1 plate this year with Steve Atlas on board ( Shelina Moreda is slated to join the team later in the season). Gaining a title sponsorship from Icon, Brammo arrived at Infineon Raceway Sears Point with some edgy graphics on the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR. Dropping roughly 35 lbs in weight, and gaining roughly 50hp over the bike they ran at last year’s season opener, Brammo is making most of those gains in its revised motor and power inverter for the newest Empulse RR.

The chassis is noticeably the same to last year’s bike, and sans some minor improvements here and there, the bike is technically very similar to last year’s lap-record setter. Unlike the Brammo Empulse R that will debut Tuesday next week, the Empulse RR does not use the six-speed IET gearbox. Brammo’s Brian Wismann explained to A&R that the high-voltage system that the Empulse RR uses does not benefit as much from the IET gearbox as the lower voltage street bike does, and thus hasn’t made it to the race bike…yet.

With these pictures taken just a couple hours before Steve Atlas had a highside crash at Sears Point, we imagine the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR doesn’t look as good as when we last saw it. Atlas took a pretty big hit, but is said to be ok (UPDATE: Atlas has six fractured vertebrae, and will be out for the weekend). The bike on the other hand…well, hopefully the Brammo crew can get it ready in time for this weekend’s two TTXGP races in wine country. More drool material after the jump.

What Does a Record TTXGP Lap at Infineon Look Like?

05/23/2011 @ 6:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The 2011 TTXGP season-opener at Infineon Raceway got off to a less than enthralling start, with only four bikes showing up for racing on Saturday, and three bikes remaining for Sunday’s race. Nevertheless, the event was the first time we’ve gotten to see the Brammo Empulse RR in its race livery, and taking some laps in public. Though the racing wasn’t close, the shining star during the weekend was Steve Atlas taking the Brammo Empulse RR on an outright lap record for electrics at the Sonoma, California based track.

With a time of 1:55.15, Brammo is the team to beat currently, and there’s hope that Lightning, Mission Motors, and MotoCzysz will give the Oregonian company a run for its money later on in the season. Until those teams unveil their bikes in a race, Brammo retains the bragging rights to being the fastest on the track. Check out Brammo’s record run after the jump.

TTXGP: Brammo Sets Track Record at Infineon

05/15/2011 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The California sun gods were in our favor this morning, as the rainy heavens over Infineon Raceway parted long enough to dry out the Sonoma track, and allow racing to commence under cloudy skies. After a thrilling ambulance race (Infineon Raceway had all its four-wheelers out drying the tarmac and racing line), Race Direction deemed the course fit for racing, and the slower-paced electrics were first on the card to try out the dryness of the track. Fielding three bikes for Race 2, we saw a return of Brammo, Moto Electra, and VOLT to the starting grid, as Ely Schless and his Proto Moto was a scratch for today’s event.

With such a large spread in the field, things sorted their way out much like on Saturday, with Brammo taking the early lead and never looking back. Thad Wolff made an impressive showing, but was no match for the faster Brammo Empulse RR. Meanwhile in the Formula TTX75 class, Kenyon Kluge rode to a solo victory with no other competitor fielding a 7.5 kWh machine.

Perhaps in response to some remarks by an unscrupulous blogger, Brammo put to rest any doubts about its efforts, as Steve Atlas set a track record for electric motorcycles on the Empulse RR. With a 1:55.150 race lap time, the Brammo team shaved nearly 19 seconds off his overall race time from yesterday. Breaking the record for electric motorcycles at Infineon with authority, Atlas posted 1:55 and 1:56 lap times throughout the race, setting a new bar in the TTXGP series.

TTXGP: Brammo Wins at Infineon

05/14/2011 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

With rain threatening to put the kibosh on the West Coast Moto Jam’s Sunday events, the first of two scheduled TTXGP races was moved up to Saturday afternoon under the cooling wine country skies of Sonoma. With only four bikes taking to the starting grid (Lightning Motors’ two bikes were scratches, as was the Mission R by Mission Motors), it was a sparse showing for the first electric race of the 2011 season, which was disappointing considering Infineon’s proximity to a number of strong electric motorcycle entities.

Taking the overall win was Brammo Racing, which had motorcycle-racer-turned-motorcycle-journalist Steve Atlas at the helm of the Brammo Empulse RR. Brammo competed with Moto Electra’s Thad Wolff for the overall unlimited TTXGP class, while Kenyon Kluge on the VOLT bike finished third overall, besting Ely Schless and his Proto Moto bike in the Formula TTX75 class. Completing eight laps, Atlas took the Brammo Empulse RR to the winner’s circle with a 25 second gap and a best lap time of 1:57.875.

First Look: Brammo Empulse RR Race Bike for TTXGP

05/13/2011 @ 8:40 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Sitting outside of Brammo HQ in Ashland, here’s the first photo of the Brammo Empulse RR in its 2011 TTXGP livery. The green, white, and black paint scheme is a welcomed change from the red we’ve seen on the Empulse RR in the past, and should make it easy to spot the Brammo Empulse RR at Infineon this weekend, as Steve Atlas will be vying for the top step against the other five bikes that will be on the grid.

As we head up to the Sonoma track for the weekend, Asphalt & Rubber should get some more glimpses of the electric race bike, and bring you the first photos of it lapping the raceway-formerly-known-as-Sears-Point. We should also be getting our first glimpses of the Lightning Motors machines, but unfortunately will only be seeing the Mission R in the paddock, as Mission Motors has decided not to race this weekend.

Source: Brammo