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.

Moto Bellwether: Q1 2014 Motorcycle Tire Sales Down 12.7%

06/02/2014 @ 5:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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Tire sales for the first quarter of the year are down 12.7%. It’s certainly not great news, but why are we publishing this figure for you? Because tire sales are the best indicator of how active motorcyclists are during the riding season. With tire sales down 12.7% retailers and brands can expect similar downward trends in apparel, parts, and service items during the same time period.

You can account for the sales drop through a number of factors, though one has to certainly consider the unseasonably cold winter (Polar Vortex) that occurred in the United States — except for us Californians, who just had an extended autumn, despite a slew of new ski gear.

Michelin Will Be the New Single-Tire Supplier for MotoGP

05/23/2014 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Michelin has been named as the official tire supplier for MotoGP starting from 2016. The French tire manufacturer will take over the role from Bridgestone when Bridgestone leaves at the end of 2015 season.

The official announcement confirms the worst kept secret in the paddock. Michelin had been widely trailed as being awarded the contract, as the French firm had shown the most interest.

Unofficial talks had taken place with Pirelli, and Dunlop had made a formal request for information, but Michelin was the only tire maker to submit a bid. Michelin has already been testing its 16.5″ slicks at Vallelunga and Clermont Ferrand in preparation for a bid.

Loris Capirossi Explains New Tire Supplier Parameters: Intermediates To Return, Allocation To Increase Slightly

05/07/2014 @ 11:12 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The tire allocation for MotoGP is set to be expanded when the new tire supplier takes over from 2016. The numbers of tires supplied to each rider will be increased by one or two tires per rider, and each rider will have the option of three different compounds front and rear.

But perhaps the most welcome change will be the return of intermediate tires to MotoGP, for use in practice conditions which are too dry for rain tires, but too damp and dangerous for slick tires to be used.

Thursday Summary at Jerez: On Bridgestone’s Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, & Stopping Marquez

05/01/2014 @ 7:07 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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There’s a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter?

Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can’t get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won’t be doing much slowing down.

Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won’t be up to much.

It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more.

MotoGP Taking Single-Tire Contract Offers thru May 22nd

05/01/2014 @ 10:29 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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After the announcement that Bridgestone is to withdraw as single tire supplier to MotoGP at the end of the 2015, Dorna have been quick to announce the details of the tender process to find Bridgestone’s replacement.

The tender process will be concluded inside of the month of May, with tenders opening today, 1st May, and ending three weeks later on 22nd May.

Bridgestone Will Stop Supplying Tires to MotoGP after 2015

05/01/2014 @ 9:39 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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Bridgestone have announced that they will not continue as MotoGP tire supplier after the 2015 season. The Japanese tire maker will continue for the remainder of this season and throughout 2015 before pulling out of MotoGP.

The move had been expected. Spanish magazine Motociclismo reported two weeks ago that Bridgestone was on the brink of withdrawing, which we covered at the time.

There had been growing dissatisfaction between the two parties over the past couple of years, with Bridgestone not feeling they were getting the exposure they needed for the 20 million euros they spend on the series, while Dorna felt that the tires were not contributing to the spectacle of racing, and were built so conservatively in terms of tire durability that they were occasionally unsafe.

At Austin, the first murmurings of the growing rift became audible. Paddock rumor held that Bridgestone, whose contract was due to expire at the end of 2014, had agreed a single year’s extension to the end of 2015 to allow other tire suppliers time to develop their tires for MotoGP.

With new technical regulations due to take effect from 2016 – all teams will use the spec ECU hardware and software from that point on – starting a new contract period from 2016 makes sense.

Who will take over as single tire supplier is as yet unknown, but that it will be a single supplier is certain. IRTA, representing the teams, is a big supporter of the single tire supplier, because of the cost savings for the private teams.

MotoGP: Bridgestone Adds Third Front Tire Option for 2014

04/30/2014 @ 1:25 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Bridgestone is to add an extra compound of front tire for MotoGP riders to choose from. After complaints from the teams over problems at some circuits, Bridgestone has responded by expanding the number of front tires allowed for each rider from 9 to 10, and adding an extra compound of front tire to help deal with differing conditions.

The change to the allocation had long been a wish of the MotoGP riders. Though Bridgestone’s two selected compounds performed well under most conditions, a sudden drop in temperatures sometimes left riders and teams struggling.

The problem was most pronounced in the morning sessions at circuits like Valencia and Aragon, where temperatures can be very cold. There were several front-end crashes in those morning sessions, as tires struggled to get up to temperature. Adding a softer tire should make the morning practice sessions safer, and allow teams to work on setup without compromising safety.

MotoGP Riders Unhappy with 2013-Spec Tires at Austin

04/10/2014 @ 9:48 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Bridgestone’s decision to bring the 2013-spec medium compound rear tire to the Austin round of MotoGP has been met with near universal displeasure amongst the MotoGP riders.

The Japanese tire company was forced to revert to the 2013-spec tire, without the added heat-resistant layer, after a production issue with the 2014 tires meant that they were unable to bring enough of the new spec tires to the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin.

Bridgestone Will Bring 2013-Spec Tires to Austin for MotoGP

03/28/2014 @ 10:36 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Bridgestone is to bring its 2013-spec tires for the MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Production delays meant that the Japanese tire manufacturer was unable to guarantee a full allocation of the 2014 spec medium rear tires with the heat-resistant treatment being supplied to all of the MotoGP riders.

Research and inspection of data from 2013 showed that there would be no problem with the tires without the heat-resistant treatment at the Texan track, and so it was decided to supply everyone with the 2013-spec medium rear tires.

The alternative to this would be having two different specifications of the medium compound available to the riders in Austin. A Bridgestone spokesperson told us, “Bridgestone felt this was a better option than having riders end up with non-heat resistant and heat-resistant tyres in the same compound option at a race weekend.”

Friday Summary at Qatar: The Myth of Fairness & Aleix Espargaro’s One-Man Revolution

03/21/2014 @ 11:08 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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When was the last time a non-factory rider won a MotoGP race? Any MotoGP fan worth their salt will be able to give you year, track and rider: 2006, Estoril, Toni Elias.

Ask them why he won and they will give you all sorts of answers – Dani Pedrosa taking out Nicky Hayden in the early laps, Colin Edwards not being able to maintain his pace to the end of the race, Kenny Roberts Jr. misjudging the number of laps left in the race, or, as Valentino Rossi put it, because “Toni ride like the devil” – but none they can be sure of.

There is a less well-known explanation for Elias’ performance, though. Ahead of the Estoril race, Elias was given a set of the overnight special tires shipped in especially for Michelin factory riders.

In this case, Elias was handed a set of ‘Saturday night specials’ destined for Dani Pedrosa, but which Pedrosa had elected not to use, and so were going spare. Elias liked the same kind of soft carcass tire that Pedrosa was being offered, and went on to exploit the advantage it offered.

What does that have to do with Friday at Qatar? Two things. Firstly, it highlights exactly how important tires are in motorcycle racing. Tires dictate a huge amount of the performance of a motorcycle. They are the connection between the bike and the track, but that is a very full and complex function.

Tires determine how far a bike can be leaned, how much drive the bikes can get out of a corner, how well the power delivery of an engine transfers to the tarmac, how hard the bike can brake, they provide a certain amount of suspension, and they pass information about track surface, grip conditions and where the limits of braking and turning are for a motorcycle.

And that’s just the beginning. Tires are (quite literally) a black art. Their complexity cannot be underestimated.