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.

Trackside Tuesday: Long Live World Superbike

09/25/2012 @ 8:11 pm, by Scott Jones22 COMMENTS

As the other motorcycling World Championship, World Superbike has its own amazing stories to tell, stories often very weird relative to what we are used to in MotoGP. When I went to shoot WSBK for the first time, some of my MotoGP buddies told me the same thing: don’t get spoiled, it’s a different world there. Indeed, one MotoGP veteran left Grand Prix to make his new home in WSBK and hired someone else to cover the Aliens on his behalf.

Instead of three riders on the grid fighting among themselves for the victory, WSBK saw six different winners in the first six races of the 2012 season. Instead of three manufacturers (well, two, really) fighting for wins in MotoGP, five stood atop the WSBK podium in those first six races. With one race weekend to go, nine riders have won races. Compared to MotoGP, talk about weird!

Instead of riders over 30-years-old being hounded by lightning-fast 20-somethings, riders seem to bloom around 40, enjoying second or even third winds in their careers. The lower level of technology allows rider experience to count against the raw physical talent of youth. The playing field is more even, the racing is less about having the latest parts that separate the factory teams from the satellite ones.

Tom Sykes is a motorbike racer who could be the next WSBK world champion, and a protagonist in a story remarkably different from the usual MotoGP fare. Sykes is 30.5 points behind Biaggi with one round, two races, and 50 points to go.

WSBK: Kawasaki Retains Tom Sykes for 2013 Season

08/28/2012 @ 11:36 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

We are a bit late to this news, in internet terms at least (we’re WAAAY ahead in print terms, for whatever that is worth), but Kawasaki announced at the Moscow round that it has re-signed factory rider Tom Sykes to its 2013 World Superbike team. Eight podiums so far this season, including one race win and seven of pole-position starts, Tom Sykes has been delivering solids for Team Green this season.

So, it should come as no surprise then that Kawasaki wanted to lock-down the Brit for another season, with the Japanese manufacturer holding an option for two more years on top of next season’s contract. His third year with the Kawasaki squad, Sykes is also third in the Championship standings, just 41 points behind series leader Marco Melandri.

WSBK: Interrupted Superpole During Qualifying at Brno

07/21/2012 @ 1:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Not withstanding the drama of Liberty Racing and Sylvain Guintoli’s slightly absurd dustup and parting of ways, along with the news the BMW Motorrad would fold its factory team into the BMW Italia effort, it’s been business as usual at Brno for World Superbike this week. The same could not be said for Saturday’s Superpole event though, which suffered from fluids being dumped on the track, and then a bout of rain caused the qualifying to go to a wet format. With teams having to adapt to the changing format, the grid for Sunday is certainly an interesting one.

WSBK: Duel to the Finish for Race 1 at Aragon

07/01/2012 @ 6:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With the weather being fair, though cooler and windier at Aragon than some would prefer, World Superbike racing was underway in Spain as Tom Sykes sat on pole…yet again. Fast on Saturday’s, the Englishman has been unable to convert his Superpole dominance into real race results, though the Kawasaki Racing racer was the only rider during qualifying to break into the 1’36 timezone.

Showing more promise with their race pace were the factory Aprilias of Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty, who will start second and third on the grid, respectively. Rounding out the front row was Leon Haslam, who bested his teammate Marco Melandri.

How Do You Make a Superbike Look Like a Street Bike?

06/29/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With MotoGP adopting a CRT rule for the 2012 season, a provision that allows production motors to be used in a prototype chassis, the World Superbike Championship has been feeling its production-racing turf a bit infringed upon. Now whether or not the latest rule change from WSBK has anything to with what is going on between the two series is up for debate, but regardless for 2013 and onward, World Superbike teams will have to run faux-headlight decals on their race bikes — in some sort of attempt to link what is on the track to what is sitting on dealership showroom floors.

First to adopt the rule is the factory Kawasaki Racing Team, which has added the headlight decals to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R race bikes that are being ridden by Tom Sykes and Loris Baz this weekend at Aragon, Spain. In addition to the headlight sticker rule, teams will have to run 17″ wheels starting in 2013, which is being pitched as a cost-savings measure, but is more likely grounded in the idea of further making the illusion that what is raced in WSBK is somehow remotely linked to what motorcyclists purchase.

WSBK: “Wet” Superpole Leaves Top Riders Out to Dry During Qualifying at Misano

06/09/2012 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With the rain pouring right before World Superbike’s Superpole event at Misano, Race Direction at the Italian track called the session “wet” — thus reducing the knock-out style qualifying session from three rounds to only two. With the track drying rapidly though, the wet session looked a lot like a dry one, sans for some early-on damp patches along the racing line.

Tipping the balance just enough, the two-round dry qualifying found some top riders biding their time too long in the pits, which proved to have disastrous effects on their grid positions for Sunday’s double-header race.

WSBK: Dry Conditions Prevail for Cold Qualifying at MMP

05/28/2012 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Encircled by the gorgeous Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, Miller Motorsports Park has some of the most dramatic backdrops out of all the World Superbike venues, though coupled with the track’s 4,000+ foot elevation, the weather can be wet and cold at times. Such words were probably an understatement for the conditions on Sunday, as frigid temperatures and rain prevailed in the day’s earlier sessions. Realizing that some Superpole qualifying was scheduled for later though, the weather gods appeased the American crowd, who had been braving the conditions, and quickly dried the track for World Superbike qualifying.

Down on power at the very fast track, the Ducatis of Smrz and Checa surprised everyone with their dominance on the time sheets. Of course, Tom Sykes could not be counted out from the qualifying fun, as the Englishman has taken four of the past five pole positions. One of only two stops on the WSBK calendar that is outside of Europe, American fans were treated on this Memorial Day weekend to some fine qualifying, which included some upsets. Results after the jump.

Photo: Five – Two = Podium

05/13/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Blurred to protect against spoilers, we’ll just leave things simply by saying that World Superbike’s Race 2 at Donington Park is well worth a watching if you haven’t already seen it. Decided right down to the last few turns, race pundits surely will be discussing the race and its outcome over the next week. Unsurprisingly, geography is playing a major a role in how things are being viewed.

Though in a race where a number of questionable passes occurred, it is hard to single out this one event from the plethora of others that occurred during the race, but of course this one had the biggest effect on the race outcome. Click past the jump for the he said, she said, and of course for some slightly sharper photos. Also, be sure to leave your thoughts on the racing incident, was someone, if anyone, at fault?

WSBK: Five-Way Battle in Race 2 Thrills at Donington Park

05/13/2012 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

With there being heated and close racing at Donington Park for Race 1, World Superbike’s second race for the day was sure to thrill as well, though we doubt anyone could have expected the race we got with Race 2. With the Kawasaki of Tom Sykes sitting on pole, and looking very fast, the Brit was a strong favorite for sure.

Though, no one could discredit the BMW’s of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, especially after their strong results in Race 1. Equally always a factor, Max Biaggi on his Aprilia is always a contender, even with the RSV4’s struggling at the English track. With the checkered flag being up for grabs, the only thing race fans were assured of was great racing. Click past for spoilers and results.

WSBK: Race 1 Shows New Contenders at Donington Park

05/13/2012 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

With good weather under British skies, World Superbike is making one of its few breaks from the European mainland, and racing at Donington Park this weekend. With a slew of local boys comprising the top spots of the WSBK grid, race fans at Donington had more than a few favorites for Sunday’s races, though pole-setter Tom Sykes seemed to be the favorite per usual, as the Brit looked for his first fair-weather win.