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.

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.

Up-Close with the Brammo Empulse RR at Infineon Raceway

05/13/2011 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Getting ready for the first practice session of the 2011 TTXGP season, the Brammo Empulse RR is on hand at Infineon now we got a chance to take some photos and talk to Director of Product Development Brian Wismann. We already brought you the first photo of the revised Empulse RR, standing in front of the Brammo offices in Ashland, Oregon, where we saw the newly revised race livery (now in Brammo Racing Green). Photos and details of the Brammo Empulse RR after the jump.

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

TTXGP & FIM Holding Three Joint Electric Races – Laguna Seca, Donington Park, & Le Mans

05/09/2011 @ 9:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The FIM and TTXGP have issued a joint statement today, declaring that the two rival electric racing series would collaborate on three races this season, plus the possibility of a season-capping championship race in October. As we broke the news a couple months ago, the two series have begun to patch-up their relationship, and are slowly working their way back into a merger.

Today’s announcement sees TTXGP adding its name to perhaps the FIM e-Power Championship’s crown jewel event: the Laguna Seca round, which will count towards the TTXGP’s North American Championship.

Other event collaborations include stops on the FIM e-Power calendar as well, as both Donington Park and Le Mans have been named in the press release. e-Power races to be held at those venues were to be run during the FIM Endurance World Championship, and now will include TTXGP riders as well, who will be receiving points towards their European Championship standings.

The announcement should mean the bolstering of riders at all the events, but we imagine it will affect the FIM’s European rounds the most, as the American race was well-attended last year.

Trailer: Charge – The IoM TTXGP Movie Out in a Week

05/05/2011 @ 6:58 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Since we first heard about it, we’ve been less than patiently waiting for Mark Neale’s next opus Charge, a movie about the first zero-emissions motorcycle race, which was held during the 2009 Isle of Man TT. Now we get word from the movie’s Facebook page that Charge will be available in about a week’s time, and we’re downright giddy about it.

Check the DVD library of any die hard MotoGP fan, and you’ll find Neale’s Faster, an iconic movie about MotoGP’s shift from two-stroke to four-stroke motors — we imagine Charge will have this same point of reference appeal to electric motorcycle enthusiasts, and eventually motorcyclists as a whole.

We got an email from Neale the other day, saying that an advanced copy of Charge would be headed to our mailbox. With promises of death by ex-Navy SEAL (no, seriously) if it should land into the wrong hands, Asphalt & Rubber will be hosting the world premiere of Charge here in the San Francisco/Bay Area (location pending). Until then, check the video after the jump.

Mission Motors Racing at Infineon with Steve Rapp*

05/03/2011 @ 10:27 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

More news from the Asphalt & Rubber Bothan Spy network (that’d be a great spin-off site by the way…if George Lucas wouldn’t bullseye us like womp rats from a T-16 for our copious use of Star Wars references in our posts), as we’ve gotten word that Mission Motors is gearing up to go racing at the TTXGP season-opener at Infineon Raceway in two weeks’ time. At the helm of the gorgeous Mission R electric superbike will be AMA Pro Racing’s Steve Rapp.

The caveat to this news is that it all is contingent on Mission Motors getting its race bike ready to race in time for the event. The Bothans go on to tell us that the bike’s battery pack still needs to come together, which is something we’ve heard for some time now, but could suggest that the team has advanced its tech further and is upgrading the Mission R for even more on-board energy/power. As always, time will tell.

Brammo Empulse to Race at Infineon with MotorcycleUSA

04/19/2011 @ 7:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotorcycleUSA has let it slip that it will be competing in the first round of the North American TTXGP series on-board the Brammo Empulse RR. Taking to the electric race motorcycle with be MotoUSA editor Steve Atlas, who will get the honors of piloting the Empulse RR in its first race outing (Brammo had to sit out its attempt to race a the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca last year after having a technical issue).

Brammo has been testing its Empulse RR for almost a year now, so the Oregonian company’s race package should be well-polished for the race at Infineon. When we saw the Empulse RR testing at Thunderhill Raceway earlier this year, the electric bike seemed capable of some good lap times, but of course we’ll have to wait and see how it compares to the competition that arrives later this May.

As for Atlas, the last we heard was that he single-handedly changing the well-earned stigma that motorcycle journalists don’t know how to ride motorcycles, which should make for some good racing for the TTXGP/AMA fans. Some photos of the Brammo Empulse RR are after the jump.

FIM e-Power/TTXGP Merger Well Underway

03/16/2011 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumors of an FIM e-Power and TTXGP merger have been quietly floating around for the past week, and before we could report on those whispers of the event, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme has scooped us with the story that it has been holding conversations with the folks at TTXGP regarding the two series running joint events during the 2011 electric motorcycle season, with a possible final joint Championship to take place at the end of the year.

Sources close to the talks have told Asphalt & Rubber that a merger between the two series is imminent, with many of the stakeholders already signing-off on the deal. The likely outcome would be a series that lives on with the e-Power name, promoted by none other than Dorna Motor Sports, of MotoGP media fame. The FIM’s impetus seems to be in consolidating the two diverging series, and finally integrating them into established professional road racing.

Conversely, TTXGP will be able to find a financial exit from the rumored deal, something its investors will surely be happy to see. TTXGP has been able to piggyback off of local and club racing events, making deals with the tracks themselves, rather than the organizing bodies, in an effort to expand rapidly. While TTXGP has seen push-back from the Isle of Man TT, FIM, and AMA, the series has proven to be more adept at marketing itself than the FIM with its e-Power.

More on this as we get it, for now both parties are only admitting to the fact that they are talking about “collaborating” with one another. Joint statement from the FIM & TTXGP after the jump, along with their 2011 racing calendars.

Rumor: OEM Entering Electric Racing This Season

02/14/2011 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

There’s a quiet rumor going on in the electric racing circles that a major OEM of internal combustion motorcycles is poised to enter one of the electric racing series this season. Which manufacturer and which series is not being openly discussed, but judging from whom is talking about the possibility, and perhaps more importantly who is not talking about it, our best guess would be a Japanese manufacturer like Honda is at the center of the rumor. Honda has already been caught testing hybrid componentry at the 25hrs of Thunderhill, coincidentally with technology produced by electric motorcycle upstart Mission Motors.

Chip Yates’ Electric Motorcycle Will Take On Gas-Powered Competition in WERA Race

12/09/2010 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

After first seeing the TTXGP and then FIM e-Power race series lower their maximum bike weights to 250kg, thus barring the 266kg SWIGZ race bike from competing, Chip Yates and his SWIGZ.COM race team seem to be making the best out of a bad situation, and have announced that they will compete in the WERA Pirelli Sportsman Heavyweight Twins Superbike class race being held at California Speedway on January 9, 2011.

Promoting an advanced KERS system, Yates has been touting his 194hp electric race bike as being comparable to gasoline-powered supersport machines, and now he will have the opportunity to prove that point on the track. With performance parity to internal combustion engine such an important issue with electric motorcycles, SWIGZ is the first team to take on the old guard head-on, with this first race being the first public working exhibition of the SWIGZ KERS design.