Would You Buy This $280,000 Motorcycle?

We have seen a lot of limited-run motorcycles here at Asphalt & Rubber — some have been intriguing, and some have been…well, not. With exclusivity of course comes a price tag of sizable proportions, but it is rare that we see a motorcycle break into six-figures, let alone pass the quarter-million dollar mark. But here we are with the Yacouba Feline. We have featured the work of Yacouba Galle before, as the French designer has done a bit of work in the industry, including a bolt-on design kit for the MV Agusta Brutale, which he calls the Bestiale (a name that might make Anglophones cringe a little). Unlike the Bestiale though, the Feline is a full-on motorcycle, not just a kit…and if you like what you see, it is going to cost you a mint.

XXX: The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 World Endurance Race Bike is Pure Sex…with a Headlight

The long-winded “Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Racing” team is ready for FIM Endurance World Championship action this year, especially with the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. The new R1 offers state-of-the-art electronics, as well as near-200hp from its crossplane four-cylinder engine, and the French team is looking to capitalize on those improvements in the EWC for 2015. Yamaha France took the 2014 title in a convincing fashion, so it will be interesting to see what riders David Checa, Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines can accomplish with their new toy. We’ve got a bevy of high-resolution photos for you, after the jump.

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.

Watch: The Unrideables 2

11/21/2014 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

unrideables-2

It’s almost the weekend, which means the end of another grueling work-week for many of our readers. With winter upon us, the release of riding a motorcycle after a long week has been diminished, if not extinguished entirely, which only adds to the no-motorcycle doldrums.

We have a little something for that though: 45 minutes of good ol’fashioned two-stroke awesomeness. The sequel to the much loved The Unrideables documentary, we bring to you The Unrideables Part 2, which picks up from its predecessor and covers the Rainey/Schwantz era of racing. Enjoy!

Ronax 500 – Your Modern 500cc Two-Stroke Track Bike

06/08/2014 @ 4:05 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Ronax-500-launch-06

After teasing us what looked like a direct knock-off of Valentino Rossi’s NSR500 two-stroke GP bike, complete with vague #46 references, the German project has finally taken the wraps off its Ronax 500 GP street bike.

Making 160hp (@ 11,500 rpm) from its nearly square (54.5 x 54 bore and stroke) 500cc V4 engine, the Ronax 500 also boasts two counter-rotating crankshafts inside its all-aluminum engine block.

Fuel-injected for more rideability, Ronax has programmed the Ronax 500 with a sport and rain ignition map. Upgrading the class GP bike design with modern components, an electric starter and four carbon/kevlar mufflers are part of the Ronax 500’s highlights, while carbon fiber fairings, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes complete the package.

Ronax 500 – Don’t Call It a Honda NSR500 Replica

04/23/2014 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ronax-500-two-stroke-v4-03

The folks at Ronax are certainly getting away with not saying much, especially when it comes to their soon-to-be-released Ronax 500 motorcycle. Dressed in a neon yellow cover, limited to only 46 units, and looking suspiciously similar thru the sheet to a Honda NSR500, what Ronax isn’t saying is that its creation is a replica of Valentino Rossi’s last two-stroke race bike (the Honda NSR500), but they are certainly doing everything in their power to convey that very fact.

Since the dawn of the four-stroke era of Grand Prix racing, many old-school GP fans have been left wanting the days of 500cc two-stroke machines, which were known for their razor-thin power bands, lack of electronics, and propensity to launch riders into low-Earth orbit.

The last man to win a GP championship on a 500cc two-stroke machine, Valentino Rossi is of course a crowd favorite – and using his name and history, without actually using it, is a clever (though modestly unethical) way of selling some bikes.

Gas Gas Acquires Husqvarna Engine Designs

03/01/2014 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

husqvarna-two-stroke-engine

It was nearly a month ago that we heard that Spanish firms Gas Gas and Ossa had merged their operations in order to take on the difficult economic climate in Spain. The firms’ business position should be even stronger now, as Gas Gas has acquired the IP from Moto Italia, the holding company of Husqvarna’s remains.

When KTM’s Stefan Pierer acquired Husqvarna through his Pierer Industrie AG company, he did not buy all of the once Swedish motorcycle brand from BMW Motorrad. What wasn’t transferred into the Austrian company’s control was left behind as a new company, Moto Italia, which now will find a new home in Spain with Gas Gas.

The Lineage of Honda’s Grand Prix Motorcycles

11/18/2013 @ 6:37 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

honda-rc211v

For the past twenty years or so, there is one manufacturer who has been above all others in the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing, and that manufacturer is Honda.

Winning 12 of the last 20 World Championship titles, Honda’s recent domination in 500GP and MotoGP has been a sea change for the series, and the company’s winning total in this modern era of four-stroke and two-stroke machines is double the next nearest OEM, Yamaha (MV Agusta still holds the outright record, with 18 championships from the 1956-1974 period of four-stroke racing).

Part of Honda’s success has been the fact that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has been able to attract some of the best riders ever to come to a Grand Prix race’s starting line, champions like Mick Doohan (1994-1998), Àlex Crivillé (1999), Valentino Rossi (2001-2003), Nicky Hayden (2006), Casey Stoner (2011), and now Marc Marquez (2013).

But also part of the equation has been the superb equipment that HRC, Honda’s racing department, produces for its riders, bike likes the Honda NSR500, RC211v, RC212V, and RC213V, which have widely been regarded as the best machines on the grid in each of their respective eras.

Looking down the pipe, as MotoGP adopts new rules and regulations, the RC213V and RCV1000R appear set to dominate their respective classes as the factory machines will be reduced to 20 liters of fuel for next year, and the open class machines are forced to use both the Dorna-supplied ECU hardware and software.

It would appear that Honda has a firm grasp on the next few years of MotoGP racing, and as a bit of an homage to this company’s fantastic two-wheeled craftsmanship, along with the racers who rode them, we give you wallpaper-sized photos of Honda’s Grand Prix motorcycles, from the 1995 to 2013 seasons.

Watch: The Unrideables

05/13/2013 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

the-unrideables

If you missed the glory days of when Americans dominated Grand Prix motorcycle racing, or simply want to relive the moments from yesteryear, then we have the perfect treat for you this Monday afternoon. A television production by Britain’s ITV4, The Unrideables is a 45-minute trip down memory lane with Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Kevin Schwantz, and many others.

Focusing on the racing from the late-1980’s, we get to hear the riders and journalists of the time recount their victories and defeats on the 500cc two-strone monsters of that era. It is a really well done piece by ITV4, and it is really a shame we can’t get similar programming here in the United States. A big thanks to whomever put it up on YouTube, and thanks to all our tipsters who pointed it out to us.

KTM’s Pit Beirer Talks Moto3 Production Bikes, Cooperation With Kalex, & Two-Stroke Racing

07/12/2012 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.

Suter 500 Factory V4 – Thank You for Smoking

05/14/2012 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is based out of California, so that means smoking is akin to a cardinal sin out here, and on the hierarchy of egregious crimes against humanity, it ranks just slightly under torturing babies with hot pincers (heaven forbid you cause a baby to start smoking). Smoking indoors in outright verboten virtually everywhere, while puffing some nicotine anywhere outside that is near a restaurant, bar, club, ATM, hospital, pre-school, or tobacco shop is liable to cause a citizen to go murder-death-kill on you John Spartan.

The issue is so pervasive here, that it has even extended beyond cigarettes and into the realm of motorcycling, with The Golden State leading the charge on the banning of two-stroke motorcycles. We are now purely a “suck, squeeze, bang, blow” society, and while that suits many motorists just fine, there are some who enjoy the smell of pre-mix in the morning — you know who you are. You enjoy the sound of angry bees following you from apex to off-camber. You think a displacement for “serious riders” starts at around 250cc. You like your engine compression low, and your powerbands narrow. You sir (or madam), are a two-stroke junky, and we have just the fix you need.

Just as MotoGP replaced 500GP, we know see Moto2 & Moto3 replacing the lower two-stroke classes that remained in Grand Prix racing. Leading the charge on this mechanical front are a slew of new companies, most notably the chassis manufacturers, of which Suter is perhaps the most well-regarded. Making the weapon of choice for Marc Marquez in Moto2 this year, the Swiss company already had a sterling reputation before it went racing at an international level, but the firm’s success in the 2010 Championship exposed it to a whole new world of tw0-wheel performance.

Having a bevy of intriguing two-wheeled projects within its walls, the Swiss bike that catches our eye today is the Suter 500 Factory V4: a two-stroke, 500cc, V4, track weapon that puts out over 200 hp and weighs 284 lbs ready to race — no, that is not a typo. We’ll let you take a moment before continuing past the jump for more.

Kwikasfaki by Cabbie

07/29/2011 @ 5:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Take one Kawasaki H2 750 motor, recently decommisioned from drag strip duty we might add, throw in a plenty of bling parts, for measure include one deliciously white powdercoated frame, and you’ve got one seriously trick bike that is sure to go “kwikasfaki” (295lbs, 135rwhp, 9.3 down the ¼ mile if you’re a numbers person). Oddly enough, that’s exactly what one member on the Custom Fighters forum, named cabbie, did (full build thread here), and the result is Pamela-Anderson-in-a-wet-leotard-on-a-windy-day stunning.

While everyone is busy trying to murder out every piece of their motorcycles with the darkest shades of dark (quick diversion: has anyone noticed how the OEMs are all finally catching onto the styling trend?), cabbie is going the other way with his design: all white everything. The result is a bright and eye-catching bike, and oh…check out those three gorgeous two-stroke exhaust pipes. We’d write more, but we’ve soiled ourselves. More photos after the jump.

Moto3 Officially Killing Two-Strokes in 2012

08/17/2010 @ 11:49 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Meeting this weekend, the GP Commission confirmed the demise of two-stroke GP racing as they finalized plans to start the Moto3 series in 2012. Replacing the 125GP racing class, Moto3 will center around 250cc singe-cylinder four-stroke motor with a maximum bore size of 81mm. The class will be open to multiple engine manufacturers, who will have to make their motors available for €10,000 or less.