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.

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.

US Government Gets Closer to Having Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication in a Car Near You

02/03/2014 @ 3:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Big news dropped today in the world of automobiles and motorcycles. The US Department of Transportation (DOT), along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has announced that the vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) is a step closer to becoming  a reality in the United States.

The DOT has decided to move forward with plans to mandate V2V systems for light on-road vehicles, i.e. cars and presumably motorcycles as well. The technology is complex to implement, but the concept is fairly simple: vehicles broadcast their direction, speed, and relative speed to one another — 10 times every second — in an effort to avoid collisions.

V2V enables other vehicles near by to gauge whether or not a collision or safety concern is about to happen between the two vehicles, and alert the drivers to avoid an accident. In essence, V2V is the first active safety system for automobiles — i.e. we are now enabling safety systems that prevent accidents, rather than just lessening the severity of them.

We have talked at great lengths here at Asphalt & Rubber about what V2V can mean for motorcyclists, especially as autonomous vehicles use the communications system and become more prevalent on the road. In the long-term, V2V will introduce a huge shift in our driving culture, and it is not clear what the means for motorcyclists.

Harley-Davidson Sales Up 4.4% for 2013

01/31/2014 @ 5:47 pm, by Aakash Desai25 COMMENTS

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The brand that seems to polarize motorcyclists worldwide but is inextricably tied to the image of “the biker”, did quite well in 2013. Hot off the presses of Harley-Davidson’s Accounting and Finance department in Milwaukee is the 2013 sales report detailing their growth in worldwide new motorcycle sales.

For 2013, H-D sold 5.7% more bikes in the fourth quarter and 4.4% over the full-year compared to the previous year.  Full year net income was $734 million on consolidated revenue of $5.9 billion. Compared to 2012 when the net income was $623.9 million on consolidated revenue of $5.58 billion.

BMW S1000R Priced at $13,150 Base for the USA

01/29/2014 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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While we remain firm in our opinion that the BMW R nineT is the most important model to come from BMW Motorrad in a long while (which is saying something, since the liquid-cooled BMW R1200GS was a major step for the iconic and well-selling motorcycle), perhaps the most exciting model to come from Bavaria for the 2014 model year is the BMW S1000R.

Long-expected, the S1000R is the scandalously clad sibling to the venerable S1000RR superbike. Building the streetfighter model, the Germans went an interesting route with the BMW S1000R, instead of dropping mega horsepower, to compete with the Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC ABS and KTM 1290 SuperDuke R, the Motorraders built a bike with a serious midrange.

True to form though, BMW is aggressively pricing the S1000R for the US market, with the base price set at $13,150. Of course will all things BMW, you have to pay to play with all the goodies.

The R1200GS Is Once Again BMW’s Top Bike in the USA

01/21/2014 @ 3:55 pm, by Aakash Desai8 COMMENTS

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The “BMW rider” is almost its own class of rider in the United States. You know the type: usually white, male, greying or white hair, maybe a pair of glasses and a sweet $1,000 Schuberth flip-up helmet to top it off. Ah, and don’t forget the well-worn-in Roadcrafter in blue with fluorescent yellow accents. As for the bike, it has got to the venerable GS.

Of course we are speaking generalities here, but as it turns out, that stereotypical demographic is also BMW’s most lucrative. The latest sales statistics from BMW Motorrad USA show the BMW R1200GS to be the company’s best selling motorbike in the states with over 2,000 sold.

With BMW Motorrad USA selling 14,100 motorcycles in total for 2013), the R1200GS has thus unseated the S1000RR as the best selling BMW motorcycle in the USA.

KTM Claims It’s the “Fastest Growing Motorcycle Company” in the United States for 2013

12/09/2013 @ 4:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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After posting a 49% sales gain in November of this year, KTM USA says it is up 29.8% in year-to-date sales, which according to the Austrian brand, makes it the “fastest growing motorcycle company” in the US for 2013.

There is no word of course on how much volume KTM USA has actually moved, which makes the claim a bit specious, but it does show that there is some momentum behind the “ready to race” brand.

US Motorcycles Sales Decline 5.2% for the First-Half of 2013

08/01/2013 @ 8:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Don’t call it a comeback, because even though the US motorcycle industry beat the Motorcycle Industry Council’s projections last year, sales so far for 2013 are looking less than stellar in the first-half of the year.

Down 5.2% from January to June, motorcycle sales were hit mostly by abysmal losses in the scooter segment (23.3%), and helped along by modest losses in the on-road segment (5.3%). Adding more to the misery, dual-sports suffered a 3.4% drop in the first half of the year, though surprisingly off-road bikes showed a gain, increasing 5.4% over Q1 & Q2.

US Motorcycle Market Drops 14.7% in Q1 2013

05/21/2013 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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While we have mostly been lamenting the loss of the European motorcycle market, thanks chiefly to the Spanish and Italian economies, things here in the United States appear to be a bit tougher than was thought. While Americans contemplate whether or not we are headed into a double-dip recession, the American motorcycle market certainly seems to be headed that way.

While last year showed signs that motorcycling in the US had hit rock-bottom, and even posted very modest signs of growth, the first quarter of 2013 is anything but reassuring. With the US motorcycle market down 14.7% overall in Q1 2013, the MIC is reporting losses pretty much across the board (off-highway bike sales are more or less flat).

Suzuki Will Drop 98 Under-Performing Dealers

03/27/2013 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Last week we reported to you that Suzuki Motor of America was set to cut 10% to 20% of its powersports dealerships, as a part of its corporate restructuring and bankruptcy of the now defunct American Suzuki Motor Corporation. Clarifying that news, Suzuki has given a clearer figure, saying that 98 of the company’s 930 dealers will be getting the axe.

According to Suzuki, the roughly 10% of dealerships that did not see their contract assumed by Suzuki Motor of America accounted for only 2.5% of the company’s retail sales in the past 12 months (2.8% of retails sales in the past three years), making Suzuki’s actions more of a culling of the herd than anything else.

Ride Review: Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/24/2013 @ 11:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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New for 2013, Ducati has added another model to its Superbike range, the long awaited Ducati 1199 Panigale R. Asphalt & Rubber was first to break the news on the “R” version of Borgo Panigale’s namesake, so it is fitting that we were one of the first publications to ride this homologation-special — taking part in Ducati’s international press launch at the new, and very technical, Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas.

A purpose-built facility for the Formula 1 Championship, the Circuit of the Americas also has a ten-year contract with motorcycling’s premier class, the MotoGP Championship. This means three races will be held in the United States of America this year, which makes America MotoGP’s second-most visited countries in 2013. That distinction seems fitting, as the United States has also officially become Ducati’s number one market, not just for superbike sales, but in overall bikes sold.

Seeing a shift not only in the Italian company’s DNA, as it explores lines like the Hypermotard, Multistrada, and Diavel with great sales success, Ducati is also moving beyond being just a boutique Italian brand, into a truly global motorcycle company — being recently acquired by the Audi Group doesn’t hurt things either.

With so much change occurring at the foundation of the Ducati brand, bikes like the Panigale are extremely important to the Bologna Brand, as they anchor the company’s racing and performance heritage. Worry not loyal Ducatisti, the race-ready Ducati 1199 Panigale R lives up to the high-expectations, and is quite simply the finest machine to come from Ducati Motor Holding. We review it, after the jump.

Lap the Circuit of the Americas on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/22/2013 @ 3:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.

As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.

Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.

That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.