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.

Ducati Reports 21% Sales Gain in 2012

03/12/2013 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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As was predicted, Ducati Motor Holdings has posted a very impressive 2012 sales report, with 44,102 motorcycles being delivered to customers last year. Appeasing its new German owners, Ducati also grew 16% in revenues over its 2011 figures.

Perhaps more importantly, the American market has solidified its position as the brand’s most important market (the US market posted 21% sales gains as well). With this news, 2012 now officially marks Ducati’s high-water mark in terms of yearly sales figures. Swish.

452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

02/05/2013 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

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After first forecasting a sales decline for 2012, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has tallied the number of motorcycles sold in the United States last year, and once again discovered that the motorcycle industry is slowly, but surely recovering from the recession. With the US making a very slight 0.3% sales gain in 2011, A&R‘s home market has posted a 2.6% gain over the figures from 2011, with OEMs selling 452,386 motorcycles in 2012.

Though all the two-wheeled segments showed growth in the MIC’s figures, it was the dual-purpose and scooter market that posted the biggest gains, 7.4% and 7.7% respectively. For the street bike market, sales were up a modest 1.8%, despite a much larger gain made by Harley-Davidson, which dominates over half of the US on-road market by volume. Dirt bikes also posted a modest 2.1% growth, with 71,535 units sold in 2012.

Ducati Anticipates 20% Growth by the End of 2012

11/15/2012 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Although Ducati hasn’t closed out the year yet, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding Gabriele Del Torchio was confident when speaking to the press at EICMA that the company would top last year’s record numbers, with a solid 20% grow margin. Expected to take the company to 44,000 units sold worldwide, 2012 is the best sales year by volume in the history of the company, and comes just after the company’s acquisition by Audi AG.

Doubling its marketshare worldwide, the Bologna Brand says it has made a 10% increase in what it calls its “Ducati Relevant Market” – the company’s core demographic of buyers (or what Mitt Romney would call, the brand’s 53%). For fun facts, nine out of ten Ducatis made in Borgo Panigale are destined for foreign markets (read: Italy now accounts for 10% of Ducati’s sales). We already knew that the US is Ducati’s top stronghold, with the American market growing by double-digits this year.

Three Moto Guzzi V7 Models Coming to America for 2013

09/26/2012 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

For the new model year, Moto Guzzi is bringing three variations of its V7 line to the United States with includes the 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer, and 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Special. Based around the Italian company’s revised 750cc 90° longitudinally mounted v-twin motor, all three models also sport a cardan-shaft drive and double-cradle “Tonti” frame, for that classic Guzzi retro look.

The three Moto Guzzi V7 models should be popular with riders who are looking for a throw-back aesthetic, with a bit more modern engineering. That being said, Moto Guzzi has struggled for traction in the US market, due in part to an inadequate supply/support chain, but also because of some confusing marketing and segment placement.

While the Piaggio Group subsidiary struggles to find its identity, we think the company should further explore bikes like the V7, which provides a unique alternative to the standard modern-bike fare, and creates a bit of distance between Moto Guzzi and the rest of the Piaggio Group line-up.

MotoGP: GP Tech Racing a Suzuki CRT Wild Card at Indy GP

05/15/2012 @ 12:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The folks at GP Tech are no strangers to running wild card entries at Indy, as the American motorcycle parts seller fielded one-off wild card rides in the Moto2 Championship at both the 2010 and 2011 Indianapolis GP’s. Using FTR-built bikes, GP Tech raced with Jason DiSalvo in 2010, were the American rider finished a very respectable 9th place, while in 2011 Jake Gagne rode to a forgettable 31st spot.

Stepping up to the big-boy leagues, GP Tech has been granted a wild card entry for the 2012 Indianapolis GP, and will run a Suzuki GSX-R1000 motor in a billet aluminum frame that is being prepared by BCL Motorsports. GP Tech has also tapped Vesrah Suzuki/MCJ Motorsports to help with the project, which should give us some clues as to whom the unnamed rider will be for the Grand Prix race.

Question Marks for MotoGP at Austin – WSBK Instead?

03/09/2012 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

News of a possible MotoGP round in Austin, Texas sent GP fans in the United Stats into a flurry, but the proposed third US round has been anything but a sure thing since its announcement, and continues to be so even after the signing of a 10-year contract. Trouble first started brewing as the Circuit of the America’s had trouble finalizing its deal with Formula 1, a deal that was the linchpin to the circuit’s financing. With the issues with F1 resolved, and the premier car racing series set to take the green flag at Austin later this year, MotoGP seemingly is having the same problem of coming to Austin.

Reported by the local Austin news site the Statesman, the issue is both complex and relatively simple. As with Formula 1, the rights to host MotoGP at the Austin track reside with Full Throttle, a promotion company owned in part by Tavo Hellmund, who in turn was a partner of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) project. When last year Formula 1’s contract with Hellmund was found to be in breach, F1 Boss Bernie Eccelstone terminated his contract with Hellmund, which then sent the F1 deal at Austin into a tailspin, and caused COTA to deal directly with Formula 1 in securing the racing series.

With Hellmund also being the bond that tied MotoGP to Austin, the same issue has arisen with COTA and Dorna, the media rights holder to the MotoGP Championship. According to court documents, Hellmund alleges that COTA had an opportunity to buy the rights to host MotoGP for $18 million from Full Throttle/Hellmund when it bought the similar rights to Formula 1. Clearly unable to close that deal at the time, unless the Circuit of the Americas can secure those rights in the coming months, the Austin GP scheduled for 2013 will likely not be held.

Leadership Change at BMW Motorrad USA

02/24/2012 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

After serving 18 years in the ranks of the BMW Group, Pieter de Waal will be stepping down as head of BMW Motorrad USA in March and formally retiring from BMW. Replacing de Waal will be Hans Blesse, who will leave his position as VP of Sales and Marketing at BMW Motorrad Germany, and take on the role of Vice President of BMW Motorrad USA. With 25 years of experience working for the BMW Group worldwide, Blesse has served in the company’s Canadian, Spanish, and German offices with roles in sales, marketing, and after-sales.

Ducati North America Posts 43% Sales Growth in 2011 – Now Ducati’s Top Market Worldwide

01/23/2012 @ 9:01 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

If you read A&R with any sort of regularity, you should know by now that the European motorcycle companies have been cleaning house during these otherwise tough economic times, with 2011 being the high-water mark for many of these more premium brands. BMW Motorrad posted its best sales year ever in 2011, while Triumph and KTM have been holding their own as well.

The same has been true for Ducati, and now Ducati North America has posted its sales numbers for 2011, which show a 43% gain over the previous year. This increase in sales has now established North America as Ducati’s #1 market for the first time ever, and the Italian brand continues to grow here in the United States, Canada, and Mexico (while declining back home in Italy).

The Anatomy Behind BMW Motorrad’s Sales Dominion

01/16/2012 @ 6:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

We already told you that 2011 was BMW Motorrad’s best sales year ever, and that the BMW S1000RR topped the Bavarian brand’s charts here in the United States. Zie Germans must be feeling rather pleases with themselves right now (and rightfully so), as BMW has released more details about its all-time motorcycle sales record. Pushing out 104,286 units in 2011, BMW Motorrad was up 6.4% in 2011 over 2010, with each of the 2011’s twelve months outselling its 2010 counterpart. Toppling its previous sales record from 2007 (the height of the world economy), it says something about BMW’s current business strategy that it can best that figure in an economy that is still exceedingly weak in comparison.

It is interesting to note in which markets, and in which segments, BMW is finding this growth, because the answers are not necessarily our usual suspects. Basically doubling its worldwide 500+cc market share over the past four years, BMW now accounts for 12% of the worlds “big” displacement motorcycles by units sold per annum. This goes counter to the trend that we’ve seen, where small-displacement are being cast as the sales leaders for large brands (namely the Japanese Four).

Dorna Renews Contract with Indianapolis – Three MotoGP Races Coming to the USA

09/06/2011 @ 6:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Despite the criticisms from GP riders, the Indianapolis GP has been renewed on the MotoGP calendar through the 2014 season. With Dorna keen on having a larger US presence, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanting to continue to host the premier classes of motorcycle racing, the biggest issue for the contract’s renewal (besides tarmac conditions), was the scheduling involved with IMS, Laguna Seca, and MotoGP.

Wanting to have the two US GP rounds back-to-back, Dorna faced two circuits with very inflexible summer schedules. Able to now schedule the Indianapolis GP for August 17th-19th in 2012, the Indy GP has effectively been moved a week earlier in the year, and will likely follow the Laguna Seca GP in 2012, with Brno to follow afterwards.