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.

Up-Close with Ian Hutchinson’s Swan Yamaha R1 Superbike

06/11/2012 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Ian Hutchinson may not be a household name here in the United States, but over on the Isle of Man, “Hutchy” is a pretty big deal. Winning five solo-class races in the 2010 season, the English rider’s hot-streak was cut short after a tragic closed circuit racing accident, which saw him sidelined for the 2011 TT fortnight. Suffering another leg injury going into the 2012 racing season, Hutchinson was still physically not 100% as he headed to the TT, with the Swan Racing Team making obvious adjustments to his Yamaha YZF-R1 to accommodate Hutchy’s injured leg.

While Hutchinson would ride through the pain, he was noticeably off the pace during this last TT meeting. While a large component of those results are surely products of his physical state, where were compound by the fact that his practice and racing schedule has been truncated, many also wondered about Hutchinson’s mental state as well. Twice beaten, once shy, one Swan team member explained to me that when you looked into the his eyes as he got on board the bike, there was something there that didn’t exist before in Hutchy’s eyes. “Fear?” I asked. The team member wouldn’t comment further.

Up-Close with McGuinness’s Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR

06/06/2012 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

The bike that carried John McGuinness to his 18th career Isle of Man TT win, the very same Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR could be the King of the Mountain’s stead to an even 20 wins this TT fortnight. Making 200+ bhp, the factory-backed Honda CBR1000RR has to contend with some of the most gruel miles in racing, and has the scars to prove it. Pitted and potted with rocks and pebbles from the course, McGuinness’s ride on the CBR is an equally tumultuous affair.

Splitting his time equally between head shakes and wheelies, it is no small feat in keeping a TT bike on-line at the famous road course. Only able to complete two laps before needing to be refueled, the Honda TT Legends race team has not only optimized the Honda CBR1000RR for the 37.733 mile Snaefell Mountain Course, but also for the single and double pitstops it will have in the Senior TT and Junior TT races, respectively.

Looking at the bikes of the other teams, what is most striking about McGuinness’s ride, aside from its drool-worthy livery homage to the Honda RC30, is how stock the bike appears. Sure, there is a heavily massaged and tuned motor underneath that bodywork, and the bike’s top-shelf brakes, wheels, and quick-shifter are readily apparent, but for a bike that any racer would kill to ride, the Honda TT Legends CBR is rather unassuming, as is its portly rider. Maybe that is how they like it.

Up-Close with the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc

06/01/2012 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

More evolution than revolution, it is easy to see the lines of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc peaking out from underneath the complex shapes of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc. Building upon the design that won his company the 2011 SES TT Zero, Michael Czysz says he has finally had time to truly address the aerodynamic aspect of his designs, though he admittedly had to make some aesthetic concessions to find the right aerodynamic package for the job.

These concessions cause the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to have a bit of Buck Rogers feel to it at first glance, as the winglets, ducts, and neon colors hit you all at once. While it all seems a bit over the top, there is some method to the madness. Relying on computational fluid dynamics to develop his designs, Czysz’s designs aim to make the 2012 E1pc as slippery as possible in the wind, but also serve to allow the team to continue a design philosophy that first started way-back with the MotoCzysz C1 project.

Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

Up-Close with the Norton SG1 TT Race Bike

05/31/2012 @ 7:49 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Norton SG1, as it is now being called, is the talk of the Isle of Man TT paddock (we presume the SG designation stands for Norton’s new owner, Stuart Garner). Completed just before the TT fortnight, the Norton squad has an enormous amount of work ahead of it to bring the SG1 up to speed. Norton’s rider, Ian Mackman, posted a 112.364 on Tuesday night’s practice, and was out again Wednesday night, scaring the hell of out of elderly Manx women.

What is rapidly becoming the Norton SG1’s defining feature, is the bike’s anti-wildlife system, which is able to produce enough of a intone a sound somewhere between “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out. Scaring virtually anything within earshot, the anti-wildlife system also doubles as the bike’s exhaust, and would be banned twice-over at noise-restricted tracks like Laguna Seca.

Drawing some resemblance to the rotary-powered Norton NRV588 project, the Norton SG1 also features an Aprilia RSV4 motor in a custom Spondon frame. With all the trappings of a CRT bike, it doesn’t take too much imagination to link the SG1 to the rumors about Norton’s return to MotoGP, which makes for some interesting conjecture on the trajectory of the team’s racing future.

Up-Close with the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS ‘merica Edition

05/07/2012 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler67 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing had a good weekend at Sears Point, with Danny Eslick riding the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS to its first podium in Race 1, with Team Hero. Making an encore podium in Race 2, Geoff May also put the EBR 1190RS on the third step, this time for Team Amsoil/Hero. With the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS benefiting from Sear Points emphasis on handling instead of horsepower, the EBR has made up a ton of ground in just a short amount of time.

While the EBR 1190RS race bikes were on the track, their $40,000+ street-legal counterparts were on display outside of the Erik Buell Racing garage. Rocking an American flag livery, I naturally took pictures of this show bike. Eye catching to say the least, nothing says “Made in ‘merica” better than a red, white, and blue color scheme, especially when it is laid over carbon fiber. And while I want to love this bike because of its nuances and outside-of-the-box technical design, I don’t.

Trading patriotism for originality, Erik Buell Racing is still pushing the same worn-out Americana marketing plan that Harley-Davidson built for the sport bike company way back when. With two podium victories, a gorgeous product, and a story that is an encapsulation of hard work overcoming adversity, you would think that the folks from East Troy could put away the cheap parlor trick of using Americana to sell motorcycles. One gorgeous bike in its own right, but a played out theme as well. What happened to being innovative guys? Photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/04/2012 @ 11:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brammo is back for electric motorcycle racing in the North American TTXGP series, as the Ashland-based company is set to defend it’s #1 plate this year with Steve Atlas on board ( Shelina Moreda is slated to join the team later in the season). Gaining a title sponsorship from Icon, Brammo arrived at Infineon Raceway Sears Point with some edgy graphics on the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR. Dropping roughly 35 lbs in weight, and gaining roughly 50hp over the bike they ran at last year’s season opener, Brammo is making most of those gains in its revised motor and power inverter for the newest Empulse RR.

The chassis is noticeably the same to last year’s bike, and sans some minor improvements here and there, the bike is technically very similar to last year’s lap-record setter. Unlike the Brammo Empulse R that will debut Tuesday next week, the Empulse RR does not use the six-speed IET gearbox. Brammo’s Brian Wismann explained to A&R that the high-voltage system that the Empulse RR uses does not benefit as much from the IET gearbox as the lower voltage street bike does, and thus hasn’t made it to the race bike…yet.

With these pictures taken just a couple hours before Steve Atlas had a highside crash at Sears Point, we imagine the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR doesn’t look as good as when we last saw it. Atlas took a pretty big hit, but is said to be ok (UPDATE: Atlas has six fractured vertebrae, and will be out for the weekend). The bike on the other hand…well, hopefully the Brammo crew can get it ready in time for this weekend’s two TTXGP races in wine country. More drool material after the jump.

Up-Close with the 2012 Zero S ZF9

03/27/2012 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

While still maintaining the product line’s general aesthetic from its previous generations, Zero Motorcycles has refined and polished its electric motorcycles for 2012. This is primarily due to the Zero’s limited amount of time to further develop its 2011 models for the 2012 model year (roughly nine months says the Californian company), but still Zero has been able to revise most of the Zero S’s components to warrant this year’s models to be visually and functionally set apart from its predecessors.

This bodes well for Zero Motorcycles, because bluntly, the startup has had extremely unrefined and unpolished motorcycles from its inception to the 2011 model year (if you heard otherwise from somewhere else, they were trying to sell you something). Walking up to the 2012 Zero S, it is immediately clear that the electric motorcycle has been touched by people who understand motorcycles. Gone are the on/off switches marked in Sharpie (I wish I was making this up), though you’d be hard-pressed to find top-shelf components on the Zero line. This makes for a mixed response regarding the bike, from a visual perspective.

Up-Close with the MV Agusta Brutale 675

12/06/2011 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Finally making its public debut, the MV Agusta Brutale 675 was easily one of the most anticipated motorcycles of the 2011 EICMA show. Representing Varese’s commitment to more affordable motorcycles, the Brutale 675 comes with a €8,990 price tag in the EU (US pricing is still up in the air, but should be competitive with the Triumph Street Triple). No exactly a surprise in its design, the 2012 MV Agusta Brutale 675 is true to the Brutale format, and follows the lines of the F3 supersport…without fairings of course.

In person, the MV Agusta Brutale 675 comes with the fit and finish you would expect from the historic Italian brand. For as much as I bag on MV Agusta for its various monetary and business troubles, the Italian factory is trying to make available a gorgeous motorcycle at a very attractive price tag. For all the concerns made about how MV Agusta was going “down market” with its brand, the basic bullet points of what defines an MV still remain true with the Brutale 675, which should make it a winner when it comes to market.

Up-Close with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept

11/22/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

While KTM made waves with the debut of the KTM Freeride E electric dirt bike, the Austrian brand wasn’t the only OEM hocking an electric offering at the 2011 EICMA show. Unveiling a very rough electric concept, Husqvarna continued to redefine itself for the future with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept. The physical size of a 125cc dirt bike, the Husqvarna E-Go is the exploration of entry-level electric street motard.

Like the KTM Freeride E, the battery pack looks a bit small for serious street duty, and we’re not so sure about the air-cooled brushed motor, but honestly the E-Go is more about the Swedish brand exploring electric motorcycles in anticipation of that market developing further. With OEMs hoping that electrics will bring in a new generation of rider, the Husqvarna E-Go seems to hit all the right bullet points for that concept, but as always, time will tell.