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.

Polaris Trademarks “Victory Charger” – An Electric Cruiser?

02/05/2015 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Trademark applications with the USPTO show that Polaris has registered “Victory Charger” as a mark to be used with “electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

The application is a strong hint that we could see an electric cruiser from the Victory brand, which is owned by Polaris, in the coming future.

The news is especially timely, as Polaris just acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and plans on building electric motorcycles at the company’s facilities in Spirit Lake, IA.

As if there wasn’t already enough fuel for the fire, on a product roadmap for investors, Brammo listed an “eCruiser” as a possible future model — a model that could easily be repurposed for the progressive Victory cruiser brand.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

01/05/2015 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma.

Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

04/08/2014 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes.

The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model.

The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW — the thought is that the “M” model could be a MotoGP inspired bike, however that is just conjecture at this point.

Yamaha Trademarks “FJ-09″ for the US Market

03/03/2014 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In the digital age, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have become a good resource for sleuthing out upcoming machines from motorcycle manufacturers.

The publicly accessible online databases have outed Ducati’s plans to build a “frameless” motorcycle (later known to be a patent for the Panigale), tipped-off the coming of the water-cooled engines to Harley-Davidson, and even hinted at Honda doing something with the Africa Twin name.

Trademark registrations have tipped off bikes like the Ducati Diavel, Ducati Scrambler, and Yamaha YZF-R3; and for today, it seems another motorcycle has been outed by the government agency: the Yamaha FJ-09. Registered with the USPTO, the FJ-09 is likely to be a three-cylinder sport-tourer, if the tuning fork brand keeps to its naming conventions.

Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design

08/12/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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It seems Erik Buell Racing has been thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, as the company from East Troy had filed and received a patent for a hybrid drive motorcycle design.

There is nothing particularly astonishing about EBR’s patent, after all with hybrids being all the rage in the four-wheeled world, it was obviously only a matter of time before that same trend transitioned to motorcycles as well.

However, what is interesting about Erik Buell Racing’s patent is that it doesn’t set forth the Prius-inspired setup that you would expect, where an electric motor takes over or assists an internal combustion engine.

Instead, EBR’s setup is more like the Chevy Volt, with a small petrol-fueled generator being on-board to charge the bike’s batteries once they have been depleted by the electric motor, and thus killing the range anxiety that is prevalent in current EV bike designs.

Rumor: New Honda Africa Twin Coming? To the USA Even?!

08/07/2013 @ 1:30 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Rumors have long been around that Honda was looking to bring back the Africa Twin model to its line-up; and with a quick scrolling through Honda America’s “Adventure” category, one can see that the less-than-inspiring odd-couple that are the Honda NC700X and Honda CB500X, while fine machines they might be (though we’ve heard the word “soulless” used more than once to describe them), proper adventure-bikes they surely are not.

With the tuning-fork brand putting out the stout Yamaha Super Ténéré, and Suzuki teasing the 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Honda and Kawasaki have been late to the Great American Adventure Bike party  — though at least Team Green fanatics can pretend like the Versys is a viable option for this category.

With Europeans having a variety of adventure motorcycles to chose from in the Honda brand, bikes like the Honda Transalp, Honda Crossrunner, Honda Varadero, and Honda Crosstourer, us Americans have been left out in the cold.

Well, that might be set to change, as our stroll yesterday though the USPTO’s online database (check-out our find on upcoming Ducati Scrambler) has revealed that Honda Motor Co. has registered “Africa Twin” for use in the American market. Could a proper adventure-tourer from Honda be headed our way?

“Ducati Scrambler” Trademarked at the USPTO

08/06/2013 @ 2:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Last month, Asphalt & Rubber broke the news that Ducati was working on a scrambler-style machine, appropriately named the Ducati Scrambler.

The machine is said to be similar in design to the one Pierre Terblanche inked while he was with the Bologna Brand, though reports and sources have varied on what sort of motor the new model would use in its final form.

Whether it be water or liquid-cooled, single or twin-cylindered, the 2014 Ducati Scrambler cometh, and A&R has the trademark application to prove it.

So You Want to Know How to Build a Front Wheel Regenerative Braking System on a Motorcycle?

04/20/2012 @ 12:23 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Eighteen months ago, Chip Yates filed for a patent on his front-end KERS design for motorcycles, which means that today the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) can disclose Yates’s patent application to the public. Detailing the only front-wheel regenerative-braking system for motorcycles that we know to exist, the design built by Yates allows a motorcycle to scavenge power from the braking force applied to the front wheel of a motorcycle, and store it in an electric battery system.

Current regenerative-braking systems on the market, like the ones that help power the 2012 Zero S that we tested just a few months ago, use regenerative-braking off the rear wheel, and are more prone to locking the rear tire up if too much force is applied to the system. With 70% or more of a bike’s potential braking force coming from the front wheel, a front-end KERS system has a substantially greater ability to put power back into an electric motorcycle’s battery pack, thus either increasing the range of an electric motorcycle or allowing more electric power to be used over the same distance.

There Are No Sacred Cows: Harley-Davidson Patents Cylinder Head Cooling System

06/20/2011 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

The rumors that Harley-Davidson has been eying a liquid-cooled motor design have always been in abundance, and 10 years ago we saw the company test the waters of that pool with the Porsche-engineered lump that was found in the V-Rod. While the VRSC line may not have been as big of a success compared to the other models in Harley’s line-up, the water-cooled bastard child of Milwaukee still seems to sell in the tens of thousands each year, even after nearly a decade of only cosmetic revisions.

Faced with an aging demographic, an uninspired motorcycle line-up, and 21 takes on the same motorcycle design, there’s a push internally at Harley-Davidson to break-out and find a new way to engage riders, especially younger riders. The core ethos of change seems to start at the motor itself, and Harley-Davidson has already done the rounds at various electric motorcycle and drivetrain companies. There also exists amount of external and internal pressure over Harley’s pervasive use of air-cooled motors, and now whispers of a water-cooled v-twin power plant have gotten louder in Milwaukee. With those rumors now reaching a boiling point (see what I did there?), Harley-Davidson has patented a very clever way of adding liquid-cooling to its iconic v-twin motor design.

MV Agusta Registers “Elephant” Trademark

02/16/2011 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Registering “Elephant” with the United States Patent & Trademark Office, MV Agusta looks poised to make an adventure bike, based off the Cagiva Elefant mark of yore. In its application, MV Agusta cites the use of the trademark for “land vehicles, namely, motorcycles,” which certainly bodes well for those loyal to the old Elefant brand.

The trademarking process began in July of 2009, meaning the Elephant-branded motorcycle was a glimmer in the company’s eye while it was still a part of Harley-Davidson, as was the MV Agusta F3. Granted the trademark in October of 2010, it’s possible that the project has since been disbanded after MV’s divesture from Harley-Davidson. However there are plenty of arguments to suggest MV Agusta would have kept the project alive through its transition of ownership.