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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Call Your Mother Because Here is the Ultimate Ducati 1199 Panigale Photo Gallery

02/17/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Ducati has been hogging the news the past few weeks, thanks in large part to the debut of the most important motorcycle the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has ever released. With Ducati up for sale and being valued at €1 billion, the Ducati 1199 Panigale sets the record straight that Bologna has not strayed from its sport bike and racing heritage with the release of bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and Diavel. With Ducati hosting the Panigale’s international press launch in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit (click here to let Ducati know that you wish A&R had been invited to this launch), the initial reports from the assembled press is that all the concerns about Ducati, its frameless chassis design, and its future can be laid to rest.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment…and we’ve got over 160 images of the Ducati 1199 Panigale waiting for you after the jump.

The Ducati Superquadro Motor in 3D

01/04/2012 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

We seem to be on a kick lately with 3D renders of the underpinning parts of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. While we’ve already seen the Panigale’s “frameless” chassis detailed in computer renders, today we have a video Ducati’s Superquadro motor. Starting from an exploded point-of-view, the 195hp / 98 lbs•ft of torque v-twin motor re-assembles itself, showing how the most powerful engine from Ducati comes together for its final form.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, ride-by-wire throttle actuation, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike motor design. Add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, and ABS brakes as a standard equipment, and you’ve got one potent two-wheeled machine.

Ducati Superquadro Motor in Photos

10/14/2011 @ 9:09 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

I’ll admit, I’m pandering to the crowd on this one. When we brought you the first images and details of the Ducati Superquadro motor, a recurring theme in the comments was how the motor bordered on art. While I’ll agree that a finely-built motorcycle has an aesthetic worthy of the MoMA (I fully expect the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale to be jaw-dropping beautiful), a motorcycle engine might be a tall order.

Content to let that one go and move on, Ducati ruined the whole thing by posting a bunch of artsy fartsy images of the 90°, overly-square, 195hp v-twin motor. Now, even I’m not bull-headed enough to avoid putting two and two together, so here you go you Ducatisti Asphalt & Rubber readers, more images of the Ducati Superquadro engine for you to drool over. Enjoy.

Filippo Preziosi: “The Two-Cylinder is the Best Engine, If You’re Not Constrained by Rules”

08/16/2011 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Head of Ducati Corse, Filippo Preziosi is a busy man under regular circumstances, and with the shenanigans going on in Ducati Corse’s MotoGP team right now, the former motorcycle racer is a hard man to get a word with, let alone on a race weekend in Brno. Somehow catching up with Preziosi during MotoGP’s Brno test, our friend David Emmett at MotoMatters, along with several other journalists, sat down with Ducati’s Maestro of MotoGP to ask him about where the Italian team was headed, and the challenges it is currently facing.

There is of course a tremendous amount of chatter going on in the MotoGP paddock about Ducati’s “frameless” carbon fiber chassis, a switch to an aluminum twin-spar frame, the Bridgestone tires, and Valentino Rossi’s psyche, all of which Emmett has already summarized for us in his detailed analysis of Ducati Corse’s situation. Taking on all of these issues, Preziosi sheds some insight on what is going on behind the scenes at Ducati, and is candid about what issues they are and are not facing.

Dismissing out right that the “L” engine configuration is at least partially to blame for Desmosedici’s lack of front-end feel, one of the more interesting points Preziosi makes is his preference for the v-twin motor. Acknowledging that the package will perhaps make less power/torque than a four-cylinder, Preziosi opts for instead the two-cylinder’s rideability, and if the rules allowed it, the motor’s weight advantage over the inlines (this of course coming from a man who has figured out how to make a v-twin without the weight of a traditional frame).

His comments raise some interesting thoughts about the way rules are constructed in motorcycle racing classes, and perhaps speaks to the central issue occurring MotoGP: that the rules are pigeonholing the development of GP motorcycles into one particular slot, that just happens to be a four-cylinder motorcycle with a conventional frame that reacts to a prescribed tire construction methodology. Preziosi makes some other interesting comments that read well between the lines, check them out in transcribed interview after the jump.

An Analysis of the Troubles with the Ducati Desmosedici

08/09/2011 @ 2:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The obvious point to make in the 2011 MotoGP Championship is that Ducati Corse is struggling to compete with Yamaha and Honda, despite having the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, riding for the Italian squad. The recent history of the Desmosedici is fraught with bullet points of issues, most of which coming back to the bike’s notoriously vague front-end. Though showing moments of promise, even brilliance, including a World Championship with Casey Stoner at the helm, the Ducati Desmosedici has earned the reputation as a career-ender and a confidence destroyer among its less fortunate pilots.

When the dream team of development came to Ducati, in the guise of Valentino Rossi and Jeremy Burgess et al, the talk before the 2011 season was that the nine-time World Champion and his perhaps even more impressive garage crew could have the Desmosedici figured out in no-time at all. With the now infamous quote from Burgess that the GP10 could be sorted out in about 20 seconds still resonating in the MotoGP paddock, we stand now well over half of the way through the current MotoGP season, and the Championship standings hide what’s been apparent from day one: the Desmoproblema requires more than a quick-fix.

The solution to fixing the Ducati Desmosedici can be broken down into three camps, and depending whose opinion you solicit, you’ll get one of the following causes for Ducati’s uncompetitive season: the motor, the chassis, or the rider. Walking us through that analysis is our good friend David Emmett (bookmark his site MotoMatters.com right now), who may not be the most astute automatic transmission driver we’ve ever seen, but when it comes to comprehensive MotoGP analysis, the man is second to none.

Putting together an exhaustive digest on the issues that are surrounding Valentino Rossi, Ducati Corse, and the Desmosedici, Emmett weighs and measures the different dynamics of the problem at hand. Head on over to MotoMatters with your beverage of choice in-hand, and hear what MotoGP’s most-enlightened journalist has to say on the biggest subject in MotoGP.

Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

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.

Four Images Reveal More About the New Suzuki Middleweight Adventure Bike

06/07/2011 @ 6:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Rumors are still fuzzy on the upcoming release of a new middleweight Suzuki adventure bike, with there being some debate as to whether the V-Strom replacement will be a 650cc, 1000cc, or perhaps even an 800cc machine. Suzuki is pushing the adventure statement hard, which to us means that this new bike will be more off-road capable than the current V-Strom, which to us has always seemed like a sport-tourer duped into doing something it wasn’t intended to do.

With Suzuki’s US website even sporting the teaser images now, this looks to be a worldwide release; and we won’t have to wait long to find out all the details, as this Saturday should bring us more information on how the Japanese brand is finally getting on this mid-life crisis bandwagon. So far the best guess we’ve heard are new look, new chassis, and new motor. More teaser photos after the jump.

Rumor: New KTM Super Duke & Adventure Bikes in 2013

01/19/2011 @ 7:00 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The news coming out of Holland this morning is that KTM is working on a new set of Super Duke and Adventure series motorcycles, slated to appear in 2012 as 2013 model year bikes. The news comes from Dutch site Nieuwsmotor, who talked to Robert Prielinger, Head of Development / R & D of Street Bikes at KTM, while visiting the KTM factory, and according to Prielinger KTM is working on a new v-twin motor and electronics package that will see introduction into the Super Duke and Adventure lines by 2013. Also new for the 2013 Super Duke line is a new single-cylinder engine model, which will pick up where the KTM 690 Super Duke left off.

2012 Ducati Superbike: +20 HP/-20 lbs

11/24/2010 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

2011 marks the end of the current Ducati Superbike 1198 as we know it, and Ducati has been hard at work on the successor to the crown jewel in its model line-up. Undertaking the most expensive model design in the history of the company, Ducati has poured a ton of resources into its 2012 Superbike in order to make it a market leader. Recently stretching the faith of the Ducati loyal by introducing bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and now the new Ducati Diavel that extend Ducati into non-racing segments, 2012 is the Bologna brand’s answer that it is heavily committed to its Superbike roots.

Starting from scratch with its design, the 2012 Ducati Superbike features two impressive performance figures: an additional 20hp (taking the Superbike up to 190hp), and a weight reduction of 20 lbs across the model line. Host to a bevy of street bike firsts, our Bothan Spies also tell us that the new Superbike is going to be a stunner.

BeOn SXV 450 – Your Pocket Racer

11/12/2010 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

We don’t know if the whole dirt bike into street bike club racing thing is more than just a fad, but the BeOn SXV 450 sure looks like it would be a blast during our local track day excursions. Based around an Aprilia SXV 4.5 supermotard, BeOn has constructed a body kit that includes roadracing fairings, fuel tank, and seat with rear tail. While the motor and frame remain stock, other amenities include road oriented suspension, wheels, gearing, and single-disc brakes.

This isn’t the first time BeOn has made ready-to-race “450GP” bikes out of cheap dirt bikes, but the use of the Aprilia 450cc v-twin SXV/RXV motor, instead of your typical Japanese single-cylinder, certainly has us intrigued. With the Aprilia lump making 60hp in its stock form (70hp if you use the SXV 5.5 motor), and the whole package by BeOn weighing 130kg (265 lbs), the BeOn SXV 450 would be a barrel a fun for any track day enthusiast, and make up for the Aprilia RSV550 that never materialized (sad trombone).