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.

MotoGP: Valentino Rossi’s Sepang Livery, Just Add Monster

02/04/2013 @ 8:47 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-Yamaha-M1-Sepang-MotoGP-test-livery-06

You can tell it is the off-season when the subject of what Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha YZR-M1 will look like is an instant buzzworthy item, and you know MotoGP fans have been pretty hard-up over the past few months when even the test livery creates a frothing at the mouth. Today is no different.

Allegedly tweeted by the bike itself, Valentino Rossi’s test livery for MotoGP’s first pre-season test at Sepang is already creating quite a stir on Twitter. There isn’t all that much different about the Sepang livery and the livery on the Yamaha M1 that Rossi tested last November in Valencia, except of course for the fact that Monster Energy has been added to the layout.

Photos: Rossi + Lorenzo + Yamaha = ???

01/15/2013 @ 2:09 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Valentino-Rossi-Jorge-Lorenzo-Yamaha-M1-MotoGP-12

Valentino Rossi likes to refer to the Yamaha YZR-M1 race bike as “his” M1. Leaving Yamaha for Ducati, Rossi even wrote his M1 a “Dear John” goodbye letter, which many understood to be a message to former-teammate Jorge Lorenzo that the young Spaniard was riding on the coattails of the nine-time world champion. Burying the hatchet that once built a wall in the pit box, Rossi and Lorenzo are once again teammates, though the pecking order has changed to some degree within the factory Yamaha Racing team.

With Lorenzo the reigning World Champion, and Rossi coming off an abysmal two-year stint with Ducati Corse, for the first time in a long while, the Italian racer finds himself in the #2 seat. With some questioning whether the better days are behind him, there is even doubt coming from The Doctor’s own mouth about his ability. Sandbagging or true position, one can never be sure, but the issue is surely going to be one that is touched upon heavily in the beginning of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship.

With the winter ban nearly over, and riders returning to their racing duties, we won’t have long until we see bikes on the track testing. Until then, we have the marketing machines of the various factories for entertainment, and not to let Ducati steal the show with its 2013 Wrooom event, Yamaha has teased out some photos and a video of its 2013 team. Now, I am a huge fan of Gigi Soldano’s work, and I like to think I’m a pretty open-minded dude…but shit gets weird after the jump.

MotoGP: First Shots of Rossi Back on the Yamaha YZR-M1

11/13/2012 @ 1:48 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Here’s one for the Rossi fans, the first photo of Valentino Rossi on-board the 1,000cc Yamaha YZR-M1 at the Valencia test (snagged by Monster Yamaha Tech 3 mechanic Steve Blackburn).

Apparently, the weather is being less than co-operative in Spain, with sprinkles of rain being reported, but that didn’t stop The Doctor from getting on-board “his” bike.

After the jump, there are 17 photos of Rossi’s maiden voyage back on the Yamaha YZR-M1 — all courtesy of photographer extraordinaire, Scott Jones.

Yamaha Considering Leasing M1 Motors to MotoGP Teams

11/08/2012 @ 3:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The battle for the future of MotoGP continues to gain intrigue, as Yamaha is reportedly considering leasing to private teams the motor found on the Yamaha YZR-M1. The news is being reported by MCN, which heralds the event as the end to the CRT experiment, and while that last part seems a bit hyperbolic, Yamaha’s move could have a profound affect on the series if it comes to fruition.

Currently on proposal for the 2013 MotoGP Championship is a grid comprised of 12 prototype machines (four from each of the three remaining factories), with the rest of the grid comprised of CRT entries (production motors in prototype chassis). That landscape could change however in 2014, as HRC has tipped that it has a production-racer, based off the Honda RC213V in the works, which it will sell to teams for around €1 million.

Adding yet another dimension to the bike line-up, Yamaha is said to be considering leasing the M1 motor to private teams, who in turn could use the prototype-based engine design in their own chassis design, much in the same manner that is currently being done with the production-based motors.

Your Next Yamaha Might Be a Crossplane Triple

10/02/2012 @ 3:18 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

Debuting a three-cylinder concept at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Yamaha is teasing the hypothesis of a tuning-fork brand triple with a crossplane crankshaft.

A technology that was developed in MotoGP for Yamaha YZR-M1, and then handed down to the Yamaha YZF-R1 in 2009, the unique qualities of the crossplane inline-four cylinder motor has been a key component to Yamaha’s potent, yet ridable machines.

Taking that same idea, and then applying it to a three-cylinder engine, Yamaha hopes to create a new motor that will appeal to street riders.

MotoGP: Yamaha Racing Goes Blu for Misano & Aragon

09/13/2012 @ 12:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Yamaha Racing has debuted its “Race-Blu” livery at Misano today. The work of Aldo Drudi (of Valentino Rossi helmet fame), the blue and matte grey paint scheme is the same special color schemes that will be available on the Yamaha YZF-R1, YZF-R6, and YZF-R125 bikes for 2013, seemingly everywhere except the United States.

Yamaha says the livery is a throw-back to its historic racing blue colors of the 1980’s. Factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies will also wear special Race-Blu leathers for the races at Misano and Aragon. Will the special livery prove to be as lucky as the Red/White 50th Anniversary livery? Only time will tell.

XXX: Valentino Rossi’s 2006 Yamaha YZR-M1

08/20/2012 @ 8:15 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

For many MotoGP fans, Valentino Rossi’s move back to Yamaha is a welcomed escape from the career-ruining Ducati Desmosedici. The perception, of course, is that the 1,000cc Yamaha is not terribly different from the 800cc-era machine, and therefore Rossi’s return to the tuning-fork brand should mean an instant return to his success and his alien status alike.

When we have these thoughts, we forget that in 2009 Rossi struggled to keep teammate Jorge Lorenzo at bay on the same machine, and that in 2010, right before his leg injury, Rossi was behind Lorenzo in the Championship points (despite a wall being erected in the Yamaha garage). Add in two long years at Ducati Corse, the death of Marco Simoncelli, and a new-generation of GP racers who are just now discovering their full potential, and there is ample reason to believe why Rossi’s return to Yamaha in 2013 will not look like his first venture with the Japanese company, nine years ago.

I suspect the move to Yamaha will be a culture shock for the legion of Rossi’s fans, who during Rossi’s switch to Ducati thought The Doctor’s skills on two-wheels, both on and off the track, could shape the Italian machine into a more tolerable form. The reality of course is that motorcycles are not developed overnight, and for Rossi to be competitive in 2004, changes in Yamaha had to occur far earlier than the signing of the pen to Rossi’s contract.

2012 Yamaha YZR-M1 Breaks Cover at Jerez

03/22/2012 @ 1:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Light on sponsors, but heavy on style, the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1 broke cover today at the Jerez. The 1,000cc inline four-cylinder machine will catapult factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, as well as satellite riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad, as they attempt to overturn the Honda supremacy of last season.

With more than 240hp at the crank, there can be little doubt that the new M1 will be blisteringly quick, and 220+ mph speed trap times are already being pondered for fast tracks like Mugello. Called the best bike in the paddock by Repsol Honda boss Shuhei Nakamoto, the tuning-fork brand seems set to give Casey Stoner and HRC a run for their money in their Championship defences. Photos and technical specifications after the jump.

Photos: 2003 Yamaha YZR-M1 Prototype

12/05/2011 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

It seems only fitting that after reviewing the BRD RedShift SM prototype, that we should turn our attentions to another prototype machine…or should we say, a prototype of a prototype. A glimpse into how lost in the woods Yamaha was with its MotoGP program pre-Rossi, the 2003 Yamaha YZR-M1 prototype is the work of a company desperately looking for a solution against Honda’s very potent RC211V. Employing two Öhlins rear shock absorbers, Yamaha’s philosophy and process of handling over power is very evident in this prototype’s design, though the implementation seems a bit murkier.

Laced with linear potentiometers through out the M1’s chassis, it is at least interesting to note the unit extending from one of the rear shock mounting points to the front of the frame — presumably measuring the flex of the chassis from front to back. With all the data acquisition that is on the 2003 prototype M1, you would think Yamaha would notice one of the most obvious mistakes with the design, namely how the exhaust routing was cramped in with both shock absorbers, surely cooking both units as the machine came up to temperature.

MotoGP: Yamaha Tests the 1,000cc M1 at Misano w/ Video

09/07/2011 @ 2:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

After finishing a very successful weekend at the San Marino GP, the factory Yamaha squad stuck around Misano for another day, and tested the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Though the 1,000cc class MotoGP monster has remained basically unchanged from its debut at Brno, reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and teammate Ben Spies continued development on the bike’s electronics package and overall setup. Misano proved to be a good contrast for Yamaha, as the Italian track’s tighter layout made the extra horsepower from the new M1 less of a factor than it was in the Czech Republic.

“It’s been a little bit more difficult here than Brno, which is a very fast track. Misano is a little bit slower so the difference between the 800 and the 1000 is much smaller,” said Jorge Lorenzo. “It’s difficult to understand the riding style you must use straight away. We’ve made a lot of progress in a couple of hours and the bike has a lot of potential. I’m very excited about the future. We’ve been working on the electronics to help in the braking area but mainly I’ve been getting used to the riding style of the bike and also adapting the bike to my riding.”