Red, White and Green
Offered in stunning red or white livery options, the Brutale 800RR completes the Italian Tricolore by going green with some emissions updates for Euro 4.
MV first released the Brutale 800RR in early 2016, but it was quickly overshadowed by news that they had filed for the Italian equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Finding a new source of money took priority over building bikes. The hero was Timur Sardarov, CEO of Black Ocean Investment Group, and his first goal was to buy back Mercedes-AMG’s ownership stake of 25 percent. Once MV was financially independent, the focus shifted back to building their slogan of “motorcycle art.”
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By Abhi Eswarappa | Photography by MV Agusta
In the last decade, MV was trying to push growth with increased sales of what they consider “entry-level” bikes. They were rewarded with a jump in revenue from $36 million to $122 million, but the Italian firm kept taking on additional debt to make that happen. Now with immediate money concerns out of the way, MV is implementing a strategy of selling fewer bikes and going super premium. In the words of CEO Giovanni Castiglioni, “sell less, sell better.” He also semi-jokingly said, “We don’t know how to make a cheap bike!”
While their four-cylinder platform is outdated, the relatively new three-cylinder engine has been well received and the Brutale triple is their current best seller. MV has big plans for a new four-cylinder going forward—more on that later—but for now the Brutale “3 cilindri” naked and the F3 sportbike must carry the brand into the future.
This MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR drivetrain is best explored with laps on a track, but MV instead took us for a scenic lap around Lago Maggiore in Italy. Unfortunately, some of the sights included significant traffic, so we got the bonus of a preview of what the RR would be like as a commuter. It wasn’t pretty. Under 20 miles per hour, the motor is lumpy and the saddle is an unpleasant place to be.
But, once the Brutale gets to stretch its legs, it’s incredible. Above 8000 rpm, it’s downright vicious in a smile-inducing way.
What’s no longer vicious is the fueling. The previous generation received complaints because throttle response and overall fueling was average at best. MV has modified the fuel-injection computer and throttle-return spring on this Brutale, and the improvements were instantly obvious.
This means it’s now much easier to control the 140 horsepower and 64 pound-feet of torque—those numbers in addition to an effective quickshifter are a good formula for breathtaking acceleration. You’ll only be able to enjoy this combination briefly before you’re breaking the law—thankfully the Italian police (Carabinieri) don’t seem to mind. The quickshifter is most satisfying during full-throttle acceleration runs, but it’s also enjoyable on the way down the gears thanks to automatic rev-matching that works great and sounds even better.
Going fast is fun, but stopping is more important. On paper, some might find it odd the four-piston Brembo calipers are paired with a Nissin master cylinder. On the street, the braking performance was quite strong, but at this price point I was expecting to see a Brembo master-cylinder and Brembo’s excellent M50 monoblocks chomping down on the 320mm discs up front. My only issue with the brakes is a little bit of freeplay in the front-brake lever, as the first centimeter of travel doesn’t translate into any noticeable braking force.
I also had different expectations with the suspension. Considering the significantly-cheaper Triumph Speed Triple RS has top-of-the-line Öhlins front and rear, it was a surprise to find that the Brutale RR’s fully adjustable suspension is still a 43mm Marzocchi USD fork paired with a Sachs shock. If you want bling to justify the lightening of your wallet, you’ll be disappointed. If you just want something that works well, this suspension is up to the task.
This is an amazing motor surrounded by exquisite styling, and that’s why it is easy to be happy whether you’re looking at the Brutale RR or riding it. With that said, there are two issues that needlessly detract from the riding experience: the LCD dashboard and the shape of the tank.
For 2018, MV has called on their CRC (Castiglioni Research Centre) to supply an eight-position steering damper incorporated into the top triple clamp. For our simple street ride, the stock setting was sufficient, the riding was not aggressive enough to discern the differences in damper settings.
At 386 pounds dry (claimed), the Brutale 800 RR is relatively light. Yet it somehow feels even lighter on the move thanks to the crankshaft that rotates in the opposite direction of the wheels, minimizing the gyroscopic effect. This lowers straight-line stability, but there’s more than enough of that to go around. More importantly, it changes directions quicker and requires less effort to do so. Back in 2012, MV was the first OEM to bring this technology to street bikes—Ducati has just caught up this year with the Panigale V4 superbike.
There’s no easy way to say this, but the dash does not belong on the Brutale (or really, any upmarket motorcycle). I could forgive the aesthetic disappointment if it were highly functional, but the display fails that test, as well. It’s small so all the gauges except the speedometer and gear indicator are tiny and cramped. Display space is at such a premium, there’s no fuel gauge, but there’s apparently enough area to have the tachometer extend out to 16k even though redline (which is not indicated on the tach, mind you) occurs before 14k. I appreciate when the speedometer is the easiest thing to read at a glance, the problem with the Brutale is that the speedo is the only thing you can read at a glance.
In general, I was quite pleased with the upright ergonomics and the wide handlebars. I assumed the gorgeous seat with the negative space underneath it would be my biggest obstacle to being comfortable, but it was fine for 50 miles at a time. Instead, what gave me trouble was the bottom edges of the fuel tank, the way the natural resting spot for my thighs grip the Brutale. There is a sharp ridge that seems to exist only for styling purposes, and after just 15 minutes it created an uncomfortable pressure point. I asked Mr. Castiglioni about this and his response was that shorter riders aren’t affected by it. That might be an acceptable answer if I played in the NBA, but I’m 6’2”. Plenty of riders will suffer from something that could be easily fixed if MV would just smooth out the edges of the tank. Form over function prevails.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of function elsewhere—this is an amazing motor surrounded by exquisite styling, and that’s why it is easy to be happy whether you’re looking at the Brutale RR or riding it. But exclusivity has its price, and if you’re simply looking for a high-performance naked motorcycle, the Brutale RR makes the Triumph Street Triple look like a bargain. If, however, you’re looking for art that moves you, MV’s “Motorcycle Art” will do so figuratively and literally.CN
Enough Tech For The Dough?
The star of the RR is the engine, but it’s been a 140 horsepower, 64 lb-ft thriller since 2016. The changes for 2018 are emissions-related for Euro 4, and MV’s engineering department was impressively able to keep the power and torque numbers the same though they cut the output of carbon monoxide by 57 percent, hydrocarbons by 49 percent, and nitrogen oxide by 73 percent. Now your wheelies will be better for the environment!
In MV’s product positioning, the “RR” bikes are all about maximum power in a street-tuned chassis. While the “base” Brutale (if you can call it such a thing) has a flat torque curve, the dyno charts for the Double R are anything but. In addition to revisions for emissions standards, the 798cc motor and six-speed tranny have been updated with a new starter clutch, new transmission gears, and new oil-pump drive gears. These were implemented to address prior reliability issues and decrease mechanical noise, which in turn allowed MV to let more noise out of the exhaust while still staying under the decibel limits of Euro 4.
The steel trellis frame has been revised slightly to better suit time spent on the street. The wheelbase has been lengthened by .6 inches to 54.9 inches, rake is up from 23.5 degrees to 24.0, and trail is also increased from 3.78 inches to 4.05 inches. There’s also been a modification to the front engine mount. What used to be one long bolt is now two short ones, and it results in a three-percent increase in torsional rigidity that will be difficult for the average rider to notice.
What they will notice, however, is the electronics suite, which consists of Bosch ABS with RLM (Rear wheel Lift-up Mitigation), eight-level traction control, four riding modes (Sport, Normal, Rain, and Custom), and EAS 2.0—MV’s name for their quickshifter. Everything works well and the quickshifter is particularly impressive, but for the price it feels like the rest of the industry has left the Brutale behind from a technology standpoint. For $16,698 it’d be nice to see cornering ABS and an IMU to feed data into the traction-control system.
A “brutal” naked motorcycle should not necessarily be judged on technology, but with a price of nearly $17,000 it seems silly that this model is stuck with a black and white LCD dash that looks like it was designed 15 years ago when even a $9399 Aprilia Shiver comes with a vibrant full-color TFT display.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Let’s face it: MV could build the most exciting motorcycles in the world and many of you would still avoid them because of the inadequate dealer network and recent history of warranty claims. They’re tackling both problems head on. Last year they partnered with Australian firm Urban Moto Group to strengthen the supply chain for sales and parts. Castiglioni told Cycle News that, in the last five years, MV was too focused on products, which can lead to “missing other levers like service and availability of the products.” The new goal is to get 98 percent of parts orders delivered to dealers within 48 hours, and they have been steadily increasing from a low of 88 percent in May of last year.
R&D Technical Director Brian Gillen says that they’ve solved the top 10 warranty issues stemming from the three-cylinder motor, the most significant of which was the starter-clutch assembly. He also says that MV is going to “start living more in the virtual world and less in the physical world,” whether that’s a good or a bad thing, time will tell. Durability testing now starts with computer modeling, so they can simulate 18,000 miles of wear in 10 days as opposed to three months.
Later this year, MV Agusta will announce an all-new four-cylinder engine to create a new family of bikes—a Brutale “hypernaked” in 2018, a “neo-classical” (their interpretation of a café racer in the MV spirit) in 2019, and a new F4 “hyperbike” in 2020.
The current F4 will get a final send off, a limited-production variant called the Claudio—named after Giovanni’s late father. Per Gio, it would basically be Leon Camier’s WorldSBK racer with lights and a license plate, with a price tag to match
After a technical presentation and lengthy dinner on MV’s pre-production manufacturing line with the CEO, Design Director, and R&D Technical Director, I’m convinced that MV Agusta has a solid plan to move forward. Now we’ll just have to see if they can execute. CN
2018 MV Agusta Brutale 800RR ($16,698)
||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke, 12 valves, inline triple
|Bore x stroke:
||79 x 54.3mm
||140 hp @ 12,300 rpm
||64 lb-ft @ 10,100 rpm
||Hydraulically activated wet multi-plate
||6-speed cassette style
||Tubular steel trellis with aluminum rear swingarm pivot plates
||43mm Marzocchi inverted fork, fully adjustable
||Single Sachs shock absorber, fully adjustable
|Front wheel travel:
|Rear wheel travel:
||320mm dual floating discs, 4-piston calipers, ABS standard
||220mm disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS standard
||120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III
||180/55 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III
|Weight (dry, claimed):
||Pearl Shock Red/Metallic Carbon Black, Pearl Ice White/Metallic Carbon Black