MV Agusta has a motorcycling history dating all the way back to 1945 when it presented the ‘98’ motorcycle to the public.
From there, the company got into racing, first with small 125 cc bikes, then with bigger, faster machines that. dominated Moto GP World Championships in the ’60s and ’70s, drumming up an amazing 17 consecutive 500cc GP World Championships.
But the good times didn’t last. The company had their last GP in 1976 and production eventually ceased in 1980. After a number of false starts (including a brief period of ownership by Harley Davidson from 2008 to 2010), MV is back producing some pretty impressive motorcycles and returned to Canada last year.
Still, MV Agustas aren’t exactly mainstream, but after declining a one-day quick ride at the end of last year (what kind of test would that be?), I managed to get a more respectable one-week loan of the 1090 RR Brutale courtesy of Ride Motorcycles in Vaughan, Ontario.
BRUTALE BY NATURE
MV Agusta’s 1090R Brutale is as subtle as an AK47 and as serious as an income tax audit. Brutale is Italian for… well, I’ll get back to you on that.
Gently open the throttle, ease out the clutch and the $19,995 Brutale lurches away like three of the four cylinders are cutting in and out. Give it a bit more gas and you’re in danger of losing a couple of teeth as the triple clamp is suddenly in your face.
Pull in the clutch, nudge the gearshift and it’s like you’re stirring a bucket of rocks with a hockey stick. The transmission is stiff, notchy and vague. Not to mention a hydraulic clutch that still feels like a cable unit only with several broken strands.
Bending into a turn, the bike heads for the apex, but wind the throttle on, and it heads for the hills. Sheesh – it’s a three ring circus on two wheels. Signore Brutale and I were not having a good time.
The inline four-cylinder 1078cc motor shoots out a claimed 156 horsepower, backed with 83 foot pounds of torque. And these are not sickly horses ready for the glue factory either – these are Clydesdales on steroids.
With a claimed wet weight of just 190 kg (418 lbs), the Brutale’s power to weight ratio is impressive, and a torque curve as flat as Saskatchewan allows it to pull from as far down as 2,000 rpm.
The Brutale has two rider-adjustable power modes – sport and rain.
Pushing the starter button once the engine is running changes the power mode from sport to rain, but accessing the traction control and resetting the trip meter isn’t exactly intuitive and would require reading the manual, which I didn’t have. Ah, the Italians.
Sport was just too abrupt for enjoyable riding around town as every millimeter of the twistgrip, whether opening or closing, seemed to be multiplied at the throttle bodies, making for a jerky ride.
Rain mode is much more manageable in traffic and around town. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable loss of power but the jerkiness factor is dialed down a couple of octaves.
Overall, the EFI seems to be a generation or two behind most current systems – it’s overly sensitive making smooth riding very challenging.
The rough edges also find their way into the transmission. When pulling in the surprisingly heavy hydraulic clutch, just as the lever bottoms against the grip, you get an odd “squish” and then a clunk – not exactly crisp.
And, on downshifts, push the lever down and it feels like several gears are loose on the layshafts. All this is courtesy of the slipper clutch mechanism going through its gyrations.
I’ve ridden a number of motorcycles with slipper clutches, both on and off the track and I’ve never been so ignorant and hamfisted with my downshifts that I’ve felt the back-slip mechanism activate.
Some readers may feel that their riding ability would place them on a World Superbike grid, but for the rest of us mortals, the only benefit of the Brutale’s slipper clutch is a lever feel similar to pulling the leg off a partially cooked chicken.
On the beefy 50 mm-diameter male-slider forks, one leg handles compression damping while the other takes care of the rebound. A generous 130 mm of travel allows the Brutale to track straight and true over the myriad of bumps and frostheaves that pepper our highways and byways. On the hind end, the single-sided swingarm’s 120 mm of travel is controlled by a fully adjustable shock.
Everything is tied together nicely by the TIG hand-welded, chrome moly steel trellis frame. Thankfully, MV didn’t hide the beautifully crafted structure, but painted it bright red to attract attention. Well done, it’s gorgeous.
With a short wheelbase, a sharp steering angle and 145 horsepower, the Brutale comes with a standard steering damper mounted to the top triple clamp.
Even with that, under hard acceleration over bumpy pavement, the Brutale exhibits enough front end wiggles to mix an acceptable martini. Shaken, not stirred.
The huge, 320 mm full floating rotors gripped by four pot radial Brembo calipers are strong enough to slow a runaway Freightliner with only two fingers required on the lever to almost stand the Brutale on its nose, all the while giving exemplary feel and feedback.
The upright riding position is excellent, the seat is wide, flat and comfortable and the wide tubular bars are at a good angle for lots of leverage in tight quarters. Tooling around at moderate speeds, it’s actually very comfortable, but when on the highway, the wind beats you up pretty good. That’s just a fact of life with a naked bike.
As for the mirrors, the best plan might be to scrap these and start over. No matter how I adjusted them, they either showed my elbows or the pavement ten feet behind the bike.
The instrument cluster has a large tachometer to the left anda digital speedo on the right with a temperature gauge under the tach.
A nice touch is a gear position indicator, as it’s good to know when downshifting how many gears you’re going to have to mush and clunk through. There’s even a tiny LCD outline of a motorcycle, for no apparent reason that I could see.
SUMMING IT UP
I admit that at first, I wasn’t exactly enamoured with the Brutale. I was fed up with the herky-jerky throttle and bag-of-sticks clutch, and tired of stomping on the shifter like I was killing a snake. Out of frustration, I found a deserted road and let ‘er rip.
The clouds parted, the sun shone and angels sang. I’d discovered how to master and enjoy Il Brutale.
After a stare-down worthy of a UFC cage match, simply grab it by the throat and beat it into submission. Give the throttle a good crank and, once past second gear, use clutchless upshifts.
Preload the shifter with your toe, roll off the gas quickly and the gears snick, snick snick like a transmission should.
Brake firmly, throw the Brutale into the corner and it holds its line perfectly. Then give it a mittful on the exit. Snick snick. Hoo-boy, NOW we’re talking.
Compared to the typical sewing machine exhaust note from a Japanese inline four, the sound from the MV’s twin staggered mufflers is aggressive, character-laden and, once again, aggressive.
It has a growl eerily similar to one of the big-bore Triumph triples – in town it echoes off the buildings and in the country, the reverberation off the trees makes for pleasant background music.
The Brutale has incredible performance and exceptional handling, but there’s no denying it’s unrefined, uncompromising and … a bit brutal.
Twenty grand is a lot of scratch for a motorcycle with those characteristics, but in a world where everything is civilized to the point of boredom, I’m certainly not going to complain as this motorcycle definitely lives up to its name.
MV doesn’t have a press fleet in Canada, so thanks to the owners of Ride Motorcycles in Vaughan, Ontario for the use of one of their personal bikes for a week.
|Bike||2012 MV Agusta Brutale RR 1090|
|MSRP||Red/White/Blue, Grey/Black, Red/Silver|
|Engine type||four-cylinder, four-stroke, 16-valve|
|Power (crank)*||156 hp|
|Tank Capacity||23 litres|
|Tires, front||120/70 – ZR 17 M/C (58 W)|
|Tires, rear||90/55 – ZR 17 M/C (75 W)|
|Brakes, front||double floating 320 mm disc four-pot Brembo caliper|
|Brakes, rear||single 34 mm disc, four-pot caliper|
|Seat height||830 mm|
|Wet weight*||198 kg (437 lb)|
|Warranty||24-month, unlimited mileage, parts and labour|
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