An Unbelievable First Ride - The 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800
I'm currently writing this article from seat 14c in economy class somewhere over the Atlantic. I lucked out and my tall ass got a full row to myself for the longest portion of the trip. Destination: the lovely Spanish city of Marbella, right along the Mediterranean Sea, for the MV Agusta Brutale 800 World Press Launch. I'm killing the 15 hour flight with movies, countless cups of really good in-flight coffee, and reading up on the little Italian motorcycle company.
Amongst the many middleweight naked bikes, MV Agusta is a relatively exotic Italian brand that is most often compared to Ducati, but the majority of the company remains privately owned and is nowhere near as massive. MV Agusta's popularity in the United States is not quite as developed as its Italian cousin due to a lack of dealer network and low unit sales. MV Agusta’s CEO Giovanni Castiglioni told me that they only sold around 1000 units last year in the U.S.
Looking to turn those numbers around, MV Agusta partnered with Mercedes Benz' AMG division in 2015 and procured a sizable financial investment from an Italian financial group. MV Agusta is banking on that partnership and capital helping them increase brand awareness and overall sales, providing the relatively unknown Italian Motorcycle company with the ability to expand their reach into the United States.
Since its introduction in 2012, the Brutale 800 was plagued with ride-by-wire power delivery issues, which journalists and riders alike were quite vocal about. Many complained that throttle response and fuel injection was jerky and unrefined, ergonomics were a bit unpleasant, and to ride the bike well you needed to be a seasoned rider capable of handling the Brutale. It was not made for the novice.
MV claims that the 2016 Brutale 800 is the solution to those aforementioned issues.
"We have redesigned this entire bike from the ground up to make it more accessible to newer riders while retaining the same sense of character and excitement for seasoned riders," said Brian Gillen, MV Agusta's Director of Technical Development and R "We've reworked the chassis, electronics package, and engine to provide all riders with one amazing motorcycle."
What’s New About the Brutale 800
The list of improvements is not short. MV really did re-engineer almost everything on this bike.
The chassis continues to retain the signature MV Agusta styling, but the front section is now made with ALS steel tubing and aluminum alloy side plates, which increases stability and handling. The wheelbase has been extended 20mm (a total of 1400mm), trail has been extended to 103.5 instead of 95mm on previous models, and the head rake has been adjusted to 24.5 degrees, thus adding to the Brutale 800’s ability to remain firmly planted and nimble.
The suspension has been developed to provide the best balance between performance and comfort. In the back is a single Sachs shock absorber and the front relies on a 43mm Marzocchi upside down aluminum fork with 125mm of travel. Both units can be adjusted for compression, rebound, and preload.
Braking is achieved with Brembo 320mm dual discs with four-caliper floating discs in the front and a single two-caliper 220mm disc at the rear. Braking systems also in incorporate a Bosch 9 Plus ABS system.
The engine has been completely overhauled, including new cam profiles and timing, new pistons, and an entirely new intake and exhaust system to comply with new Euro 4 standards. The new improvements allow for a 25% increase in maximum torque, delivering a claimed max 116 horsepower at 11,500 RPM. Though the new Brutale 800 produces less power than the previous model year, refinements everywhere else may make up for the drop.
I personally don't care about overall power, I care about how the package delivers an excellent experience. Much of this experience comes from how all the power is delivered. Throttle inputs are managed by the new MVICS Ride-by-Wire throttle management system, hydraulically assisted slipper clutch, and EAS 2.0 Up Down quick shifter. The electronics package also features three ride modes (Rain, Normal/Touring and Sport), one custom setting with increased options, eight levels of traction control and switchable ABS. The Brutale 800 also incorporates a counter rotational MotoGP derived crankshaft (first introduced on the F3 675), which contributes to decreasing inertia and allows for faster directional changes.
While I never rode the Brutale 800's previous model, I do have a solid amount of saddle time with all the major players in this category—the Street Triple R, FZ-09, Z800 and Ducati Monster 821—so the bar is gonna be set pretty high for the Brutale 800 as far as first impressions go.
Our day begins at the lovely Villa Padierna resort in the heart of Marbella. Our route would take us along the main highway and up the winding roads to the picturesque town of Ronda where we'll enjoy a quick coffee and loop back.
Physically, this bike oozes sex appeal and I would expect nothing less from the Italians. The design lines and aggressive nature are said to mimic a closed fist, but I see so much more and its beauty is evident from every angle.
Straight on, the Brutale looks like a disco-passionate dragon ready to feast on the meat and bones of its crisped victim. Directly from the front, it's poised and streamlined, the newly designed headlamp with LED integration is retro, yet futuristic. Its signature slash cut triple exhaust pipes are eye-catching, and the trellis frame and the angular tank add loads of appeal. The Brutale's slim saddle with negative space underneath adds style and class. The tucked away tail light and svelte design make for a very sexy package that's delightful to behold.
I'm not going to lie, the Brutale 800 makes me horny. Remember the story about the guy that tried to sue BMW because he claimed his bike gave him a perpetual erection for a year? Well he would have died from that erection just by looking at this motorcycle. The new Brutale 800 is simply stunning.
Jumping onto the Brutale 800 one thing is clear, this bike fits me. At 6'5, most bikes are not built to accommodate a man of my size, but the Brutale 800 fits me the best of any naked bike I've sat on before. Whether you are 5’8 or 6’5, the Brutale 800 nails it in fitment. Being 20mm narrower due to its new design, it feels remarkably closer to a Supermoto than a fairing-less sportbike.
The upright handlebars are easy to reach and make for a good blend of standard and aggressive positioning. Clutch, brake, and controls, everything else in between are well positioned and are comfortable to access. Engine map modes are intuitive and easy to adjust while stopped and on the fly when riding.
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As we set out, the first leg of our ride took us past the urban center of Marbella through a number of roundabouts, and along the highway. From stop-to-go, the Brutale 800 feels a bit twitchy on the throttle and there is a lack of feedback at low speeds. However, once I acclimated to the bike’s inputs things smoothed out.
On-ramp to the highway, bang! The Brutale 800 has some zest and gets up to speed in no time at all. This engine has character and retains a voracious grumble, which also means it's bit buzzy at highway speeds no matter what gear is selected. However, I'm not sure how much that will matter because that's not why you're going to buy a Brutale 800. You buy it to do what I'm about to do: Get totally fucking moto loco along twisty roads, or go balls out on a race track. That's where everything about this bike shines and I was totally unprepared for the marvel that was about to cast its light upon me.
For those that do not know this road, it has a lot of sweeping corners and not a lot of tight technical turns. It makes for a relatively fast ride and it's definitely possible to get a knee down in some sections. I accidentally took a left hander aggressively and tore my REV'IT jeans (Oops). Luckily I had my CE armor knee pads in the pockets.
I'm not the fastest guy, and if anything I've slowed down in the past year to really focus on my fundamentals to become a better rider. There is really something to be said, however, when Italian World Superbike racer and factory test rider Frederico Sandi leads the pack toward the end of the day at a spirited pace and I'm capable of staying on his ass the entire way. I was never past my own limit—Frederico was only at about 30% of his—but a lot of my ability to keep up that pace had to do with how comfortable I had become on the Brutale 800 toward the end of the ride.
I lived in third and fourth gear for the majority of the ride, second gear remained usable on the few tight sections, and I punched into fifth and sixth along some straights. Speed limit laws were easily broken a number of times and there was more than a wheelie or two popped.
What's truly fantastic about the new Brutale 800 is that MV has broadened the power delivery in the middle of the rev range where most riders ride and this makes the bike incredibly friendly, yet zesty to pilot. The new fuel injection algorithms have smoothed out power delivery and the jerkiness and lag reported in the past models are gone. Some of the other journalists I rode with confirmed the improvements. The new system provides generous power and torque between 6000 and 12000 RPM, and it's simply there when you want it with just the right dose.
Braking was also incredibly forgiving. The group came around a corner where we needed to apply braking to avoid running into a car, and in that instance, the brakes provided just the right amount of feedback and control when leaned over while pulling the bike up to a more upright position. Later in the day, I performed a few panic brake procedures just to test out the ABS and found the system to be very, very good.