I remember riding up Mulholland Highway a couple of years ago. It was early on a Saturday morning and the watery sun had only been up for an hour or so; it was late spring, and there was a slight Malibu chill in the air coming off the Pacific. I had started down by the beach and headed up into the hills. The MV Agusta I was riding felt good.
I remember riding up Mulholland Highway a couple of years ago. It was early on a Saturday morning and the watery sun had only been up for an hour or so; it was late spring, and there was a slight Malibu chill in the air coming off the Pacific. I had started down by the beach and headed up into the hills. The MV Agusta I was riding felt good. It was taut, reactive, and quick.
Actually, it was violently fast and had a howling engine note that was probably heard back in Italy. Something had clicked over in my brain, and for some reason I found myself riding harder than I ever had before on that particular road. The bike responded magnificently with handling that came into its own, and the torque flooding from the engine whipped me ferociously out of every corner.
Riding with total commitment on a sinuous stretch of tarmac that kept me busy and tightly focused, I forgot how uncomfortable the tortuous riding position was. Clamping down hard on the brakes, they had lost their wooden initial bite; twisting the throttle aggressively had helped the power delivery lose its notchy, jerky response. The MV came out of its difficult, truculent shell and simply allowed me to revel in its excellence.
As it turned out, that was the best ride I ever had on that machine. Other journeys always seemed to become an uncomfortable challenge-a fight between man and machine. The MV only worked when it was being ridden at 100-percent; I rarely had the frame of mind or opportunity to do that.
And that has been the story of MV Agusta's recent motorcycles-stunning looking and savagely fast, with rock solid suspension and a riding position that padded your chiropractor's wallet. MVs worked spectacularly on the track, but were impractical on the street-until last year. Purchased by Harley-Davidson, a move that surprised many pundits, the iconic Italian marque found itself owned by an equally-if differently-iconic brand, and one that also produces outstanding bikes.
Whether it is coincidence or not, under Harley's stewardship MV's new F4 and Brutale models have become easier to ride, smoother, and much more friendly. The F4 is still committed-powerful and brilliant handling-but the ergonomics are more agreeable, the power delivery is smoother, and the suspension has lost its hard-sprung harshness to the point where the bike now feels like it has, well, suspension. The motor's power has not been diluted and the exhaust howl will still curdle your blood, so this wild animal is far from tame. Nevertheless, it has developed a gentler side to its personality that you can actually live with.
True to its considerable heritage, the new F4 is gorgeous. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the latest generation MV Agustas have been considered by many to be the prettiest motorcycles in production.
Typical Italian flair has given us a taut, muscular shape that is flowing and graceful at the same time. Completely redesigned for 2010 by Englishman Adrian Morton (also responsible for the original Benelli Tornado), the all-new F4 is even sleeker than its predecessor. Although the classic Tamburini design essentially remains, when side-by-side with the previous model, it is easy to see the differences revealed in the new F4's angular cues and slimmer tail section. The most noticeable difference is the bank of four square (rather than round) exhaust pipes that exits from under the seat; it is an unmistakable signature for an unmistakable motorcycle.
Attacking the Almería Circuit in southern Spain on MV's flagship is an interesting affair. As with the previous F4-312 model with the 1078cc motor, the new F4's distinctive wail gets the adrenalin pumping rapidly, and the bike is still shockingly fast. Yet, I am immediately struck by how benign-almost relaxed-the F4 feels. The power delivery via the eight fuel injectors and 49mm throttle bodies is predictable and linear enough to allow me to focus on the track.
Do not mistake the F4's easy power delivery for a weak one-the F4 puts out 186 peak horsepower at 12,900 rpm (the rev limiter cuts in at 13,500) and a very healthy 84 ft/lbs of torque from its radial valved, 998cc inline-four motor. The sanitized power delivery is not, as one would assume, solely down to improved fuel mapping from the Magneti Marelli ECU. With an inspired bit of thinking, Chief Engineer Andrea Goggi has actually added almost four and a half pounds to the crankshaft's weight-translating to almost 50-percent more inertia-and it is that increase that has really transformed the beast.
Based on lessons learned in Italian Superbike competition, the race team found the added weight made the engine more manageable, and its smoother delivery helped with race tire life. As well as the fueling, the advanced electronics simultaneously control the exhaust valve, the gear selection switch, and the Traction Control MK II (eight-level adjustable), plus Sport (normal) and Rain (reduced power) fuel maps.
Although the MV's output is a few horses down on some of the competition, it is difficult to tell without riding two machines back-to-back. I feel that the F4's monster mid-range-largely due to the variable length inlet tracts-is an improvement over some of the liter-bike competition. The F4's gearbox and slipper clutch are especially useful at a technical track like Almería, with easy and positive gear selection coupled to a light, precise feel at the clutch lever.
Despite the extra weight added to the motor, the new F4 is actually some 22 pounds lighter than the previous model, tipping the scales with a claimed dry weight of 423 pounds. Although not exceptionally light, the F4 certainly carries its weight well, as careful attention has been paid to mass centralization.
Suspension duties are taken care of with the same oversize 50mm Marzocchi front forks with full adjustment capabilities. Although the sliders are not TiN or DLC coated, the internals have been reworked to MV specifications giving them excellent feel at the front tire. As before, a Sachs rear shock is used, with a full array of adjustments (including high- and low-speed compression damping control). Care has been taken with the suspension's spring rates and damping actions, because the ride is infinitely more comfortable than before without the handling being compromised.
The first few laps on a new track are always an interesting judge of a new bike for me; when I do not know which way the corners go-at racing speed-I have often found myself making mid-corner corrections that unsettle some motorcycles. Not so with this MV Agusta; its neutral and precise handling, predictable power delivery, and brakes with exemplary feel, leave me able to concentrate on the track and my riding, rather than the bike. The Brembo radial calipers squeeze 320mm front rotors and, in an unusual touch, they work in conjunction with a Nissin master cylinder. Once again, MV Agusta has detailed its specifications to the manufacturer, and the braking solution is a delight to use.
The fit and finish of the F4 is absolutely spectacular, of course. The Italian racing red paint is deep and liquid, and complemented by the bright silver of the fairing lowers. Sitting astride the bike for the first time, I was taken by the feeling of sheer quality about every aspect of the MV Agusta-from its quarter-turn Dzus fasteners attaching the bodywork to its TIG-welded chassis joints.
Ergonomically, the new F4 is a lot more comfortable than previous iterations, with re-angled handlebars and a wider, more comfortable seat. The footpegs are still very high and for my gangly frame, I find them a little cramped; unfortunately, they are no longer adjustable.
The F4 only comes as a biposto model, with a small uncomfortable looking passenger seat pad; I simply cannot imagine anyone being prepared to sit on the back of this machine for very long, but the option is there. The passenger footrest hangers attach to the very front of the rear subframe and swoop backwards, only to interfere with the heel of each boot as I turn my foot for corner entry; I am fairly sure that any new owner will remove them almost immediately. Overall, however, the F4 is much more comfortable than its predecessor, and that translates to a much more functional street bike, too.
With attention to every single detail on the machine, MV Agusta has taken its fabulously charismatic but somewhat glitchy flagship and transformed it into a motorcycle that is real-world practical. It is now possible to get your hands on a bike that is supreme in appearance without having to put up with any behavioral quirks, and that is what makes this new MV Agusta F4 so special.