Memorable MC: MV Agusta Brutale

November 16, 2010
Frank Melling
Frank Melling
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Our Memorable Motorcycles expert, Frank Melling also is the organizer of the British vintage motorcycle extravaganza known as Thundersprint. Melling began riding five decades ago and remains as much in love with motorcycles as when he drove his first bike into a cow shed wall aged ten. In the last 50 years, Melling has competed in every form of motorcycle sport and now declares himself to be too old to grow up and be sensible.

MV Agusta Brutale
After the success of the MV Agusta F4, the Italian company attempted to meet the desire for a naked bike by producing the Brutale design. 

MV Agusta’s Brutale and I have been crossing paths for many years. For a start, I think that I was the first ever journalist to see the Brutale in the flesh. I had spent a fascinating afternoon – and most of the evening – with Claudio Castiglioni who, at the time, was in one of his periodic spells of owning MV.

He took me down the steps from his offices on the banks of Lake Varese and into a small building containing some very trick MVs. With a truly dramatic flourish, he threw back a door and revealed the Brutale. I recoiled in horror and wondered how someone like Massimo Tamburini, who drew the world’s best looking road bike, could conceive such an utterly abhorrent mess.

Claudio is such a genuinely nice person, and had been such a good host, that I lied and said that the Brutale looked great.

Fifteen times world Champion, Giacomo Agostini, rides a Brutale. I know this because I once had a cell phone conversation with Ago while he was riding to Mugello with his mates. How can someone with such immense experience, riding skill and love of bikes as Ago ride a Brutale? The answer still eludes me.

As I write this next sentence, I am preparing to head down to the nuclear bunker beneath our cottage which will no doubt provide scant protection against the hate mail about to pour on my head from MV fans.

MV Agusta Brutale
According to our contributor the poor aesthetics of the Brutale design are matched by its lack of performance, which registers peak torque at 10,500 rpm.
MV Agusta Brutale

In essence, the first Brutale was a complete styling mess – an utter abomination – and not much better in terms of performance. Let’s go back to why the Brutale was born. The MV Agusta F4 was, and is, the most beautiful motorcycle in the world. Despite having a 750cc engine which demands committed sports riding, even for a trip to the shopping mall, one could forgive the bike everything because of its utter breathtaking elegance.

The problem was that although the bike was worshipped in Italy – MV’s biggest market – it didn’t sell well enough to be left alone as the factory’s only offering. Italians like naked bikes, and quite simply MV had to have one.

At this point, I am not quite sure what went wrong. Certainly, MV was struggling financially when the Brutale was launched and I get the feeling that Claudio phoned Tamburini in San Marino, where the maestro was based, and said something along the lines of: “Look, Massimo mate, we’re broke. Just rip the fairing off the F4, stick a headlamp on it and let’s get some bikes sold!”

The great one did as he was bidden. However, being Tamburini, he had to put his individual stamp on the bike, and for some completely unfathomable reason he hung the ugliest headlamp in the world on the front of the bike.

This makes the Brutale look rather like a two wheeled version of a Floridian Manatee. Let me add that I am something of a Manatee fan and was once very moved to see a family of these delicate creatures cruising around a mangrove swamp where their long, lugubrious faces were perfectly suited to underwater grazing.

But do you want a tribute to an aquatic herbivore decorating the front of your naked, hyper sportbike? I think not.

MV Agusta Brutale
Despite its exterior, our vintage expert felt that the Brutale had the best handling out of all naked bikes produced. 

So, the bike is ugly and there is no disputing this. But could its performance make up for the beauty deficit? Sadly, no. Our test bike was a 750S – the first Brutale. This is powered by MV’s 749cc engine which was a distinctly peaky motor in its original form. For the Brutale, MV re-mapped the motor – and it’s still a rev. box. Let’s look at the stats: Peak torque comes in at 10,500 rpm. What sort of stop light monster is that?

In practice, the bike is flat as a pancake at less than 6000 rpm and only real fun from 7000 – 12,000 rpm. MV should have borrowed a Suzuki Bandit for the weekend to find out how a powerplant for a naked bike should really perform. It is possible to wheelie a Brutale, but it is not the instantly available, arm-stretching experience that naked riders want. Watching the rev counter on an F4 is fun, and even desirable, but who wants to look at the rpm on a naked bike?

Stoppies are much simpler thanks to a pair of walloping great 310mm discs. The only problem is that if you don’t keep your arms straight, that curvaceous gas tank will give your manly parts a thrill which will last for days, and bedroom fun will be off the menu for much longer than this. Maybe that’s one way to encourage sensible riding amongst naked bike hooligans.

Technically, all the bits on the bike work. The fuelling is excellent; the six-speed gearbox and clutch are sweet and the handling sublime. Apparently, the steering head angle is reduced a smidgen so that the bike doesn’t turn in so fast, but

MV Agusta Brutale
In our contributor’s view, the F4 created ultra-high expectations which the naked Brutale failed living up to. 

in reality the Brutale is one of the best handling naked bikes ever produced.

I suppose the biggest problem for me is that when, or if, I ever give up racing, I will buy an MV because their sportsbikes are quite simply the most beautiful motorcycles on the planet. Better still, get tucked in behind an MV fairing on the race track and you are hooked for life. With these ultra-high expectations I wanted the Brutale to be a naked F4 – a stunningly impressive motorcycle in terms of looks, detail, finish and performance, but it isn’t.

This brings us to the question: would you want to own a Brutale? And there is a very interesting twist to the answer. Mint condition Brutales can be seen everywhere unsold. There was a lovely, 3800-mile bike advertised in our local newspaper for $5000 – and the vendor didn’t get a single phone call. Check on the auction websites and you will see the same pattern repeated – so here is an idea for you.

The Brutale ticks almost every box for a hyper sportbike in terms of motor, handling, brakes and many of the fitments like gas tank and exhaust. In short, a Brutale – with the addition of some rear set footrests, a seat, headlamp, low bars and a mini-fairing would make a fantastic retro-styled Cafe Racer – but with 140-mph performance. Only $7000 would give you a truly iconic motorcycle – and the bike which MV should have made in the first place. Send us some pictures if you build one.