MV Agusta Brutale 910S
MV Agusta's Brutale is as fine an expression of a naked sports machine as has even been offered by an OEM. A two-dimensional picture can't do this beauty justice.
La Bella Donna
Okay, first off we have to admit that we'd still want one even if it couldn't outrun an SV650 with one spark plug. We all fell in lust with the Brutale, which must be the sexiest naked bike ever.
"Within seconds of laying eyes on the Brutale I declared it the winner in the appearance category," BC comments. "If you have yet to see this bike in person, you are missing out. The flowing lines and attention to detail are exactly what you would expect from a high-end Italian motorcycle."
Leading the way is a headlight that looks as if it began to melt on some supersonic run before cooling in its sleek oblong shape. On either side are gigantic gold-anodized Marzocchi fork tubes, a full 50mm compared to the scrawny 43mm units on its competitors. Then there's the instrument binnacle that looks as aerodynamic as gauges can be molded, and there's a wonderfully shaped fuel tank that holds a no less than 5 full gallons of gas, the most in this group. And then there's that wonderful lattice-work of chro-moly steel tubes wrapping around a pretty motor, joined at the swingarm pivot area to beefy aluminum castings, followed by perhaps the coolest factory exhaust pipes ever, complete with the historic brand name inscribed in a matte satin finish on the wicked dual-diameter slash-cut cans.
Whew! Got the idea we like the Brutale yet? Well, it's actually not all, "Grazie mille, Signore Tamburini!
" A little something was lost in translation from styling to ergonomic execution.
Brian Chamberlain, a 6-footer, makes the compact Brutale 910 look like a 400. This is one motorcycle Michael Jordan should stay away from!
"I was sure I'd love the MV until I got on the bike the first time," relates the 5-foot-10 Becklin. "The extremely compact riding position made me feel cramped, and the handlebar and peg placement made the ergos odd and disconcerting. The riding position - footpegs forward and handlebars back - doesn't feel right."
The Brutale's steering-head-to-seat distance is clearly the shortest, the main reason why it constricts taller riders. Even the MCUSA staffers who most resemble pint-sized Italians, Hutch and I, felt the riding position was quite compressed and took some time to acclimate.
"The bike is very compact, the seat is hard and the riding position is quite upright," observes Hutchison, a 5-foot-8er. "This all equated to what I thought initially was the best because I like being close to the front wheel a la
moto-style. This required a different approach when riding it hard on the track but it was great fun."
When they named the bike Brutale, they must've been referring to the seat. Its scooped design locks a rider in place with no room to move around, plus it slopes forward uncomfortably. Add in the fact that it's too narrow for good support and its side edges are sharp and unyielding. This makes for a unique experience when hanging off the inside of the bike such as when on the track, as the sides of the seat cleave into the pilot's butt crack. It'd been since Kenny's stay in the Pen that any of us had been violated like that. "They jabbed my butt cheeks with unrelenting ferocity," Becklin recalls in his nightmares.
The Brutale's tight ergonomics are more suitable for smaller riders like Duke Danger shown here. Check out the trick headlight, and note the large radiator that kept the bike cool in the hottest conditions.
Now, as we discuss the Brutale's four-cylinder motor, we'll get back to the praise mode again. This is simply one of the best sounding Fours ever. It produces a tasty guttural growl from the airbox up front, then trailing a delicious wail from the fetching shotgun exhaust. Power builds much earlier than expected for a multi with the smallest displacement, and its hit at 6000 rpm packs a wallop that's sure to loft the front wheel. Its clutch is cooperative when launching at normal revs but becomes grabby when racing for pinks.
"The 910cc engine may be of the smallest displacement in the test, but the four-cylinder layout enables it to make as much if not more power than the rest of the field," notes BC. "It really has a good amount of power down low and, like most Fours, only gets better as you bring the revs up."
The MV's overachieving motor impresses on the track even more than on the street, allowing the rider to reach into the five-digit realm of the tachometer for maximum thrust. This broad spread of revs yields gear-selection options, and the engine's only glitch is a slight abruptness when reapplying throttle. Descriptions of the Brutale's transmission ranged from "buttery smooth" to "near effortless." BC experienced a couple of missed shifts, but since the rest of us raved about the tranny, we suspect a rotation of the adjustable tips of the foot lever would've alleviated his problem.
In the twisties or on the racetrack, the Brutale's chassis feels ultra-rigid and capable, but yet it doesn't give a rider as much confidence as the Tuono and Monster.
The Brutale excels at quick transitions, feeling very much like one solid piece. A slightly awkward riding position requires some acclimation before cutting quick laps.
"The MV's cornering capabilities received mixed marks in my notepad," says the prolific Chamberlain. "Turn-ins felt very quick and the bike would easily go in any direction you wanted. Once in the corner, the bike tracked well and for the most part felt very stable, but the front left me a little skeptical - it just didn't give me the positive feedback I was looking for. I think a lot of this has to do with riding position and how far up over the front of the bike the rider is positioned."
The Brutale is less happy during the more mundane chores like running short errands or commuting on the freeway. Adding to the merciless seat a complete lack of wind protection, sparse instrumentation and a fairly harsh suspension makes the MV less agreeable in day-to-day use. And its mirrors are nearly useless, providing only blurry images of your arms. Adjustable footpegs are a nice touch.
When it comes to brake calipers, those in the know understand they need to be radially mounted and have 4 pistons, right? Not necessarily, as the Brutale's conventional-mount 6-piston calipers are excellent. Boasting surprisingly good feedback and plenty of power without harshness, they scored high in our ratings.
MCUSA President Don Becklin signals his personal chef in the pits that he wants two lumps of sugar in his afternoon tea. Or two lumps of coal in Duke's Christmas stocking...
Oh, and for those who think the 910S is too expensive, consider the Brutale 910R that lists for an extra $3500. It has all the good S stuff plus forged wheels, Brembo radial-mount monoblock calipers, hand-polished intake ports and a high-spec Marzocchi fork.
The 2007 Brutale, now in orange, receives several modifications to meet Euro 3 emissions, including a revised cylinder head, a larger airbox and a new ECU that now fits behind the cylinder bank. The changes are also said to be good for a couple extra ponies.
Oh, and that distinctive ellipsoid headlight (which came a close second to the Tuono's for best illumination)? It's described in MV's literature as artistically as it looks: "Incorporating double parabolic curves, the lens of the headlight provide superior horizontal light distribution in addition to offering greater depth of field from the high beam."
Now if only we could figure out how to reset the dangblasted tripmeter.