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Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000

Thursday, December 24, 2009
Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
The MV Agusta F4 1000 is the perfect bike for those who don't like their license photo, because you won't have it any more by the end of your ride.
I am a very fortunate motorcyclist. Not only have I got all the bikes I need - I have also got all the bikes I want. Except one. Until I rode the MV Agusta F4 1000 I could not see the value in spending a lot of money on a bike which will, in half a blink of an eye, not only lose your driving license but will also get you a healthy spell in jail. Now I have ridden this utterly incredible motorcycle, I want one.

So let’s start at the end of the story and work backwards. On the track, and believe me this is the only place to fully experience the F4, distances are crushed. Not only does every single corner arrive at Star Wars’ speed but there is the overwhelming sense that the F4 is not even breaking into a sweat when going as quickly as a World Superbike race machine The top speed is somewhere around a genuine 185mph - that’s probably 200mph showing on the speedometer - but it is the dismissive way this velocity is achieved which is so impressive.

With 171 hp and 81 lb-ft of torque, the MV, logically, has to be blisteringly fast but it is the manner and style of its performance when compared with other icons of power, like the Suzuki Hayabusa or Kawasaki ZX-10R, which makes the bike unique. In terms of stats, loyal supporters of other hyper sportbikes will say, rightly and properly, that they can get 99% of the MV’s performance from an R1CBR1000RR or certainly a Ducati 1098R. The 1% which is missing is the contemptuous ease with which the MV reaches speeds only matched by a very fast light aircraft: that is the magic of the bike.

Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
Designed by Massimo Tamburini, there is no denying the masterpiece that is the F4 1000.
The F4 1000’s bloodline began in 1998 with the first F4 - a beautiful, but flawed, masterpiece which came from the drawing board of Massimo Tamburini. There is no arguing that Ing. Tamburini is one of the world’s greatest motorcycle designers and the F4 is arguably an even more complete concept than his iconic Ducati 916.

In all Tamburini’s designs, two elements run side by side - and are of equal importance. One strand is the motorcycle as art - where form and function meld into one cohesive element which is quite simply breathtaking. Running parallel with the artist’s creation is a fully functional motorcycle. Tamburini’s bikes are not custom bike show pieces. They work in real life, and without any compromise.

Standing right alongside the master from the first design sketches was Claudio Castiglioni, the owner of MV Agusta at the time of the original F4 launch. Claudio quite literally worshipped, and still does today for that matter, Tamburini and gave him a blank check to produce the best sports motorcycle in the world.

I remember standing with Claudio in the then MV factory, on the banks of Lake Varese, watching whilst each piston in the F4 was individually measured and weighed to the same standards as would be applied to a hand-built race bike. Claudio beamed happily like a kid at Christmas - but I wondered what the Japanese would think of this obsession with detail, as their bikes flew off the production line by the thousand.

Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
Frank powers the MV Agusta F4 1000 around the Anglesey race circuit.
The original F4 engine was inspired by the 1992 Ferrari F1 race car engine. Cagiva engineers (Cagiva owned MV at the time) soon moved it on but they did retain the Ferrari radial valve layout of the car racing motor. The result was a manically high revving engine which was hard work to ride on the road and was also slower than the larger capacity Japanese competition. The riding position was savage and the clip ons trapped your hand on full lock. This caused many F4 owners to feel the full pain of MV ownership in one of two ways. Hang on to the ‘bars and break your fingers: let go and have the F4 fall over, trash its fairing and consequently ram-raid your bank account paying for the repairs. MV ownership is never for the uncommitted!

Against all this was the absolutely unquestionable fact that the F4 was the most beautiful bike of the late 20th century and probably one of the most stunning of all time. By 2005, the original F4 was still breathtakingly beautiful but was beginning to look dated in terms of performance. The Japanese might not have been weighing every single piston which went into their bikes - but they were spending a lot of money on R&D.

The new F4 was just 249cc bigger than its older sibling but was night and day better. Peak power was now almost 2,000 rpm lower than the earlier motor and both the power and torque were hugely increased. The multi-point fuel injection system was all new and benefited hugely from a very trick Magneti Marelli 5SM ECU. Although superseded now by an even more sophisticated design, the F4 1000R’s ECU has two particularly clever tricks.

Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
F4 has been made more rider friendly for those who are bigger than Dani Pedrosa.
The first of these is sequential fuel injection which allows the engine to deal with the problems of the lean running necessary to pass emissions’ regulations which now constrain all manufacturers. Just as useful, #2 cylinder is allowed to produce torque when the throttle is fully closed giving, in effect, all the benefits of a slipper clutch. On the track, the rider never knows this happening - except for the fact that the rear wheel never locks even under savage deceleration.

The riding position has been changed so that F4 owners bigger than a Lord of the Rings’ elf can now fit on the bike without dying of discomfort. The tank is shorter and the ‘bars higher and wider. And, joy of joys, full lock is available without the finger crushing.

But what does remain is sheer, utter, motorcycling beauty. I spent ten minutes just walking round the F4 before riding it because it really is gorgeous. The number of F4s which live in their owner’s lounge must be the highest of any motorcycle in the world - and you can see why.

The best thing is that the more closely the bike is scrutinized the better it becomes. From any angle, every line is perfect; every weld immaculate; every fitting impeccable. Yes, the F4s are a lot more expensive than their Japanese competitors but, if you love bikes, they are worth every cent.

Then the bike is fired up and the unique soprano wail emanates from the four underseat pipes. Somehow, MV has got this exhaust system homologated for road use world wide but how, with a noise like the F4 emits, is beyond me.

Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
Despite being a high end 1000cc bike the F4 1000 manages to retain some "wiggle room" in its aggressive styling.”
The riding position is committed sports riding - and there is no argument about this. However, it is vastly more comfortable than the original F4. I am 5’ 11” and I can fit in between the sinuously sculpted tank and race style seat - and yet still have a little “wriggle room”. The clutch is light and progressive and so it’s a fuss free ride down the pit lane and out on to the magnificent Anglesey track.

The power isn’t aggressive, or difficult to use, but simply sits there like some huge pet tiger, obediently ready to leap into action. Open the throttle gently and the F4 will respond in a most mild mannered fashion. Truly, you could potter along in a supermarket car park, or a race paddock, in the most inoffensive manner imaginable. Five miles an hour and feet up, the beautifully balanced F4 is less trouble than a 50cc scooter.

Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
The F4 features upside down Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock out back for amazing handling out on the track.
But wind open the throttle and suddenly the world becomes a different place. As I said in the introduction, it’s not so much the speed but the way that the performance is delivered which is so impressive. Coming out of the tight hairpin at Anglesey at maybe 30mph, the F4 simply scorched up to an indicated 120 mph in less than 200 yards. Had the F4 been a factory test bike, rather than the very precious personal possession of classic race enthusiast Peter Kent, I would have hung on for another 30 yards and certainly have seen 125 mph on the speedo before hitting the massive 310mm six pot Nissin brakes for the off camber right-hand sweeper of School corner.

The handling was absolutely sublime. The carbon-nitride coated, upside down Marzocchi forks and Sachs rear shock performed perfectly. I know, for certain, that a good British Superbike rider would find fault but I would question whether 99.5% of riders need anything better.

The race derived cassette gearbox is state of the art and, should you so wish, your mechanic can pop in an alternative gear cluster in less than 20 minutes - whilst you have a coffee and sign autographs. Regardless of the limited value of being able to swap gearboxes faster than you can grill a hamburger on the paddock barbecue, the ‘box works perfectly.

In fact the world “perfect” has appeared a lot in this story - as well it might. There is no more beautiful sportbike made in the world and the performance is so good that only major riding deities will be able to find fault with it.
Memorable Motorcycle: MV Agusta F4 1000R
It's never too early to start mortgaging for next year's holiday gift list...

So, is it worth tolerating MV’s erratic production and less than perfect spares backup? Is it worth taking a chance on the discounting which MV regularly undertakes at the cost of owners who have paid the full price for their very expensive machines? Is it worth spending 25% more than a Japanese Superbike costs for only a marginally better performance?

The answer to all three questions is an unequivocal, yes. Get saving now!

Our thanks to Peter Kent for the loan of his precious bike and the Anglesey race circuit (www.anglesey-race-circuit.co.uk) for their hospitality.
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T-bird -Respns to Canadian Dan  January 8, 2010 05:02 PM

The truth is, the MV F4(each variation) is without a doubt one of the best performing bikes in the world (by any standard). Hence the 2007 honor earned at Bonnevile Salt flats of 187MPH...and newer versions are even faster. Few bikes could do that stock in 07 and newer versions, again, have gotten more powerful. Also, its one of the most beautiful bikes in the world. As most searches on the internet will surely demonstrate. Sounds like you are aware anyway. Clearly, this is why HD purchased MV just over a year ago. However, HD's cash position has changed and they are now looking for cash which is why some very fortunate company will get MV for far less than its worth. If we are all lucky (and I do mean all), the company that purchases MV will have some serious money for R&D, will really invest in streamlining the production inefficiencies, without diminishing the quality and MV will live to continue to build really exciting, quality motorcycles.


Donald Laguarta -MV Agusta F4 1000  December 29, 2009 07:56 PM
You are absolutely right on the mark with your review. I have a 2008 F4 312R. It is a an awesome bike. That word is clearly overused but not in this case. I also have 2 BMWs: 2006 K1200R & 2005 R1200RT. They are geat fun but nothing is as all-out thrilling as the F4. The sound alone is stunningly blood-stirring. The power & smoothness are incredible. The handling is intuitive & scary-fast. It is the only bike that I have not opened up completely due to it's scariness, but, as you indicated, you will be in jail sans license in the blink of an eye if you even think of applying the throttle more than moderately. I often just go out in my garage & stare at it's perfection. It is without doubt the most beautiful bike ever!!
R34 -MV  December 28, 2009 11:28 AM
They can have it...
fazer6 -Umm...That's an F41000S, not an "R"  December 25, 2009 08:22 AM
That's an '05 or '06 model, the 1000R was released in 2007 and DOES have radial-mounted brembos and ti-nitride up-spec zokes, plus lighter wheels, and other subtle changes. Both are incredible machines though, the later 312R and 312RR even more so. It remains to be seen if the H-D funded 2010 F4 1000R will live up to the legacy of the original.
MV Fan -sonorous  December 24, 2009 07:54 PM
MV F4 engine is motorcycle equivalent of high revving Ferrari V8s. Pure music. Can't compare a Ducati to a Ferrari like that.
MV fan -If I had the money to throw around, I'd buy just for the sound and looks  December 24, 2009 07:47 PM
the only bike that sounds like Ferrari. you know, people often draw comparison to Ducatis are the motorcycle version of Ferrari, and Aprilia as Lambo or something. may be because of sound, or prestige, or racing history, or nationality. well, I beg to differ. really... listen to the F4 engines, and ignore the fact that Ferrari initially assisted in developing them, the MV F4 really does sound like a Ferrai engine. v twins like Duc do not and never will sound like a ferrari V8s. Because generally, inline 4s sound more like flat-crank v8s like Ferraris, with the exception of new R1.

I guess the triples like Triumph Daytona 675 would sound like a Lambo v12 or Porsche flat 6 or something, haha.
MV fan -If I had the money to throw around, I'd buy just for the sound and looks  December 24, 2009 07:46 PM
the only bike that sounds like Ferrari. you know, people often draw comparison to Ducatis are the motorcycle version of Ferrari, and Aprilia as Lambo or something. may be because of sound, or prestige, or racing history, or nationality. well, I beg to differ. really... listen to the F4 engines, and ignore the fact that Ferrari initially assisted in developing them, the MV F4 really does sound like a Ferrai engine. v twins like Duc do not and never will sound like a ferrari V8s. Because generally, inline 4s sound more like flat-crank v8s like Ferraris, with the exception of new R1.

I guess the triples like Triumph Daytona 675 would sound like a Lambo v12 or Porsche flat 6 or something, haha.
Superlight -Italian Bikes  December 24, 2009 10:56 AM
Yes, x2468, I would be able to tell the bike is Italian, as they do things differently than any of the Japanese makers, though I admit the use of a line-4 engine in this MV reduces those differences somewhat. I'm not arguing the Japanese don't produce fast motorcycles or that they don't handle well (because they obviously do well in both areas, and for somewhat less money than the Euro bikes). For me its in the details, many of which are aesthetic. Its the look of the triple clamp and top nut, the way the fairing is styled around the mechanicals, the way the exhaust is routed, the relative lack of decals on the bodywork. I attend the motorcycle shows each year and find the Japanese bikes lacking in cohesive design; they look like a collection of parts flying in formation. I rode the new R1 at Daytona this year and liked the performance and sound, but the finish on the inside of the fairing and the "bug-eye" headlamp lenses turned me off. Hey, most riders buy Japanese today - good for them, but I'll take Euro bikes and Italian in particular.
x2468 -re: superlight  December 24, 2009 10:36 AM
So are you telling me, that if someone gave you an italian bike but dressed it in fairings from one of the japanese companies and said it was built in japan, that you'd honestly be able to tell it's italian after riding it? Or is it more of a "I paid more for my bike than the Jones' next door so I feel cooler" type thing, similar to Oakley glasses or Louis Vutton wallets....
Superlight -MV  December 24, 2009 07:48 AM
Most bike riders just don't understand the owner enthusiasm for Italian motorcycles. Heck, most Japanese bikes have better spec "numbers" and are far less expensive. None of this makes sense, until you ride one... OBTW, those brakes are not radially mounted nor are the front fork sliders carbon-nitrate coated.
The Canadian DAN -Harley?  December 24, 2009 04:23 AM
Now that the bike is so great, WHY is Harley seeling this great company............

And the real question, can or will it stand up to other, like RSV4 1198R ? Not sure....

But still would love to have one in my garage, alongside an RSV4....