MV Agusta is still the most exotic name in motorcycling.
The company‘s glorious and astonishing race history from the 1950s through to the 1970s has now been surpassed by Honda, while Ducati holds the top spot as sporting Italian brand. MV itself ceased to be for more than a decade until the name was revived by the Cagiva Group and the first new bike appeared in 1997.
Yet there‘s still a magic in the name MV Agusta. This is due to the vision of the man responsible for bringing MV back, Claudio Castiglioni (also responsible for saving Ducati back in 1984) who teamed up with design great Massimo Tamburini to create arguably the most beautiful motorcycle ever made, the F4. The F4 evolved from 750 to one litre, gained power, electronics and for 2010, a refreshed and hugely successful restyle by British designer Adrian Morton.
The same happened to the F4 spin-off, the Brutale, a naked version substituting grace and beauty for muscle and as the name suggests, brutishness. For 2011, a new version has appeared which has the honour of offering the lowest price of any MV Agusta, £1 less than £10,000.
The 921cc engine shares plenty with the rest of MV‘s four-cylinder family, including the 55mm stroke which combines with a smaller bore size to give the reduced capacity. The cooling system is revised too, as is the engine management system, which offers two maps, Sport and Normal. You also get MV‘s traction control system, and while the chassis is mostly the same as the rest of the Brutale range (1090RR and 990R) the 920 gets new, softer suspension to suit its entry level role.
This proves to be one of the bike‘s few weak spots. Using MV‘s recommended road settings the front of the bike is fairly soft but manageable, while the rear is desperately underdamped, floating and wallowing badly at speed. There‘s facility to change only the rebound damping and not the compression, so I adjusted this to MV‘s suggested track settings and this improved the behaviour a lot, although even then it needed firming up a little more.
Once the suspension is sorted (and the adjusters do make a useful difference, which isn‘t always the case) the bike handles fine, although it can start to feel a little harsh when it‘s firm enough for hard cornering. You wouldn‘t call it budget suspension but it does lack the plushness and quality of the costlier Brutale models.
The bike‘s quite heavy too, a legacy of the age of the basic design, but it‘s still agile enough for most riders and it has a solid, substantial feel that inspires plenty of confidence. It holds its line well enough when diving into turns at speed and matches this with excellent low speed steering and balance, although there‘s a lot of dive from the front end when the radial Brembo brakes are used in anger.
It‘s most likely to seduce though with its engine, which despite its reduced size and relatively modest 137bhp still manages to excite. It‘s surprisingly torquey, pulling strongly and smoothly from the lower reaches of the rev range, then hitting hard with its mid range. It‘s less willing to rev than the 1090RR but it‘s still pretty quick when spun to its 10.500rpm power peak, though the additional 1,000rpm available above that can feel a little laboured.
What it also brings is a hard-edged snarl that distinguishes it from Japanese fours, and a delicious rhythmic idle. In Sport mode the throttle response is sharp, although it can be too sudden from a closed throttle. Normal mode smoothes this out and is better for town work as the power is easier to control generally. Fuel consumption‘s not too bad, at 39mpg used quite hard and rising to 44mpg in gentler riding. Combine that with the 5.1 gallon (23 litre) tank and you have a very useful range of at least 200 miles.
Comfort is up to making full use of this, with a supportive seat that also works well for the passenger, although the footrests are high to maintain ground clearance.
The matt black paint finish doesn‘t work well on this bike as the styling is too busy for it to work, so the white alternative would be better, although it‘s crying out for some colour which you only get on the pricier models.
But you do get a badge which says ‘MV Agusta‘, and a bike which won‘t disappoint despite the high expectations.
Model tested: MV Agusta Brutale 920
Engine: Inline four-cylinder, liquid cooled, dohc radial 16v, 921cc
Power: 137bhp @ 10,500rpm
Torque: 70lb.ft @ 8,100rpm
Tank/Range: 5.1 gallons (23 litres)/ 200 miles
Transmission: Six gears, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
Chassis: tubular steel trellis with aluminium plates
Seat height: 32.5in (825mm)
Wheelbase: 56.3in (1430mm)
Rake/trail: 25 °/ 4.07in (103.5mm)
Weight: 419lb (190kg) dry
Kevin's funeral was held on Thursday 28th February 2013 and was well attended by family, friends and colleagues.
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