2014 MV AGUSTA RIVALE – FIRST RIDE

2014 MV AGUSTA RIVALE – FIRST RIDE

     
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    According to MV Agusta President/CEO Giovanni Castigliano, it’s all about market segmentation these days, especially now that the big-bike market (over 871cc) in Europe has “ceased to exist,” in his words. MV’s figures say big-bike sales in Europe have gone from 70,166 in 2010 to 37,994 in 2013 (January through August)—a 46 percent downturn. Meanwhile, while others are hurting, MV says its sales are up 67 percent over the same time frame, and it plans to keep that momentum rolling. A big part of that success comes down to its new 798cc three-cylinder.
One segment MV singled out as ripe for the plucking is supermotard. The only other real player here isDucati’s Hypermotard (along with the Aprilia Dorsoduro and KTM SM-T 990), which was recast as a slightly less hyper, more streetable moto for 2013. That seems to be the same niche MV wants for the Rivale. With a nice seat and various upscale accouterments, this is a supermoto you can ride more places than around a go-kart track.
The distinction between these bikes and your typical naked is their dirt bike ergonomics and increased suspension travel, things a good rider can use to unravel the kind of tight, bumpy backroads that unhinge traditional sportbikes. Plus they just look cool. Raising the seat up to 34.7 inches is about the limit for my 30-inch inseam, but taller guys will love the increased legroom—and the taller seat allowed the engineers to move the rider way forward compared to the Brutale 800 this bike’s based upon.
The flat seat puts your butt about where Phil Read’s pimply chest would’ve been back in the day, and the riding position winds up being Bruce Lee about to plunge his fingers into a guy’s abdomen, which is just about ideal for attacking corners and urban hellholes. You can look right down at the front tire, and from there it’s perfectly natural to use the increased weight transfer on the brakes to shove the Rivale’s nose into corners like house-training a puppy; the 43mm Marzocchi fork strokes through 5.9 inches of travel, the Sachs shock gives 5.1 inches of rear wheel travel. Without a rider, MV says the Rivale actually carries a couple of pounds more on its rear tire than its front, a dynamic that changes with the rider on board. Add a wide alloy handlebar, and you wind up with the sort of front-end feel and confidence you don’t get on the typical sportbike. Heading off onto a dirt road doesn’t feel like it would be too radical a departure on this MV, which really is a radical departure for MV Agusta.
2014 MV Agusta Rivale static side view
Add a new subframe and other things to the basic Brutale steel trellis, and you wind up with the Rivale.
If the bike’s ergonomics, Brembo brakes and inertia-cancelling counter-rotating crank make corner entries a hoot, the real fun comes at the exits. As in the Brutale, the 798cc triple lays down a broad swath of smooth torque beginning way low in the powerband, and with the same gear ratios and final drive as the Brutale (low), we expect to see the same performance numbers: quarter-miles at around 10.7 seconds at 128 mph, and a top speed around 148. (Minor airbox and exhaust mods could make a slight difference.) Brian Gillen, MV’s Three and Four Cylinder Platform Manager, is really proud of the bike’s torque, with more than 70 pound-feet produced all the way from 7,000 to 12,000 rpm. Keep it pinned up in there, and you’ll be wheelying out of those 2nd gear corners, intentionally or not.
Although we’ve had some complaints about the Brutale’s fueling around town (which disappeared when the bike was ridden hard), Gillen says the Rivale gets its own new mapping. Adjusting to a new bike on a dampish, unfamiliar French piece of pavement in the hills behind Vence, I didn’t spend enough time in Sport or Normal mode to find any cause for complaint, but when the rain started coming heavier, I can tell you I’m a big fan of its Rain mode, and a firm believer in modern motorcycle electronics. Even an electronics caveman can switch modes on the Rivale on the fly; Rain softens the bike’s power and its delivery, and automatically turns traction control to 8, its maximum setting.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to go on a Dainese-sponsored Alps tour, an often-times damp and even snowy one, and I vividly remember almost wearing both a Moto Morini and a Ducati Hypermotard as a hat on a couple of corner exits—completely sideways episodes which kept my sphincter on condition orangutan-red the whole time.
On the Rivale this time, after teasing out the MV’s traction control through a few wet corners, I learned to trust it completely. Once you’re ready to get back on the gas, you can just roll it on in the rain, and the bike does the rest with supreme smoothness. Fear turns to confidence, fright to fun—and in the end you learn just how much traction a Pirelli Diablo Rosso II has in the rain.
2014 MV Agusta Rivale rain action shotFour modes: Normal, Sport, Custom and Rain—and 8 levels of traction control—make it harder to hurt yourself.
I think that’s the definition of what technology is supposed to do for humans. It got to the point where I even figured out how to reduce TC from 8 to 4 (I couldn’t tell much difference, probably because the road was so slick). If you’re Jay Springsteen, fine, you don’t need TC, good for you. But most of us aren’t even Shayna Texter (who’s also better with a throttle than 99.9 percent of us).
Braking in slick conditions, you’re on your own on the Rivale; Engineer Gillen says there just wasn’t enough development time to get the Rivale’s ABS dialed in. Contrary to what I thought—that ABS is ABS, and the computer just compares front and rear wheel speeds—it’s way more complex than that. Each motorcycle’s ABS mapping is unique, and needs to be programmed to work with its cg, weight distribution, and a host of other factors. Even without ABS, the Rivale’s Brembos are easily capable of standing the bike on its nose, and with enough feel for tip-toeing around in the rain. Naturally, as an MV, all touch points are adjustable. Except the seat.
Gillen’s also very aware of MV’s rep for imprecise fueling, and feels confident the Rivale’s is the best MV has done since he came to the company in 2008. Consider what a complex thing it is to dial in each bike’s mapping: There are 32 different versions for each bike, to satisfy the demands of 32 distinct markets’ different legal requirements, fuels and what-have-you. Anybody who’s experiencing problems, he says, needs to visit MV’s website, where six full-time employees are busy refining maps for every ride-by-wire model MV produces. Right now, it’s a five-minute process to have your MV dealer upload the latest map (for free), and the day is not far off, according to Gillen, when you’ll be able to do it yourself via smartphone.
MV Agusta does the best job of making me feel like the prince I was switched with at birth back there in Alabama: The last MV thing I attended involved riding up the California coast with Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read, which was the moto weekend of a lifetime, including the prurient suggestions Phil offered my girlfriend at dinner. This French Riviera expedition has me almost convinced I really am a one-percenter. Even so, I think the Rivale is the first MV I’d really like to park in the shed, the first one I think the average Shmoe could really hop on every day and happily ride without that nagging feeling he spent too much money. The new 800 triple is a gem, that long-travel suspension and nice seat make it comfortable enough to actually go places on, its modern electronics are miraculous—and like (nearly) all MVs, the whole thing’s encrusted with jewel-like appendages and deep paint. Adrian Morton’s design will be questioned by some, but after hanging out with the thing in person, I think I’m with the crowd that voted the Rivale Most Beautiful Bike at EICMA 2012, when it was unveiled last November.
In 2010, MV produced three models; now it produces 14, with more on the way before year’s end. Selling the company back to the Italians (for $3.98) three years ago was the nicest thing Harley-Davidson’s done for sportbiking since it built the first Sportster. Why not send H-D CEO Keith Wandell a nice Christmas card?
SPECIFICATIONS
PRICE12,690 euros ($17,519 in late October)
ENGINEDOHC 798cc triple, 4 valves/cylinder
BORE x STROKE79.0mm x 54.3mm
COMPRESSION RATIO13.3:1
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER (AT CRANKSHAFT)125 hp at 12,000 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE63 pound-feet at 8,600 rpm
CLUTCHmulti-plate in oil bath
GEARBOXremovable six-speed, constant mesh
SEAT HEIGHT34.7 in.
TRAIL4.1 in.
WHEELBASE55.5 in.
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT392 lb.
FUEL TANK CAPACITY3.4 gal.
FRONT SUSPENSION43mm Marzocchi; adjustable for rebound damping,
compression damping and spring preload; 5.9 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSIONprogressive Sachs monoshock; adjustable for rebound damping, compression damping and spring preload; 5.1 in. travel
FRONT BRAKEdual floating 320mm discs; Brembo 4-piston calipers
REAR BRAKE220mm caliper; Brembo 2-piston caliper
WHEELSaluminum alloy 3.5 x 17 front, 5.5 x 17 rear
TIRESPirelli Diablo Rosso II, 120/70ZR-17 front, 180/55ZR-17 rear
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