This test-ride came in the middle of a series of non-Japanese rides. First there was the Royal Enfield, from India, and then came a couple of Italians – this MV Agusta and then the Aprilia Shiver. As this was the first MV Agusta I’d ridden, (and because they’re not exactly common), I’ll start with some background on the company. MV Agusta began as an off-shoot of the Agusta aviation company, founded by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923. The Count died in 1927 and his two sons, Domenico and Vincenzo, took over. After the war, they formed MV Agusta. “MV” stands for “Meccanica Verghera”. “Meccanica” means “mechanic” and “Verghera” was the small town where the first bikes were produced. They began making small-capacity café-racer style bikes through the 1950s and 1960s, then, with sales of small bikes declining, they started producing larger-displacement machines. Racing was a big part of the company’s operations, and they dominated Grand Prix racing, winning the 500 cc World Championship every year from 1958 until 1974. Some of the all-time great riders enjoyed success on MV Agustas, including John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, and the legendary Giacomo Agostini. When Domenico Agusta died in 1971, the company went into decline. They won their last Grand Prix in 1976, and by the end of the year they were out of racing. Their poor financial position forced them to seek help, which arrived in the form of public financing giant EFIM. They may have got their finances sorted out, but the new owners demanded they stop making motorbikes. (A bit of a win-lose situation that one!). The last bikes were produced in 1980. Cagiva purchased the MV Agusta name in 1991, and introduced the first new MV Agusta motorcycle in 1997. After that came a series of sell-offs to other owners, including at one stage, Proton, the Malaysian car company. In 2008 they were bought by Harley Davidson, but Harley sold the company the following year to Claudio Castiglioni. In 2014 Mercedes-AMG announced they had secured a 25% share in the company. At the time of writing (April 2016), there is news that the company is in financial trouble again, and faces an uncertain future. Word is that the range will be rationalised to try to become more efficient and increase sales. But let’s get to the subject of the test: the Brutale 1090.
IN THE DRIVEWAY
“Brutale” means “Brutal”. (You probably guessed that!). And just so that you say it correctly, the word is pronounced, “Broo-tarl-ay.” (Not “Broo-tarl” or “broo-tale”!). It’s the name MV have most commonly used for their naked bikes. And that’s what this is, of course – a high-performance naked. It comes in three versions: 675, 800 and 1090. I sat on the 675 and 800 first, but preferred the feel of the 1090. The smaller-capacity bikes felt a bit cramped for this lanky old bloke: the big-banger felt a more natural size and riding-position. I also preferred the more traditional look of the 1090. The smaller-engined bikes look more modern, especially with that sitting-in-the-middle-of-nowhere number-plate holder, but the 1090 I reckon is a better-looking bike. And it still has the trademark angular tank and other styling traits that confirm it being a bike from the famous Italian manufacturer. I think it looks great! You can get in white with red frame – as this one – or alterntaively, in all-black. I like this one! The riding-position feels very natural. It’s actually quite upright, befitting of the naked style. The foot-pegs are quite high; initially I thought uncomfortably so, but I didn’t have any problems on the ride. Probably not good if you have crook knees though. The seat is pretty firm; not hard, but firm. Personally, I’d like some more padding, but I have to say that I didn’t have any soreness by the end of the ride. The controls are easy enough to operate, although the switches you use most seemed lower than I expected: so I pressed the kill-switch instead of the starter, and the horn instead of the blinkers. Of course you’d soon get used to them if you owned the bike. Instruments comprised an analogue tacho and digital speedo, plus all the other info you get on these digital screens. There is a gear-indicator, which is always a useful item. You can also select different riding modes, of course. I was told that the 1090 runs an older-style ECU, compared to the 675 and 800. It gives just two modes – the standard one and “Sports”. The smaller-engined bikes have four modes and two levels of traction-control and adjustable ABS etc. Firstly, I should set the scene for the test ride. It was supposed to be a group ride but the group ended up consisting of a young sports-bike-riding salesman who had been itching to take a group out all day, (the owner of the shop had led previous rides), and a young guy who was considering trading his CBR 1000 on a Dragster 800R. Notice anything about this trio? Yeah, as I said to them before we left, “I'll be the old Grandad toddling along behind.” And I was. But it ended up being one of the most enjoyable test rides I’d done in a long time! The test route consisted of some heavy traffic through suburbia, a bit of open highway, a mountain highway, then some winding back-road through the bush and a narrow, winding back-road mountain pass. Then back to highway and city traffic to the dealer. It was a bit longer, and more challenging, than the previous test-rides had been. (They’d taken a shorter, easier route). The salesman (who was leading) was on the Brutale 675 and the potential customer on the Brutale 800: as it was basically the same bike he was considering buying, but without the fancier wheels, fancier styling and extra power. I was on the 1090. The scene was probably set very early, in traffic, when the leader – possibly embarrassed by a little scooter that went filtering past us up the left – was sitting at the front of the left lane at a set of lights. The lane was blocked on the other side of the intersection, but we lined up beside him, almost side by side, at the front and blasted away on the green. At the next set of lights, another Grand Prix start! I kept up with them (in fact I could’ve gone past the leader on acceleration!) until we got off the main roads and onto some sweeping turns – some of them blind – on the back road through the bush. They disappeared, but waited and gave me a smile and thumbs-up when I caught up. Down the narrow mountain pass, the two sporty young ‘uns were hammering; both wanting to see just how good their mount was, compared to their own sports-bikes. Not surprisingly, they were soon out of sight again. I'm always cautious on that sort of road, especially on a bike I'm not totally familiar with, plus my aversion to going downhill didn’t help. (Click here to read about that!). But they were waiting at the bottom and gave me a cheery smile and thumbs-up as I arrived. Then we rode back to the shop. It was a very enjoyable day; partly because of the bike (yes I'll get back to the bike in a minute!), but also because I felt no embarrassment at not keeping up. I knew, and they knew, that I wasn't going to keep up with their full-on race-pace, but they didn't mind, and neither did I. (And, importantly, they knew I didn't mind them going off ahead, so the salesman wasn’t really being a bad leader, as you might judge him to be from this). We were all having fun. Just how much fun they’d been having was revealed when excitedly chatting about their exploits when we got back. They’d really hammered down the mountain – harder than they would normally ride! They were both impressed with the bikes too; and their enjoyment was so infectious it just added to my enjoyment of the day. Now, back to the bike I was on. Initial impression as we crawled along in traffic was that it felt pretty fiery; but for a powerful bike in 1st gear it was actually pretty good – snappy but not really jerky. The Grand Prix starts at the traffic-lights showed that the bike had plenty of go without using anywhere near full throttle. (As I said, I could’ve won those and in fact had to back off at one point to stay behind the leader). The engine is superb! Despite the power lurking there just waiting to be unleashed, it is very tractable. Pulling away from under 2,000rpm in the lower gears was perfectly smooth. Only in the higher gears did it start to feel a bit harsh at those revs. At the other end of the rev range, well, I got it to about 7,000rpm and it was smooth all the way and keen for more. There’s no red-line on the tacho, so no indication as to how far you’re supposed to go (or not go!), which, given the available power and willingness to rev, is a bit of an over-sight I would think. There are some vibes – and they do blur the mirrors a bit – but they’re never unpleasant. There’s a nice crackly burble from the exhaust on the over-run, which is very enjoyable! As we climbed the mountain highway there was plenty of power in top gear for any speed – keeping it legal was the challenge! Top gear feels a bit under-geared perhaps, at about 26kph / 1,0000rpm. Although it is smooth at high revs, so that isn’t a limiting factor in any way. And it is a naked, not a sports-tourer. Along the empty back-road we were able to open the bikes up a bit. At 120kph it was cruising effortlessly. And it was smooth and perfectly stable. Even the wind didn’t seem too bad. The gear-change is very smooth. Clutch-less up-changes were totally smooth. I’m told there is a Quick-Change facility in the box, so you’d expect it to be smooth; and my usual momentary backing-off of the throttle wouldn’t have been necessary. The handling is great: as you’d expect from a bike like this. It feels light and very controllable. It’s very accurate and goes exactly where you point it. Gentle counter-steering is all that is needed to steer it where you want it to go: and it holds its line perfectly. There’s a feeling you can get of being “at-one” with a bike; where the bike feels like an extension of you, rather than a machine you are sitting on and steering. It’s a situation where, instead of making the bike go where you want it to go, it’s more like it’s a part of you and together you are one being that goes where you want to go. It’s hard to get that feeling with a big bike, or a heavy bike, and also if the bike is flighty or too quick in the steering. It’s also hard to get it on an unfamiliar bike, where you’re just out on a relatively short test-ride. But as I came down that mountain pass I started to get that feeling – that the bike was like an extension of my arms and legs and what I wanted to do. As such, I felt I could’ve ridden it much faster than I was: it was just old-bloke-caution and wanting to know I was well within my limits, that kept my speed down. The ride is good, especially for a bike with a sporty nature. There are some choppy sections on this route, but the bike handled them well. The suspension is firm, but it’s also reasonably compliant. Suspension at both ends has plenty of adjustment, so you could tweak it for an even better ride, if that is your preference. Brakes are very powerful. They bite hard even with light application, and pull the bike up from high speed effortlessly. ABS is standard. So, having enjoyed my test-ride, what did I think of the bike? Well, you know I was impressed. This is a great bike! At 20 grand it’s not cheap, but then, being a sporty Italian machine you know it’s not going to be. And you do a get a good bike for your money! SNAPSHOT The Brutale 1090 is a big sporty naked fun-machine from one of Italy’s most iconic manufacturers. Personally, I’d prefer a bit more padding on the seat, and the pegs set lower. But that’s just old-bloke stuff. It’s a great bike!
Engine: 4-cylinder, 1078cc. Power: 106kW at 10,300rpm. Torque: 112Nm at 8,100rpm.
Suspension: Front: Marzocchi 50mm up-side-down fork, 125mm travel. Rear: Sachs mono-shock, 120mm travel.
Fuel capacity: 23 litres.
Weight: 183kg (dry).
Seat height: 825mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17, Rear:190 X 17.
Brakes: Front: Twin 310mm discs with Brembo calipers, Rear: Single 210mm disc with Nissin caliper.
Price: $19,999 (+ORC).
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