MV Agusta Brutale 1090R vs. Triumph Speed Triple R | Jailbait

MC Comparison

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

Like the MV, the Speed Triple R is its own machine, and the most thuggish bike in Triumph’s lineup. The Speed Triple has earned numerous accolades, including two Best Naked Bike awards (2011 and 2012) in our annual Motorcycle of The Year balloting. For 2011 Triumph updated the Speed Triple with a new frame, swingarm, and wheels, and also altered the ergonomics considerably. And added those polarizing headlights.

The engine’s peripheral systems were likewise massaged to improve performance. The base model Speed Triple is a stud; the latest R model, which debuted in 2012 with standard ABS, is simply outstanding. Triumph’s “R” packages rival those of Ducati, and like the Daytona 675R, the Speed Triple R receives Öhlins suspension front and rear, Brembo brakes, lightweight forged aluminum hoops and plenty of carbon fiber trim pieces. Besides some redesigned transmission components, the Triumph’s engine is as it was. Strapped to our dyno, the big triple churned out a respectable 119.8 bhp at 9200 rpm and 73.7 lb.-ft. at 7800 rpm. Nearly 90 percent of that torque is available at just 2500 rpm, making the Triumph quick off the line and eager to loft the front wheel.

If the Triumph is partial to wheelies, then the Brutale is properly obsessed. That’s due mostly to short final gearing. First gear is a liability to your license, so it’s best to shift to—or even start out in—second. Even in Rain mode the Brutale power wheelies, and we left the TC system off most of the time since it doesn’t really help on dry pavement; the Brutale doesn’t spin the rear Pirelli, it lifts the front instead!

The Brutale is surprisingly compact considering its XL-sized engine. The bars are fairly narrow and sit close to the upper triple clamp, while the footpegs are close together and set back. The 6-gallon fuel tank is massive, but its tiny waist leaves barely any bike between your knees. Besides a hard, slanted seat, the Brutale is comfortable, though it does throw off some heat in traffic. The Triumph has fewer cylinders, but feels wider at the waist and has a more spacious cockpit. The bars are a tiny bit lower, flatter and several inches wider. There’s more padding on the seat and more space between your knees, though legroom is somehow lacking. The footpegs are unnecessarily high, but at least they’re knurled, unlike the MV’s slick cast aluminum pieces.

Both bikes feel familiar within a few turns, and offer the erect riding position and quick, balanced steering that make a rider feel connected and in control. As with all Triumph triples, the Speed Triple R sounds stellar. There’s that raspy growl from the intake, a high-pitch whine from the primary gear, and a deep, full exhaust note. The Brutale emits a lot of intake noise and has good tone from the slash-cut cans, but the sound isn’t as stirring as the Triumph’s song.

Around town the Triumph is comfortable and composed. The clutch action is smooth, throttle response is exact, and that big triple has enough torque to pull away from stops on a mere whiff of throttle. Rolling the stick back reminds you that there are a trio of 3-inch pistons reciprocating down there, churning up mild vibrations as the revs rise. Still, the wide-set mirrors remain clear and the internal bar ends do their job to quell perceived vibes. The engine runs cool, so there’s no heat warming your feet like on the Brutale.

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