Like a ball of steel fired out of an 18th-century artillery weapon, the MV Agusta Brutale Cannonball shrieks to 150 mph down the backstretch of Monticello Motor Club's South course-in fourth gear.
A ton-and-a-half didn't seem too impressive until I realized this is nearly 20 mph faster than MV claims for the identically geared, standard-issue 1090RR at the top of fourth-and just one click from the stocker's top speed in fifth. So, this is how six grand worth of hot-rodding transforms a not-so-pedestrian, $18,000 open-classer into a true naked superbike!
With more than 15,400 examples sold globally, Signore Brutale has always been much more than a Monster. When this unruly, unclothed offspring of MV's riveting F4 arrived in the U.S. as a 750, it quickly grew to supermodel stardom. It came in a revamped 910cc form in 2006, and then grew to 1078cc a couple years later.
MV Agusta's website lists 18 carbon-fiber bits, 25 in aluminum, four "racing accessories,"
During Harley-Davidson's short ownership tenure, the Brutale benefitted from the F4's first major redesign, but it doesn't share the exact motor architecture. With 85 percent new parts, both models now offer softer and more refined riding experiences. The kinder, gentler Brutale comes in 998cc (990R) and bigger-bore, 1078cc (1090RR) iterations.
As exclusive and expensive as MV Agusta's base models are, they've always been complemented by limited-edition specials with fancy names. Taking a page from Harley's playbook, the Varese, Italy-based company turned the tables for 2010, giving customers the ability to special-order the bike of their dreams from an extensive collection of more than 50 accessories. The most intriguing option is the $5880 Cannonball Engine Kit, which includes the new F4's radial-valve cylinder head, different intake and exhaust cams, a remapped ECU, STM slipper clutch and an ultra-lightweight titanium race pipe that undercuts the bike's standard system by 14 lbs. Purchased individually, all of these pieces would cost a staggering $9234. Count on about 10 hours of highly skilled labor to turn a regular 1090RR into a fire-breathing Cannonball.
In addition to the Cannonball engine kit, our testbike was loaded with a plethora of Corse
Bereft of catalytic converter and sound-deadening technology, this exquisite exhaust keeps the Brutale Cannonball from being homologated for street use. At the same time, its fat head pipes and free-flowing muffler unleash the fury. MV Agusta claims these bolt-ons produce a 35-horsepower bump over the 130-bhp stocker. After more than an hour in the saddle, my seat-of-the-pants dyno backs up that claim.
Acclimating to the upright, wide-barred/high-pegged riding position took a few laps, but I was soon up to speed and relishing the searing exhaust note. If there was a fly in this intoxicating elixir of thrust and noise, it's the motor's hesitation to accelerate cleanly below 6000 rpm. But once past that point it revs smoothly all the way to its 13,000-rpm redline.
The F4's radial valve cylinder head breathes better and has improved combustion efficiency
Corner entry was aided by the excellent STM slipper clutch, powerful brakes and neutral, low-effort steering. On the flip side, the bike never felt planted. It drifted wide in corners and felt vague just about everywhere. Despite several tuning attempts, the chassis was never dialed-in enough to push the bike as hard as it deserves.
In spite of its dazzling accessory list and solid spec sheet, my second track foray went about the same as the first: funky low-speed fueling leading to butt-kicking acceleration. The suspension continued to let the bike wallow and squirm around the track. A late-session rear ride-height adjustment settled the front end a bit and helped the bike finish corners, but was more of a Band-Aid than a fix. Whether it was botched traction-control settings, fuel-map issues or a noticeable lack of the F4's heavier crank, the Cannonball struggled until taking off with a heart o' fire.
Long before this two-wheeled weapon was dreamed up, the shot-out-of-a-cannon sensations doled out by 160-horsepower superbikes is what made them so exhilarating. The Cannonball kit catapults this special Brutale to this next level of engine performance with style and sophistication befitting the MV Agusta logos on its flanks. With a bit more time and fine-tuning, this flawed beast surely will sing an even sweeter tune.