2014 MV AGUSTA RIVALE 800 | FIRST RIDE

Unrivaled!

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Milagro
They say: "Beyond exclusive."
We say: "Beyond most buyers' budgets, too."

MV Agusta is not content to be a bit player in the motorcycle market. The past four years have seen the Italian manufacturer's lineup expand from three to 11 models, and 2014 will see even more, with two new families. The Turismo Veloce sport-tourer is scheduled to be unveiled at the Milan Show next week, while the Rivale (drop the "e" for the English translation) supermoto that debuted there in prototype form in 2012 has now entered production.

According to new company president Giovani Castiglioni—named, like parent company Cagiva, after his grandfather (CAstiglionio, GIovani di VArese)—MV Agusta has increased production and market share in a time when most of the motorcycle industry is down. In fact, MV has sold more units than Aprilia recently, making it the fourth-largest European manufacturer behind BMW, Ducati, Triumph, and KTM.

The Rivale was originally envisioned as an evolution of the F3 and Brutale 800, but R&D revealed that more drastic measures were required. With the supermoto's longer-travel suspension and more upright seating position, the rider had to be positioned farther forward to keep weight on the front end, necessitating a reshaped airbox. In fact, this is the first MV with a static rearward weight bias.

Of course there's all-new bodywork, as well. And while there's no denying the styling is derivative of the Ducati Hypermotard (it even has folding mirrors), it's every inch an MV. The biggest departure is at the front end: Rather than the de rigueur supermoto/adventure bike "beak," the Rivale is equipped with a low-mounted front fender which complements the pointy bikini fairing and shrouds. The F3's signature triple mufflers remain, but the exhaust collector is new and hidden behind a stainless steel belly pan. This—like the swingarm-mounted rear mud guard with its license plate bracket and turnsignals—looks a bit "tacked on," but does hide (and protect) the unsightly oil filter and cooler plumbing.

To introduce the Rivale, MV invited the world's motorcycling press to the south of France. Our first ride day was a wash, but it gave me a rare opportunity to test the bike in the wet. With the MVICS (Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System) set in Rain mode, the traction control automatically dials itself up to 8—the maximum setting. And while I never truly felt the TC working, I never felt the rear tire spinning, either. What I did feel was the front Pirelli sliding on the wet pavement under braking. Clearly, the chassis has exceptional feedback. That's an important point, because the Rivale is equipped with every electronic aid imaginable except anti-lock brakes. Reportedly ABS will be available in the near future.

The MV folks re-booked our flights overnight, so we were able to test the bike the following day on damp-but-drying roads. Our 90-mile route took us high into the Maritime Alps above Nice, with turns ranging from first-gear switchbacks to fourth-gear sweepers. And the Rivale reveled in it!

The dirtbike-style seating position is perfect for this application, and reminiscent of a Yamaha YZ450F motocrosser—not just because of the width of its tank, but also because you sit so far forward, you can hear the air intakes. Handling is crisp and for the most part neutral; the Brembo brakes proved strong and precise; and the Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock provided a well-damped ride on the mostly smooth roads.

My only real complaint has to do with the stock fork settings. More spring preload (if not stiffer springs) is needed to keep the chassis from pitching forward under braking and hindering corner entries. Increasing compression via the fork-top clicker (on one leg; the other controls rebound) helped but didn't resolve the issue.

Journalists who have ridden the F3 and Brutale 800s have been critical of the fuel-injection mapping, but that's much improved on the Rivale. While the long-stroke (relative to the 675 on which it's based) 798cc triple still doesn't spin up quickly, it produces impressive torque, with more than 50 pound-feet on tap from 7,000-12,000 rpm. With the engine map set in Normal mode, one can surf the waves of torque, while in Sport mode response from the ride-by-wire throttle is significantly livelier. I didn't have enough time to fool around with the adjustable rev limiter and engine braking, but I did mess with the traction control and settled on the number 2 setting, which gave impressive acceleration while still providing a safety net.

Supermotos started off as single-cylinder dirtbikes with street wheels, tires and brakes. It was a natural evolution to add a second cylinder, as Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, and KTM have done. And now MV Agusta has raised the bar even higher with a triple. The Rivale 800 is truly an impressive machine, but one has to wonder: Will we see a four-cylinder version in the future?

Tech SPEC

Price $NA
Engine type l-c inline-triple
Valve train DOHC, 12v
Displacement 798cc
Bore x stroke 79.0 X 54.3mm
Compression 13.3:1
Fuel system EFI, ride by wire
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Claimed horsepower 125.0 bhp @ 12,000 rpm
Claimed torque 62.0 lb.-ft. @ 8600 rpm
Frame Tubular-steel and cast-aluminum trellis
Front suspension Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rake/trail 25.0˚/4.1 in.
Seat height 34.7 in.
Wheelbase 55.5 in.
Fuel capacity 3.4 gal.
Claimed curb weight 392 lbs.
Color Red/silver, Matte Metallic Gray, Metallic Black
Available TBD
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact mvagustausa.com

VERDICT (4 of 5 stars)
Not so much a supermoto as a supermoto-styled roadster.
By Brian Catterson
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