First Ride: 2007 MV Agusta F4 1000 R

When it rains, it pours

Raindrops often lead to teardrops at racetrack press intros, especially when the bike is a high-dollar exotic such as the MV Agusta F4 1000 R and the venue is the notoriously slippery Autodromo di Santamonica in Misano, Italy. So when the world's bike press showed up there one drizzly morning this past May, we figured the event would be a wash, if you'll pardon the pun. Imagine our surprise, then, when we spied a row of shiny new MVs wearing Pirelli rain tires.

The rain fell lightly at first, but became so hard that when I pulled off my helmet at the end of my first session, I had to wring out my earplugs! When the MV staff informed us that testing would be curtailed until the rain subsided, I feared we were done for the day.

Except a glorious thing happened. The sun came out, the track dried and we got to ride again. That scenario seemed somehow fitting, as it resembled the repeated false starts that MV (and parent company Cagiva) has endured over the years. Every time the firm appeared to be going down for the count it found new funding, pulled itself up by its bootstraps and got on with the business of building world-class sportbikes.

Of which the F4 1000 R is the best one yet--and better still when you consider it grew out of the F4 750 S that debuted in 1999. Since then, engineer Andrea Goggi has worked untold magic with the engine, to the point that the F4-R pumps out a claimed 174 horsepower at 11,900 rpm and 82 pound-feet of torque at 10,000 rpm.

That increased top-end power was evident at Misano, where the MV positively inhaled the short front straightaway. Throttle response is a tad abrupt down around 4000 rpm (which some limp-wrists attributed to a too-stiff throttle-return spring), but power delivery is smooth from that point on, and clutchless upshifts are slick. Downshifts are aided by the clever Engine Brake System, which employs an air solenoid in the number-two cylinder's intake tract to let that cylinder continue to fire when the throttle is closed, creating just enough positive torque to counteract the negative torque of the spinning rear wheel and chain, explained Goggi.

As good as the engine is, however, it's the chassis that steals the show. In this Age of Aluminum, the MV employs an old-fashioned steel trellis (albeit with a single-sided aluminum swingarm), which offers incomparable feedback. And it's even better now, thanks to the new Marzocchi 50mm RAC (Road Advanced Component) fork and radial-mount Brembo Monoblock four-piston brakes. Owing to cost concerns, the proprietary Nissin master cylinder remains, and the calipers are off-the-shelf items, to the dismay of designer Massimo Tamburini.

The rear end felt a little soft while putting power to the stock 190/55-17 Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro tire (mounted on a new, 6-inch-wide Brembo forged-aluminum Y-spoke wheel), which contributed to some slight headshake in spite of the hlins steering damper. But considering the Sachs shock is adjustable for both high- and low-speed compression (there's a hydraulic preload adjuster, too), it could probably be dialed in with more time. On a personal note, my right boot didn't hit the rear tire for once, thanks to the passenger-peg bracket on the biposto 1+1 models we rode.

MVs have always been collector bikes, and that's not likely to change. With no-excuses superbikes such as the F4 1000 R, however, don't be surprised to see a lot fewer of them in living rooms and a lot more of them out on the road.

2007 MV AGUSTA F4 1000 R

MSRP: $22,995

Type: l-c inline-four
Valves: DOHC, 16 radial valves
Displacement: 998cc
Transmission: 6-speed

Weight: 426 lb., claimed dry (193kg)
Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal. (21L)
Wheelbase: 55.4 in. (1408mm)
Seat height: 31.9 in. (810mm)