First Ride Review
MV Agusta will enter the touring segment for the first time for 2015, with two new three-cylinder models quite unlike anything else ever produced by Italy’s most historic two-wheeled manufacturer—the fully faired Turismo Veloce 800 slated to begin production in April as MV’s entry in the high-mileage touring market, and the Stradale 800 sport tourer, which should be available in U.S. dealerships in spring/summer 2015 (MSRP $14,598). Sampling the Stradale on a 140-mile ride on Spain’s southern Costa del Sol revealed the everyday practicality combined with sporting allure and performance pretensions that the new MV Agusta brings to the marketplace.
The fact that the Stradale is nicknamed lo scooterone—the maxi-scooter—in-house at MV gives some idea as to its target audience, for this stripped-down, high-barred roadster with a vestigial screen and soft luggage as standard is MV’s entry into the commuter sector, as well as a weekend tourer with the necessary credentials to hold its own on a Sunday morning scoot along Racer Road. MV Agusta owner Giovanni Castiglioni characterizes it as a model aimed at Urban Escape. “It’s a bike you can ride to a downtown business meeting knowing that you won’t get stuck in traffic and arrive late, as you risk doing if you go by car, which gives you fun getting there, and makes you look cool when you arrive,” he says. “Then after the meeting you can leave town quicker than on anything else with wheels, especially in the evening rush hour. If you live in a city you can also use it for escaping on weekends with a friend on the back, without getting held up in traffic returning home on Sunday night—after having a great riding experience in between, with room for overnight necessities in the luggage bags.”
The Stradale has a new stretched chassis with more conservative steering geometry than other MVs, plus a longer swingarm resulting in a rangier 57.5-inch wheelbase, which gives extra space for the passenger seat. Coupled with an upright riding stance, with a relatively wide one-piece handlebar bolted to tall, 3.1-inch risers attached to the upper triple clamp, the result is a practically unique motorcycle quite unlike any other MV Agusta ever made. MV’s British designer, Adrian Morton, has produced a practical everyday ride that looks both distinctive and ultra-modern, yet classy.
The Stradale’s riding stance is close-coupled and compact, though the footrests are quite low and slightly set back, which restores some sense of spaciousness. You do feel relatively wedged in place, though this is not an MV Agusta model on which to deck a knee, or hang off the side on. You feel to be sitting quite far forward, with your chin waving over the top of the vestigial adjustable screen. This does, however, do a surprisingly good job of protecting you from windblast at speed, especially as you can adjust it for height and angle with just one hand, even on the move. It’s functional as well as good-looking.
But the Stradale’s unusual riding position is improbably relaxing, and the well-padded seat pretty comfy. The tall stance does deliver a good view over cars in front of you, however, making it easier to plot a course in traffic, but the lack of any electric 12v socket to plug in a GPS navigation unit is a major oversight on a purported tourer. That means there’s no socket to charge a phone on the go, either.
The Stradale retains essentially the same three-cylinder 798cc engine fitted to all MV middleweights, save for its hydraulic clutch claimed to give greater precision than the cable-operated one on other MV triples. But the engine has quite different mapping more aimed towards ease of use rather than solely performance and outright power.
There are three basic engine maps on the Stradale which you can easily swap between via an accessible switch on the right handlebar – you can do so on the move just by closing the throttle—plus a fourth Custom map that allows you to dial in whatever parameters you opt for on the extensive electronics menu, with your selection retained when the ignition is switched off. The three factory maps each result in quite distinct riding experiences, with the Normal and Rain modes each producing a maximum 90 horspower (claimed) and different levels of power delivery to the rear dual-compound Pirelli Diablo Rosso II. Switching to the Sport map offers access to the full 115 horsepower said to be produced at 11,000 rpm, but even in this mode there’s a mile-wide, ultra-flat torque curve, which allows you to hold a gear for mile after mile along a twisty stretch of road. You can let the revs drop as low as 2,000 rpm in a tight turn, before accelerating wide open with zero transmission snatch all the way to the 11,000-rpm mark, where you can feel the performance subtly peak. Yes, it’s a sporty scooterone…4,000 rpm to 9,000 rpm is the Stradale’s happy zone where it likes to operate, so to keep it there you make full use of the great leap forward for mankind found on this motorcycle, namely the wide-open powershifter and clutchless auto-blipper both included as standard on the new MV Agusta for the first time ever in the middleweight sector.
Brought to MV’s customers straight off the racetrack, same as the now relatively commonplace wide open powershifter, the MV Stradale’s autoblipper downshifter system means you need never use the clutch lever again after setting off from rest, until you come to a halt once again. At the next turn just squeeze hard on the brakes to scrub speed, remember NOT to touch the clutch lever, but just grasp the handlebar grip with your left hand as you stab the gear lever back a ratio or two with your left foot, enthuse as the auto-blipper takes effect with a momentary musical rise in revs as registered via the exhaust, and just focus on trail braking into the turn and lining up your apex without having to worry about fingering the clutch lever nor, of course, blipping the throttle. Best of all on the MV, the downshifter is so perfectly dialed in that you can repeatedly shift back and forth clutchlessly on a twisting road, and avoid touching the brakes, just using your faith in the front Pirelli coupled with the flawless mapping of the autoblipper and adequate setup of the powershifter, to play music on those pipes of Pan constituting the MV’s triple exhausts, and keep up the high degree of momentum that this new riding technique offers.
The MV Agusta Stradale 800 is a chic-looking all-rounder—a twist ‘n’ go scooterone in commuter mode, and as such a great traffic tool, but with reserves of performance for the longer haul, coupled with pretty effective handling that’ll make it a super-satisfying Sunday morning ride. As Brian Gillen, MV’s American head of product development, says, this is the motorcycle equivalent of the Swiss Army knife—whatever you want or need to do, the Stradale will be able to do it for you—and with you.