Italians are known for their passion for design, style and flair. The home of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati also produces the world’s most beautiful motorcycles – the MV Agusta. And, despite the turbulent times of the last decade, the leading Italian motorcycle brands have shown resilience. LANCE ROTHSCHILD tested the bare brutal beauty of the Brutale 920.
At the end of 2011, Cayenne Kyalami Motorcycles announced their appointment as the South African official importer of MV Agusta, and the dealership has made a concerted commitment to the brand with an exclusive MV Agusta store-within-a-store.
“Our aim is to make MV Agusta more accessible to motorcycling enthusiasts,” says Craig Langton, dealer principal at Cayenne Kyalami. “I believe there is a demand for MV Agusta motorcycles in South Africa and we’ll supply these iconic machines at a market-competitive price.” Langton has ensured demo bikes in stock that’s how I came to spend time with one of the newbies to the MV Agusta range – the Brutale 920.
The MV Agusta Brutale 920 heralds the expansion of the model line-up. Powered by a 921cc engine, the new Brutale is an aesthetically pleasing naked bike with design details that please even the most fastidious critic. I confess I always thought naked bikes were somewhat, well, naked and unfinished without fairings – until I took one around the very tight Zwartkops circuit last year. That was my epiphany about naked. With a more upright seating position and a shorter wheel-base than “clothed” superbikes, a naked bike seems to bring out the hooligan in one and entice one to misbehave.
Photo: The new Brutale is an aesthetically pleasing.
With its styling and heritage, the Brutale has a commanding presence. It has a new engine, new chassis settings, stylish double exhaust tail pipes coming out of the side and a comfortable one-piece seat design. With aggressive styling and poise of the bike, its raw performance is easily managed and surprisingly easy to ride.
The Brutale 920 has a technologically advanced 4-cylinder engine with radial intake and exhaust valves coupled with the same advanced engine control unit as the larger Brutale 1090RR. This is accommodated within one of the most evolved chassis and is ideal for an awesome riding experience. MV Augusta wanted to build the most compact and light-weight naked bike, couple it with a superbike chassis and complement it with dynamic engine performance that would satisfy even the most demanding motorcyclist.
Among the key characteristics are:
From the design perspective the attention to detail on the bike is marvellous. The tubular steel frame is immaculate, as are the adonised handlebars with a pivoting clamp for additional security and rigidity, the single-sided swing-arm and the unique wheels. Subtle, yet stylish incorporation of the manufacturer’s logo into various design elements and the embossing of the logo on the seat, were an endorsement of the pride MV Agusta has in building and selling such a bike. It looks fantastic in both black and white.
I took the Brutale 920 by trailer to the new Red Star Raceway for a track day. On arrival in the pits at the track, I fired up the motor for the first time and I was rewarded with the most beautiful sound.
MV Agusta’s engineers say, “The 921cc engine displacement provides the perfect balance between power and driveability. The new displacement of the legendary 4-cylinder engine is obtained with a new bore and stroke ratio with a focus on optimising the power curve of the Brutale to be even more manageable while at the same time offering class-leading power”.
As I headed out onto the track for the first time, the engine provided plenty of torque from low down in the rev range all the way to the top of the rev counter which is about 16,000rpm. Somehow MV Agusta’s engineers have married 130 horse-power to a very broad torque curve so the engine is tractable throughout the rev range. This results in a bike that is quite intuitive to ride, and one which will be easy for a relatively inexperienced rider to rapidly gain confidence on. The wet, multi-disc clutch worked perfectly and feedback from the clutch is consistent.
The chassis consists of a frame that is a mixture of a steel trellis structure and lateral aluminium plates that have been the trademark of MV Agusta. The Brutale has a 1,430mm wheelbase and a 25deg steering head angle with 103.5mm of trail, giving it optimum balance of agility and stability. Up front there are 50mm upside-down Marzocchi forks and the rear has a Sachs mono shock. Both front and rear suspension can be set to the rider’s requirements, and for pillion comfort as and when required.
The standard tyres on the bike are Pirelli Angel and these give excellent grip and immediate feedback from the road surface. The brakes are exceptional, particularly the front brakes, which operated consistently well. At no time was there any brake fade and the confidence they inspired enabled late braking into turns and still gave lots of time to position the bike where I wanted it.
The Brutale is not excessively tall, which is ideal for a broader range of riders. The seating position is comfortable and even with some aggressive riding, my wrists were not sore or tired. I was able to ride for quite some time without feeling fatigued. I found the drive to be smooth and the bike has something of a dual personality, behaving like a meek little kitten low down in the rev range and then transforming to a howling beast when you get above 8,000rpm.
The display on the bike was easy to read and as much as I personally prefer a rotary-type analogue rev-counter, I found the digital counter to be adequate. The digital speedometer gives accurate and clear information and the gear position indicator is really handy, particularly as the bike has such a useful power band that you can be trundling along in quite low revs in sixth gear and still be looking to change up.
From an electronics perspective, the Brutale has two throttle/engine maps – one for sport mode and one for everyday traffic. It also has an eight-stage traction control system. Traction control on motorbikes is becoming commonplace, but it makes a lot of sense in that you can ride in a similar style irrespective of changing conditions and merely tweak your traction control settings.
So, where does the Brutale 920 fit into the market? This is a great bike for everyday commuting and the longer weekend breakfast run. Being a naked bike, you have little protection from the wind and this can be somewhat tiring on a long journey. The handling, sitting position, visibility in the mirrors and the sheer “flickability” of the Brutale all add up to a really great bike for commuting. In addition, the Brutale is narrow making it easy to filter through traffic.
In the short time I spent with the Brutale, I experienced its handling on the race track, its highway riding ability and its pillion capabilities. The pillion seating position is far less exposed that on most superbikes and there is a connectedness between rider and pillion. The bike accommodated my weight with ease and the additional weight of the pillion made scant difference to the handling and “rideability” of the bike. Both my pillion passengers enjoyed the ride and commented on how good the bike sounds and how quick it was. In the relatively short time I had the Brutale 920, I didn’t get to extend it to the claimed top speed of 265km/h, but I know this bike is capable of such speeds, even though, being naked, it won’t be the most comfortable.
At an introductory price of R124,900, the Brutale 920 gives excellent price/performance ratio. Would I like to own one? Hell, yes. DM
Specifications: MV Agusta Brutale 920
Max Speed: 265km/h
MV Agusta began as an aviation company way back in 1907. Count Giovanni Agusta produced aircraft and his company prospered through the production of Agusta aircraft during World War I.
When Count Augusta died in 1927, his business passed into the hands of his widow and son, who rapidly found themselves having to deal with a crisis in the aeronautics sector. Staring business disaster in the face, their only option was to diversify from aviation and they decided to convert the focus of the business to motorcycle manufacture to meet the growing demand for motorised individual mobility in Italy.
German occupation during World War II brought a halt to their production and development. However, at the end of the war, Domenico Agusta, Count Giovanni’s son, established Meccanica Verghera, a company he positioned as fully prepared to meet the challenges of the motorcycle market.
Photo: The MV Agusta Brutale 920.
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine