2014 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster – Review

I just picked up an MV Agusta dragster today! Spent all day riding it and went through a tank of gas. Mostly urban riding, but did a bit of highway too. For some time I’ve been meaning to branch out from cars into bike reviews and what better way than with my new MV Agusta!

I come from a long history of pure sportbikes and this is my first naked/streetfighter. Prior to this, I had the ’08 1000RR, the ’07 CBR 600RR, the ’06 Yamaha R6, the VFR800. So one sportbike after another, and always Japanese made.

Here are my quick impressions. Expect a full video review to come on our youtube channel.

Ergonomics: for my 5’7/133lb frame, simply superb. The reach and the sweep-back of the bars, their relationship to the seat and the foot pegs are all absolutely spot on for me. Perfect rider triangle. My usual complaint with non-sportbikes is that bars are too high. This Dragster keeps them low and also gives you bars that are WIDE, which combined with the forward riding position provides the rider with enormous leverage over the front end. At low speeds it is effortless like a mountain bicycle. Also, there is a sense that the centre of gravity is very low, much lower than a 600 supersport, which adds to this feeling of effortlessness and lightness over the front end. Such a refreshing change from the top-heavy, narrow-handlebar feel of a modern sportbike. Ergonomically, it feels much better than the regular Brutale 800.*

Chassis: Given my weight, the default suspension set up is not quite right. It feels like it needs someone heavier to compress the suspension and get it working. However, in spite of this, what I’ve felt so far was quite impressive. The chassis is exceedingly nimble, very adjustable and happy to lean. For me, having the right ergonomics on a bike goes a long way towards making a chassis feel right and the perfect ergos on the Dragster definitely helps to make it turn. However, the front end does feel a tad light at higher speeds and does not button itself down the way sportbikes do. I need more time in the saddle to fully comment but suffice to say, I am happy with what I feel so far.

Motor/Driveline: The triple is a new experience for me. It doesn’t have the turbine-like refinement and polish of a Honda-4, nor does it have the brawly, ragged thump-thumpiness of a Ducati Twin. It’s kind of it’s own animal, but leans more towards the raw and unfiltered end of the spectrum. I do enjoy the power delivery though. Very torquey and effortless even at low revs. Haven’t really got a chance to see how it feels at the upper registers of the tachometer travel. The quick shifter is a revelation. This is my first bike with a quick shift, and it reminded me of the Porsche PDK transmissions I experienced on the 911 and Caymans which I reviewed. Shifts are a mechanical snap with no interruption to power delivery. Wow.

Refinement: It cannot match a Honda 600 or 1000 sportbike for chassis or driveline refinement. However, it is more raw, more feelsome and more alive. It’s the age old balance of rawness versus isolation. Do you want a refined machine that feels like an appliance, or do you want a mechanical firecracker which feels a bit crude? This bike leans closer to the firecracker.

Looks/Details/Fit and Finish: The Dragster’s looks are stunning. Its appearance in the metal is everything I expected from the press photos and more. The short tail, the sexy Diavel-style rear fender with bright LED signals, the handlebar mirrors (which are unexpectedly functional), the wide and low bars, and the wide tank. Combined, these elements give the feeling of compact, muscular aggression. Kind of like a Bumblebee from the Transformers or a grey mechanical pit bull. The Dragster oozes with virility; its styling a mixture of potency and tension. Fit and finish are very decent but not quite at modern Honda/Yamaha levels of surgical precision. I’m happy with it. It’s an exotic, not a Honda/Yamaha.

Summary/Value for Money: No buyer’s remorse just yet, but given its exclusivity (mine is the first in BC and only one of 6 in Canada right now) jumping on this bike seemed to be the only option. My other consideration was the Panigale 899 but I see those bikes almost daily (in their various displacement and trims). The Dragster comes with superb ergonomics, great handling and a raw, satisfying triple engine. Add to this beautiful — no, sensational — looks and a brilliant quick shifter and I think this is a bike I see myself keeping around for some time.

*The Dragster feels quite different ergonomically from the Brutale 800 on which it’s based. Different seat, different bars which combined produce a very different riding feel. Sit on them back-to-back and the differences are obvious. Visually, I find the Dragster far better resolved as a design.

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