Let's Get It On

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

No punches pulled, it's the stuff of which classic fights are made. In one corner we have the thoroughbred champion, a machine many regard as the finest road-going sport bike in the world today. Its clean, svelte bodywork transmits a menacing sense of purpose and a stylistic beauty that leaves jaws askew and chins lying on the pavement. Across the ring, a lean, mean street-fighting machine awaits with no fancy robe hiding its sinewy lines and the obvious air of brutality assuring everyone involved that all comers - win, lose, or draw - will receive a thrashing. Go ahead and hum the theme from Rocky because these two Italian stallions are ready to rumble.

The two machines in question, MV Agusta's F4-1000 S and Brutale S, are the brainchildren of legendary designer Massimo Tamburini. In case that name doesn't ring a bell, think Bimota and Ducati's 916 among others. Needless to say, Signore Tamburini knows his way around a drafting table and the spirit coursing through the mechanical veins of these machines certainly pays homage to his vision of what proper motorcycles should be. Both have their own distinct beauty, are light in weight, nimble, and they have ample reserves of power put flawlessly to the tarmac. Sure, many of the design concepts may be shared, but the personalities of these two moto-cousins couldn't be further apart.
Initially, the tale of the tape seems to indicate that the impending brawl could be a mismatch. The sensual yet racy curves of the bodywork shrouding the F4-1000 S hide a 998cc inline-four that pounds out a claimed 167hp, allegedly pushing the machine to 187mph. This all comes in a package tipping the scales at a respectably light 423lbs dry. The Brutale, on the other hand, enters the ring looking ready to fight. There is no fancy bodywork to be had - the body's works do all the talking here. Despite a smaller inline-four of the 750cc variety, making 125hp, the Brutale attempts to narrow the performance gap with a 408lb dry weight and a ton of attitude.

Though the F4-1000 S does appear invincible, keep in mind its wiry opponent's moniker. Something tells me an epic battle is shaping up in the hills and hollows of northeastern Pennsylvania. Buckle up the boots and pull the helmet straps a bit tighter. Mills Lane is nowhere to be found, and these two tasty Italians are ready to spar for supremacy.

Punching Power
Perhaps the most important weapon a fighter has is strength. The best-thrown punch in the world will only be marginally effective if there's no force behind it. Obviously Signore Tamburini and his team of engineers spent plenty of time on the engineering heavy bag, because these machines are both graced with very impressive power plants. Just hearing the F4-1000 S fire off for the first time is an experience like no other. The DOHC, radial valve, four hits the ears with character and a "wow" factor that few other engines possess. Blipping the throttle rewards with a raspy BRAP that leaps threateningly from the four separate exhaust pipes exiting from beneath the seat. A few miles on the road is all the evidence needed to prove that this motor is for real. Punching the throttle at any speed results in power and sound delivery that hits like a Sugar Ray Leonard jab and progresses to something similar to the climactic scene in The Exorcist. The beauty of it is all this crazy power is usable; albeit, a measured wrist is necessary to keep the rear wheel from breaking loose. Going into corners is another interesting round in the bout thanks to the F4's race-inspired EBS (Engine Braking System). This innovative set up works with the intake system via a valve positioned on the number two cylinder. Which allows torque to be distributed through an electronic control system when the throttle bodies are closed, resulting in a considerable reduction in the effects of engine braking. Though a bit surprising at first, it quickly becomes obvious that this feature can be quite handy in carrying higher corner speeds.

The transmission on the F4 is another item that has its roots in racing. The slick-shifting six speed, a removable cassette-style gearbox, can be traced back to the Cagiva GP racing machines. The gearbox, like the motor, performed flawlessly.

While the smaller 750 gracing the Brutale does lack the one-punch knockout power of its larger cousin, it's certainly no slouch in the performance arena. The power of the Brutale is actually tranquillo below 5000rpm. This scrappy street fighter seems content to lure its opponents into a false sense of security in the early going, but once the tach needle jumps toward 6000, the fists start flying in barrages. The ride turns into a good old-fashioned Pier Six brawl as the cool four-into-two, high-mount exhaust system emits an rpm howl that would do any hooligan proud. MV Agusta claims that the Brutale's Evolution engine has been tuned to obtain more torque while still maintaining benchmark levels of maximum power. Whatever they've done, it works. The relatively serene nature of the engine, combined with a seamless transmission, allows for both hassle-free riding around the neighborhood and riotous romps across the mountains. Once out of town, just keep this baby up on the pipe, and you'll be throwing blows with the best of them and sound great doing it.

While the Brutale is capable of landing some very effective punches, in the end it was simply overpowered: F4-1000 S (1) Brutale S (0)
Footwork

Considering that the F4-1000 S and the Brutale share essentially the same chassis, this aspect of the battle should be interesting. An extremely rigid, compact frame composed of TIG-welded, chromoly steel tubes supports both bikes. When sizing up these combatants, you can't help noticing the stout and beautiful, single-sided swingarm. A transversely mounted Ohlins steering damper graces each model as well. Suspension components are, of course, first rate, and the machines boast large 50mm Marzocchi forks and fully adjustable Sachs competition shocks in the rear.

These sluggers are also quite capable of pulling their punches. Front binders on both are Nissen F4 6 piston calipers bearing down on 310mm discs. The rear stoppers are also Nissen F4 units with 4 pistons working on a 210mm disc. Needless to say, the DNA runs deep, so how well do they stand up to each other in the real world?

Honestly, the winner of this particular bout depends on the arena. In glitzy, high profile arenas like racetracks and well-maintained back roads, the F4-1000 S has the clear advantage. Its racy riding position, complete with clip-ons and rear-set footpegs, permits the rider to take full advantage of everything the stiff chassis and race-bred suspension has to offer. It's just one of those bikes that feels better the faster you go. No matter the curve or the speed, the F4-1000 S tracks through with a confidence unmatched by few. The feedback from the road is superb and the bike never displays any questionable quirks in handling. Simply put, the F4-1000 S is as fast as you want it to be.

So where does that leave the Brutale? Without question, it easily holds its own in the above-mentioned venues, but falls short of its race-inspired opponent. Where this scrapper excels is in the roadwork it puts in around the downtown gym. In this world of eye gouges and low blows compliments of potholes and questionable surface conditions, the Brutale is a master. The upright, street-fighter riding position and wide handlebars allow for quick reactions to these hazards; and the rigid frame and top-shelf suspension reacts beautifully to the slightest inputs from the bars. And when one of these tarmac bullies does manage to find its mark, the blow is not nearly as punishing. Once I rode off the beaten path in NE Pennsylvania, the F4-1000 S tended toward upset on the maintenance-challenged byways whereas the Brutale was hardly provoked. On roads that aren't afraid to throw a rabbit punch, the burly Brutale takes charge.

However, despite the Brutale's barroom, beer-bottle-brawling stance in the rough stuff, the overall nod has to again go to the F4-1000 S: F4-1000 S (2) Brutale S (0)

Stamina
Going the distance. This is another important characteristic that all great fighters have. These two bruisers fought it out over the course of two tours, on nearly every type of road imaginable. So who's left standing? Well, let's go ahead and talk about which of these combatants best carries the load for the full 12 rounds. Honestly, as touring machines, neither score high marks. The F4-1000 S and the Brutale were not designed with long trips in mind - usually a mere inconvenience to the RoadRUNNER staff. But we certainly were challenged when trying to find proper purchase for cinching down even the most basic bag on either ride. Hooks and straps are nonexistent and a great deal of imagination and experimentation was needed to bring along just a few day's clothes. We finally managed to get tail packs affixed to both, but only after much thought and debate.

Once underway, each bike quickly displayed its unique character. Considering its racetrack riding position, the F4-1000 S proved to be surprisingly comfortable. Granted, the wrists do take a pounding on the interstate, but once on the back roads this isn't a problem unless the surface gets rough. The sporty fairing is amazingly functional, and the wind doesn't start dishing out much in the way of blows until speeds are well beyond irate state trooper levels. Due to riding in wet weather for several days, we did notice that the foot pegs become quite slippery. This little oddity proved interesting a couple of times, especially in the rough stuff. There is a small passenger seat, but in the interest of preserving friendships, I think it best to leave that alone.

The one thing the Brutale lacks is wind protection. The cool-looking headlight only feigns the appearance of a "fairing." Don't be fooled. Riding on the freeway is a one-way ticket to Bobblehead City. Once you leave the slab behind though, you'll never notice it. Being on this bike is such a hoot; it's hard to turn negative. The semi-upright seating position is quite comfortable and riding all day long is a breeze. Again, the passenger area looks more like Area 51. Off limits. You could try, but I wouldn't recommend it for long. Then again, neither of these rides is an "us" thing. It's your ego, so boost it.

From a touring perspective, I can't bestow a wholehearted thumbs-up, but due to its more user-friendly seating position, an admiring nod goes to the Brutale: F4-1000 S (2) Brutale S (1)

And The Winner Is...
The MV Agusta F4-1000 S - strictly because of its incredibly strong motor, razor-sharp ride and handling. Notwithstanding an off the charts fun factor and a strong flurry in the bottom line department ($ 13,995 vs. $ 21,495), the Brutale just couldn't keep pace with the much racier F4-1000 S. Though doggedly holding its own and never letting the F4-1000 S get too far out of its crosshairs, the Brutale was outmatched.

But guess what? For '06, the Brutale comes equipped with a 910cc engine pushing out 137hp in a package weighing the same as the 750 version. If that's not a rematch in the making, I don't know what is.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

MV Agusta F4-1000 S 1+1

+ wicked fast, handling, brakes, style

- wicked fast, comfort, luggage mounts

DistributorCagiva USA
www.mvagustausa.com
Engine inline four, DOHC, 16-valve
Displacement 998.6cc
Bore x Stroke 76 x 55mm
Carburetion fuel injection
Power 167hp
Cooling liquid
Ignition electronic
Transmission six-speed
Frame CrMo steel tubular trellis
Front Suspension 50mm inverted fork fully adjustable, 4.9in. travel
Rear Suspension Single shock fully adjustable, 4.72in. travel
Rake/Trail n/a / 4.08in (103.6mm)
Brakes front/rear twin six piston calipers, 310mm discs four piston caliper, 210mm disc
Tires front/rear 120/70ZR x 17 190/50ZR x 17
Dry Weight 425.5lb (193kg)
Wheelbase 55.4in (1407mm)
Seat height 31.9in (810mm)
Fuel Capacity 5.5gal (20.9l)
Fuel Consumption 33mpg
Colors Corsa Red / Silver, Blue / Silver MSRP$ 21,495

 

TECHNICAL SPECS:

MV Agusta Brutale S

+ upright seating, fun factor,
handling, style

- quirky power, luggage mounts,
wind protection

DistributorCagiva USA
www.mvagustausa.com
Engineinline four, DOHC, 16-valve
Displacement 749cc
Bore x Stroke 74 x 44mm
Carburetion fuel injection
Power 125hp
Cooling liquid
Ignition electronic
Transmission six-speed
Frame CrMo steel tubular trellis
Front Suspension 50mm inverted fork fully adjustable, 4.6in. travel
Rear Suspension Single shock fully adjustable, 4.72in. travel Rake/Trailn/a / 4.00in (101mm)
Brakes front/rear twin six piston calipers, 310mm discs four piston caliper, 210mm disc
Tires front/rear 120/65ZR x 17 190/50ZR x 17
Dry Weight 408lb (185kg)
Wheelbase 55.65in (1413mm)
Seat height 31.7in (805mm)
Fuel Capacity 5gal (18.9l)
Fuel Consumption 33mpg
Colors Gloss Red, Matte Black Gloss Black / Red, Shining Silver MSRP$ 13,995