Attending MV Agusta’s launch of the 2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 in France, our friend Iwan van der Valk from Testmotor.nl has been kind enough to share his thoughts and review regarding Varese’s newest machine.
Getting a chance to put the MV Agusta Rivale 800 through its paces on the roads near Nice, France, Iwan’s thoughts are timely, as MV Agusta is just a week away from debuting its next range of models at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. – Jensen
It has been more than a year since MV Agusta announced the Rivale 800, its Ducati Hypermotard inspired new model. And here it finally is, ready to be delivered for early 2014.
The Rivale is the third motorcycle based on MV Agusta’s own 800cc three-cylinder engine, after the naked Brutale and the fully faired F3; and at this moment, it doesn’t look like there will be a 675 or 1090 version for buyers to chose from, as is the case with MV Agusta’s other models.
The Rivale 800 looks like a supermoto but the seating position goes more towards an elevated naked bike, with an unhindered view ahead. MV Agusta motorcycles are always very stylish and the Rivale of course is no exception.
The finish is excellent and everything feels solid. The slick design is being let down somewhat by a couple of typical MV-like loose ends here and there. For instance, the careless way of fixing cables onto the bright red frame with cheap tie-raps looks very clumsy on such a stylised motorbike.
Customers can optionally replace the stock bar-end mirrors with regular stalk mirrors, and we would definitely negotiate a set of regular mirrors when buying a new Rivale, as the bar-end mirrors make the bike much too wide (and offer a poor view rearwards).
The indicators and running lights are mounted into the hand guards which is a great idea in theory. The execution here however is flawed. During our test there was water condensation in the lenses, and the lights were too dim, which makes the signals almost invisible during daytime.
Our test ride took place around Nice, France, where there’s an abundance of tight mountain passes as well as fast roads. First our attention focussed on the throttle control of the 800 motor, which would hopefully improve on the questionable fuelling of its 675 and 800 predecessors.
MV already updated the FI maps on earlier bikes which should smooth out things, and there is a definite improvement on this new model. However, the way the engine reacts to the initial throttle input is still under par. Once on the move it gets better though: the Mikuni throttle bodies behave OK under partial-throttle.
In stock form, MV Agusta offers the new Rivale 800 with EAS which stands for Electronic Assisted Shift, known more simply as a quickshifter. The EAS works wonderful: with the throttle pinned the shift action is very accurate and gives you an empowering feeling and lots of sensation.
It feels a bit weird to have to use the clutch to change down again, but the gear changes are very smooth. It is difficult to find neutral when you are standing still though, and unfortunately it is pretty easy to find it when you are trying to shift between first and second gear.
Riding the Rivale 800 is not for everyone. This exclusivity is not caused by a high retail price, but instead by a stormy front end. The bike leans too much on the front but sadly doesn’t offer much feedback in return. As a consequence, cornering on the Rivale is only really rewarding when you can see clearly through the corner, and you can stay on the throttle.
In blind corners – when you apply the power more conservatively – the front end becomes vague and you find yourself waiting too long before accelerating out. This is not a bike for tight Alp swtichbacks on broken asphalt.
Open and flowing roads are better suited to the Rivale 800, as a better view and smoother surface makes for faster riding. These higher speeds suit the tall gear ratios much better, whereas hairpins are a nervous affair as you negotiate between a screaming first and a lugging second gear.
When you are able to keep the motor on the boil – 6,000 revs or more – then you are in for a treat, as the howl of the triple is fantastic and it pulls almost all the way to the top. This is where the Rivale engine excels, especially in combination with the quickshifter.
As is the case with many new high-end motorcycles these days, the 2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 also offers a bevy of electronic aids. The eight-way adjustable traction control system works well: we set it in mode “4” as this worked smoothly and discretely in the Normal and Sport throttle maps.
Aside from the three standard fuel map settings you can also make up your own mappings. This is not easy though, as you have to use numerous parameters and ustomise extra settings for engine braking, rev-limiter, and even a top speed.
The small dashboard is complete but it’s very hard to make out any of the available information while riding exactly because it is so small. The cockpit is also mounted very low which makes setting traction control settings or engine mappings a dangerous affair while on the move.
Despite all these electronic gadgets MV Agusta still doesn’t offer an ABS system (according to Giovanni Castiglioni, this will change in the beginning of 2014, when Bosch will be able to supply enough ABS-units to the marketplace). But even without ABS the brakes are plenty capable.
The Nissin master cylinder works great in combination with the Brembo radial calipers, and the only thing which needs improving is the exaggerated front-end dive. We were able to cure it partially by adjusting the fork settings, but the bike’s frond-end bias in combination with the aggressive seat and tank makes it still feel a bit ‘all or nothing’ in its operation.
The 2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 is not everyone’s friend. The bike looks like it can devour a tight canyon road but the hesitant throttle reaction and vague front end will probably kill your appetite quite quickly.
Only when the roads open up and the speeds rise does this triple get into the zone. The Rivale has plenty of power – very nicely controlled by a good traction control system – and a fantastic soundtrack which makes up for a couple of the bike’s shortcomings.
The Rivale in the end is a typical MV Agusta. It looks astonishing, it sounds amazing, and it is very desirable. The aggressive stance requires a unique riding style, and thus makes for an exclusive product which will never sell in great numbers…which will probably suit the Tifosi of this brand perfectly fine.
Photos: MV Agusta
A special “dankuwel” to our friends at Testmotor.nl for sharing this article with us, and big thank you as well to Jan DeMan, who translated Iwan’s work from Dutch into English for our readers.