Now that It's finally here, it's not so hard to understand these well heeled, motorcycle design tormented souls. Park a Brutale in front of a nursing home for the elderly and you can rest assured that the inhabitants will experience dramatic changes in hormone levels with unpredictable results. On a more personal note, I can't recall any other bike that inflicted me with a compulsive need to stop by the road side every fifteen minutes or so in order to step back and plain admire it. Time and again. On one of the longer stops I've found myself switching chairs in a roadside cafe so I could catch the Brutale from a different angle, discovering new compositions of curves and shapes in the process.Then I walked up, stepped up close, stepped back, lost my mind a bit. Still here? Good. Regardless of how the Brutale rides, this bike is damn important because through It's very curves and details, it shows how far motorcycle design can still go. We're talking shapes and contours here, the way they interlock and dialog. We're talking about the poetry that is created when a seemingly negligible item like a headlamp bracket embraces a totally amorphous glass lens. We're talking about an exhaust system that sensuously hugs/wraps the engine from below without a single straight piece of tubing in sight. We're talking about a sculpted plate that clamps the handlebars giving you the illusion that the tubing section is oval.
And while there, the upper triple clamp has an inclined upper surface that creates yet another visual feast where it meets the fork tubes. We're taking about wheel rims that seem to float on air thanks to the pointy spokes. Naked bikes are creatures that invite designers to stick together parts that are not always so coherent design wise (a ZX6R tail on the new Z1000 for instance?) or conceal ugly areas by sticking on cosmetic plastic covers. And then there is the Brutale. Even though it hasn't even a vestige of a fairing to play hide and seek with, there is so much integrity, oneness and harmony here. Could it be a jewel in disguise? The more you do rings around it the more you understand that there must be a mad genius involved here. And if you happen to know a thing or two about mass-production processes, you also understand that Tamburini, the Brutale's designer is not the only madman in the house. Castiglioni, who must have signed plenty of fat checks for molds to cast parts that will be used only in the Brutale's small production run is a headcase too, in the good sense of the term. Need a last illustration for the sheer dedication to design of this wonderful couple? A water pipe, It's only that in the Brutale it is not of the black rubber variety that looks like it has been dragged out from under a cars bonnet. It's a shinny aluminum pipe and It's not just dropped in there to casually connect water pump to radiator but follows in parallel the frame tube above it. Oh, and what about those Brutale only clutch and front brake fluid reservoirs that follow the bars bend. I could go on like this for hours in front of the Brutale so better stop before I run out of virtual space.
With such a heavy overload of awe and seduction, I was almost conditioned to forgive the Brutale on any functional deficiency. Luckily I never got the chance to do so and that leads us to Chapter 2 in this story. Must admit I wasn't really ready for the sheer mind-bending kick of riding the Brutale or to the post-ride need to recalibrate my standards regarding the handling of a naked bike. A nano-second after dropping my weight on the Brutale's seat I realized that this is something else and not just in the looks department. Sat on a big-bore MX-er lately? The same feel of utter rigidity and stiffness that shouts: no fooling around! Way shorter than a Honda 919 or Z1000, the bike seems to end just inches behind your bum. It's compressed, tight, sticks to your lower body like the stretchy and shinny black pants that Trinity wore while on mission in The Matrix. The pointy wings of the gas tank catch your upper thighs and buckle you into the bike with a promise of eternal wedlock. The bars are short, close, putting your upper body into an MX attack position while the footpegs are positioned quite rearwards and high. It feels strange to begin with but the sensation of total control even before sticking the key in the switch is amazing, a thick hint about things to come.
A touch on the miniature sized red button and the engine starts to emit an alien tune. The exhaust note is airy and full of presence; coarse intake notes emanate from the openings right before your knees. Are we in 2004? The 750 mill down there doesn't seem to care that it lands into our sterile and political correct third millenium. It barks to my throttle twists, supplies plenty of aural feedback, no complaints about a sound track censured by the greens here. The tiniest of gear lever movements gets first gear in and I find myself crossing MV's parking lot and getting the goose bumps. The sound coming from the twin silencers down there brings back memories of hairy chested big-fours wearing 4-into-1s, just like my 72 Honda. I give it a handful at the first stretch of open road and the deep growling suddenly changes identity as if it was another engine. The moment revs pass the 6K mark and then soar into 5 digits the sound track morphs into a wild and raspy shriek that doesn't sound like anything else on two wheels, maybe a turbo rally car on song. More goose bumps then. Turns out also that It's not hard to let the Brutale's engine produce these gladdening sounds. Gear ratios are hysterically close and I find myself booting them in clutchless bursts through the short stroke gear lever in MX fashion. As if all the above wasn't enough to cause sensorial overload, the cycle side of thing feels as tight and responsive as a good hand-crafted mountain bike. The whole thing conveys the sensation of being carved from a solid aluminum billet and it responds to every input with mental precision. On top of that, this Brutale seems like its back from a track session in terms of suspension setup. Whew. Luckily the low fuel lamp starts to glow and obliges me to take a much needed break to digest the last events. Just a few miles into my ride and it's pretty clear that the Brutale might be a naked bike by definition and looks, but in reality there is a mother of all supersports with flat bars hiding in here. It demands true combative awareness from the word go and a switch to a mood much like the one needed when on a R6/GSXR750 rather than a 919/Z1000.
With this new outlook on life, I climb back onto the Brutale and it turns out that the violent approach pays off. Off into the mountains, I find myself some nice twisties and let the thing rip. The immense rigidity of the cage frame, massive swingarm and monstrous front end are not there just for the brutal looks. While flicking the thing through the continuous esses, the Brutale seems to respond with: Yeah, Baby - that's the way I like it!
The thing is immensely quick to change direction, there's zero nervousness while doing so, it's got lethally precise steering and it all urges you to carve a yet more offensive line through the next turn and lay her down some more. Braking for turns deserves a chapter in itself. The engine likes to be kept on the boil, the braking power of the Nissin setup is awesome and I end up downshifting with fast tapping moves and short throttle twists that supply those glorious sounds now accompanied by some rear wheel chirping. In these critical conditions that would tie into knots most other nakeds (except maybe the Duc S4 and Aprilia Tuono) the Brutale remains rock steady, even when feeding a strong countersteering input to the bars while still on the brakes. It hardly moves on it's suspenders when settling down into full lean and the engine, wailing at 8K is ready to whisk you onto the next straight. After the mostly twins diet I've been fed here in Italy over the last few years, it's a whole different story.
Going into turns in the wrong gear is a no-no on the Brutale and even compared to another naked four-in-line such as the 919, the Brutale is a bit lacking in low end grunt. So keeping a fast pace on it is a demanding endeavor that requires a rider who knows how to read the road and enter it in the right gear. For the same reason, the Brutale is less fun on really tight and slow hairpins. In the lower gears throttle response gets somewhat abrupt and annoying. As compensation, the Brutale offers you mischievous little wheelies when pulling out from slow second gear turns. At the beginning I didn't even feel them, only when noticing that time and again the handlebars weren't pointing in my travel direction I realized that there were some inches between front tire and pavement. So why not give the Brutale what it likes? On more sweeping tarmac the fest turns into orgy. The steering quickness observed in the 50-85 mph range doesn't translate into any nervousness when I climb into 90-110 area. Regardless of the highish bars and the relative lack of weight on the front end, the Brutale still behaves like a true supersport and remains precise and planted even when I lean it hard on long fast sweepers while I am stretched out all over the gas tank. How did they achieve this impossible mix of flickability and plantedness is beyond me. On the turn exits I stretch the four banger to 12K and fill the mountain range with good vibrations.
The sun is setting down, it's time to pull back into town at a lower pace. Funny how the Brutale strips his Superman costume and turns into a Clark Kent when the revs drop. You can let the thing lug down low at 4K and it doesn't complain. True, below 5,000 rpm you won't get any wheelies off-the-throttle, but the low gearing allows me to crawl in city traffic without too much pain. Steering lock is acceptable and allows me to mix with the sardine cans. However, it's the stiffish suspenders that do not like city style potholes - reminding you that the Brutale is no city-scooter really. The real problem is at the stoplights. Why is everybody staring? What have I done? My only traffic infraction is my very being on a Brutale, which is what happens when you date a heavenly creature. Some people stare shamelessly, others do it when I'm looking the other way, why give me the satisfaction? It's only that I do catch them infraganti through the beautiful but useless rear view mirrors. Forget about self-image improvement programs. For the worth of a twice a week meet with a top shrink the Brutale will give you instant relief and you get to keep it at years end when the therapy is long over.
But I have the Brutale for just another day. How about some speed work? Gotta check out the no-fairing effectiveness, right? My tormented childhood on naked bikes, way before they were called so, helps. I put my head down for a long stretch at 110, the short gearing whisks the Brutale there in jiffy and I even get to see 135 for a brief while. The Brutale still has more to give, but my sorry neck doesn't. The short and aggressive riding position doesn't allow you to bend much to fight the wind blast. Other than that, and with a somewhat longer seat, the Brutale could be almost comfy for mid-range jaunts. Cruising rpm is a bit high but there are no noticeable vibrations to write home about. My playground for today is a more open area, a road that follows the Ticino River with sweeping turns and has the bonus of an interesting and photogenic wooden bridge. It sits on small floating rafts and goes up and down with stretched out whoop-de-doos. It's fun being here with the Brutale. One moment I'm attacking the fast sweepers with the laser beam attached to the handlebars, otherwise known as a front wheel, thirty seconds later, on the wooden bridge, I'm standing up on the pegs, gassing it through the soft bumps in off-road style. In the last steep ramp that connects the bridge back to the road I even jump the thing a bit, the stiffish suspension swallows it without a sweat. If I did not have to be back in Vareze with a tool worth 15,000 euro/dollars in one piece, I wouldn't have minded staying here some more to see how much air-time I could get.
Two brutal days and by the end I think I know what the Brutale is. But as with any exotic creature, it'll be hard to box her into any known drawers. Even if that early understanding that the Brutale is basically a naked extreme supersport mount is still right, there are so many dimensions in its complex personality that it would be diminutive to leave it at that. Handling like I've never encountered on a naked (or non), sounds that just can't be heard anywhere else nowadays, design that's so unlike anything else around. Shape and curves that walk the line between classic and avant-garde, porn and poetry. A wonderful 750 engine by any standard that is the antithesis to the norm in naked mounts where detune for torque is the rule. On one hand, the MV Agusta logo on the tank, an aristocratic name that ruled the racetracks in ways unimaginable today, some people are surely going to put these things in glass boxes in their living rooms. On the other hand a bike that Gary Rothwell could make good use of in his burnin' out and wheelie-ing shows. How to bridge such controversial yet complementary wonderful extremes is beyond me.
Whoever follows Tamburini's career, first as engineer/designer for Bimota and then as the man behind the 916, will recognize his touch in the Brutale. The man has had a long love story with tubular crom-moly space frames that create little and stiff triangles to cage the engine and use it as a stressed member. It might be hard to notice it on the complete bike, but this cage frame actually creates twin spars that contrary to the aluminum frames found in most sport bikes, adds zero width to the whole package. The big difference between the Brutale's frame and that found on his previous masterpiece, the 916, is the use of cast and milled aluminum plates for the rear engine mounts / swingarm attachment. These plates solve more elegantly the transfer of forces between the frame and the swingarm and look a million dollars to boot. The single sided swingarm is also a natural development of the one he crafted for the 916 but has extensive stiffening courtesy of a top member that runs above the chain. Suspension duties are handled by a Sachs shock and a USD Marzocchi fork with monstrous 50-mm diameter legs. Together with the hefty sized front wheel spindle and the six-bolt bottom triple clamp the visual impact is ensured and the plot works rather well too I must add. All the braking components are made by Nissin and are dedicated only to the Brutale / F4. The Calipers have six pistons with each of the three pairs having a different diameter for optimal pressure spread across the pads.
The engine has quite a long history. Castiglioni already started a collaboration with Ferrari in the late '80s, on the development of an all-Italian four banger and the old concepts of the engine show mainly in it's architecture. It has features like a separate cylinder block, central cam drive chain, piggyback mounted alternator and crankcases cut in two with no stacking between gearbox shafts, all features abandoned years ago by the big four. On the other hand, some fine hi-tech touches from that Ferrari cooperation remain. The MV mill is the only four-cylinder engine in production with radial positioned valves. The hemispherical geometry of the combustion chamber should have an edge in burning speed and efficiency with fewer restrictions to valves size. In order to operate the inlet or exhaust valve pairs that have an angle between each valve, cam lobes are grinded in conical fashion. A cassette type gearbox that allows for easy gear ratios change is a clear sign that Castiglioni was seriously planning to race the 750-4. Even though the basic design is about a decade old and that MV-Cagiva was suffering hard economic problems in the last few years, development work on the engine has continued and the current moniker of this engine is EVO 03. Just how good this mill is can be judged from the fact that in its all-out F4 version it puts down a healthy 125 RWHP, right there with the last version of the 2003 GSXR 750. The Brutale's engine has hardly been detuned. It's got a claimed 127 HP and 110 RWHP have been measured in Italy. Those in the know claim that a 1000cc version will be arriving soon.
Just in case you have the itch, a shipment of 60 Brutale S' is on a boat heading for the US.
|2004 F4 BRUTALE S |
** SPECS PROVIDED BY MV AGUSTA **
|Type||Four cylinder, 4 stroke, 16 valve|
|Timing system||D.O.H.C, 4 valves per cylinder, radial valve layout|
|Total displacement||45.7 cu. in.|
|Bore x stroke||2.9 in. x 1.7 in.|
|Max. horse power -rpm||(at the crankshaft) 93,4 Kw (127 CV) at 12,500rpm|
|r.p.m. - Limit.||13,100rpm|
|Max. torque -rpm||7,9 Kgm at 10,500rpm|
|Cooling system||Liquid cooled, external oil cooler|
|Engine management system||Weber Marelli 1,6 M ignition - injection integrated system induction discharge electronic ignition,Multipoint electronic injection|
|Clutch||Wet, multi - disc|
|Gear box||Cassette gearbox six speed, constant mesh|
|Gear ratio -||First gear: Speed 13/38 64.2 mph at 13,100rpm|
Second gear: Speed* 14/31 84.8 mph at 13,100rpm
Third gear: Speed* 18/32 105.6 mph at 13,100rpm
Fourth gear: Speed* 20/30 125.1 mph at 13,100rpm
Fifth gear: Speed* 22/29 142.3 mph at 13,100rpm
Sixth gear: Speed* 19/23 155.3 mph at 13,100rpm electronically limited
|Final velocity ratio||14x41|
|Alternator||650 W at 5,000rpm|
|Battery||12 V - 9 Ah|
|DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT|
|Overall lenght||79.75 in.|
|Overall width||32.28 in.|
|Saddle height||31.70 in.|
|Min. ground clearance||5.32 in.|
|Dry weight||407.9 lb|
|Fuel tank capacity||4.16 Brit. gal. ( reserve fuel: 0.88 Brit. gal. )|
|Maximum speed*||155.3 mph electronically limited|
|Type||CrMo Steel tubular trellis (TIG welded)|
|Rear swing arm||pivot plates: material Aluminium alloy|
|Type||UPSIDE - DOWN telescopic hydraulic fork with rebound-compression damping and spring preload adjustment|
|Rod||dia. 1.97 in.|
|Travel||on leg axis 4.65 in.|
|Type||Progressive, single shock absorber with rebound - compression damping and spring preload (F4 SPR, F4 Agostini and F4 Brutaler ear suspension fully adjustable)|
|Single sided swing arm:||material Aluminium alloy|
|Wheel travel||4.72 in.|
|Front brake||Double steel floating disc|
|disc dia.||caliper piston number and dia. 12.2 in. 6 with 0.89 in.|
|dia.||1.00 in. dia. 1.19 in. dia.|
|Rear brake||Single steel disc|
|disc dia.||caliper piston number and dia. 8.27 in. 4 with 1.00 in. dia.|
|Front:||Material / size Aluminium alloy 3,50 x 17|
|Rear:||Material / size Aluminium alloy 6,00 x 17|
|Front||120/65 - ZR 17 (56 W)|
|Rear||190/50 - ZR 17 (73 W) or 180/55 - ZR 17 (73 W)|