Born out of a wish to bring something fresh and youthful to the MV Agusta brand, the Rivale 800 was applauded by EICMA audiences last year. A hybrid of a motard and a naked sport bike, the Rivale 800 is more extreme in many ways than its engine donor, the Brutale 800. The MV Agusta Rivale 800 is the most exciting MV to date, and that’s no small statement.
The tall 34.7-inch seat height along with long wheel travel, more trail and wide handlebars are the main changes that make the Rivale a different beast to ride than the Brutale. The chassis geometry alteration makes for a more direct and pure rider/machine interaction, producing an extremely enjoyable motorcycle.
Once on the Rivale, the first thing I did was reduce traction control to level one and do a wheelie. Naughty, but I know that the 798cc Triple isn’t the easiest bike in the world to wheelie from low rpm. Sometimes, I just miss a good, old throttle cable because ride-by-wire determining your right hand’s hunger for thrills can take some of the fun out of twisting the grip.
The latest algorithms for MV Agusta’s R-b-W have improved, and I have no issues with throttle response. Still, no manufacturer has produced a R-b-W that approaches the fun of the pre-Euro controlled fuel injection systems. Clutching the Rivale up on one in second gear is the safest way but for such antics.
The big Triple is beautiful at high rpm, and while it growls intently at lower speeds, it goes completely ultra-violent when it receives enough air through the air box. The induction noise at higher rpm is highly satisfying and begs for more. The quick shifter is one of the best I’ve tried, and the fact it handles short-shifting as well as it does is very impressive.
It’s a good thing those Brembo monoblocs are viciously precise since corners tend to arrive all too quickly. Initial braking bite is very sharp, and modulation requires a steady hand on wet roads. The Brembos use aggressive brake pads, which explains the strong initial bite and extra performance compared to the Brutale.
ABS brakes will eventually be rolled out on the Rivale 800 model, but for now, we’ll have to do without. Bosch actually doesn’t have the capacity to “help” MV quickly enough. You can’t simply take an existing ABS system and fit it to a motorcycle. They have to fit the ECU and various systems perfectly before implementation.
Through the many tight corners created for Napoleon’s doomed army on their journey to Waterloo, I couldn’t have asked for a more responsive chassis. The riding position gives the rider a feeling of complete control after only a few miles. Riding these roads in heavy rain proved less of a challenge than you’d think.
The riding position along with excellent electronics helps a lot in this area. All I had to do was pay attention to the front entering hairpin corners and then fire the Rivale out, trusting the traction control. With extra weight over the front due to the motardness of the Rivale, I could actually brake quite hard in the wet. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires (120/70-17 and 180/55-17) performed remarkably well, as did all traction control settings that I tried.
The next day we rode on drying to almost completely dry roads. The route gave time to fiddle more with things such as the retractable bar-end mirrors. They enable a good rear-view for highway riding and can be folded in to cut through tight inner-city traffic.
The blinkers are incorporated in the handguards and on the rear bodywork. The sharp Rivale 800 back end offers high visibility in traffic thanks to double-stacked vertical lights. I followed the MV test rider on a Brutale 800 and could barely see it in the fog when compared to the Rivale.
The speedometer has a very similar shape to that of the Ducati Streetfighter. Gear indicator and speed are the top-placed readouts – a spartan layout that still delivers functions you’d expect. Traction control can be changed on the move via controls on the left handlebar. The tiny controls would make this impossible to do on the move with cold weather gloves, though.
It might not be too easy to notice in photos, but the Rivale is a biposto. However, the passenger needs to have a tiny Italian ass to fit comfortably. To make the front as minimalistic as possible, the fuel tank is sized to hold only 3.4 gallons.
Practicalities aside, the Rivale 800 is a massively entertaining ride and is very precise. To quote CRC senior designer Adrian Morton; “We created a bike beyond exciting. It should be illegal.”
After the ride, I chatted to MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni about the bike’s name. He told me that he had chosen the name after he had strolled along a harbor on the French Riviera and had come across a beautiful, fast and aggressively designed yacht. After learning it was a 900-hp Riva Rivale, Castiglioni called Riva and bought the rights to the name.
We had to wait nearly a full year for the MV Agusta Rivale 800’s début, but it’s all I had hoped for and a little extra. The front-end bias of the chassis gives a great, fast riding experience. The 798cc in-line Triple is a bit raw but with all the power and torque you’ll ever need. Electronic aids work as they should, and R-b-W is much improved over the Brutale. I’d love to try the Rivale on a track day.
The MV Agusta Rivale 800 is a very good motorcycle and not watered down like some of its rivals. It surely is “The ultimate rider’s machine.”