2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 Review – First Ride

This could be the most exciting MV to date

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2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800

Editor Score: 93.0%
Engine 17/20
Suspension/Handling 15/15
Transmission/Clutch 10/10
Brakes 10/10
Instruments/Controls3/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8/10
Appearance/Quality 10/10
Desirability 10/10
Value 10/10
Overall Score93/100

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.

Click here for more pictures of the 2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800

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.

You really can't help it. Just hop on the Rivale's saddle and you'll want to pick up that front wheel.

You really can’t help it. Just hop on the Rivale’s saddle and you’ll want to pick up that front wheel.

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.

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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.

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Brembo monoblocs provide a sharp initial bite. Bosch is currently developing an ABS system to work with the Rivale but it won’t be ready for the initial batch of production units.

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.

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The upright riding position and the forward weight bias makes the Rivale a formidable weapon when the road gets twisty.

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.

The MV Agusta Rivale 800's slender saddle should allow for two-up riding. At least, that's the theory.

The MV Agusta Rivale 800′s slender saddle should allow for two-up riding. At least, that’s the theory.

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.

MV Agusta has gotten good use out of its 798cc Triple. Along with the Rivale, Brutale and F3 800, MV Agusta will introduce a new Turismo Veloce 800 adventure/sport tourer.

MV Agusta has gotten good use out of its 798cc Triple. Along with the Rivale, Brutale and F3 800, MV Agusta will introduce a new Turismo Veloce 800 adventure/sport-tourer at EICMA.

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.

Click here for more pictures of the 2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800

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.”

+ Highs

  • Mean styling that also benefits its visibility in traffic
  • Excellent handling and riding position
  • The trepistoni engine is strong at high rpm but with decent drive at the midrange
- Sighs

  • Too hardcore for inexperienced riders
  • Tiny fuel tank
  • Minimal passenger accommodations
The Rivale looks great in black, metallic grey and red/silver. Italian studio Techoart SerSan created the graphics for this Urban Camo special edition.

The Rivale looks great in black, metallic grey and red/silver but also in this Urban Camo graphic designed by Italian studio Techoart SerSan.

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  • Craig Hoffman

    Move too hardcore for inexperienced riders to the +Highs column. :)

    An impractical bike I suppose, but if money to burn ever presented itself, I would have a hard time not owning one of these. Not as a primary bike, but as a “spice” bike.

    • jng1226

      Compared to my 1199 Panigale, this would be my “primary” bike. A whole lot more comfortable (therefore practical) in the city and just as soulful? Sounds like the dream stablemates for me. Now if they could just get their US dealer support together. I live in Central FL and the only MV dealer here frankly just doesn’t give a shit about the brand, preferring to concentrate on Ducati and BMW.

      • Howard R. Paul

        I would like to help ya bud, but for some reason, the folks at this magazine keep deleting my posts. Not sure why…not certain what they don’t like about it…but this clearly is not an open format to discuss motorcycles and help fellow riders. Pretty slim behavior Motorcyclist…what seems to be the problem ??????

        • jng1226

          Howard – thanks for the help in your previous post. I did get it on my Disqus email notification. Short story is that I owned a 2007 MV Agusta F4 1000R. One of the most satisfying and thrilling bikes I’ve owned in 23 years of sport bike riding and racing. The parts distribution you mentioned changed in the last few years and it took 10 weeks to get fork seals direct from Italy. After 26,000 trouble-free miles, I worried that major parts would take even longer, so I sold her. Love the “new” MV and fabulous new product line. Truly interested in this one, but MV has a long way to go to earn my trust – starting with the quality and quantity of their dealers. I live in Orlando and within 100 miles there is only one dealer, and they really don’t care about the brand. Sad because my money will go to a Ducati Hypermotard SP instead of this beautiful machine.

          • Howard R. Paul

            I’ve now owned three of the MV line, and they are all gorgeous, beautifully handmade rolling pieces of art and performance. The 800 promises fine excitement, and finally the company is getting their fuel delivery system dialed because that always provided me with more than a few white knuckle death grip rides. The all or nothing throttle response was an all too common trait of these machines, and that shouldn’t be. I’ll also mention that having a Triumph 675 R, the Brits have what I consider a truly dialed in best bang for the buck middle weight triple. It really comes down to personal preference. By the evidence above, the fuel metering problem might now be solved…that snatchy feeling would be happily exited for my taste, it was the one thing that always had me annoyed about the bikes. Keep in mind, it’s a new day for Agusta, with new ownership and much better management and financial backing, so quality control and niggling little odd behaviors will now be cured. Also dealer networks will be improved upon. If you have a lame dealer, it’s worth traveling to find a good one. We are fortunate enough to have the east coast distributor of all things fast on two wheels from Italy directly in our back yard. Ferrachi is the master tuner/racer of the MV line for atleast 40 years. They used to be Cosmopolitan Motors in Hatboro, Penna. which carried Montesa, Ossa, Penton, and all the cool Italian stuff back in the day. Find them on the Web. Happy riding to you JNG , I think MV may have created magic here…seek and yee shall find :)

          • Howard R. Paul

            By the way, there are 3 MV Agusta dealers in a 80 mile radius that you could throw a net over around here…we have a lot of support here in Pennsylvania, and these dealers also carry Ducati, Moto Guzzi, MV, Triumph, Aprilia , Piaggio, Vespa…we freeze in the winter, but we have the gear :)

          • jng1226

            Amen to that!

  • Howard R. Paul

    did you at the magazine just delete, or am I just not seeing it anymore…I’m trying to help a guy out and you chumped the entire comment????

    • Howard R. Paul

      delete my message that is…where is it ??? and why ?