The touring market is one in which MV Agusta has been all but absent. Focusing instead on its supersport and naked platforms, the folks in Varese have spent much effort fine tuning both model platforms into real contenders. However, MV was well aware it was losing out on a large part of the market with its absence of anything worthy of traveling long distances. That all changes now with the introduction of the Stradale.
MO’s European correspondent, Tor Sagen, brought us his first ride review in which he proclaimed the Stradale is “the best MV I have ever ridden.” Those are bold words considering MV’s lineup is stacked with 19 models for the 2015 model year. Recently, MV Agusta USA invited journalists to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California to sample some new 2015 models, including the Stradale. Clearly, the racetrack setting is not where the Stradale is meant to be, but my short time with it did reveal a few things. While a full Stateside road test will have to wait for another time, here are my quick impressions.
Hop on the Stradale, and it’s hard to ignore the 34.2-inch seat height. My 5-foot, 8-inch frame had the tips of the toes on the ground, but the relatively narrow profile of the seat made its height more manageable. MV says it broadened the rear portion of the saddle compared to the Rivale in which it’s loosely based on, but the difference felt marginal to me. Nonetheless, the saddle is well padded, especially compared to MV’s sportbikes, which touring riders will be glad to hear. I didn’t have much fore/aft room to move around, however, so larger riders might want to take this into consideration.
What makes the Stradale a touring MV, you ask? The answer is pretty simple: add some bags and a windscreen. The Stradale’s frame and side pods appear to be identical to the Rivale’s, but MV insists the Stradale’s chassis is new. A larger 4.2-gallon fuel tank (compared to the Rivale’s 3.4-gallon tank) is also fitted to the Stradale, making it better suited to long(er) distance travel.
As for the soft saddlebags, they’re rather small, coming in at 2.4 gallons of storage space. It’s enough to hold a bottle of wine in one bag, and cheese and crackers in the other – perfect for a late picnic in Varese. Sagen appears to be a fan of the bags, noting they integrate well with the overall design of the bike. While I agree they complement the Stradale’s lines, their small capacity leads me to believe function gave way to form on the drawing board.
Tor and I agree the heart of the Stradale is as thrilling as ever. Its 798cc inline-Triple is shared with the rest of MV’s three-cylinder lineup, but it’s been tuned for torque in this particular application. “Tuned for torque” may have a bad connotation in motorcycling, but rest assured, that does not mean the bike is boring. Twist the fly-by-wire throttle and a pronounced sensation of torque is noticeable from the saddle. The Stradale features a longer swingarm compared to the Rivale, but even still, the front end has a tendency to reach for the sky. This is easily managed with either the right hand or foot.
Since this is a touring bike after all, I tried to ride it as such despite being in a racetrack setting. The engine does fall flat at high rpm, but the quickshifter makes it easy to reach for a full-throttle upshift. Like the Brutale 800 RR, the Stradale also features a clutchless downshift feature, though the pre-production unit I rode for this test wasn’t equipped with it.
Apart from the engine, the athletic nature of the Rivale isn’t lost with the Stradale. It still enjoys being tossed from side to side, but the longer swingarm helps it maintain its composure. The full suite of MVICS electronics is here on the Stradale, including the 8-way (plus off) traction control system, riding modes, adjustable engine braking, and ABS with rear-wheel lift mitigation, but my time with the bike was too brief to adequately test them.
What I could tell, though, was that the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires have plenty of grip, the Brembo brakes provide the usual impressive stopping power we’ve come to expect from Brembo, and as far as covering long distances are concerned, with the optional top case and an aftermarket windscreen, this would be the MV I’d want to do it on. That is, until the Turismo Veloce finally becomes available.
The 2015 MV Agusta Stradale carries a $14,598 price tag – that’s nearly a grand more than the $13,795 Ducati Hyperstrada. Considering both Italian bikes are virtually mega-motos converted for light touring duty via screens and bags, the comparisons between the two are only natural. In fact, MV Agusta specifically targeted the Hyperstrada when naming a competitor for the Stradale. With the two combatants already identified, all that’s left for us to do is gather them together and see which comes out on top. Stay tuned.