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Year after year, we gush about liter-plus-sized streetfighters that offer ultra-sport performance with agreeable street ergonomics. Our expert riders love Super Dukes and Tuonos, and also appreciate S1000Rs and Ducati’s big Monsters. And yet, even we can agree that machines that pound out 140+ horsepower to a rear tire approach the area of overkill for streetbikes.

So, here’s a pair of European streetfighters that offer loads of style and plenty of performance from athletic 800cc three-cylinder engines. Here we’ve got Italy versus England, Armani versus Savile Row. We also wanted to include a Triples representative from Japan in the form of an XSR900 or the newly updated FZ-09 from Yamaha, but we couldn’t think of a famous Japanese tailor for our analogy. Oh, and Yamaha couldn’t get us one in time for this test.

Streetfighter Etymology

Basically shorthand for a sportbike with upright ergonomics and mostly shorn of bodywork, streetfighters deliver all the performance that’s needed when not on a racetrack, along with a rational riding position suitable for everything from commuting to sporty touring. This pair of Triples can do it all as long as you won’t miss pulling 80-mph wheelies like is possible on a Tuono or Super Duke.

In their commuting duties, the Euro Triples are very similar to each other but distinct in several details.

The Trumpet impresses with its refinement, and that’s evident even before firing them up. Front and center is state-of-the-art color TFT instrumentation that is configurable in several ways, easy to read, and intuitively navigable thanks to a multifunction joystick button on the left handlebar. Even old-school analog aficionados will admit the future of instruments is bright and in color after spending a bit of time behind the vivid 5-inch screen. Self-canceling turnsignals are unnecessary but appreciated.

2017 Triumph Street Triple RS Review: First Ride

With respect to gauges, the MV looks and feels a step behind. Its LCD screen is smaller and monochrome, and our testers didn’t appreciate how the bar-graph tachometer is placed at the bottom of the display rather than up top and closer to a rider’s line of sight. Signal indicators below the LCD screen are dim and difficult to see. A two-button controller makes navigating menus much more obtuse than the Triumph’s logical arrangement.

2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 First Ride Review

What was recently the future now looks outmoded next to the Street Triple’s vibrant TFT color gauge panel. A rider has the choice of three instrumentation layouts and the ability to choose a white or black background, or let it automatically toggle from black in low light to white during the day.

The civility of the ST-RS is also evident by the unusually light lever pull from the slip/assist clutch and by the seat padding that feels like something from the MyPillow.com catalog after stepping off the Brutale’s unyielding saddle; its pillion pad is even flintier and, worse, slippery. In the MV’s favor is considerably more legroom compared to the Triumph’s track-ready higher placement. Both bikes have quickshifters, but the Brutale adds an auto-blipping downshifter.

The MV’s clutch annoys for its relative heaviness but satisfies with a nicely wide engagement zone that makes pulling away from a stop more confidence inspiring than the RS’s friction zone in the last few millimeters of its lever travel. Meanwhile, the stylistic line running along the sidecovers below the seat remind us that Italians sometimes put form over function, as it juts out between boney knees and is a mild irritant. Further down, the Brutale feels relatively fat between ankles to supply adequate clearance for its glorious exhaust outlets. Also, the frame’s aluminum sideplates get hot on ankles in warm weather, so you might want to avoid wearing your Guccis.

Compromise is evident in the Brutale’s seat. The void below it is an inspired styling touch, while the stiff padding inside is more like a spanking. After a 100-mile stint on the freeway, our new Associate Editor Ryan Adams said the seat made him want to cry.

Riding around town, the pair of three-cylinder motors feel quite similar, with broad powerbands that make both feel lively and eager. The difference is mostly felt in terms of refinement. MV Agusta has made huge strides in taming the erratic responses from its ride-by-wire throttles, but the Triumph’s smooth and predictable throttle reactions shine a brighter light on the jumpier throttle in the Brutale.

The MV’s responses are fine when riding on smooth roads, but their abrupt reactions become an annoyance on bumpy surfaces where an unintended millimeter or two of throttle input results in edgy responses, even when switched from Sport mode to Normal. It’s especially irritating on a bumpy freeway where maintaining a steady cruise becomes challenging. Combined with a light throttle spring, the throttle feels overly digital compared to the Street Triple’s smooth and predictable analog-feeling responses. If nitpicking on the Triumph, I’d prefer a little less compression braking when its throttle is closed.

Every streetfighter shootout deserves a wheelie or two!

Both have stimulating three-cylinder snarls that build into wonderful howls as revs race. The MV feels and sounds raspier, which is invigorating. “Its engine sounds like a wasp’s nest in the best way,” Adams opines.

The Triumph stands out for its wonderful intake honk that builds to a wailing crescendo as it soars to its 12,500-rpm rev limit. “It sounds great at high rpm,” says Adams. “The motor pulls smoothly through rev range, and its smooth fueling and light clutch feel make it easy to ride in any situation.”

With a 33cc displacement advantage, the Brutale 800 churns out more power earlier than the 765cc Street Triple and holds its edge until nearly 9000 rpm. However, the revvier Triumph comes into its own when the tachs are spun up, as the MV’s curve flattens and its rev limiter cuts in at 11,000 rpm while the Trumpet lunges for its 12,500-rpm redline. The Brutale’s output is 7 hp leaner than the previous version; blame Euro 4 regs.

The Four-Thirds Shootout: Tre Cool

The Triumph feels heavier but isn’t, scaling in 22 pounds less than the MV’s 439 pounds when both are full of fuel. The Brutale is astonishingly agile, tipping into corners with supreme alacrity. With similar chassis-geometry numbers, credit for the MV’s light-footed handling must go to its wider handlebar and its reverse-rotating crankshaft that reduces the engine’s gyroscopic forces.

“I felt the most comfortable on the Brutale during short cruises around town (with no traffic to contend with) and on faster twisty roads during our shoot,” Adams notes.

The Brutale’s stout chassis begins at the red steel-tube trellis arrangement bolting onto cast-aluminum sideplates. A single-sided swingarm makes it even more special.

The RS trades some nimbleness for the security of a more planted feeling that rewards during long and deep lean angles. While it might be half a step behind on a really tight canyon road, it excels at higher speeds, feeling more confidence inspiring with better adherence to a chosen line while leaned over.

Aiding confidence on the Street Triple is its superior suspension. The RS version tested here uses Showa’s excellent BPF fork and a swanky Öhlins shock, both three-way adjustable, which add up to a flawless set of dampers. They’re firm enough for taut control when hammered on but also nicely compliant to iron out rough edges of road surfaces.

The Street Triple is a confidence-inspiring backroad artist. Its snakey exhaust headers look much cooler than the flat-black exhaust canister they are routed to. Red pinstriping on the wheels adds an appreciated splash of color.

The Brutale’s fully adjustable Sachs/Marzocchi combo doesn’t quite measure up. The fork’s rebound-damping circuit didn’t offer much of a difference in its adjustment range and seemed a bit light even when fully closed. Meanwhile, the Sachs damper out back places its compression-damping screw behind a frame rail, necessitating a right-angle screwdriver to get it turned.

It’s a similar story in terms of brakes. The Triumph uses a set of Brembo M50s up front, and they again prove to be the best calipers in the business, offering fine levels of control despite the ferocity of speed retardation when squeezed with authority. The Brembos on the Brutale are also excellent, with strong power and smooth modulation, but the narrow edge goes to the Street Triple’s brake combo. ABS is standard on both and can be switched off if desired.

On the left is what we strongly believe to be the best brake caliper on the market, Brembo’s stellar M50 monoblock here fitted to the Triumph. On the right is a Brembo pincher nearly as good as the M50, here on the MV with a classy swoosh cast into the fork leg that flows into the radial caliper mount.

So, dynamically, this pair of Triples is a good match, with the RS earning advantages in its componentry and refinement. The Brutale pegs back some points for its preternatural agility and its more exhilarating riding experience.

The MV earns its greatest kudos when it’s time to park down at the Burger Barn. Style-wise, its attention to detail is superb, making MV’s “Motorcycle Art” motto more than just the empty words from a PR flack. It boasts alluring elements no matter where you look, whether it’s the steel-trellis/aluminum hybrid frame, the magical open space below the seat, the single-sided swingarm, or the triple-exit exhaust.

Even a simple item like a sidestand is hewn to be artful on MV Agustas.

“The MV is beautiful from nearly every angle and has styling cues that are clearly form before function,” Adams observes. “Some call it Italian charm, and there is no doubt the Brutale 800 is a charmer.”

The Street Triple is winsome in a more subtle fashion. It looks the part of a real-deal streetfighter with its aggressive stance and angry slanted eyes browed by a sporty flyscreen. But its exhaust looks like an awkward goiter next the the Brutale’s splendid pipe organ, and its overall package simply doesn’t dazzle eyes like its Italian rival.

Italian Charm Or English Civility?

Choosing a winner from this duo is fraught with compromise, as each has its own special character. The supermodel Brutale 800 engages the lustful side of our brains, making us want to overlook flaws that would be conspicuous warts on a machine less sexy, chief among them the ghosts-in-the-machine digital throttle.

“If I had to choose between the two, I may opt for the Brutale if I were adding it to a collection of other bikes,” Adams judges. “However, if I could only have one motorcycle to do everything, the Triumph takes the cake for its practicality in nearly every aspect.”

Yes, the Street Triple makes for a better overall motorcycle than the sinful Brutale, even with its higher footpegs tightening up legroom. It may not inspire ardor like the MV, but it is a more well-rounded package, has a 20% peak power advantage, and it retails for $998 less.

“The RS has nearly everything going for it,” Adams observes. “A smooth torquey Triple that produces 20 hp more than the MV, great brakes, great fueling, easily adjustable suspension, and fantastic maneuverability in town or out in the canyons.

“Yet somehow, the Hinckley-built Triumph feels a bit vanilla when compared to the Brutale from the banks of Lake Varese.”

We really enjoy characteristics of both of these funtastic Euro Triples, but by the metrics of our scorecard (see below for full details), it’s the Street Triple RS that handily wins this bout.

MV Agusta Brutale 800
+ Highs
  • Makes us moist just looking at it
  • Supernaturally nimble
  • Auto-blipping downshifter
– Sighs
  • Jumpy throttle response
  • Pain-in-the-ass seat
  • A few ponies short

Triumph Street Triple RS
+ Highs
  • Refined and polished
  • Confidence inspiring
  • Excellent brakes and suspension
– Sighs
  • Relatively plain
  • Bar-end mirrors makes it difficult to lane split
  • Feeling not quite as moist

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