In this week’s Church Of MO feature, we pay homage to the legendary Massimo Tamburini, who passed away one week ago due to complications from lung cancer. Those who are familiar with his work need no introduction, but to those who don’t understand the significance of his passing, close your eyes for a moment and think of the most beautiful motorcycles you’ve ever seen. Chances are at least one of those is a Tamburini design. After creating Bimota with two friends, he moved on to Cagiva, then Ducati, and finished his career at MV Agusta. Along the way he designed, or had a say, in bikes like the Bimota SB2, Cagiva Mito, and of course the iconic Ducati 916.
Tamburini’s second masterpiece, the one he says brings him the most pleasure, is the MV Agusta F4. Tasked with bringing MV back from the ashes, Tamburini had a clean sheet to come up with whatever he wanted. He labored long and hard, designing every single piece of the F4. His efforts paid off, as along with the 916, the F4 is regarded as one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever built. Even today, iterations of the F4 are simply evolutions of Tamburini’s original design.
One of those iterations is the 2005 F4-1000 S, the bigger, stronger descendent of the original 750. Here, Yossef Schvetz tells us what it was like to ride it for the first time.
By Yossef Schvetz, Nov. 26, 2004
“Italian sport bikes” oh yes, let’s talk about them.
Still, in the seventies-early eighties, if you wanted a four that handled, you’d be turning to Bimota and therefore Italy, for a replacement of the original “spaghetti tubed” Japanese frame. Bimota has a lot to do with the F4-1000 S you see here, especially one of the three musketeers that decided to switch from producing heating systems, to designing proper racing frames, a certain Massimo Tamburini. We’ll get back to him. In any case, by the nineties the sportbike war was truly over. Japanese bikes finally had the handling to match their prodigious power levels and Italy could only console itself with Ducati’s WSBK wins. Without wanting to take anything away from the prowess of the 916/998/999 series; it was no small thanks to a racing formula that favored the big Italian twins over the 750 fours.
So, where does that leads us? To the fact that nowadays, there are no more “ifs”, “buts” or any other apologies needed. Italy’s honor is back where it deserved to be for a very long time. The MV F4-1000 can confront the latest of the SS liter tools eyeball to eyeball and not even consider blinking. Actually, it can do so with the defiance reserved for someone who knows that he’s not only an extremely well equipped stud, but also an ultra cool looking dude with an IQ of 150.
Our first 1:1 encounter leaves me somewhat puzzled. I have waited four years for this test ride (in its 750 guise), the very same four years that MV has been in the doldrums and test rides where nearly unobtainable. Finally, the moment has come. I meet another journalist in town, he hands me the keys and without any drama or fireworks, I am standing next to an F4 1000, key in hand. My colleague tells me: “Enjoy” and I nod knowingly, but somehow the first impact is not as strong as the one I felt in front of the brutal MV Brutale. Maybe it’s the visual familiarity from seeing the F4-750’s curves in shows and on the street what dulls my emotions. Without us noticing, seven years have passed since the F4 1997 introduction as a 750. Nevertheless, now that the bike is “mine” (even if only for a few days), it’s somehow different. I can take my time and savor the flavors and subtleties of the F4, roll them under my tongue, feast on their complexity.
Ode to Tamburini aside, someone who’s somewhat sensitive to shapes and design might claim that the F4 is starting to look a bit dated, seven years are an eternity in terms of automotive design. The F4 is a bit soft looking in today’s age of sharp, hard cut surfaces. Yet, being the masterpiece that it is, means that the F4 is not really susceptible to the passage of time. A 2004 Yamaha R1 passes in front of me and with the MV as a yardstick, it’s not hard to spot the tricks and shticks that the Japanese used in order to grab our attention. The aristocratic F4 doesn’t need all those pyrotechnics to show its class.
Throw a leg over the F4 and you realize that Tamburini’s genius goes far beyond psychotic attention to details and shapes. The thing is tiny, tinier than any of the current 1000 supersports that flaunt their newfound compactness so proudly. Think about it. Work on the F4 must have started in Tamburini’s atelier in the hills of the San Marino republic, some 8-9 years ago, yet he’s already been there, done that, the shrinking act. It’s time to take off my hat. No twin spar aluminum frame could ever match the waspish waist created by the corset-tight hug with which the myriad of tiny steel tubes follow the F4 mill’s contours. Sex meets engineering.
I’m on my way and it’s time for the first surprise. Tamburini is the man behind the inquisition machine named 916, so I fully expect a hard core, wrist punishing, sado session till I’ll get out of town, but no. The F4’s riding position is extreme but not excessively so, it’s certainly no worse than a GSXR-1000, maybe less. The seat is hard, but supports my lard well; handlebars are somewhat far away, but not very low. All controls work smoothly, Japanese like, engine doesn’t mind pulling from low revs, first gear is low enough for sprinting away from stoplights without drama. Clutch lever pull could be lighter but that’s about it. I arrive at my office, park the F4 underground and say goodbye till the evening, quietly hoping for some stretches of clear road on my way home.
Having an F4 waiting down there in the garage doesn’t make my day of desk flying easy. However, the moment I’m back on the thing and tearing up the north ring road, the wait becomes worthy. I let the engine speak and it has quite a lot to say. Strong, really strong, GSX-R1000 like pull from down low until mid revs. I am not pushing it hard just yet, but even at 5-6K it already supplies quite an intoxicating drive. Still, there’s too much traffic around and I limit myself to playing a bit of 100mph Nintendo between the cars that are crawling along at 70. I park the F4 underground, because this thing draws too much attention. Tomorrow is another day and I’ve got some big plans.
At last, sunshine and a clean, empty Italian Autostrada… gaaassssssssss it! The four cylinder mill likes gas, likes it a whole lot. A nice full roll-on of the throttle in third, right into the rev limiter at 12,750 or something RPM and the F4 kicks me with relentless drive, a drive that’s right there with the best of Japan & co. according to the seat of my pants. Those claimed 167 horses feel very real and it’s not just the top end, it’s the way the radial-valved mill climbs from low revs through the impressive mid-range to a top-end crescendo that buys me. Till 8-9 it’s GSX-R1000 like torque-country, while in the upper echelons, the engine’s lust for high revs is right up there with a ZX-10R or R1. Am I getting carried away here? Is it the best 1000cc mill ever? A quick glance at some dyno graphs from the Italian press says that this might be the case. At 5,000-6,000 RPM, it’s slightly below the king of torque, the GSX-R1000. However, while the Suzuki’s engine waves goodbye by 10K, the F4 continues to build on an extremely wide power plateau up to 12K, before it starts to taper off. Time to take off my hat again.
On the Autostrada, the F4 nonchalantly catapults me to 150 mph and I don’t have that much time to think about the issue, I am busy surviving the windblast. On paper, the F4 1000 should have better wind protection than the 750 version, thanks to a double bubble windscreen. I don’t know about that. I have trouble making my 6’4″ frame hide behind it and my head threatens to go its own way while my arms are quite stretched. It turns out that the riding position is more old school than I first thought. The high seat prevents me from tilting my head up without a lot of effort and I’m only 60 miles into the ride. Soon enough, I am getting nearer to the Alps and the roads start winding. Now, I’m absorbed with the feeling of riding a high precision tool that clings to the road perfectly and all discomfort is soon forgotten. Unsurprisingly, the refined high-speed manners and poise remind me of the 916/998 series. Of course, Tamburini engineered those bikes as well.
The F4 comes alive at these speeds and those few extra pounds disappear as if by magic, while the Michelin Pilots hold the bind tenaciously to the road. The more I press, the more the F4 seems to like it, taking everything in its stride. Powering hard out of turns, there’s not even a hint of the headshake I’ve encountered on a ZX-10R at times. The only nuisance is a slight hesitance while giving those short throttle blips on downshifts. Unlike three of the 1,000cc Japanese fours (the Honda uses a double injector system), the MV has single butterfly throttle bodies and no servo controlled secondary butterfly to smooth things out at small throttle openings and this could be the culprit. However, it’s a really minor inconvenience.
By darkness, I reach the no-limits German autobahns. Unfortunately, it’s raining cats and dogs. Is it time to calm down a bit and be reasonable? Naaaahhh. The wet is when feedback from the tires becomes so important and the MV’s handlebars continue to transmit clear messages, as I bomb out the last 100 miles to Stuttgart at 130-140 MPH. After four hours of riding, my neck simply wants to fold back at anything beyond those speeds.
Next day. Sunshine and an empty autobahn. What she’ll do? I’ve seen 180 for a few seconds but realized that I was getting near to the irreversible vertebral damage point. After all the complaints about the wind protection exaggerated by this way too long a trip, I must say that the other comfort parameters are rather good. Seat to footpeg distance is long, as large as that of the roomy R1, thus my long limbs are at ease. The seat is reasonably comfy after these long hours, although by now my buttock is a bit resentful of the stiff foam. At the end of the day, only the bend in my neck makes the last couple hundred miles till Milan a bit of a chore.
That’s it. It’s over. A most unsuitable test for a 1000cc Hypersport tool, yet nothing really went wrong. I stare for a few minutes at the red and silver bullet, that carried me through 700 miles and another colleague appears to pick the bike up. A shame really, I just wanted to enjoy the view some more. After riding the thing and seeing what this beauty can do, I was left with the “I want more!” sensation. Don’t know if I’d be saying the same about the 750cc version, a bike that couldn’t compete with the top of the crop because of its engine size. However, with this F4-1000, there is no need to turn to its beauty and lines to find a justification. Yes, it’s that good, right there with the other litre bikes and that’s before we talk about the MV’s sheer class. In an Italian track comparo, it finished tenths behind the R1 and ahead of the “other” three. Funny, in light of my historic skepticism towards Italian sportbikes, I find myself turning to lap times and numbers for reassurance. The F4-1000 convinced me without them. Italy’s honor.
|2005 F4-1000 S |
** SPECS PROVIDED BY MV AGUSTA **
|Type||Four cylinder, 4 stroke, 16 valve|
|Timing system||“D.O.H.C”, radial valve|
|Total displacement||60.8 cu. in.|
|Bore x stroke||3.0 in. x 2.2 in.|
|Claimed Max. horse power – r.p.m.||(at the crankshaft) 122 Kw (166 HP) at 11750 – Lim. 12700 r.p.m.|
|Claimed Max. torque – r.p.m.||109 Nm (11.1 Kgm) at 10200 r.p.m.|
|Cooling system||Liquid cooled, water-oil heat exchanger|
|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 76.4 mph at 12700 r.p.m. |
Second gear: Speed* 16/34 105.2 mph at 12700 r.p.m.
Third gear: Speed* 18/32 125.7 mph at 12700 r.p.m.
Fourth gear: Speed* 20/30 149.0 mph at 12700 r.p.m.
Fifth gear: Speed* 22/29 169.6 mph at 12700 r.p.m.
Sixth gear: Speed* 21/25 187.0 mph at 12700 r.p.m.
|Final velocity ratio||15×39|
|Alternator||650 W at 5000 r.p.m.|
|Battery||12 V – 9 Ah|
|DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT|
|Overall lenght||79.01 in.|
|Overall width||26.97 in.|
|Saddle height||31.87 in.|
|Min. ground clearance||5.12 in.|
|Dry weight||423.3 lb (F4 1000 S) – 425.5 lb (F4 1000 S 1+1)|
|Fuel tank capacity||4.6 Brit. gal. ( reserve fuel: 0.88 Brit. gal. )|
|Maximum speed*||187.0 mph|
|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||4.96 in.|
|Type||Progressive, single shock absorber with rebound and compression (High speed / Low speed) damping and spring preload (hydraulic control)|
|Single sided swing arm: materiale||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||120/70 – ZR 17 (56 W)|
|Rear||190/50 – ZR 17 (73 W)|