by Staff

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All bikes are not created equal. However, there is a class that's populated with bikes created in the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) mold. These bikes are what we like to call "Standards" and/or "Streetfighters".

They can take you from a Monday Track Day, to a Tuesday Commute, to a Wednesday Night Drag Race, to a Thursday Grocery Run, to a Friday Canyon Fling and on through a two-up weekend, without even batting an eyelash. If motocross tracks were still mostly flat, a simple tire-swap would allow them to tackle that too. Though today's bikes aren't all created equal, the UJMs do a good job of covering the wildly different needs of riders who'd typically use a racer-replica for the weekends, a cruiser for commuting and a sport tourer for longer trips. Yes, the UJM class is nothing, if not practical. However, these particular bikes reside on the anti-social fringe of the "Standard" genre.

These three bikes might defy exact categorization, but they thrive on a good real world flogging.
Furthermore, they're not even Japanese. What we have here are the exotic cousins of the UJM, the Aprilia Tuono, Buell XB-12S and the MV Agusta Brutale S.

These three bikes might defy exact categorization, but they thrive on a good real world flogging. To see which is best, we invited MO guest testers Martin "Sportbike_Pilot" Hackworth, Arthur "Buzz_Waloch", and George "Longride" Obradovich to join the regular staff on a two-day mixed-loop ride through the cities, freeways, countryside and mountains of Southern California. When we were done, each tester wrote separate opinions of the three bikes, as well as ranking them from first to last. What follows are 7,500+ words, 13 Videos, 86 photos and 5 dyno charts describing and contrasting each of these three bikes.

3rd Place: MV Agusta Brutale S

Martin on the MV Agusta Brutale S: The Brutale is first and foremost an exquisite piece of rolling sculpture. You could get by just pushing this thing around everywhere and still be the envy of all your friends. This bike succeeds without any muss or fuss, in being what every over-hyped chopper in the world aspires to be, i.e., "Cool". The fact that it gets down the road like a rocket on a rail is a bonus. It is perhaps the most uniquely beautiful production motorcycle I've ever laid eyes on.

I had the opportunity to ride this bike once before, back in August when Buzz brought it out to Willow Springs as part of a story that we were working on. My impression was that of a 750cc crossbow bolt, tiny, agile and goes like a bat outta hell. Aside from the sharp looks, I was also impressed by what happened when the starter button was pushed - an eruption of roarty notes that sound exactly like what a bike that looks like this ought to sound like. An aural and visual feast. Oh yeah!

The Brutale is set up for a tight fit and I couldn't get my knees to fit into the sculpted cutouts in the tank sides, due to the short distance between the seat and pegs.
The engine in the Brutale is the same radial 16-valve engine found in the latest F4. It's a trick 749cc mill with under-piston oil spray, a lightened crankshaft, special Brutale fuel-injection mapping and the aforementioned groovy-as-all-get-out twin-pipe exhaust which conspire to produce decent but not overwhelming power. The chassis layout is the same as the F4 on which it is based, i.e., chrome-moly frame tubes with an aluminum single-sided swing-arm. Front suspension is courtesy of 49mm upside-down Showa forks and rear suspension is handled by a Sachs shock. Front and rear suspension are both fully adjustable. The Brutale is slowed by six-piston Nissin calipers that put the pads to 310mm discs. The wheels are beautiful, polished aluminum five-spoke units.

The Brutale is much more than muscular eye candy. It is a whip sharp motorcycle that does almost everything well. It's a visual stunner that is also eminently functional with one caveat. It's tiny. Pay attention ya'll because we're talking 9/10-scale model of an actual dream bike. Since it is very compact, anyone over 5'10" or so is going to have a hard time getting shoe horned into a relaxed riding position. The Brutale is set up for a tight fit and I couldn't get my knees to fit into the sculpted cutouts in the tank sides, due to the short distance between the seat and pegs. Not only did this mean I had to ride down the road with my knees splayed way out to the sides, (not the way you want to drag a knee in a corner) but I also struggled to move around on the bike in wring-it-out mode. I like to shift position when I'm flogging a bike and the Brutale cramped my style (and my legs) a little. Even with this handicap, the Brutale went around corners like a slot car, (our bike was equipped with Pirelli's excellent Diablo Corsa tires which seemed especially well suited to this model) so ergonomics are at least par for the course. After all, none of these bikes are Gold Wings. Buzz who fits on this bike well, was able to make it haul ass through the twisties. Salute!

The local "Talent" thought the Brutale was "Purty"...
All of the controls on the Brutale are intuitive and the information display is very easy to read. Brakes, shifting, throttle response and clutch action are as precise and glitch-free as one should expect from a piece of rolling sculpture (yes, Virginia, this is a swipe at spendy custom boat anchors, er, I mean, choppers). The Brutale doesn't lack a thing in the motivation department. We're talking some major giddy up and go here. A prior strafing run down Rosamond Blvd. suggests to me that you are probably not going to be embarrassed by any pesky 600's or big standards on this thing. Yowsah! (I'm 100% certain a ZX-6R or FZ-1 will blow the Brutale's doors clean off. -Sean)

So the Brutale is beautiful, functional, cool, sexy and generally the best thing since nickel night in a Thai brothel. Nirvana? Well the sun don't shine on a dog's ass all of the time and the nadir here is the view rearward. The mirrors are a waste of sheet metal and glass and are even less useful than those on the Ducati 999. Must be an Italian thing. Generally, on a bike this fast what is behind you isn't much of a concern unless, it's Sean Alexander on a Concours - in which case it is a very good idea to be able to reconnoiter the lay of the land for a full 360°. That aside, the Brutale is as full of moxie as any sane rider could possibly want, it really wants to get on down the road and handles great while doing it.

Though all three of these bikes were attractions wherever we stopped, the Brutale was definitely the winner of every beauty contest. The Brutale is the best combination of looks and functionality I've encountered in motocycledom. It's a Ferrari with two wheels. Hell, it's damn near sex on two wheels. I think I may have to start strong-arming little old ladies, just so I can get a Brutale for myself. -Martin

Buzz on the MV Agusta Brutale S: If there is a prettier, more sculpted bike on the planet, I haven't come across it yet. I still stare at it daily, and I own it! Never have colors, shapes, and textures blended so harmoniously with real world usability.

... and Buzz never washed his seat again.
The Brutale needs to be kept on the boil for good thrust. However, that's easy to do with the short gearing and excellent transmission (Unlike the Aprilia, you can actually find neutral on the MV). The howl of the intake warns you that objects will shortly be closer than they appear. It is a bit harsh and "busy" for sustained freeway riding though.

The MV is compact like the Buell and changes direction quite easily. The stiff throttle can become a challenge at times but the Brutale really rips through the corners. It's almost as smooth as the Buell, but not quite. She needs a bit more suspension fiddling to be perfect.

Wheelies are still easy on the MV, they just take a bit more effort than the other bikes. You need more RPM and then she just takes off, so your wheelies are generally of the high speed variety. -Buzz

George on the MV Agusta Brutale S: The first time I saw the MV Agusta Brutale in person, it made my jaw drop. I think it made everyone's jaw drop. From the moment Buzz pulled up with it in his pickup, I stared at this bike. It's beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice. Looking at all the angles and curves, and how they all come together perfectly to form this rolling artwork, you wonder how they did it. But they did. When we rolled this beauty off the truck, and parked it next to the other test bikes, it took less than 5 minutes for 3 people to come wandering over for a look. It was that way everywhere we went.

This bike needs at least 8K showing on the tach, and from there, the fun and the banshee wail take over the ride.
Buzz and Martin started giving me crap about how I would be riding a 750cc wedgie. A closer look revealed a riding position very similar to the Buell's. Maybe a longer reach to the bars, but a quick seat check said all would be well with the MV and me. In town it wasn't a wedgie, but riding it was like wearing very tight briefs. All the equipment is in place, and it sure as hell isn't going to move around much. The bike has ONE riding position and that's it. Around town, the bike felt taut and responsive, and accelerated like stink when the revs were kept high. When the curves are tight, is when this bike becomes more than just another pretty face.

Twist the throttle hard, and the bike emits a howl that will shiver your spine. This is one bike that needs no after-market help in the sound department. It is easy to turn in, and tracks like it's on rails. For me it was like riding a mini bike on steroids. Crazy small and crazy fast. Grins under the helmet are coming faster than the curves. Brakes are one finger strong, and easy to modulate. The only damper on this fun is the throttle, which is stiff, and very hard to open initially, making it hard to modulate at partial throttle openings. Hell, just hold it wide open and that problem is solved. That will also solve the problem with the mirrors, as I can see about 1/4 inch from each end, but I get a great view of my elbows. This bike needs at least 8K showing on the tach, and from there, the fun and the banshee wail take over the ride. The really cool part, is after ripping through the curves, you can just park it and stare at the thing some more, which I kept finding myself doing. I could see leaving the wife and kids, and possibly make a deal with the Devil himself to have a chance at owning this baby.

Alas, reality waits. This Italian girl has a bad side. One rapid trip on the freeway will convince you that the twisties need to be very near indeed. All the things that make it turn corners so well, and put that unshakable grin on your face, soon communicate in no uncertain terms, why this bike is called the "Brutale". The stiff throttle annoys, the vibration puts appendages to sleep, and the riding position quickly makes you wish for more options. Furthermore, all this happens in a very short span of time. The bike is geared so low, that it's always turning 7 to 8K when moving rapidly. This has it howling like crazy, even when you want to chill. The suspension that felt so right when turning, now feels very stiff. At speed, you could run over a quarter with this bike and tell if it was heads or tails. All road imperfections are sent direct mail to the hands or the butt. I can't see a damned thing out of the mirrors either. Not a willing long distance friend, to be sure. Buzz says he can make about 150 miles on this bike before the pain sets in. I think I could make it that far too......if we stopped every 30 miles!

This is a bike for those of you who want the "coolest" ride in the group and intend to use it solely for sweaty Sunday morning backroad flings or Wednesday "Bike Night" gatherings.
Like any Italian beauty, even when she unleashes her bad side on you, one look at her and all is forgiven. Did I mention this bike is beautiful? So the Brutale is a bike with a split personality. Supportive, willing and oh so much fun on the curvy roads, while being coarse and uncomfortable on the long and straight stretches. Of course, this bike could be terrible everywhere, and I would still want one. Even though it's the most expensive bike here, I could buy one just to put in the garage and stare at. Maybe I'd start it up to listen to the high pitched wail every now and then. The fact that it works so well, is frosting on the cake. The two things that hold this bike back from winning, are its lack of comfort and the fact this bike doesn't have a "bad" bone in its body. These are "Streetfighters", right? This one may be more dancer than brawler, but I like it. -George

Sean on the MV Agusta Brutale S: The guest testers have covered almost everything. However, I'd like to add a few observations as a (Cough!) "professional".

The Brutale is indeed a jewel of a bike. The closer you look, the more you expect to find "Faberge" stamped on its parts. However, its hideous headlight borders on obscene and its highway manners make me sorry I didn't take the car. The short wheelbase and stiff suspension conspire to make your ride a rough one, while the buzzy & frenetic powerplant has you feeling frazzled in short order. In other words, this is not a touring bike. That's a good thing, because you'd be lucky to get 100 highway miles out of the 26MPG Brutale. On the other hand, the Brutale is blessed with a planted mid-corner feel and though the cockpit doesn't allow for much movement from its pilot, the bike still handles well enough to allow for some serious canyon carving.

This is a bike for those of you who want the "coolest" ride in the group and intend to use it solely for sweaty Sunday morning backroad flings or Wednesday "Bike Night" gatherings. If you want a multi-purpose tool, I'd suggest you look elsewhere. -Sean

How We Voted:
Aprilia Tuono:2nd2nd1st3rd
Buell XB-12S:1st1st3rd2nd
MV Brutale S:3rd3rd2nd1st
Buell XB-12S - 1st Place
Aprilia Tuono - 2nd Place
MV Agusta Brutale S - 3rd Place Staff Staff presents an unrivaled combination of bike reviews and news written by industry experts

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