The press conference part of this launch was different to most I’ve sat through.
Usually it’s all about technical changes to the new model, how a certain component is 15% more efficient, another is 200 grams lighter and another has more tortional stiffness. Very little is usually said about aesthetics or design concepts.
With the new MV F4 they explained that the new bike was 10kgs lighter and talked about various other important improvements but most of the spiel in the classroom came from the bodywork designers, the blokes who designed the actual shape and look of the thing. Coming as I do from a racing background I’m much more interested in function rather than form. If a new bike performs better or gives you better lap times it always looks good.
The engineers were at pains to tell us that every single component that made up the old F4 has been evaluated, redesigned, re-engineered or relocated to improve upon the old model and give the new F4 ‘class-leading performance and handling’ err, righto then chaps... but let me tell ya, the old model needed a bit of improving.
Last year’s F4 312 although good looking and just about OK on the track, was a nightmare on the road. The riding position was uncomfortable, the suspension so hard it hurt, the clutch so grabby it was impossible to set off smoothly, and the motor had strong top-end but the fueling was all over the place making the throttle like an on-off switch in the corners. It made the most experienced rider look like a blundering novice. The new bike had to be a lot better if it was going to be a contender. Yup, I was pretty sure I was gonna be giving this bike a right old slating. But I couldn’t because I liked it.
As soon as I set off on the new bike I could feel it was going to be a better machine, even before I’d ridden out of the Almeria circuit gates heading for the twisty mountain roads I knew I was dealing with a totally different animal here. The new bike is so much better than the old one, in virtually every aspect, it’s difficult to believe it’s out of the same factory.
The roads around Almeria up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada are perfect for getting the feel of a big sports bike. You come across almost every kind of bend on this constantly twisting bit of tarmac. This bike inspired confidence from the get-go.
The three main changes that have improved the F4 are in suspension, feel from the front-end and the character of the motor.
A claimed (and impressive) 186bhp at the crank is an identical figure to the old 312 F4, but a redesigned, heavier crankshaft, variable throttle body intakes and a totally remapped Magneti Marelli ECU gives the new one more torque and a smoother, more controllable power delivery. It’s still a motor that likes to rev hard, giving it’s max at 12,800 rpm but it’s just as happy cruising through the bends in a high gear pulling from 5 or6 K.
The fueling’s sorted too. Picking up the throttle in the middle of a bend is easy, the power comes in progressively with no scary holes or spikes like before.
The standard suspension settings are right in the ball park too. Firm enough to let you feel what the chassis is doing but soft enough to be reasonably comfy for general riding, certainly no more harsh than any other modern sportsbike. This aspect of set-up is always going to be a compromise. A pin-sharp track bike would be so firm that it’d rattle your fillings before you’d done ten miles on the road. And a bike that gave you magic-carpet comfort on a bumpy road would handle like a Vespa with a flat tyre if you took it on track.
How MV made big changes to the F4 without losing its good looks
Strange to find that the senior designer of this very Italian bike is a Brit. Adrian Morton and his colleague, Fabio Landi were responsible for the new bike. I was keen to find out if there was any conflict between them and the engineers that had to improve how the bike performed. It’s all well and good producing a motorcycle work of art if you work for American Chopper, but in the one litre sports bike category, if it don’t perform, the looks are irrelevant.
Morton explained that although every angle and view of the new bike is different, the company felt the original design had aged exceptionally well and wanted to retain the overall look but bring it bang up to date. The design brief therefore was fairly tight. They were asked to make the bike look more modern and more aggressive but many aspects of the original design had to stay, to retain the ‘MV DNA’ as they put it. The four underseat exhaust stacks had to stay, as did the single sided swingarm. They also knew they would be working around the same basic frame/engine layout and dimensions.
For their part, the actual engineers knew what aspects of the bike’s performance they had to sort out. Power delivery, weight, suspension, and rider comfort were the main issues to be addressed. The only impact this had on Adrian’s work was that he was told to make the riding position better, especially for taller riders, and make the frontal shape more efficient for air intake, both for allowing the motor to breath better and for cooling. They managed this and made the nose 40mm narrower!
Very little of the design was done using CAD. Much importance was put on how this bike would look in the flesh, it was felt that doing it the old way with clay, so they could actually look at it instead of just squinting an image on a screen would be better. They also said working the old school way was more enjoyable too.