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Looking through the window - a tour of the MV Agusta factory

A guide through the wonders of how the stunning MV Agustas are born

It starts with a pencil. A pencil like any other, that writes and draws. Well not quite like any other, as these words come from an MV Agusta pencil.

The lead feels precise like a 2H, not smudgy and dull like an HB, nor too scratchy and brittle. Surrounding the lead is black wood, with a matt black coating. Towards the top there is a silver MV Agusta logo, that gives the impression of being embossed. To crown everything, a 14 sided obsidian jewel capping the end.

This sums up MV's approach to motorcycle building. Nothing is done by halves and there is no sense of 'oh that will do'. With bike prices coming under close scrutiny in recent times, a trip to the MV Agusta factory was in order to see exactly what you get for your money. (Which nowadays is only a smidge more than offerings from the land of the rising sun).

Perched on the banks of Lago di Varese, 30 minutes from the Italian-Swiss border and moments from the best roads and alpine passes ever constructed, the MV factory boasts one of the worlds most idyllic locations for any manufacturer. Arrive at lunchtime and you will see employees fishing by the lake shores, jogging a lap of the adjacent parkland or indulging in a refreshing gelato.

It is obvious when its time for work to commence again as there is a ten to two thunder rumbling in the distance, as enthusiastic fabricators, welders, painters, engineers and designers race back from their lunch break on bikes. A generous 'family' discount ensures many of these are from the MV Agusta and Cagiva range.

Once inside the hallowed gates, it hits you. The history, the achievement, 75 World titles and 270 Grand Prix victories; Agostini, Surtees, Hailwood and Read all had their championship winning bikes built here.

The tour started in Signor Castiglioni's office, which isnt the norm, but it gave an insight into the passion that has fuelled this family to build the Cagiva brand from the remnants of Aermacchi AMF, save Ducati from closure, and since 1992 inject life and dynamism into MV Agusta.

First stop is the engine department, where the heart and soul is crafted. Full design and assembly takes place in house, with cylinder heads and blocks arriving in rough form awaiting a session in the CNC milling machine. Once each port has been flowed and valve seat cut, the finished parts are sent a whole 3 metres away to a test room where a rather serious looking man with a good Italian name and trendy spectacles is in charge of the only robot at the factory. This so called robot uses lasers to check that the very tightest of tolerances have been achieved. Once he is happy and the computer says yes, another team take over, inserting the valves, springs and camshafts all by hand, using proper hand tools.

Now some companies pride themselves on 'one man building one engine', when the Head of Assembly was asked about this, his reply was: "No, why would you have one person doing everything, they cannot be the best at everything, we have someone who is the best in whole factory at building the cylinder head, and thats what they do, then another person will be the gearbox expert, you see"

Each motor gets a 20 minute test run on the dyno. And yes, you get to see the glowing header pipes, as in this case, a 186bhp F4 engine is shown the red line while a computer and its operative study complicated looking data. The sound of those four exhausts screaming and spitting flames is something every motorcycle enthusiast must experience at least once in their lifetime.  How they make a 4 cylinder machine so acoustically addictive is amazing, none of that droning 4 banger stuff here that’s for sure.

The main thing you notice is the lack of rush or hurry, there are no countdown clocks or pushy supervisors as you might find  at other manufacturers. Only when the worker is 100% happy do they pass their piece of the jigsaw puzzle down the line. A manual line at that, with a degree of batch production. Henry Ford would turn in his grave, but there is a difference here.  It is clear that everybody is working as a team, not to produce as many as possible, but to build the best possible.

The friendliness is audible and the enthusiasm nearly tangible. One employee saved up for an F4, and was lucky enough build part of it, and watch the rest come to life in front of his eyes. Everyone is happy to say ciao and explain exactly what they are doing, and if your Italian is a touch rusty, your guide will be not only multilingual, incredibly knowledgeable (and very attractive), but on first name terms with every single person in the factory.

Through to the next room and everything starts to look a little more familiar. The fire is installed into the belly of the Brutale or F4, as another worker mounts rather trick looking suspension. Super lightweight wheels, tanks and ancillaries are bolted on before each bike is pushed, by hand, to another test bench. Here all bikes are run through a typical 'road' scenario and again, everything is checked by men with sharp looking spectacles and expensive beards, before the final bodywork fitting next door.

Only 25 or so bikes are produced each day, and one employee in some very special white cotton gloves gives the final once over before signing the build sheet and placing each masterpiece in the dispatch area. Now one F4 or Brutale is a site to behold, but a room full of brand new, gleaming bikes, you might need to pinch yourself.

So, if you want to know exactly how a motorcycle is manufactured for the demands of modern day riding and the discerning rider, you will not find a better opportunity to get as close to the action as this. However, if you want to see how a motorcycle should be built, by hand, with passion, years of heritage and race winning expertise, then book yourself a tour. There is no initial charge, but one thing is for certain, you will leave wondering if you can manage with just one kidney and how long granny is going to live for.

Read Ross' trip to the world of MV Agusta here

For more on MV Agusta click here