MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR first ride review

Introducing two new Brutales from the Italian masters of style, courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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MV Agusta have been quiet of late and it’s 11 years since they made any kind of notable impact with the launch of the F4 750. The F4 was a superbike originally intended to propel Cagiva’s comeback, a bike that Ducati would have loved to have in their range but instead it put MV back on the map. Then came the Brutale and things looked good. But financial worries, a raft of new owners and a lack of direction ground MV’s restoration project to a halt.

However, Harley-Davidson bought MV in 2008, blew the dust off the concept sketches and have given MV carte blanche to do what they do best. And they’re clearly fired up and keen to make up for lost time.

So enter two new models, the Brutale 990R and the Brutale 1090RR. Similar to the Brutale that was first launched almost a decade ago, you might think, but MV have retained the Brutale silhouette having changed 85% of the components. The most exciting change being an all-new 8-point traction control system.

The 1090RR is still 1078cc like the 1078RR but weighs 3kg less and, rather worryingly, has lost 3bhp to the 1078RR, on paper at least. But MV assure me they’re now quoting figures from a dyno that isn’t connected to the marketing department.

So it’s no surprise MV claim they were looking for better power delivery, not power gains - a claim that only stacks up if the bike is genuinely better to ride. The 1078RR was single-minded and harsh, not just with power delivery, and it didn’t suffer fools, nor foolish riding.

So to calm things down the wheelbase of the 1090RR is 28mm longer, thanks largely to a 20mm longer swingarm, so its stability is improved and the whole package is further enhanced by much better fuelling. When you don’t have to think about your throttle position or revs, you can get on with your riding and that’s precisely the feeling you get from the RR and exactly what you need on the road.

We rode on the sort of Italian roads usually reserved for postcards. Tight, twisty but with broken tarmac – great for photos and even better to highlight any bike’s weak points. First-gear hairpins required some clutch-slipping to soften off the eager motor, but along faster flowing bends, the power delivery is as sharp as you need, the whole package is plush, stable and right at home.

MV Agusta Brutale 990 - The Other One...

MV Agusta also launched the £11,950 990R, aiming at café culture. The R features a 998cc engine with the same bore as the 1090RR, just a shorter stroke. The fuelling doesn’t feel as smooth as the 1090RR and coupled with the wholly road-orientated Pirelli Diablo Rosso tyres, the feedback from the front-end wasn’t what I expected. The chassis is identical to the 1090RR, but the wheels are slightly heavier and not forged like the 1090RR. Again, detracting from the nimble feeling of its more glamorous brother. Although an improvement on the 910 and easier to ride thanks to better fuelling and comfier due to a revised riding position it’s not as good as the 1090RR on the road or track.

2 - MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR

The 1090RR has two maps, one sport and one for wet riding. We didn’t see rain but the secondary map softens off low-down power delivery, for those get-me-home moments.

One of the best revisions to the Brutale is the new tank, not only does it have a massive capacity – 21 litres – but its winged design enables you to get great purchase on the tank, allowing you to keep your weight off the bars. While the huge 50mm Marzocchi forks are stiff enough to feel precise and not nervous, it’s the Dunlop Sportmax Qualifiers that really bind the whole package together. It is amazing how the right tyre can transform a bike and these Dunlops are the perfect choice.

It’s rare that a naked bike feels at home on track. Even the most sorted road bikes can feel vague and out of their league, but on the fast and technical Misano circuit, the 1090RR could really stretch its legs. The front end felt better under hard braking and the confidence I got from the 8-point traction control was literally worth a couple of seconds a lap. At first I had it on setting 7 out of 8 and was too intrusive, kicking in out of all but the fastest of bends. But I found it perfect on setting 5.

As you hit the apex of a corner, you can’t just crack open the gas and hope the traction-control catches you, but you can chip away at the moment you can get on the power, without worrying about ending up in orbit. That’s a seriously satisfying feeling on track and a great safety feature for that one moment on the road where it could go pear-shaped.

Aside from price, the only issue I have with the 1090RR, is that by striving to be a seriously capable trackbike - which it is - it’s been forced into a niche that makes it a road bike that you’ll only get the best from when you’re riding it down a select number of roads. And those roads are usually bolted onto the side of an Italian mountain. And you’re not going to want to ride the Brutale all the way down there in a hurry...

Rating: 4/5


Price: £13,950
Top speed: 161mph
Engine: 1078cc, 16-valve, liquid-cooled inline four Power: 144bhp @ 10,600rpm
83lb/ft @ 8,000rpm Bore & stoke: 79 x 55mm Compression ratio: 13:1
Front suspension: 50mm upside-down forks Adjustment: Compression, rebound and preload
Rear suspension: Monoshock Adjustment: Compression, rebound and preload
Front brakes: 2 x 320mm discs, four-piston calipers Rear brake: Twin-piston caliper, 210mm disc
Wet weight:
190kg Seat height: 830mm Fuel capacity: 23 litres
Colour options:
Red, Black