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HomeZA BikersBike ReviewsMV Agusta Turismo Veloce: Italian Flair That Takes Time To Appreciate

MV Agusta Turismo Veloce: Italian Flair That Takes Time To Appreciate

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

MV Agusta has to be one of the most revered and, for a period, unattainable names in motorcycling. Throughout the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the fire-engine-red motorcycles from Varese, Italy, swept all before them in Grand Prix racing while, conversely, their road bikes tended to be small-displacement models aimed at mobility, albeit sporting mobility, rather than headline-grabbing performance.

There was one 600cc road model in the mid-1960s, incorporating a piece of Grand Prix engineering in the form of a transversely-mounted inline four-cylinder engine (the first motorcycle to be so fitted, way before the Honda CB750) that owed a lot to GP thinking – twin overhead gear-driven camshafts, for example – and stodgy, unattractive styling. Only 135 were manufactured in four years.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Then, in the 1970s, came the equally exotically-engineered 750S and 750S America models, complete with huge price tags and resultant exclusivity. It wasn’t long before the company ceased manufacturing motorcycles altogether, instead concentrating on the core helicopter business.

Since then, the name has been owned by the Castiglioni family (of Cagiva and Ducati fame, and who rescued the MV brand from obscurity), Harley-Davidson, part-owned by Mercedes-AMG, fully-owned by the Russian Sardarov family and, finally and currently, a majority shareholding by Pierer Mobility Group, AKA KTM. Thanks to this, the MV Agusta brand now has a solid foundation upon which to re-energise its assault on the South African market, as it now falls under the control of KTM SA and, more specifically, FAST KTM in Alberton.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Throughout all this, the MV Agusta name has retained its almost mystical aura, denoting the very best in Italian engineering and no-holds-barred exoticism. If the motorcycles are today more accessible than ever, then that has done nothing to dilute the pedigree.

And that brings us, by a rather circuitous route, to the subject of this test, the Turismo Veloce 800. Straight away, let’s dispense with the idea that, despite the styling, this is an adventure bike. These are sports tourers, for want of a better name; upright riding position, good wind protection, (relatively) comfortable seat and (again, relatively) long-legged, long-distance ability.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

In reality, the Turismo Veloce is a thinly-disguised Brutale 800 model, with taller suspension and more bodywork. Underneath, it is the same (but re-tuned) 798cc, three-cylinder engine producing, in this guise, 110bhp and 82Nm of torque. It’s surprisingly rough and sounds like a tractor at low revs, but that all changes as the revs rise; one thing it can’t be accused of is lacking character, helped by a screaming high-rev soundtrack through the glorious triple exhaust pipes; surely one of the sexiest exhaust designs available today?

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The race-bred genes come through everywhere. It’s a motorcycle that demands your complete attention and dedication. You can simply jump on and ride it but, to get the best out of it, you need to learn its ways and its foibles, its likes and dislikes. It needs to be understood and, if you don’t take the time, then it gives the impression that it won’t suffer fools gladly. Your first ride on it, you’ll hate it and you’ll wonder what on earth you were thinking. By the fourth or fifth ride, you’ll be in love.

And that is what makes it so special. It’s not a bike for everybody. It’s a bike for the few. That might sound elitist but who ever said motorcycling, or even a particular motorcycle, must be for everyone?

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The Turismo Veloce can be nervous and temperamental, it might very well be spectacular on track but that’s never going to be its natural habitat, at least not in its current guise; maybe the Brutale 800 will be shown pristine track tarmac, but the Turismo Veloce never will because its not been configured for that. The race-bred characteristics are still in plain view, however, and the fact that it is a blast on twisty roads is a testament to that.

It might not be terribly good at being a touring bike, thanks to the seat comfort, which isn’t brilliant – not terrible, but not brilliant – but what it is is a piece of uncompromising Italian engineering; engineering that makes no excuses and takes no prisoners; about as far from the Universal Japanese Motorcycle as it is possible to get; love it and ride it for what it is and forget trying to make it fit everyone.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The last bike ridden and written about was the BMW M 1000 R which, with 210bhp on tap, is about as insane a motorcycle as you would ever want to ride but even that was a pussycat compared to the Sprint Veloce 800. It was just so polished, for all its insane performance potential; it actually seemed to help you.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Not so the MV. MV might tell you that the Turismo Veloce is the most accessible MV ever, but they’re just trying to pull the wool over your eyes. And it’s all the better for it. It’s easy to get sucked into the niceness of the modern motorcycle but what we really need is something to kick us up the arse and tell us that it shouldn’t be easy, that you have to work for it. Accessibility is great but it has taken a lot of the challenge of riding a motorcycle out of the equation.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The motorcycles I have owned over the past forty years have all been classics, whether Triumph, BSA, Norton, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Harley-Davidson and, yes, an MV Agusta, albeit a 1960s 350cc parallel twin. The common denominator between them all has been a requirement to treat them as objects that need to be understood to ride properly. Especially the Harley-Davidson, with a foot clutch, hand shift, no brakes and an advance/retard twist grip on the left-hand grip. Riding it required full coordination and concentration of all four limbs in order to make it go forward. Riding it well was the ultimate expression of skill, even if the top speed was never over 100km/h.

Yes, the MV Agusta is a thoroughly modern motorcycle, with all the electronic bells and whistles that you would expect, not to mention the performance, character and dynamics. But it is the closest I have come for a long time to a motorcycle that challenges me to ride it well and I love it all the more because of that.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers
Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
From an early age, Harry was obsessed with anything that moved under its own steam, particularly cars and motorcycles. For reasons of a financial nature, his stable of fine automobiles failed to materialise, at which point he realised that motorcycles were far more affordable and so he started his two wheel career, owning, riding, building and fixing many classic bikes. Then came the day when he converted his love of bikes into a living, writing, filming and talking about them endlessly. The passion for four wheels never left him, however, and he has now converted his writing skills into singing the praises of cars in all their infinite variety. Bikes are still his favourite means of getting around but the car in its modern form is reaching a level of perfection that is hard to resist. And they're warmer in winter....
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