This feels awfully familiar. Disembarking from my plane in Italy I know I've done this all before. The small group of American journalists were to be carted off from their hotel near Borgo Panigale-Troy Bayliss' second home-to the Misano Adriatico circuit to ride one of the latest offerings from one of the land's famous manufacturers. So far this feels like déjà vu. In fact, when we arrived at the track the vibe felt much the same. These bikes had trellis frames, were beautifully designed...and were red.
But this wasn't a Ducati.
Nope, the shade of red was slightly lighter, the trellis frame cradled an in-line four, and the badge on the gas tank spelled something entirely different: MV Agusta. The "other" exotic Italian manufacturer made big waves earlier this year when it was announced that it would be acquired by Harley-Davidson, but the question as to what, exactly, Harley's influence would be was still unknown. As the dust is settling it seems as though the iconic American brand has a largely "hands-off" approach to its Italian counterparts. The main difference that the folks at MV will notice is the renewed vigor that comes from having capital to invest in itself. Simply put, that means we can expect to see big things (read: new models) coming from MV in the years to come.
This view gives a good look...
This view gives a good look at the 310mm disks and Brembo calipers of the 990R. Ten millimeter larger discs come standard on the 1090RR with slightly larger monobloc calipers. Marzocchi forks measure 50mm and are fully adjustable. Much like the Ducati Streetfighter, the exhaust heat shield on the Brutale also protrudes outward, but it's not as extreme as the Ducati, allowing the rider to maintain natural footing. Note also the pillion grab handles integrated into the tail piece.
Ironically, what you see on these pages have been on the drawing board long before Harley stepped in. At the time, MV had to be careful where it invested its resources, and since the F4 line had exhausted the benefits of the 1078cc engine, it was time to turn the attention toward the Brutale. The result is two new bikes that seem similar on the surface, but are actually worlds apart: the Brutale 990R and Brutale 1090RR. Sure, you're looking at these pictures and thinking to yourself, "Hey, this Brutale looks just like the last one." Well...you're right; it does look like the last one. That was one of the design goals set forth by the legendary chairman and head of R&D for MV, Claudio Castiglioni. But in fact the 990 and 1090 are entirely new models-85-percent of which is completely redesigned. And if you own an older Brutale and think you can just swap on the new stuff-sorry, there aren't very many bits that are interchangeable.
We'll cover the changes to the two bikes in more detail in the tech sidebar accompanying this story, but in essence, MV realized that the major complaint with the older 910 and later model Brutale's was low speed fueling. "The engine characteristic was very 'on/off'," stated Andrea Goggi, head of engine engineering, with the accompanying hand motion mimicking that of the throttle. "So our focus was to improve low-speed driveabilitiy." He further stated that not much attention was paid to peak horsepower because the engine is plenty powerful as it is. Three other design goals were also in effect during this redesign: weight reduction through simplification of components, and a complete redesign of the cooling and lubrication system. Effective completion of these two elements would lead to the third design goal: reducing costs. So what's the deal with two separate bikes, you ask? Read on.