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We ride: MV Agusta Rivale 800

2014-09-08 09:36

BIG BOYS' SUPERTOY: R160 000 might seem a lot to spend to "have fun" but MV Agusta's Rivale 800 is more than just a plaything, it has to be a lifestyle. Image: Dries van der Walt


Sexy, powerful, wholly impractical – three terms that describe many products produced by the Italian motoring industry. If this is the measure of Italian-ness, then MV Agusta’s Rivale 800, the subject of this review, is its quintessential manifestation.

*Editing errors in engine specifications corrected.

MV Agusta (the “MV” is short for Meccanica Verghera, after the hamlet in which the company was started) was a respected name in post-war racing circles but since the death of its driving force, Count Domenico Augusta, in 1971 the brand’s fortunes took a turn for the worse.


It was resurrected in the 1990's by Cagiva, the latter company now going under the name MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. (the last motorbike with a Cagiva name was produced in 2012). In South Africa, MV Agusta is one of several brands imported by Cayenne, a major dealer in Gauteng.

GALLERY: MV Agusta Rivale 800

The Rivale is Agusta’s take on the supermotard theme, sporting the long suspension travel and forward seating position typical of the breed but hung with MV’s familiar three-cylinder 800cc engine.  Visually, the Rivale is gorgeous – so much so that it was awarded the title Most Beautiful bike of 2012 at the Milan bike show. But if you expected the stunning design to have been penned by an Italian, you would be mistaken.

It’s designer was Adrian Morton, from Norwich in eastern England.

Being both expensive and impractical as an everyday bike, the Rivale is unashamedly exclusive. Morton admits: “The Rivale isn’t about practicality, it’s about having fun on two wheels.” And if that’s the design brief, the bike meets it laudably.

The seat is about as comfortable as a marble slab in a morgue, the fuel tank a tiny 13 litres and the bar-end mirrors make it almost impossible to lane-split, but use it inside its narrow envelope and the Rivale redefines the word “fun”.


It lifts its front wheel with the least encouragement – you may find it hard to resist the temptation of popping a wheelie at every traffic light. And then there is the fact that it handles almost as well as a sport bike, once you get the hang of cornering motard style.

Hanging the tail out in corners is a walk in the park and while the bike feels disconcertingly twitchy at extreme speeds, it compensates by feeling very controllable in fast, tight corners. Its exuberance can be tamed somewhat by the easily-adjustable engine mapping and eight-setting traction control, but really, why would you want to?

Rider interface takes the form of a purpose-designed instrument panel that allows you to choose the information displayed. Exceptions are the engine map selection, gear position, traction control level and coolant temperature, which are always visible.

The handlebar-mounted selector is relatively easy to operate lthough the font on the panel is light-weight and can be hard to read at speed. The clock, particularly, is so small that it might as well not be there.


On the subject of electronics: MV Agusta seems to have sorted out the mapping problems that plagued the earlier Brutales and F3s... while the Rivale is not the best-mapped bike I have tested it is certainly not the worst. I felt the Brembo brake pads were a tad too aggressive for a road bike, making it easy to lock the front wheel under emergency braking.

The review bike was not equipped with ABS, but an ABS model will be added to the range next year.

Fast, fun, impractical, then. The Rivale is the two-wheeled version of a supercar rather than a hot hatch. The combination of the steepish price tag and narrow focus means few riders will be able to justify buying one.

For those who do, it will probably be relegated to the role of the second bike, but boy, what a second bike!


Manufacturer: MV Agusta
Model: Rivale 800

Type: Three-cylinder, four-stroke, 12-valve
Displacement: 798cc
Maximum power: 92kW @ 12 000rpm
Maximum torque: 84Nm @ 8 600rpm
Fuel supply system: Electronic fuel injection
Fuel type: Unleaded, 95 octane RON
Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/100 km

Type: Cassette style; six speed, constant mesh
Final drive:Chain
Overall length x width (mm): 2070 X 885
Dry weight: 178kg

Passengers: Two
Fuel tank: 12.9 litres

Front: Double floating disc with Ø 320mm diameter, with steel braking disc and flange
Rear: Single steel disc with Ø 220mm  diameter.

Front: Marzocchi upside-down telescopic hydraulic fork with rebound-compression damping and preload adjustment
Rear: Progressive Sachs, single shock absorber with rebound and compression damping and preload adjustment

Wheel, front: 3.50” x 17”
Wheel, rear:  5.50” x 17”
Tyre, front: 120/70 - ZR 17 M/C (58 W)
Tyre, rear: 180/55 - ZR 17 M/C (73 W)

PRICE: R159 900

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