Back in the days when I imagined that I was bulletproof, my default setting for riding like a loon was to take note of oncoming corner advisory speed signs and attack the ensuing curve at more than double the advised velocity.
Click photo at left for more views of the MV-Agusta 675 F3.
It was a satisfying method of operating bikes like my Yamaha RZ350 as you'd clip the corner apex with pegs and stands sparking on the deck, yet not run out of road on the exit.
AT A GLANCE
|Engine: 675cc liquid-cooled dohc 12-valve inline triple, stoked by electronic fuel injection to develop 94.2kW (126bhp) at 14,400rpm and 71Nm at 10,500rpm.|
|Transmission: Six- speed sequential gearbox, chain final drive.|
|Frame: Tubular tellis/cast alloy hybrid frame with cast aluminium single-sided swingarm, 41mm fully adjustable Marzocchi front forks and fully adjustable Sachs rear monoshock.|
|Hot: The best thing to happen to MV-Agusta since it won 37 world road-racing titles, the F3 possesses the sharpest steering of any bike with a registration plate.|
|Not: Over-sprung rear shock, wasn't fully sorted at world press launch, deceased MV owner, Claudio Castiglioni, didn't live to see it come to fruition.|
All contemporary sportsbikes benefit from recent progress in frame, suspension, and tyre technology.
However, the F3 doesn't just carve a line through a turn, it constantly hints that you could roll-rotate it through a fast S-bend using footpeg input alone.
The new standard that the MV sets in steering precision for the sportiest bike segment results from the MV's liberal borrowing of MotoGP racing technology. Like the bikes raced by Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner and Co, the crankshaft of the 675cc triple that powers the littlest, lightest MV spins in the opposite direction to the wheels of the bike, snuffing out a gyroscopic effect that causes steering inertia.
That reversed spin of the crankshaft isn't the only place where the engine design of the Italian triple draws inspiration from MotoGP. With the six-speed gearbox riding piggy-back above the crankshaft, and water and oil pumps so miniaturised that they can be included within the crankcases for a cleaner-looking motor, the 126bhp triple has been designed to minimise as much mass as possible, and to centralise and compact the weight that it adds to the 173kg bike.
The four valves charging and purging each combustion chamber are made of titanium to reduce valvetrain friction, and are of a generous diameter, thanks to the wildly oversquare 79mm bore and 49.5mm stroke dimensions of the MV's cylinders.
About the only concession to cost-cutting in the engine is that the inlet and exhaust valves are laid out in tandem side-by-side, Cosworth-style, rather than in the radial valve arrangement of the 1000cc four that powers the F3's big bro', the F4. It's a cheaper method of cylinder head manufacturing and is one of several reasons why the F3 costs $22,490 in this country whereas the cheapest F4 model is $34,990.
Another is that a lot of the milled-from-solid-alloy components expected in an MV are replaced by castings in the F3, and you notice this most in the steering head area and foot-peg carriers of the cheapest Agusta.
However, the bike still looks a million dollars from five paces back, thanks to its classic red/ silver livery and the sleek 'n' slim Massimo Tamburini-inspired design of young Brit crayon- wielder Adrian Morton. The former maestro, who arguably designed the two prettiest sportsbikes ever with the original F4 and Ducati 916, would probably be content to sign off the F3 (and Morton's recently revised F4) as his own work.
Contrary to reports emanating from the official world launch of the F3, where pre-production versions exhibited stuttering throttle response and jerky bottom end performance, all's well with the final fully signed-off version of the triple.
A radial-valve cylinder head might have packed out the mid- range grunt to Triumph Daytona levels, but I found this bike a more satisfying ride, despite the peakier delivery than its Brit rival. At 8000rpm, all the little triple's engine design features - the big valves, the wide cylinder bores, short piston strokes, etc - fall into line and the result is a jet-like zip all the way to the 15,000rpm red line. And it does sound good. The distinctive rasping exhaust and induction music was instantly reminiscent of the historic MV- Agusta 500cc triple racebike that the legendary Giacomo Agostini rode at a Pukekohe Classic festival almost a decade ago.
Despite the price, the F3 doesn't skimp on the details. You get a quick-shifter for full-throttle upshifts, the comfiest rider ergos of any Latin sportsbike, eight-way traction control including anti- wheelie and launch control, three throttle maps, ultra-grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa radials and fully adjustable suspension. At the stock settings, the Marzocchi front forks felt perfectly tuned to my 75kg fully kitted rider weight, while the Sachs rear shock felt too firm with the spring preload set in the middle of its adjustment range.
The Brembo brakes were absolute brutes, and the front lever needed a fine touch at times to prevent the stiffly sprung Sachs from levering the rear wheel off the deck.
MV-Agustas usually deserve to be mentioned in the same terms of reverence as exotic supercars, but the F3 breaks away from that tradition.
With its increased accessibility and user-friendliness, the F3 is the equivalent of a two-wheeled Porsche 911 rather than a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, but is no less desirable for the way it steers an aspirational motorcycle brand more towards the mainstream.
- © Fairfax NZ News