You can never ignore Italians. You can love them or you can hate them, but ignore them? Never. It’s the same with their bikes. You either fall in love with them or you hate them for their inherently wild character. No, they’re not particularly prone to being tamed. A litre-class Italian superbike can be a lethal machine in the wrong hands and can scare the living daylights out of you. But admittedly, if you manage to get things right then they’re super exhilarating. The question you’ll inevitably ask at some point if you’re a lover of Italian motorcycles (I have on more than one occasion), is if there will ever be a middle ground.
Well, there is, and it is the MV Agusta F3 800. The Varese-based manufacturer of some of the wildest (and most evocative) machines would have you believe that this bike will deliver everything you want – the exhilaration of a 1000, the handling of a 600, torque of a twin and acceleration of a straight four. Now is that a case of over-enthusiastic marketing or can the bike actually deliver the goods being promised by its makers? The only way to settle that one would be by actually riding the MV Agusta F3 800, so that’s precisely what we did. And to make sure that there wouldn’t be too many variables that would hamper the test, we took it to a place we’re all too familiar with – the lap of Mutha.
But before we get to the bike and the way it rides, a few words and phrases on its design. There is something to be said about the F3’s visage. It’s not particularly new, having debuted almost a decade and a half ago, penned by the late great Massimo Tamburini, but it still feels contemporary. Yes, the MV Agusta F3 800 really is that good. It’s sharp and edgy and that two-tone red and grey paint job really works in its favour. Head on, you could almost pass it off as a slimmed down F4 (the bigger MV) but the exposed engine and that gorgeous triple exhaust leave you in no doubt that this equally handsome motorcycle is the F3.
The riding position is propah supersport-committed, that means your forearms get a full workout if you’re not holding your body weight with your core muscles (like they teach you at every riding school worth it’s salt, including Keith Code’s famed California Superbike School). While this riding position isn’t particularly conducive to cutting through slow moving traffic, the good bit is that the bike doesn’t feel cramped even though the handlebars are low and the rearsets high. There is a pillion seat too (disguised to look like a cowl), this bike is meant for solo riding.
And focused riding too, for the MV Agusta F3 800 is a focused machine. It is built to a purpose – speed, and it delivers the goods on this count, spot on. Don’t be fooled by the tractability of the 800cc inline triple, a slightly sharper than usual twist on the super sensitive throttle sends the bike careening towards the horizon as the rear loads up and the front wheel threatens to rebel against the tarmac and reach for the heavens. Thinking hooligan bike? No, this isn’t one. It’s a sportbike with oodles and oodles of grunt to help you reach whatever triple digit number suits your fancy on the large speedo of that all-digital instrumentation. As long as you limit your desires to 269kmph, which is its top speed. And frankly, that’s plenty of speed. At the same time, you’ll find that cruising at mid triple-digit velocities isn’t too much of hard work because the engine is genuinely torquey. Torquey enough to induce rear wheel slides on turns, despite eight levels of traction control being present to assist you.
Speaking of turns, it’s where the F3 comes into a league of its own. That taut trellis and stiff suspension set-up combo can give many a perimeter frame a run for its money. It’s a think-and-you’re-there kind of corner carver. The steering geometry is sharp (as you would expect in a bike of this sort) and therefore turn in is super quick. The smallest of inputs and the bike just flops on its side and gobbles the corner ahead faster than Nero’s lions could in the Roman arena and then sets itself up for its next prey. Its composure through corners is absolutely astounding. There is a downside to all this though. Now, you probably wouldn’t see the downside in another part of the world but on our super perfect Indian roads the F3’s stiff ride quality becomes all too apparent as the bike hops around a fair bit when you’re riding over a rough patch.
To help this lithe missile abort its corner carving mission, there are a pair of 320mm discs up front with Brembo radial monoblocs and a 220mm disc at the rear with Brembo two-pot calipers. There’s tremendous bite from those super sharp stoppers. The slightest tug on the span adjustable lever on the right (the clutch is adjustable for span too) and your bum slides ahead as the arms load up. Which, brings me to something I actually don’t like about this bike – the seat. It slopes forward and doesn’t really hold you well when you’re braking. As a result you have to constantly shift your body to become comfy again after each such deceleration manoeuvre. And there are a great many of those on our roads.
So how does one summarise a bike like this? Well, it does have all that MV Agusta claims the F3 800 has and it’ll be fantastic to own. But, like all good things, there is a catch. The price. At Rs. 16.9 lakh ex-showroom, Pune it’s a smidge more than what the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R will cost you. Which means the MV Agusta has a hefty asking price, and you don’t even get things like the ZX-10R’s awesome balance free forks and you’re nowhere near the output of the litre class monster. What you do get however is a much better looking and certainly more exclusive piece of exotica that is as brilliant to experience the Thrill of Riding on.