The Stradale 800 was the surprise new model unveiled by MV Agusta at EICMA last November. We had already seen the Turismo Veloce sport-touring model at the EIMCA show in 2013, but this new 800 Stradale was completely unexpected.
Also unexpected is the character of the bike. It’s a radical departure from the hot sportbikes that Claudio Castiglioni and son Giovanni wanted for MV Agusta. The new MV Agusta Stradale 800 is a comfortable and mild mannered machine, a tall-saddled runabout that’s smart for urban commuting and great for touring on back roads.
I asked CRC (Castiglioni Research Center) Director Paolo Bianchi about the philosophical approach behind the Stradale project, and where it came from. I was surprised to learn that the concept was inspired by the Ducati Hyperstrada, the Hypermotard with tiny bags and a more comfortable seat show at EICMA in 2012. From the Ducati Hyperstrada, Giovanni Castiglioni and the CRC men distilled the rather innovative “Strada” concept and applied it to the Rivale 800, a supermotard-inspired model known for its agility and very quick steering. The bike was fitted with a comfortable seat and mini bags for light carrying ability. Surprisingly, the modified Rivale suffered from rather rough steering reactions and the project was sent back to square one as a specific chassis was developed.
MV’s well established frame (a steel-tube trellis structure with aluminum plates) is retained, but with appropriate geometry changes. These include a lowered suspension setting, increased rake and trail, a 30mm-longer single-sided swingarm (with new link and geometry), plus a wider rear rim (5.5 x 17 in.) to obtain a broader footprint from the standard 180/55-17 tire. Equally fundamental was the adoption of a new 4.2-gallon fuel tank that is shorter and thus biases more weight to the front by moving the rider forward. Also, the flatter and wider handlebar, in combination with a nicely contoured seat offering solid back support, keeps the rider from having to desperately pull on the handlebar to counter the force of acceleration.
The result? A completely new and different MV Agusta that opens a new market for the marque. The new Stradale 800 is a large bike with a 57.5-in. wheelbase, a claimed dry weight of 399 lb., and a seat height of 34.25 inches. With 25.5 degrees of steering rake and 4.3 in. of trail, stability is ensured at high speeds. Front suspension is provided by a 43mm Marzocchi fork, while a Sachs monoshock takes care of the rear, aided by the cast aluminum swingarm. Front and rear suspension is fully adjustable in compression, rebound, and spring preload, and there’s 5.9 inches of wheel travel at both ends. The 17-in. cast aluminum wheels are shod with 120/30-17 front and 180/55-17 rear Pirelli Diablo Rosso radials. Brakes are by Brembo, with customary twin 320mm rotors and four-piston (32mm) calipers in front. In back, a stainless 220mm rotor works with a two-piston (34mm) caliper. ABS is standard.
MV Agusta engineers have developed a specific version of their wonderful 798cc three-cylinder engine for the new Stradale. The goal was to have the smoothest possible torque delivery from as low as 2,000 rpm. Peak power is down to 115 hp at 11,000 rpm and 57.9 pound-feet of torque at 9,000 rpm, but more than 80 percent of the latter is available from as low as 2,000 RPM up. This triple, with a 79mm bore and a 54.3mm stroke, retains the standardized compression ratio of 13.3:1, plus the same 31.8mm inlet valves, 26.7mm exhaust valves, cam grind and timing. However, it breathes through 47mm Mikuni throttle bodies, each with a single injector. It’s all managed by an Eldor Nemo EM30 ECU.
As expected, the 800 Stradale benefits from all the evolution and refinements applied to the MV Agusta’s proprietary electronics pack, which includes four engine maps: Rain, Normal, Sport, and Custom. The ECU also offers the rider three throttle-response maps, two torque-delivery curves, a soft or hard rev limiter, two levels engine braking and eight-step traction control. There is also the latest quickshifter, which is good for both up and downshifting. In addition, the Stradale features a new, hydraulically actuated clutch for maximum smoothness and comfort. Moreover, new gearbox and clutch covers trim almost an inch off engine width.
The MV Agusta 800 Stradale is a partly dressed bike, fitted with a top mini-fairing (and related windscreen), plus an ample lower aluminum engine cowl and those mini bags that are egg-shaped and adequate to carry a large iPad and more. These bags are not an add-on; they are integral to the styling of the bike, incorporating the LED rear lights and directional signals. If the bags are removed, a set of frame-mounted lights is automatically activated. In all, the 800 Stradale looks lean and svelte, but with very good seating comfort for two, plus an ability to carry just enough to make the bike very practical for urban commuting.
My ride of the MV Agusta 800 Stradale was carried out at the Pirelli’s test track in Italy, which is in a secluded area reachable only via twisty back roads with almost no traffic. Perfect, because a track test alone would not get the best out of this bike.
That this MV Agusta is completely new and different was obvious from the moment I threw my leg across the 800 Stradale. The seat is tall, but narrow where it counts, which means it’s easy to reach to the ground with both feet if you’re 5-foot-10 or taller. The riding posture is completely different from of all other naked MV Agustas: its well forward, with leg muscles relaxed thanks to the extra distance between the pegs and seat. A wide and low handlebar further biases rider weight to the front.
The result is a chassis that combines solid stability at high speed, with steering at low and medium speeds. There’s great agility, and the riding posture quickly becomes familiar. It’s rational in view of the mission of the Stradale, and the well-contoured seat offers plenty of comfortable support. The mini windshield diverts a large share of the wind pressure away from the chest. In the cold air of February, given my vented leathers and T-shirt, this was most appreciated.
The Stradale engine is all about smoothness and great torque delivery from down low. Putting around in sixth gear at 40 mph is possible, either in town or on a back road. This is a beautifully civilized bike with a humming exhaust note. When called upon, this ultra-flexible triple progresses well up through the revs, even without downshifting, to a maximum speed of 133 mph…but that’s only if you lean under the windscreen and grab the handlebar flat-track style. A realistic top speed in the proper riding position the bike demands is around 100 mph, with touring jacket and all proper gear.
Steering response is proper, and there’s moderate effort, even when riding hard. The feedback through the wide handlebar is crystal clear, which induces a feeling of great confidence in this new chassis. High-speed stability is impressive, and the Stradale never loses composure even when blasting down less than impeccable roads.
Similarly, high-speed cornering is very reassuring, solid, and precise. Low-speed agility is very good, despite the high seat, and the smooth torque delivery of the 798cc triple helps keep the bike in balance. As for the quickshifter, it works smartly upshifting or downshifting, the latter capability especially appreciated.
In sum, the new MV Agusta 800 Stradale is an accurately conceived bike that sets new standards of versatility for everyday commuting, in town or on longer hauls, from countryside residential areas to the city. With its highly refined engine and surefooted chassis, the 800 Stradale has the power to convert more people to functional and practical everyday motorcycling, but with an added dash of spirited Italian allure. After all, MV Agusta hasn’t won 75 world titles for nothing.