Sunday, 7 October 2012

Commuting on a Brutale

So I've had the 2011 Brutale 1090R for around a month now, which is time to have formed a few impressions - having moved from a Buell XB9SX to the MV.

There were a number of things about the Buell that had gradually started to grate on me, eventually resulting in me deciding I needed to move on. As much as I love the Buell for its down-to-earth approach, stump-pulling grunt and superb handling, there were still a couple of things that I couldn't get past. The first was 'the fart'. Most Buell owners will know what I'm talking about here. A characteristic of the bike was that occasionally, and seemingly more frequently as the years passed, it had a habit of kind of 'farting' or missing, on application of throttle. Now on a 984cc twin motorcycle, when one cylinder decides to either not fire, or backfire, or whatever the fuck happens, it's not a nice experience. Those cylinders are big enough to stop you dead in your tracks. The bike is big and heavy (I'm pretty small) and I rely on things going smoothly, especially in heavy traffic when I'm often moving at almost walking speed and maneuvring around cars, using balance to keep myself in control. If the engine suddenly throws a curve-ball in stopping you in your tracks, especially on takeoff from the lights or a sudden blip during a tight manoeuvre - I don't appreciate it. That has always happened on this bike, but more so now that I've been swapping between standard pipe and Drummer performance pipe.

My second gripe is ground-clearance. As previously mentioned, I'm a shortarse, and even on the Buell, I can barely reach the ground on tippy-toes. If I'm trying to get from the pavement to the road, over the curb, and the underslung pipe catches on the concrete - I'm screwed. The bike stops, the back wheel lifts off the ground - no longer providing forward thrust, and I hover, waiting for fate to decide whether I can slide forward to regain control or slowly tip to the side. Of course the upside of having the pipe under the bike is that it keeps weight low, centre of gravity low, handling better. Small consolation when you're lying on your side next to the curb, hoping someone will help you lift the bike up.

Third gripe, heat. I live in Melbourne, Australia, where summer temperatures frequently reach the 40's (Centigrade). Being an air-cooled engine with one cylinder (the rear) being severely disadvantaged for airflow in the tight Buell frame, they've employed a system whereby a fan behind the rear cylinder comes on at high temperatures to draw air past the cylinder and prevent it from overheating. This is a fantastic idea, except for one thing : the air is blown straight out the side, at your leg, so that apart from any other discomfort you may be experiencing (such as heavy traffic, high helmet and clothing temperature), you get this fan coming on and blowing 1000 degree boiling hot air onto your leg, to the point where you actually have to lift your leg up and away from the unbearable heat.

Anyway, I bit the bullet and paid double what I paid for the Yank, to purchase a piece of pedigree Spaghetti - an MV Agusta Brutale 1090R. You couldn't get a more different bike if you tried. Four cylinders inline, water cooling, radial valves, 144hp compared to 90, yet with only 100cc more. Revs topping out at 12,000 rather than 7000 on the Buell, even higher seat height (jaysus!), heavier, and 'Brutal', meaning that a millionth of an inch twist on the throttle could result in a massive burst of horsepower - not something to be trifled with (I'm learning the deft throttle-hand usage). It's quickly become apparent to me that the MV does not want to be a commuter (like the Buell). The ONLY similarity is the riding position. The Buell was fun to ride and probably the perfect commuter. The MV wants to GO. It constantly tries to get away from you, and the only way you'll stop it is with the strongest determination and willpower. I can't believe that I haven't had a speeding fine yet. By the time you're doing an RPM that feels comfortable for the engine, you're way above the speed limit, in any gear.

I love the digital speedo, the gear indicator is a godsend, you can't take off with the stand down, there are two power modes ('scary' and 'terrifying') and 8 levels of traction control. There is only one thing, apart from the appalling petrol consumption, that I can't stand about this bike - the dashboard controls.

As you'll find out with a brief google search, there's probably not a single person on the planet who is able to operate the complex system of button pushes and menu choices for even the simplest of tasks such as resetting the trip meter. On a Ducati, this is a two second operation. On the MV, it takes 5 minutes of pushing and holding buttons, trying again, going to the wrong menu etc. They really lost it here. To make matters worse, when the reserve fuel display comes on, you can't see the trip meter at all. You also can't change the brightness or contrast, and the absolute WORST thing of all - it has no clock!!

Oh yeah, there's ONE other thing I don't like - the mirrors. You simply can't adjust them enough, so you just have to be content with a half-assed view. A tall rider would suffer even more in this department.

If MV could address those issues, I reckon this bike would be just about perfect.

No comments: