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2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 ABS First Ride


by Pascal Bastien ,

After the launch of the F3 800 and the Brutale 800, get ready for the hyper-powerful Rivale 800 "hypermotard," an electrifying high-powered, "near-naked" thrill machine. It is a direct competitor to bikes such as the Ducati Hypermotard 821 and the Aprilia Dorsoduro 750.

We had the chance to try it out during an ASM MOTOSPORT Track Day at the Autodrome St-Eustache. There was no better chance to experience the strengths and weaknesses of its engine and chassis components as well as its vastly improved ride-by-wire technology.

2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 ABS
Photo: Pascal Bastien

Sexy Italian
The styling, whether you like it or not, leaves no one indifferent. Rivale’s competitors look awfully tame in comparison. Its short wheelbase, slim midsection, high saddle, and sculpted rear make for a stunning machine. The handguards beautifully integrate both the mirrors and the LED turn signal lamps, adding to the overall seductiveness.

Practicality is definitely lacking, as there is no protection against the elements, zero storage, and precious little room otherwise. On the flipside, forward visibility is superb, as if we are seated on the fork "T." This unorthodox position grows on you as it adds to the overall impression of speed. Fortunately, the saddle is positioned low enough to help straddle its 880mm ride height.

The somewhat complex instrumentation is complete, although it lacks a fuel gauge. With its limited autonomy of 180km (small 12.9-litre tank) a fuel gauge would be useful. We appreciate the simplicity and straightforwardness of the revamped fuel injection map settings (Rain, Normal, Sport) and 8-position traction control system.

Up and Away
Comfortable? Surprisingly so, thanks to the tapered saddle that lets the rider wiggle rearwards some 20cm, and a comfortable superbike-type positioning that provides great visibility. The firm suspension is ideal for spirited riding, it never wanders, but it sometimes fails to absorb common road irregularities, especially during full-throttle accelerations, when the overenthusiastic engine pops up the front wheel much too easily.

The front wheel pops up in first gear, second gear, third gear, and even fourth gear. This type of behaviour may be OK for experienced riders, but it can turn into a harrowing and dangerous situation for novice riders.

The powerful 3-cylinder 800cc engine produces 125 horsepower at 12,000 rpm, and emits a frenzied howl throughout the power band, with oodles of midrange torque. It instantaneously rushes from 3,000 rpm to 7,000 rpm with reckless abandon, straight to the rev-limiter. Get nice and cosy with the fuel tank and transfer as much weight as possible to the front when accelerating. You have now been forewarned.

We must confess that power delivery has been vastly improved by the ride-by-wire system, which has undergone extensive development. The throttle response is immediate and progressive, providing interruption-free bliss for the rider as the needle climbs. The traction control system is equally up to the task unlike our previous MV experience, and is much less intrusive.

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
On the track, we were surprised how easy it is to throw the Rivale 800 into corners as much as we were unnerved by the inherent instability engineered into the chassis that makes the bike difficult to tame. On the flipside, the improvements to the rear brakes make trajectory corrections instantaneous and effortless. The rear brakes are more efficient and easier to modulate than those of the Brutale, making it a drifter’s delight.

MV Agusta is making great strides in the finish and calibration of their offerings. The new Rivale 800 ABS, and its 3-cylinder 800cc siblings, are matching, and in the case of the 2014 F3 800 ABS, surpassing its competitors. The 2014 Rivale 800 ABS is an ultra-performance toy with advanced technical and electronic features aimed squarely at the most daring and experienced riders.

  • Serious oomph from its torquey engine
  • Enthusiast-pleasing cycle components
  • Superbike ergonomics
  • Seductive styling
  • Not for everyone, delinquent handling characteristics for experienced riders only