The Brutale first. I've been intrigued by the Brutale legend for a long time. People talk in hushed tones of a wild and uncontrollable beast that only the bravest and wiliest hunters could tame. It looks amazing on paper (and in photos!) but you hardly see any on the street. Once in a while it shows up in a big bore naked bike comparison test. All the journos throw big and complicated words around when they talk about it but none chooses it as their favourite. I've just never understood what makes this bike extremely special but never desirable. I felt I was ready to find out for myself.
The 1090 was parked right next to the 800RR and the first thing I notice is the visual uplift in bulk over the diminutive 800. If Mike Tyson was a motorcycle, he would be a Brutale 1090. Barrel torso, huge hunched shoulders, a bull's neck supporting a smooth, round head(light). The word “Stocky” comes to mind. Sitting on it confirms this initial impression. It’s not super heavy but definitely bulky. Its only short compared to most big bore nakeds though and it’s an easy and comfortable position in the cockpit. This thing just rips but. Straight off idle. No building up the revs like a normal inline 4. Don’t know what kind of steroids the MV doctors have pumped into this thing but it’s just animalistic insane. Nearly high sided heading out of the driveway. I’m used to revving the shit out of the CBR to get it going though!
To the Tuono then. I must preface this review with context. I have lusted after the Tuono V4R and had wet dreams of riding the thing through some twisties, the V4 on song, for years. If I was into weird sexual stuff, I would be seeking out orifices in the frame to satisfy myself.
DAT V4 SOUND!
When the sales guy wheeled the matt black Tuono into the workshop to put some fuel in, I waited outside and looked around. And then he started it. I couldn’t see it, just hear it. I LOLed. Instantly and literally. “You’re buying this thing Harry. Cut the crap and tell him to take your money. You don’t even need to ride it.” But I did ride it.
It feels very sporty compared to the other naked bikes in this test. The seat is high, hard and sloped forward. The tank is long and you need to reach for the bars. It’s not uncomfortable, just purposeful. Sitting in the cockpit, you’re under no illusion that you’re going for a tootle around town. But it easily tootles around town. I was surprised. The take-off is hassle free and super smooth, like a typical 4 cylinder. It’s perfectly happy to sit under 4K in first or second gear without needing to slip the clutch very much. It’s not twitchy at low revs like the Brutale, which is constantly straining at the leash. And you rev, and it goes. And you back off and it slows. No hiccups, the throttle does everything exactly like you ask it to. Very Honda’esque! There’s not overbearing torque below 5K and it feels very civilized. But over that it just puts down and takes off. Not in a wheeleeing kind of way but more of a drag racer. Just pure acceleration. Too fast I think. Speedo says 9K RPM in second gear. There another 5K to go. Fuck. Where will I use this much power? The first seeds of doubt are sown.
I don’t know what happened though. I was expecting the bike to just grab and impress me immediately and it didn’t quite do that. I think that’s not because of anything the bike doesn’t do well. But because it nails its design brief! Ha. The Aprilia engineers probably have their hands in their heads reading this.
This is a 1000cc sportsbike. Make no mistake. When I started this test I wanted a Tuono V4R but certainly didn’t want a 1000CC sportsbike. What the fuck was I thinking? Didn’t think this through did you Harry? Like the Dog caper. I have believed for a long time (since my R1) that a 1000CC sportsbike is just overkill for most road riding conditions and compromised too much for everyday use. That’s why bikes like the MT09 and the Brutale 800 are so attractive to me. Power off the bottom, in real world conditions and front wheel lofting fun, everywhere. A lot more involving at slower speeds.
You can see where this is going. This is why you I test ride bikes. Wish we could test ride dogs.
To be honest, once I realized the Aprilia was way too much bike for what I want to do, I didn’t really “test” ride it anymore. Sure, I rode it around for another 20 minutes, but in a state of shock more than eager probing. My mind went into overdrive trying to come to terms with the fact that even though I could now buy my dream motorcycle, that purchase made no sense. I had started the day on an incredible high, with the Brutale 800RR. I ended it heartbroken, not knowing where I was heading with this caper anymore.
Fuck. Out of nowhere.
This bike was nowhere near my shortlist. I’ve heard about this bike, like you hear about new bikes being launched and then flick the magazine to the next page. It’s not particularly good looking or specced or popular. No-one really raves about them. It never makes the headlines in any of the shootouts, which are dominated by the Tuono, S1000R and the SuperDuke 1290. There’s a little paragraph somewhere about this new Monster. No-one cares.
They are wrong.
This is the best road bike I have ever ridden. So under-rated.
After the first roundabout, this bike had my full attention.
It looks OK, never struck me as particularly handsome but is a similar stocky build like the Brutale but with lots of exposed mechanical stuff. Those beautiful, weird and purposeful exhaust headers being the most striking feature. Sitting on it feels really good. Excellent ergonomics, the seat is incredibly plush. Best riding position of a naked bike I’ve ridden. The rider’s view is fantastic, just clear scenery. No screen, no clutter, very compact and elegant TFT dash. It feels about the same weight as the Brutale when you pick it off the stand but as you get going you quickly realize that’s where the similarity between these 2 bikes end. The V-Twin engine is the same as the Multistrada and the Diavel and is the perfect roadbike engine. I am convinced. Big dollops of V-Twin goodness but with perfect fuelling and immediate thrust. The thrust really is amazing, right from 2K. The throttle is ride by wire but has great feeling and connection to the rear tyre, unlike the MV, which really seems very artificial compared to this.
But enough about electronics, this bike is not great because of electronics. Its wonderfully balanced. The S model comes with top of the line Ohlins suspension and brembo brakes straight off the Panigale. The weight of the bike is wonderfully balanced with neither forward nor rearward bias. It is so easy to ride it at walking pace that it does not feel like a 200KG bike at any speed. It turns nicely, not as quick as a Brutale 800 but you will be able to take almost as tight lines on the Monster as on the Brutale despite the 20KG weight difference, because the thing is so well balanced in its geometry and composed by its suspension. I smashed through the same Mounta Kiera twisties that I’d romped on the Brutale 15 minutes ago and I'm sure I was quicker and most certainly smoother on this. And DAT V-TWIN. Thrumming away. In sport mode the Monster truly is monstrous, wanting to pick its front wheel at every surface imperfection. I wasn’t even trying to wheelie, just exiting corners hard.
Now this is Brutale 800 territory. 25 and 35K corners. Bumpy and narrow goat track stuff. The Brutale with its light weight and quick turning should be owning this road. Nah. The Monster was all over it. In fact a funny thing happened. After I gave the Brutale 800 back at Steel City Motorcycles and walked over to Ducati, I saw another guy was lining up for a test ride on the Brutale. By sheer co-incidence I caught up to him at Mount Kiera and saw that he struggling with the tight corners. I blew past him. After the twisty section I stopped and waited for him to have a chat. He was a nice chap and shook his head at the Brutale. Didn’t jell with it at all. Too flighty he said. He mentioned that he regularly rides this road on his Husky Nuda and nails it. My ears perked up at this as the Nuda was on my list of bikes to ride and we had a chat about it. He loved the thing and generously offered me a test ride on his after we finished this. Ha, perfect! More on the Nuda later.
The Monster so. Fark me. Really impressive bike. This is exactly what I’m looking for in my big naked, big power in a small package. A great riding position, plenty of useable power, fantastic handling, good components and giggles. I got all of those. Lots of them. The seat is super plush, its 3 inches thick. The power goes from 2k to 10K and then you change up. I like that. This kind of power band I can easily use and I don’t have 5 thousand unused RPMs staring at me, taunting my manhood. It’s all really geared for low-end torque and there’s dollops of it. Post riding research confirmed mys eat of the pants feel. The Monster is actually quicker than most super nakeds upto 100KMPH. Just loses out on horsepower after that. I was not surprised at all by this. It certainly felt quicker than the Tuono around town, if not the Brutale. And heaps more involving. DAT V-TWIN.
This bike has perked me up after the debacle of the Tuono and reminded me about the intoxicating nature of a big V-twin. I had never ridden a big Ducati before. I so fucken understand now. It’s a lot more money than I want to spend but it’s the only bike I’ve tested till now that really makes me want to blow my budget. And my load.