Two Way Street: MV Brutale 800 RR vs Ducati Monster 1200S

Published: 16 January 2015

If you’re after an expensive, exotic, naked Italian superbike it has to look good – whether you’re parading up and down the Kings Road or, in our case, the streets of Bologna.

Which is where MV Agusta’s new Brutale 800 RR comes in – an Italian super-naked which raises exotica levels to a new high. But does it? And, if so, is it worth over £11,500 for what is still ‘only’ an 800?

To find out we decided to pit the new MV against the definitive example of the Italian naked genre, Ducati’s Monster 1200S, a bike which has much of what the MV offers, for a similar price and yet is a full 1200. The similarities don’t end there. Both are from desirable brands, each with a long history of racing success, and both have that wow factor. Both also have single-sided swingarms, lightweight race wheels, and racing Brembo brakes which are ABS assisted. They also have similarly-styled trellis frames, although the MV’s is the more traditional, as the Ducati uses the engine as a stressed member. 

Engine-wise, however, they are very, very different. The new MV uses an 800 triple, which has been revised for 2015 with new twin injectors, a new air-box and a new exhaust which not only pushes power of the 675 Brutale-derived motor to 140bhp but has made the power delivery smoother. Ducati, on the other hand, have opted for water-cooling. Monsters have been mainly air-cooled but the latest bike uses the 1198 V-twin from the Multistrada, albeit detuned slightly to give increased lower end torque at the cost of slightly reduced peak power. They have done this by upping the compression ratio slightly, changing the fuel mapping and making the throttle bodies smaller: 53mm and round not oval like the Multistrada. This means the new Monster for 2014 produces 145bhp, five more than the MV with, as you’d expect, more torque.

As we’ve opted for the pricier ‘S’ model, the Ducati comes with fully adjustable Öhlins suspension all round whereas the MV has Marzocchi up front and a Sachs rear, both fully adjustable. The Öhlins on the Ducati add a little more appeal as do the very classy clocks. In Urban mode the clocks only display limited information, the speedo is increased in size and you don’t have a rev counter. But it’s almost the opposite in Sports mode, as the rev counter now appears and it’s more like a race dash. In touring mode it changes again: mpg is more prominent along with other useful info for long trips.  

But if the Ducati already seems to be edging ahead, let’s not forget about those things so crucial to today’s bragging rights down the local pub – rider aids and electronics. Both bikes have switchable rider modes. The Ducati has Sport, Touring and Rain modes, while the MV has Sport, Normal and Rain, plus a custom mode. Each mode on the Ducati changes the traction control, ABS, engine power and response, and rear wheel lift.

Sport is full power, with a very responsive ride-by-wire throttle, reduced traction control and level one ABS. Touring is still full power, but with a softer throttle response, increased traction control, level two ABS and rear wheel lift intervention. Urban limits power to 100bhp, has a softer throttle response, further increased traction control with maximum ABS and stoppie prevention. 

On the MV, Sport is full power with aggressive power delivery, an aggressive limiter, little engine braking and the use of the quickshifter, both up and down. Normal has a smoother power delivery, a milder limiter, more engine braking and the quickshifter only works for upshifts. Rain mode gives a 110bhp limit (which is more than the Ducati in rain mode) even more engine braking and still the use of a conventional quickshifter. ABS is standard in each mode, but the traction control has different levels of intervention dependant on the mode.

You can personalise your settings on each bike, tuning the traction up and down of you wish, the MV also has a custom mode to save your settings.But it’s the Ducati which wins the ‘ease of use’ award, mainly down to its classy clocks which make it simpler to choose your specific mode. There’s nothing wrong with the MV’s system and you can change the modes and traction with the throttle open, unlike on the Ducati which needs the throttle closed for a few seconds. But the MV’s real added bonus is the quickshifter which works both on up and downshifts. It only works in the sports mode, but you can change this from the settings menu. We used it constantly on test, and although, yes, it’s a little gimmicky, especially on the road it is also hugely addictive. Both Bruce and I were up and down the gearbox like we were on racing two-stroke 125s. It might not be that useful on the road, but I can imagine that, on track, the quickshifter would make a big difference. 

Talking of the track, I doubt either bike’s lap times would be very different. But what would be is the way they feel, the effort you have to put and the rewards they give. The MV loves to rev, and the echoing soundtrack from its three exhausts encourages you to seek the redline in every gear.  MV have also improved the fuelling and made the power more linear, it’s much smoother and forgiving than the previous model.

The Ducati, on the other hand, doesn’t really need to rev as it makes so much torque. It’ll drive from really low down, as low as 3000rpm, in a way the MV can only dream of. You also don’t have to be as accurate with your throttle hand on the Ducati as you do on the MV. You don’t need to keep throwing gears at the Duke, nor do you need to be bouncing it off the rev limiter. You could ride the Ducati for a typical 20-minute track day session without breaking a sweat but it just wouldn’t be as exciting nor as rewarding as the manic MV.

It’s a similar story with the handling. Despite Ducati pulling the bars closer to the rider for 2014, it feels a bigger, longer bike than the MV. It’s by no means heavy. The Ducati’s handling is predictable, feedback from the suspension excellent, and it’s all cleverly controlled by sophisticated electronics.

By comparison the MV is more race-focused, slightly firmer with ever so slightly stronger brakes.Unfortunately, we suffered very British weather during this Italian test which meant we had the traction control nearly to the max and had to soften the power delivery on both bikes. 

With more time in the saddle a few little faults started to raise their heads. The footpeg position on the Ducati and lack of freedom to move around was getting annoying. When riding on my toes, my heels were always touching the rear pegs or exhaust (and I’ve only got size eights). When you have your feet relaxed, with the pegs in the middle of your foot it’s not a problem. But if you ride on your toes it becomes annoying.

The MV in Sport mode was also a little snatchy. It always wants to chase the rabbit and its clocks aren’t as clear or as easy to navigate. But in spite of the cold and wet, both bikes made us smile. With relatively lows seats (the Ducati comes with an adjustable seat) and light weight, both were easy ride. And despite the Ducati being liquid-cooled it still sounds right. There’s a distinctive Ducati ‘bark’ and a big intake a breath from the airbox. There’s something soulful about riding a Ducati, especially around Bologna. Don’t get me wrong, the MV Agusta sounds lovely too – but it’s very different.

We also loved the MV’s detailing, such as the top yoke steering damper with central adjuster which is a work of art. The fine details on the MV really do make it special. Yes, the Ducati is attractive, but you’ll take every opportunity to check your reflection in every shop window on the MV.

MCN Verdict:
‘You’ll get something exceptional’

Both bikes are excellent. The1200S is the best Monster yet, is user-friendly, has a turn of speed, amazing low-down grunt and wouldn’t be outclassed on track.

The MV, meanwhile, is sexy andaggressive at the same time. It’slighter, smaller and has a racier set up. Its engine sounds great, it loves to rev and it offers more excitement as long as you’re willing to put the effort in. The quick-shifter adds to the fun, too. It’s just a shame, then, the MV’s clocks and rider modes aren’t as trick and useful.

Half of me needs the racy, exciting MV which would be a scream on a track day and the other half wants the usability of the Ducati and that low-down grunt. Both bikes are stunning, but I’d go for the MV as it feeds my need for speed a drop-dead gorgeous looks.

 


MV Agusta Brutale 800RR, £11,559

  • Power:  140bhp 
  • Torque: 63.4ftlb
  • Engine: Liquid-cooled 798cc, three cylinder. Six gears 
  • Dry weight: 168kg
  • Fuel capacity: 16.6 litres
  • Seat height: 810mm
  • Suspension: 43mm Marzocchi forks, fully-adjustable Sachs rear shock
  • Front brakes: 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston Brembo calipers. ABS
  • Rear brake: 220mm disc with twin-piston caliper.  ABS

Insurance Guide*   

Premium

Excess

25 years old from Hull

 £297.98

 £400

35 years old from London

 £540.35

 £400

45 years old from Edinburgh

 £176.28

 £350

* Quotes taken from MCNcompare.com. . Comprehensive quote based on no claims or convictions. Guide price only and individual circumstances will affect final quote.


 


Ducati Monster 1200S, £12,995

  • Power:  145bhp 
  • Torque: 92ftlb
  • Engine: Liquid-cooled 1198cc, V-Twin. Six gears 
  • Dry weight: 182kg
  • Fuel capacity: 17.5 litres
  • Seat height: 785-810mm
  • Suspension: 48mm Ohlins forks, Ohlins rear-shock. All fully-adjustable.
  • Front brakes: 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston Brembo, radial calipers. ABS
  • Rear brake: 245mm disc with twin-piston caliper.  ABS

Insurance Guide*   

Premium

Excess

25 years old from Hull

 £488.17

 £400

35 years old from London

 £855.13

 £350

45 years old from Edinburgh

 £291.85

 £350

* Quotes taken from MCNcompare.com. . Comprehensive quote based on no claims or convictions. Guide price only and individual circumstances will affect final quote.