Vyrus 987 world first review

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On Top Gear the other week Tom Cruise was singing the praises of his new Vyrus and having ridden the Rimini firms latest version, we can see why.

You can choose any Ducati engine from an 1100cc air-cooled two-valve motor to the latest 180bhp 1198R lump. You can even spec a supercharger, which boosts the 1198R’s power up to 211bhp. 

On the chassis side you can opt for an aluminium frame or a carbon fibre airbox frame, like the one found on Casey Stoner’s factory Desmosedici GP10 MotoGP bike.

Suspension can be Ohlins TTX units, made by the Swedish firm especially for Vryus, or air suspension units from the Rome-based ‘Double’ company, which founder Ascanio Rodorigo says works the best on his bikes.

You can specify carbon fibre bodywok and even 320mm carbon ceramic brake discs (at an extra £2500 a pop), the first time they’ve ever been homologated on a street-legal motorcycle. Unlike carbon discs, they work well in all weather conditions.

You want the latest electronics with the latest F1 wiring technology? No problem, Vyrus can give you datalogging, traction and launch control and variable power maps to play with too.

All the right connections
This particular 987 has a relatively basic spec and does without the optional carbon ceramic discs but it still costs a hefty £60,000. The bike is tiny and once on it’s clearly very light too. Ascanio says, “Our goal is to make a motorcycle weighing150kg. When you ride a bike this light, it’s only fun. The Vyrus was originally born with an air-cooled engine, but the water-cooled engine like this is heavier, so we’ve had to look at ways to reduce the weight.”

The strangest thing when you first get on the Vyrus is how incredibly soft the suspension is. With a ‘conventional’ bike this would be a concern and a one-way ticket to a bouncy castle ride, but it’s deliberate. Unlike forks, the hub steering doesn’t need a stiff set-up to support the bike under hard braking, it only needs its suspension for the bumps. That’s the whole idea: the braking forces and front suspension are separated out from each other.

Separated sensations
Once on the move the sensation of having soft suspension disappears and the Vryus 987 feels like a firmly-sprung, quick steering race bike. It changes direction from left to right far more directly and crisply than a machine with normal forks, which will move up and down as you go from left to right. Braking has no affect on the steering either, so the bike doesn’t want to sit up when you let off the brakes and you can just turn and lean with impressive accuracy.

The way the bike steers and brakes is as good as the best racing fork set-up I’ve ever used. On the minus side there’s not as much feel for the front tyre as you get with forks for hard cornering, though it grips and corners fantastically. Over time it may prove to be that that lack of feel is just a different feeling to get used to.

I love the 987’s lightness too. It lets you put the bike wherever you want on the road, allows you to brake late into corners and above all, it lets you savour the brutal acceleration available from that 180bhp Ducati superbike engine. As you’d expect there’s meaty power from zero revs and wheelie-inducing stomp at the top end.

This is a super-quick machine with lots of grip, fast steering and great stability. There’s not a lot of machine to grab on to when you’re going for it, though. It’s hard to grip the tiny 13-litre fuel tank to support yourself under hard braking and similarly you can’t hold the tank with your elbow and knee at full lean. The turning circle isn’t good either as there’s limited steering lock.

This and the ‘funny’ front end make the Vyrus a machine you need to spend time with to get the best out of. You can jump on it and ride it fast straight away with no dramas, but you’ll need a track to really find out what the Vryus can do. Either way, it’s an impressive piece of engineering.

VYRUS 987 £60,000 (as tested)
Liquid-cooled, 1198.4cc (106 x 67.9mm), 4v, Testastretta V-twin
Chassis: Carbon fibre airbox frame with engine as stressed member. Air suspension front and rear by Double.
Power (claimed): 180bhp
Kerb weight (claimed): 150kg
Fuel capacity: 13-litres
Contact: www.vyrus.it

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Michael Neeves

By Michael Neeves

MCN Chief Road Tester, club racer, airmiles millionaire.