World first test: Motus MST
'It's a hugely entertaining first attempt’
Tucked away in an industrial unit in Birmingham, Alabama is America’s most intriguing motorcycle manufacturer. Instead of building their new bike around a V-twin like Harley, Indian, Buell, Victory and almost everyone else on that continent, Motus have produced a 165bhp 1650cc V4.
It’s an extraordinary creation, and not just because it blends an old-style pushrod motor with cutting-edge fly-by-wire electronics and multi-point fuel injection. No, the real revelation is the power delivery.
- Bikes for sale: Old-school sportsbikes
- Bike of the day takeover special: Ducati 998S
- 11 great all-season jackets
- Midlands off-road centre needs public help
- MotoGP: Scooters banned from track after Sepang crash
At tickover the off-beat, lumpy shudder is unlike anything else. Where Honda’s velvety VFRs hums, this big- bang V4 grumbles in a far more sinister fashion. You get the sense that, like a dragster warming up, big things are about to happen.
And they do. The low-rpm torque is colossal at 2500rpm it makes more than a Suzuki GSX-R1000 does at its peak, and it keeps rising until 5000rpm. What this means is if you snap the throttle open at anything above tickover the front wheel will lift and 265kg of sports-tourer will start to pivot about the rear wheel.
At only marginally higher revs you get acceleration that the world’s fastest sportsbikes only beat when they’re heading towards their stratospheric redlines. The MST’s six-speed gearbox is OK - think BMW GS rather than anything slicker but you barely need it once moving. Sticking it in top will let you ride at a mighty pace on anything from B-roads to motorways.
Though the torque is the highlight, there’s plenty of power if you do rev it out. To disprove the doubters who thought a push-rod V4 could never be properly fast, Motus took an MST-R (the slightly hotter version of the standard bike) to Bonneville and managed 168.69mph. No wonder the company is doing a roaring trade selling its engine to everyone from kit car builders to jet boat manufacturers.
When the initial thrill of twisting the throttle and flinging yourself at the horizon subsides, it’s possible to appreciate the MST’s other charms. The Sargent saddle is large and comfortable and the riding position remarkably upright as tested - the bars are fully adjustable so you can choose whether you sit up straight or hunker down. The screen is adjustable too and though no BMW RT, it deflects most of the breeze from your head and shoulders.
As you’d expect, the MST’s designer Brian Case scribbled down the chassis geometry he wanted at the beginning of the project. Remarkably, it remained unchanged throughout the entire development process and you can see why: the MST steers neutrally and manages to feel surprising light on its feet for such a big machine, possibly because of the centralised mass of that engine (no heavy camshafts on top of the cylinders remember.
The suspension and brakes are high- spec Öhlins and Brembo, so there are no surprises in that department, and the ride errs on the sporty side without rattling your teeth on poor surfaces. In fact, the only chassis niggle is the woeful lack of steering lock. Overall, the MST is a remarkable effort and the fact that it’s made by a company with nine employees makes it all the more so.
Perhaps the machine’s only downside is the complete absence of electronic rider aids, which in turn prevents it coming to Europe because of the Euro4 requirement for all bikes to have ABS from next year. We think that’s a shame because if you’re not short of cash and want a characterful sports-tourer, the Motus MST is well- nigh perfect.
Who are Motus?
America’s newest bike manufacturer was started by ex-Confederate designer Brian Case and his business partner Lee Conn in 2007. They wanted to build a sports-tourer that wasn’t a V-twin and settled on half a Chevy V8. They build five bikes per week.
Price - £23,500
Engine - 8-valve OHV push-rod V4
Power - 165bhp @ 7750rpm
Torque - 123 ftlb @ 5000rpm
Wet weight - 265kg (claimed)
Capacity - 1650cc
MPG - 44mpg (est)
Tank size - 21 litres
Seat height - 810mm
Wheel base - 1470mm
Frame - Steel tube trellis
Contact - motusmotorcycles.com
A superb engine in a competent chassis makes for a hugely entertaining first effort from Motus, and the two-year unlimited miles warranty hints at confidence in the reliability. It’s just a shame it lacks rider aids.The engine is among the best around, but there will be real difficulty getting one in the UK.