First time lucky? MV enter the adventure bike market with a punchy 930cc trail and tarmac weapon

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MV Agusta are set to stir things up in the booming adventure bike market with the Cagiva Elefant-inspired Lucky Explorer 9.5.

The all-new MV features a 931cc triple, pushing out a claimed 121.4 bhp and 75.3lb.ft of torque, fully adjustable Sachs suspension and an off-road-focused 21/18-inch wheel combination. MCN grabbed a ride on a development prototype in northern Italy.

While our test mule is only an early prototype, it’s clear that when the twin-headlight Lucky Explorer 9.5 goes on sale next year its evocative styling will pay homage to the famous Cagiva Elefant Lucky Explorer that took victories in the Paris-Dakar rally in 1990 and 1994 – but this is much more than a tribute act.

Lucky Explorer 9.5 prototype right side

The engine is derived from the 800cc three-cylinder unit that powers the F3, Brutale, Dragster, Turismo Veloce and Superveloce. Capacity is increased to 931cc, while a raft of internal modifications including a new cylinder head, (counter-rotating) crank and pistons, plus a new cooling system, oil feed, clutch, generator and starter motor effectively make this an all-new power plant.

The triple produces more power than Ducati’s DesertX, KTM’s 890 Adventure, Triumph’s Tiger 900 and Honda’s Africa Twin, but MV have focused on delivering handfuls of smooth and progressive torque.

Despite not wishing to get too carried away riding an irreplaceable prototype, the motor will have the competition worried. It has a lovely spread of easy-to-use torque – even at less than 2000rpm the Lucky Explorer will pull cleanly – and drives through its midrange beautifully.

Lucky Explorer 9.5 prototype engine

And when you want to have some fun, the 9.5 delivers with a noticeable step in power at 7000rpm that rushes to the redline in traditional MV style and emits an exhaust note that should make it the finest-sounding adventure bike on the market.

While the motor is 90% complete, the fly-by-wire mapping is yet to be finalised and our test bike had only two riding modes to play with (Urban and Touring). The final version will have multiple rider modes for both on and off-road, and rider aids linked to a six-axis IMU.

The riding position is roomy yet not too tall, and made me feel at home straight away. The wide bars are slightly swept back, the screen is effective and I had no problem getting two feet to the ground.

Lucky Explorer 9.5 prototype from above

There’s a generous 7in TFT dash and the final version will have Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control as standard. MV have spent a lot of time looking at the aero package, optimising comfort, reducing noise, and for both rider and pillion. With a 20-litre fuel tank the MV should be ready to take on some serious miles, too.

Unfortunately, we only got a taste of what the new 9.5 can do off road but on the move the Lucky Explorer feels light like a Yamaha Tenere 700, and much lighter and fluid than Honda’s Africa Twin.

On Tarmac the MV does not feel out of its comfort zone when ridden hard. The long-travel fully-adjustable Sachs suspension is plush and controlled, with no pitching or excessive movement. Despite that large 21in front wheel, the MV is happy to turn in and lay on its side mid-corner, very much like the Ducati DesertX which MCN tested recently and praised highly.

Lucky Explorer 9.5 prototype off road

The brakes are top-quality Brembo Stylema items normally associated with superbikes, and bring one-finger braking to the party, no matter how fast you need to slow down.

I’d prefer a slightly stronger rear brake, but again this was only a first ride on the prototype. The final version will come with switchable cornering ABS, for both on and off-road, which can be switched off entirely should you wish to.

The Elefant in the room is the Lucky Explorer’s price. Historically, MV has proven expensive – it’s an exclusive brand and bikes are still built in Italy using quality components – and the nearest obvious competition in terms of price is Ducati’s DesertX (£14,095), so expect the MV to be around £15,000 or possibly more when it hits UK dealers in early 2023.

Lucky Explorer 9.5 prototype left side

Verdict

The Lucky Explorer is MV’s first purpose-built adventure bike, and the Italian sportsbike and super-naked specialists appear to have got it right first time. It’s still an MV with character and it sounds great and looks fantastic. Remove the famous badge and you’d still know it’s an MV, all be it a relatively sensible one.

On the road it’s suitably sporty, but MV hasn’t chased peak power. The three-cylinder engine is smooth, usable, and torquey. Rider aids should be excellent, but we can’t say for sure how comfortable it will be over distance, although first impressions are positive. Off-road we only touched the surface of what this exotic bike is capable of. But we can say that it will have the competition worried.

The Facts

Price: £TBC

Engine: 931cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, three-cylinder

Frame: steel double beam 

Front suspension: Sachs 48mm, 220mm travel fully adjustable 

Rear suspension: Sachs, single shock, 210mm travel fully adjustable

Front brake: 2 x 320mm discs, Brembo Monobloc Stylema 4-pot calipers, cornering ABS

Rear brake: 265mm disc, 2-piston caliper, cornering ABS

Seat height: 850/870mm

Front tyre: 90/90 x 21

Rear tyre: 150/70 x 18

Power: 121hp @ 10,000rpm

Weight: 220kg (dry)

Fuel capacity: 20 litres

Torque: 75.3lb.ft @ 7000rpm


Elefants in the room: MV Agusta borrow a slice of Cagiva’s Dakar racing heritage for two new adventure bikes

First published on 23 November 2021 by Dan Sutherland

MV Agusta 9.5 front

MV Agusta have dived headfirst into the adventure bike market, revealing two mud-plugging models inspired by the Dakar Rally success of the Cagiva Elefant.

Called the 9.5 and 5.5, the bikes are the Varese firm’s first true adventure offerings and sport liveries reminiscent of the ‘Lucky Explorer’ design used by Cagiva in their heyday – made possible by MV belonging to the same group.

Both bikes share a similarly styled front end, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the current Honda Africa Twin and share the same blacked-out finish above their LED headlight arrangements.

MV Agusta 9.5 rear

Other features seen across the range include front disc brake covers with gaps for cooling, as well as hand guards, bash plates, and a seven-inch colour TFT dash with Bluetooth connectivity and Wi-Fi for updating.

Both bikes are named to reflect their engine displacements, with the 9.5 sporting a new 930.63cc triple based on their existing 798cc unit and the 5.5 powered by a 550cc two-pot, produced by Chinese partners QJ.

The larger capacity of the 9.5 has been achieved by increasing the motor’s bore and stroke, with the overall unit dimensions unchanged. And it’s all held in place by a steel dual cradle chassis.

MV Agusta 9.5 right side

Producing 121bhp at 10,000rpm and 75lb.ft at 7000rpm, the revvy unit also gets a new cylinder head, intake and exhaust valves, counter rotating crank, conrods, main bearings, aluminum pistons and more.Elsewhere, the bike will be available with either a standard hydraulic or Rekluse auto clutch system.

The 9.5 has clearly been designed with some serious off-road in mind, coming with 21/18” wheels and long travel (220mm front, 210mm rear) Sachs semi-active suspension. Ground clearance is listed at an impressive 230mm while seat height is a sensible 850mm. Claimed weight is 220kg dry, which will likely end up around 250-odd kg wet once you’ve brimmed its 20l tank.

The smaller 5.5 bike model been developed alongside Chinese firm QJ and features a liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine, with a 70.5mm bore and 71mm stroke. As expected the bike is A2 compliant, with a 46.9bhp peak power (at 7500rpm), while torque is a decent 37.6 ftlbs @ 5500rpm.

MV Agusta 5.5 front

Distinguished from its three-cylinder bigger sibling by its more pronounced rear end and high-swept exhaust can, the 5.5 looks set to go up against Honda’s CB500X and the Benelli TRK502 X next year for the half-pint adventure bike top spot. Just like the bigger model it gets a decent ground clearance of 210mm, a 20l tank and with a dry weight also of 220kg. Wheels however are size for more road focus with a 19” front and 17” rear.

So why didn’t MV revive the Cagiva name for these new models? Well, in an exclusive interview with MCN back in 2020, company CEO Timur Sardarov said: “Cagiva will be back, Cagiva will be electric. It will focus on urban mobility, and we will see something within the next 24 months.”

Whether that 24-month claim is still accurate remains to be seen, having since stated in an interview earlier this year, that a first plug-in model will be seen by 2027. And there are no pricing details for either of these new models, but the 9.5 looks like a Multistrada V2 (£12,500) rival, while the 5.5 should be more Tenere 700 money (£9500).

Adam Child

By Adam Child

Former MCN Road Tester with 15 years road testing experience on all kinds of bikes