Alun Davies revisits teenage lust aboard the first touring bike from the Italian company with an impeccable race heritage.
As a teenager in a hard-working Rhondda Valley mining village in the ‘70s, my outlook on life was deemed to be highly sophisticated. I was going to be something other than a coal miner, pull Deborah the posh blond girl at school and be Giacomo Agostini.
Having had an eye removed at the age of two my opportunity to follow the family tradition of heading down a deep, dark, dusty hole in the ground in the South Wales hillsides was a non-starter. With only one eye working I’d not pass the pre-employment medical check, which at the time was a devastating realisation for a young lad who didn’t know life existed outside of a hard-working and equally hard-drinking mining community.
Fortunately, the eye problem offered no downside to the drinking career, in fact, quite the opposite. Whilst my peers were experiencing their first alcohol-induced double vision my single line of sight remained just fine.
At about the same time I also became aware that Deborah was not the sharpest compass in the maths department whereas I had a surprising skill for logarithms, equations and algebra. Sensing an opportunity I offered my after school revision services to the young lady and let nature take its trigonometrical course under the watchful eye of Ago.
Giacomo Agostini, known affectionately as Ago, was my motorcycle hero in the early and mid-’70s before I transferred allegiance to Barry Sheene. Although Ago later flirted with Yamaha, during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s he was synonymous with the Italian motorcycle company MV Agusta and won just about every race he entered. By way of wanting to be Agostini, I of course needed an MV, the silver and red machine the flying Italian sat astride on my bedroom wall posters.
As things transpired I had a short-lived first job working for the NatWest bank where I managed to get a loan and bought a bright green CZ175 Trail. From that moment on, youthful pride dictated that an Eastern European motorcycle would outgun any Italian mark. Deborah, to my regret, I’d almost forgotten about, until forty years later when those intoxicating feelings of teenage lust and angst came to the fore as I threw a leg over an MV for the first time, a red and silver Turismo Veloce 800.
The Turismo Veloce is MV’s first attempt at an adventure-styled touring motorcycle and it’s most definitely at the sportier end of the spectrum. On first sight, it’s both a work of art and yet somehow, to my eye at least, not quite right. My overriding impression is that the front end still needs a bit of work to blend with the mid and rear. It looks a little stubby, though that undoubtedly comes with having a shorter wheelbase than other adventure and touring bikes.
Overall though its unmistakably Italian and certainly draws admiring looks and the doffing of caps from the motorcycle connoisseur. Up close the attention to detail and design is hugely impressive and when compared to British and Japanese bikes of a similar cc and standing there’s almost no comparison.
Everything on this bike appears to have been individually crafted rather than pressed from an off-the-shelf mould. The panniers, wheels and ‘winged messenger’ style triple exhausts are works of art and the quality of the saddle stitching, intricate mudguard design and uniquely compelling number plate light have a whiff of renaissance artist about them, even though the designer is actually a Brit from Norfolk.
Slinging a leg over the bike and settling into the saddle it was pretty obvious from the off that the knee bend on the Turismo was more acute than my 6ft 2in frame with ageing knee joints was going to find conducive for any sort of distance riding. I also found the rider seat a little on the short side and in a natural ‘touring’ stance my coccyx began a battle for supremacy with the hard rise of the pillion seat. The seat won.
The result was that I found myself sliding forward in the saddle with the ride position more gung-ho super-moto rather than relaxed adventure or touring. A shorter rider would undoubtedly have no issues here but I’d suggest anyone over 6ft have a long test ride to see how they get on.
Conversely, the 850mm seat height is a little higher than most although something I did not have an issue with was being able to plant both feet comfortably on the ground. The positive spin-off is that the high stance offers great visibility.
The controls are all where you’d expect to find them, with the exception of the method of changing engine modes. I established, 300 miles into the ride, that moving from ‘sport’ to ‘touring’ or ‘rain’ or ‘custom’ was very simple indeed but not something you’d naturally do unless shown how. With the bike fired up you press the ignition button until the desired mode is displayed on the screen. Simple, when you know-how.
The protective front screen is manually adjustable and switching from high to low is a simple one-handed affair, even on the move. In use, I found little difference between the settings both of which provided a ride free of wind buffeting. Nice.
The dashboard screen offers huge amounts of information which could and probably should be presented in a less cluttered format. This is not something unique to MV and is becoming an issue for almost all manufacturers.
The advent of digital this and automatic that has created a mountain of information which would be of little use if not displayed to the rider, the problem lies in the current style of cramming as much as possible on a single small screen. The design rule of ‘less is more’ needs more thought here. That said, once you’ve bought a Turismo it’ll all become second nature after a while.
One other observation with the display was the tendency to wash out in certain backlight situations. On more than one occasion I found myself having to move my head sideways to make out the information on the dash. Not a huge inconvenience but something that could be improved.
MV has included useful touring features on the Turismo; a couple of coin tidies hidden in the front fairing, a dual USB connector below the screen, rider and pillion power accessory sockets and simple-to-operate cruise control. Handguard wind deflectors also come as standard, which is just as well as the front indicators are an in-built feature.
Staying with the indicators the rear set are positioned very low on the MV, low enough to cause a rider or driver following to think ‘what’s that’ when they first blink rather than naturally assuming it’s the indicator. This was pointed out by a number of following riders.
Attempting to position the mirrors for maximum rear view was futile, no matter how and which way I moved them all I could get in view was my shoulders. For the prospective MV owner this is easily fixable and I’ve little doubt that a more svelte rider would not have a problem, but by the end of the ride I was in a position to write a thesis on the extremities of my XXL jacket.
From a touring perspective, the panniers are worth a special mention as they have been styled to look as if they are a part of the bike rather than the horrific carbuncles some manufacturers tag on their machines.
They are also big enough to stow a helmet and with the innovative tail design of the MV coupled with the short exhausts, they are narrower than the handlebars. That’s quite an achievement and worthy of praise and I say that from a standpoint of disliking side opening plastic panniers with the sort of passion I normally reserve for tax inspections.
Engaging first and pulling away in ‘sports’ mode the rasp and roar of the triple was a delight and it also hits that sweet spot where it’s just loud enough for the rider to appreciate but nowhere near the mark where locals start locking up their daughters.
Within the first couple of miles, the character of the Turismo was apparent. The DNA of this bike is sports, the styling may offer a disguise but the ride, handling and engine response are a clear giveaway. It’s a very flickable bike in a manner that no touring or adventure bike comes close to. Given the choice on tight Alpine passes, this is exactly the sort of machine I’d have at the top of my sports touring shortlist.
The 110bhp, 800cc triple is tuned to produce bags of usable power with the torque just where you’d want it in a road-legal machine. And that power stays on with just a hint of high-end rush until the rev limiter kicks in. In ‘rain’ and ‘touring’ mode it drops to 90bhp and the throttle delivery is less crisp.
The pick up from 30mph in top gear is smooth with almost no juddering, something I found very rider-friendly whilst whisking along A-roads in the Cotswold’s where speed limits are apt to change around every corner.
The front brakes complement the engine and handling performance with both impressive power and feel, though I did notice the front end dived a little more than expected for a bike of this pedigree under hard use. No doubt that wouldn’t be an issue on the more expensive Lusso model that comes with electronic suspension, which presumably alters the stiffness to match the riding mode.
Overall, I felt the suspension was a touch on the soft side for a sports-based tourer but then it is adjustable and I’m sure with time spent on setting it up, somewhere approaching nirvana could be achieved.
Gear changing was slick, smooth and precise and with a slipper clutch as back up, there’ll be no locking up the back wheel in a change down crisis. Better still the Turismo comes with a quick-shifting blipper clutch which allows for clutch-free changes – both up and down. Although sceptical at first I’m a big convert to clutch-free gear changes and the system on the MV is up there with the best. Throttle wide open or shut it just works, effortlessly.
The more I rode, the more I was impressed with the Turismo. It’s an excellent playtime machine for dancing around A roads, though it does need more rider input than a tourer or adventure bike to get the most out of it. This is definitely a bike that would appeal to the rider who wants to engage with and take control of a bike rather than just take a leisurely bimble.
Stick it in first or second and you can lift the front wheel off the throttle but then this is an MV, a brand that’s about as far away from leisure touring as Ferrari.
If the Cotswold’s has an Alpine-style road then it’s Fish Hill where you’ll find a sequence of tight bends that demand to be ridden at speed. It was here that the MV was in its element and I experienced one of those man and machine in harmony moments where, in my mind at least, I was Giacomo Agostini.
Both the Yamaha Tracer and Triumph XRx offer bikes in the same sector of the market for considerably less money. However, the prospective MV owner is unlikely to offer those bikes anything more than a cursory glance as he polishes his Platinum Card en route to the MV dealer.
The appeal of the MV is probably more about heritage and exclusivity than it is about performance and comfort. For about the same price as the Tourismo Lusso the buyer is in Ducati Multistrada and BMW XR1000S territory and in my opinion both the Ducati and BMW are better sports touring bikes and have more power and performance.
However, if you’re after a smaller, more manageable sports touring motorcycle and you value heritage, prestige and exclusivity above all else there’s nothing to compete with the new MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800.