MV Agusta F3 800
YOU COULD TELL THIS WAS A MOTOR DEEPLY AFFECTED BY EMISSION SAPPING AS IT WHEEZED AND PANTED TO THE REDLINE.
If chasing lap times and outright pace is your thing, don’t look any further than the F3 800. Thanks to its fluidity, the MV is hungry for corner speed and it’s easy to preserve its momentum. Its controls are light and easy on the digits in comparison with the Ducati’s heavy levers. With a detectably shorter wheelbase and more radical geometry, it dances far more lightly on its springs than the 959 and is more willing and responsive with a sportier outlook that absolutely chews the Ducati in the bends. The formula is a simple one: a 600 chassis housing a claimed 144bhp triple, draped in MV’s sexy lines. It’s no wonder the F3 800 rides like a 600 on ’roids.
Everything aboard the MV comes more intuitively. From searching for grip to navigating bends at staunch speeds and sniffing out working parameters, the F3 boogies with an instinctive desire for performance. The engine braking is permanently suited to any corner you throw at the front wheel and, even if you become optimistic with corner entry, the F3 responds with unwavering commitment as the front-end’s ability to absorb off-the-throttle loads constantly amazes. It’s one of the sweetest handling bikes ever built so long as the surface is suitably ripe.
A dank winter’s day isn’t the ideal testing place to sample such fine tweaks, and I’d be lying if I said the new engine frame mount – which apparently increases torsional and longitudinal rigidity – was a tangible upgrade.
You’re still treated to supernaturally telepathic steering and the F3’s short, stubby chassis feeling which only brings confidence. Gone are the days of appalling F3 stability (the ’bars do get flighty now and then) but I’d still love to ride an MV with pukka suspension installed, not that its Marzocchi/ Sachs combination is a limiting factor. Remaining unchanged for what seems like an age, it does, however, suit lighter riders and damping can occasionally feel like it’s been set-up for my seven-year-old.
Owning a counter-rotating crank, the F3’s throttle has always been a lively one as the motor spins freely. But it wasn’t that long ago that we were lamenting MV’s inability to provide any usable throttle, with a sketchy ride-by-wire execution that ruined the ride. Over the years, the throttle connection has slowly been refined and the latest development is another giant progression. The MVICS (Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System) has been treated to an upgrade for 2018, and MV has worked on the connection itself to provide a sweeter wrist-to-wheel link and banish that arcade sensation. It actually feels like a throttle now. And not a lot beats opening the F3’s
throttle as every sense absorbs that triple. While Ducati got even more cheaty and upped the lil’ Panigale’s cubes to 955cc, MV Agusta retained the triple’s 798cc but took the opportunity to renovate the lump and preserve its claimed 144bhp.
There’s no doubt the MV has lost some of its impressive midrange through Euro 4 compliance, although only a morsel reckons my botty dyno, and it still punches hard thanks to that crank set-up. More palpable is the forfeiture of its fabled soundtrack: not surprising given that MV had to reduce the F3’s noise by 48%. Even in Euro 3 guise, you could sense this was a motor deeply affected by emission sapping as it wheezed and panted to the redline. Now, with even sterner ministration, the F3 sounds severely castrated at idle; like a dog that’s lost his bark.
But more poignant are the changes to the gearbox, which is the most perceptible of the mechanical upgrades. Thanks to a slick quickshifter and blipper, the notchy gearbox was well masked by electronics. For 2018, the whole shifting exercise has been transformed with a beautifully crisp and precise, yet still ludicrously light, action. Whether this was all carried out in the name of Euro 4, we don’t care. It’s stunning.
Could do with a tad less helium in that front wheel...
Beauty is in the hands of this beholder...
As lithe as they come.
The dash is unchanged.
Where’s a pan flute player when you need one?