First Ride: The MV Agusta Superveloce Sport Bike
With 147 horsepower from a 798cc three-cylinder motor on a 381-pound bike, our correspondent was holding on for dear life.
I’ve scored myself a ride on the Elle Macpherson of motorcycles. Lithe, luscious and absolutely mesmerizing with legs that stretch all the way to the far side of 150 mph; she is, of course, the MV Agusta Superveloce.
I’m winding her up and down a deserted highway in an alligator-filled swamp, reminiscent of a scene in a Bond movie. Pterodactyl-sized flesh-eating vultures exploding from shady mangroves into my path as I buzz past playing Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” on her three-cylinder motor. But they will need to try harder and fly a damned sight faster if they want to catch me before I arrive back at my base for the weekend.
I’m chatting luxury with Dylan Austin, the President of Davidoff USA, at what should be SPECTRE’s North American headquarters—a hotel so Bond Villain-esque it seems ripped from the pages of an Ian Fleming novel. They call it Streamsong, and once upon a time it was a phosphate mine producing fertilizer. Maybe it still is. And maybe Francisco Scaramanga and Ernst Stavro Blofeld are feeding people to sharks in the basement. I didn’t want to find out.
So I ponder my Elle Macpherson instead. That’s way more fun than swimming with sharks after all. MV Agusta (for Meccanica Verghera) is the indisputable unicorn of the motorcycling world. We have all heard of these legendary beasts. But almost none of us has ever seen one in the wild, let alone ridden one. Their pedigree is the stuff of legend—Arturo Magni’s Reparto Corse Racing Team dominated the world of GP motorcycle racing for over a quarter of a century; winning more than 3,000 podiums while piloted by giants like Phil Reade, Mike Hailwood, John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini.
After the distraction of aviation ambitions bankrupted the company, everything was mothballed in the late 1970s. Time passed. And then in the 1990s, like a phoenix, MV Agusta rose from the ashes with funding from Claudio Castiglioni; and released one of the most iconic motorcycles of all time, the 1000cc MV Agusta F4. Batman rode it. And every kid with aspirations of going fast dreamt about it. It was the Bugatti Veyron of the motorcycle world. Untouchable. Unobtainable. Phenomenal. I never got to ride one.
Which is why after a year of courting MV Agusta both in Italy and the USA, I was feeling blessed that a zero-mile black-and-gold Superveloce was awaiting me at Streamsong. I climbed aboard and thought: saucy melodious buzzing triple. Blipping the throttle elicited a lightning response. Strapped into my kevlar and D30 body armor, wearing a new pair of Rokker boots, and sporting my BobaFett-esque Roof Boxer V8 helmet, I headed off to scare the shit out of the golfing fraternity, pterodactyls, alligators, and myself.
With 147 hp from a 798cc three-cylinder motor, weighing only 381 lbs. dry, I’m permanently holding on for dear life, scanning the horizon for buzzing radars and vultures as the tacho shoots past 9,000 rpm and I zig-zag across train tracks on the way to escape velocity in every gear. Sweet. Baby. Jesus. I have never experienced anything like it. Luckily I am still alive when I figure out I can hold on with both hands and let the wizardry operate the wet multi-disc slipper clutch as I whack up and down the slick six-speed gearbox.
It is not that it is the fastest thing I have ever ridden. It isn’t. Or that it is the most frightening. It isn’t. It is simply that she is sublime. I want to baby her. Take her for dinner at phenomenal places, and share amazing experiences with her in a whirlwind romance that lasts forever.
For an analog crusader in a world of digital experiences, I’ll admit to loving the gizmos. I like to think this is my desire to live a long and fruitful life, embracing anything that enhances my chances of survival. The odds skew death-defying when exposed on a missile with more things to control than a chimp on his way to the Moon. Especially in a world where every other road user has to be assumed to be blind, dumb, drunk, on drugs, and stupid merely to not get T-boned to death (or worse) by an old lady at a junction. Add the pterodactyls and alligators and it is almost obligatory to have a friendly computer helping you out.
Which is why gizmos are a bonus on such a free-revving, light, spirited and nimble beauty. And what a beauty she is. Some wags may point out that this is simply MV’s previous-generation F3 superbike wrapped in new clothes to elicit a retro-1970s GP racer look. That may well be true. But this may be my favorite production bike aesthetically of the past 20 years. So I don’t really care that she has an ugly stepsister (well, perhaps a less beautiful one).
There’s also a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye. And by creating limited editions that will leave every kid in his bedroom craving a poster of each and every one, and every budding Bruce Wayne with enough loot seeking to secure his flavor of choice, MV Agusta is setting us up to lust after a whole collection of specials, rather than just the one.
My personal favorite is the newest collaboration with swashbuckling Gallic retro rally-fiends Société des Automobiles Alpine SAS, better known simply as Alpine. Silver and electric blue is just the ticket. Unfortunately rumor has it this special edition, priced at about $44,000, or more than double the factory version, was sold out the day it was released. So I’ll have to wait for the next one to sashay over the horizon reminding me why I love the Superveloce so much.