2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 | Full Review

2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 Test

Born out of a wish to bring something fresh and youthful to the MV Agusta brand the Rivale 800 was applauded by EICMA audiences last year. The Rivale 800 is a hybrid between a motard and a naked sport bike, and more extreme in many ways than its engine donor the Brutale 800.

In concept, it’s pretty much the same thing Ducati did to its Monster 1100 to create the Hypermotard, but in the MV way. The MV Agusta Rivale 800 is the most exciting MV to date, and that’s no small statement – Viva Rivale.

The tall 34.6-inch seat height, along with long wheel travel, more trail and wide handlebars, are the main changes that make the Rivale a different beast to ride than the Brutale. The chassis geometry makes a huge difference though and makes for a more direct and pure rider/machine interaction. The Rivale 800 is an extreme motorcycle in the joy department and much is owed to an excellent chassis.

The very first thing I did on day one of testing was to reduce traction control to level one and do a wheelie. Naughty I know, but I also know that the 798cc triple that produces 125 horsepower isn’t the easiest bike in the world to wheelie from low rpm. Sometimes I just miss a good old throttle cable because these days it’s all Ride-by-wire determining your right hands hunger for thrills. The latest algorithms (I hate that word) for MV Agusta’s Ride by Wire (Rbw) have been improved a lot.

I have no issues with throttle response, but no manufacturer has yet produced a Rbw that satisfies a torque hungry brain that remembers the rich fuel/air mixtures allowed by early pre-Euro fuel injected systems.

Clutching the 392-lbs. (wet) Rivale up on one in second gear is the safest way, but for such antics I suggest you get a Brutale 4-cylinder, which is the connoisseur’s bike for this medieval purpose.

The Rivale’s big triple is beautiful at high rpm, and while it growls intently at lower speeds, it goes completely ultra-violent when it receives enough air through the air-box. The induction noise at higher rpm is highly satisfying and begs for more, but oh so quickly those new corners arrive so it’s a good thing those Brembo monobloc’s are viciously sharp.

Initial bite is very sharp and modulation required a steady hand on wet roads during the first day of testing. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires (120/70-17 and 180/55-17) performed remarkably well on the wet and perfectly with all traction control settings that I tried. The Brembo monobloc’s have received aggressive brake pads, which explains the strong initial bite and extra performance compared to what I’m used to on the Brutale model.

ABS brakes will eventually be rolled out also on the Rivale 800 model, but for now we’ll have to do without. Bosch actually hasn’t got capacity to “help” MV quickly enough, and that’s probably the reason the Rivale 800 is launched without them. You can’t simply take an existing ABS system and fit them to a motorcycle these days; they have to fit the ECU and various algorithms perfectly before implementation.

Through the many tight corners created for Napoleon’s doomed Grand army on their ultimate journey to Waterloo, I couldn’t have asked for a more responsive chassis. The riding position makes this bike what it is, and I feel in complete control of events after only a few miles. Riding these roads in heavy rain proved less of a challenge than you’d think, and I feel the riding position along with excellent electronics helps a lot in this area.

All I had to do was to watch the front into hairpin corners and then fire the Rivale out, trusting the traction control that worked well. With extra weight over the front due to the motardness of the Rivale, I could actually brake quite hard for a wet day.

The next day I rode on drying roads, and in the afternoon almost completely dry. We did the longer route and I had time to fiddle more with things such as the mirrors sticking out from the end of the handlebars. They are retractable, enabling a better rear-view for highway riding. They are also foldable for tight inner city traffic or parking scenarios.

The blinkers are incorporated in the handguards up front and on the rear mudguard at the back. The sharp Rivale 800 rear-end – with its double stacked vertical lights – is also one of high visibility in traffic, which is a great safety feature despite the fact it’s mostly a design feature on an MV. I followed the MV test rider on a Brutale 800 and you could hardly see it in the fog compared to a Rivale.

The speedometer has a very similar shape to that of the Ducati Streetfighter, but without the rack of lights at the top. Gear indicator and speed are the top-placed information, which you can follow without tilting your head too much down. But it’s all in all a very Spartan layout albeit with all functions you’d expect.

TC can be changed on the move by using the controls on the left-hand side of the handlebar. But if I had worn thicker winter gloves while testing. I could forget about doing this on the move as the controls are too tiny. It might not be too easy to notice, but the Rivale is a biposto. But remember,  he/she/it needs to have a tiny Italian ass to fit comfortably, which suits me just fine. The fuel tank only holds 3.4 gallons, and is a firm design feature to make the front as minimalistic as possible.

Practicalities aside, the Rivale 800 is a massively entertaining ride and very precise. Between the grey mountain rocks carved out by Napoleon himself using only his left arm as his right collected navel fluff on the way to Paris and Waterloo, the Rivale excels beyond what I had hoped for.

I had great hopes and expectations because the Rivale is in essence the ultimate rider’s motorcycle, and MV Agusta isn’t a company that is in the business of disappointing people. There are no chances whatsoever that the Rivale 800 will ever be exiled to Saint Helena, and even the Duke of Wellington would have wanted a Rivale in his cavalry. Yeah it’s pretty much that good. I loved every minute of the ride and had a great sense of control.

Behind the MV Agusta group leader I felt a bit frustrated at the lack of warp-like speed on the way back to our hotel because I felt this was the time to really trash the bike. We stopped after each crossroad to wait for slower test riders, and my onboard cam ran out of battery without me reaching my biking nirvana on my new favorite. Poor me – I just had to take one for the safety of the team and rightly so as La Route Napoleon isn’t a track day. To quote CRC senior designer Adrian Morton; “We created a bike beyond exciting, it should be illegal.”

How the MV Agusta Rivale 800 Got its Name

At dinner I chatted to MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni about the choice of name. Giovanni told me that Rivale was his choice and that the name came about after he strolled along a harbor on the French Riviera.

He came across a yacht that looked so beautiful with a fast and aggressive design and it was a 900 hp Riva Rivale. After this, Castiglioni called Riva and after explaining that he wasn’t interested in buying the yacht but the name Rivale so it happened. Now you know that the Rivale 800 was named after a luxury yacht and it has got less to do with the Rivale rivaling the Hypermotard or other similar concepts.

The camo-painted bike seen in pictures is for now Castiglioni’s very own exclusive Rivale 800 with F4 RR wheels and tires. If there is a demand I’m certain it could be offered at some point also to the public.

2014 MV Avusta Rivale 800 Conclusion

We had to wait nearly a full year for the MV Agusta Rivale 800 to have its dynamic debut, but it was worth the wait. It’s all I hoped for and a little extra. Much wants more I know, but I’d actually like to see a Rivale 1090 also because it’d be an absolute killer on both road and track.

The front-end bias of the chassis gives a fast riding experience, and I’d love to try the Rivale on a track day because I think it would do really well. The quick shifter is one of the best I’ve tried, and the fact it handles short-shifting as well as it does is very impressive. The 798cc in-line triple is a bit raw, but with all the power and torque you’ll ever need.

Electronic aids works as it should and RbW is now much improved. The MV Agusta Rivale 800 is a very good motorcycle and not watered down at all like some of its rivals. The MV Agusta Rivale 800 is the ultimate rider’s machine.

2014 MV Agusta Rivale 800 Positives/Negatives


+  Mean styling that also benefits its visibility in traffic

+ Vicious (in a good way) brakes that are usable due to the correct amount of weight over the front Handling and riding position

+ The trepistoni is particularly entertaining and strong at high rpm, but still has drive at the midrange


– Too hardcore for inexperienced riders

– Tiny fuel tank