On The Road With the Motus MST
While Ultimate MotorCycling’s Arthur Coldwells and Nic de Sena were thrashing the new Motus MSTR and MST, respectively, as sport bikes, I was doing my yeoman’s duty testing the MST with bags and doing a bit of tour testing. While I didn’t get to rack up as many miles as I would have liked on the Motus MST, I’ll cut right to the chase for you — if you’re considering a high-end sport-touring motorcycle, you owe it to yourself to look very closely at the Motus MST. It’s a fantastic, unique, and inspiring machine.
It’s easy to get fixated on the Motus MST’s instantly iconic Baby Block motor — a 1650cc liquid-cooled V4 with pushrods (per its claim to being inspired by the small block V8s found in American muscle cars). You can’t ignore that the Motus MV4 engine just happens to also be fuel-injected, decisively oversquare (88mm bore, 67.8mm stroke), puts out a healthy 165 horsepower (claimed) and, most importantly, produces a peak of 123 ft/lbs of torque at just 5000 rpm. However, there’s more to the story of the desirability of the Alabama-made MST.
The chassis is also impressive, with a trellis frame, Öhlins NIX30 forks, a Progressive Suspension shock with linkage assistance (but only adjustable spring-preload and five positions of rebound damping), Brembo calipers, fully adjustable HeliBars, forged aluminum OZ wheels, and a Sargent seat. There are a lot of quality products around that cast aluminum block motor, and when you have people experienced in producing a practical limited production motorcycle (co-founder Brian Case co-designed the Confederate Wraith; co-founder Lee Conn has a background in medical equipment), you have to potential for something special, and that’s exactly what the Motus MST is.
Fairly imposing in person, in no small part due to the forward-canted Motus MV4 motor, the intimidation factor goes away quickly once astride the MST. The seating position is comfortable with the HeliBars in the standard position and the seat is comfortably firm. Yes, this is how you want a sport-tourer to feel. The non-standard tinted sport windshield took a bit away from the touring side of things, but that’s how the bike was delivered to me, and that was how I was going to ride it.
Bikes that are not mass-produced are something of a crapshoot. You almost always have to make allowances for something handmade, and the Motus MST is no exception. It’s not an appliance-like motorcycle — it’s one with a personality and quirks that actually enhance the experience, but it’s a remarkably well-built bike that is fully thought-out and effective.
Like a Harley-Davidson or Ducati, starting the Motus is a visceral experience. Pushing the start button unquestionably starts and explosion, and the tone is set for the rest of the ride. This motor wants to be in motion, and it wants to share the experience of internal combustion with out.
For all the torque provided at the 5000 rpm peak, the MV4 motor is soft off idle — so much so that you feel like you might stall it. It requires a few more revs than you’d expect, plus just a slight bit of clutch slipping. Once underway, you feel the rumble of the V4 powerplant, and once over 2000 rpm, it pulls cleanly.
Acceleration is nowhere near exhausting or startling. This isn’t something like the Star VMax. Instead, the MV4 has plenty of flywheel and that power is delivered in a way that is undeniably insistent. Things move ahead at an impressive, though not scary, rate. You are glad that the Motus MST has radially mounted Brembo calipers at the ready in the front with twin Braking discs (though no ABS — an odd omission on a high-end motorcycle; traction control and similar electrics are also missing).
Running past the torque peak with ease on the way to the 165 horsepower peak at 7600 rpm (just 200 rpm below redline and the soft rev limiter), the MV4 motor’s vibrations become more apparent as it gains power. This gives the Motus MST has a muscular feel that is instantly addicting, and the wonderful sound that comes from the twin mufflers is wonderful. From 2000 rpm to 7800 rpm, the powerband is smooth and fully predictable, which is exactly what you want on a sport-tourer. Fatiguing bikes aren’t fun to ride long distances.
Through the acceleration period, the MST is nicely stable. With the sport windshield, my LS2 helmet did take some blast, though not an objectionable amount. Certainly, the taller touring windshield would take care of that problem.
Cornering the Motus MST is highly dependent upon conditions. Weighing in wet at a claimed 585 pounds with the bags installed, it’s 50 pounds lighter than a Yamaha FJR1300 or BMW R 1200 RT, for instance, so it’s hefty for a sport bike, but light for a sport-tourer. Having a chain drive certainly helps in this regard, and many riders will prefer that final drive choice.
This isn’t a motorcycle that I felt comfortable throwing into turns, certainly. The Pirelli Angel GT tires are well-behaved, as you’d expect, but the MST feels a more oriented toward stability than agility. Again, this is what I want in a open class motorcycle with saddlebags and a windshield.
High-speed sweepers are a delight, with the MST effectively locking itself into the turn, taking the onus off of the rider. Tighter turns require more muscle, or a more relaxed approach. Most often, I opted for the latter, and was rewarded with a friendly, secure ride with good chassis feedback.
I did feel that I would like a steering damper to be an option, however. The MST starts to feel less stable over 100 mph — not that you should be touring at that speed — and in bumpy corners the front end starts to feel a bit too easily deflected. This could be something tuned out by working on the Öhlins forks (not much can be done with the preload-adjustable shock), but the option to slow down the handling wouldn’t be one that I’d reject.
Out on the open highway, the Motus MST is an absolutely pleasure to ride. When hustling through the canyons, the vibration of the motor as it runs up through the powerband can get overly noticeable after a while. But, when you can click up into the overdrive-like sixth gear, the MST becomes undeniably smooth. The exhaust is a whisper when you’re turning over at about 3500 rpm at 75 mph. Given the chance, I would take the Motus MST across country (on or off the interstates) without any hesitation.
When it comes to purchasing a sport-touring motorcycle, it’s easy to go with the big names. Generally, the motorcycles are less expensive, have a track record, and a dealer network. The adventurous might go with something like the Moto Guzzi Norge GT, but taking a custom bike on a long tour with no obvious support might be daunting for some.
Motus assures me that parts can be delivered in a day to any motorcycle dealer or repair shop, and that there is nothing unorthodox about the MST that would stop any competent mechanic from working on it. To be sure, the MV4 motor sounds great, and doesn’t have any sort of clattering sound that would make a rider nervous about a long trip. The two-year, unlimited mileage warranty speaks to the confidence Motus has in the MST’s reliability.
The Motus MST has a starting price of $30,975, which is right in the vicinity of the Honda Gold Wing with an airbag. So, you’re getting a bespoke motorcycle for the price of a premium mass-produced unit. That alone should put the Motus MST on your shopping list. The Motus MST is a fully functional motorcycle that requires no excuses or allowance.
It’s not that easy to stand apart from the crowd in the sport-touring category, yet the Motus MST guarantees you exclusivity and a ride like no other. If you can afford the price tag, don’t buy a sport-touring bike without finding a way to test ride the Motus MST.
Action photography by Shaun Lang / Shaun Lang Photography
- Helmet: LS2 CR1 Carbon 1.1
- Jacket: Rev’It! Defender Pro GTX
- Gloves: Racer Feeling
- Pants: Rev’It! Defender Pro GTX
- Boots: Sidi Cobra
2016 Motus MST Specifications
- Engine: Motus MV4 liquid-cooled pushrod V4
- Bore x stroke: 88 x 67.8mm
- Displacement: 1650cc (1o0 cubic inches)
- Valves per cylinder: Two
- Crankshaft: Cast steel
- Connecting rods: Forged steel
- Engine block and heads: Cast aluminum
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Fuel delivery: Closed loop electronic fuel injection
- Fuel: Premium
- Throttle control: Ride-by-wire with cruise control
- Maximum power: 165 horsepower at 7600 rpm
- Maximum torque: 123 ft/lbs at 5000 rpm
- Redline: 7800 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ overdrive
- Final Drive: XW-ring chain
- Front suspension: Öhlins NIX30 adjustable forks
- Rear suspension: Progressive mono-shock w/ remote spring preload adjuster
- Wheels: Forged aluminum by OZ racing
- Brakes: Brembo calipers and Braking discs
- Engine weight: 225 pounds
- Dash: High color, TFT LCD instrument panel
- Alternator: 720 watts
- Power port: Standard
- Seat: Sargent for Motus
- Centerstand: Standard
- Handlebars: Fully adjustable HeliBars
- Windscreen: Hand-adjustable
- Warranty: 24-months, unlimited miles
- Hard sidebags: Standard
- Wet weight: 585 pounds
- Options: 30-liter top box, touring or tinted-sport windscreen, rear power port, heated seat, heated grips, Low seat by Sargent
2016 Motus MST Price:
- MSRP – $30,975