Motus MSTR Review

Motus MSTR Review | Road to Birmingham
Motus MSTR

There are multiple examples of American automotive icons, and by and large they all share the same thing—muscle. Where European and Asian engines tend to make power from smaller-displacement, higher-revving power units, American car motors are typically generous in cubic inches and don’t need to rev so hard to achieve the same result.

When Brian Case decided to design an all-American motor, it was natural that he would follow much the same path. Case came up with the equivalent of a small block Chevy motor cut in half, to create his so-called V4 Baby Block (aka MV4R), manufactured at the Motus plant in downtown Birmingham, Ala.

The powerplant is a 1650cc (100ci) pushrod 90-degree V-4, mounted longitudinally in the frame and canted forward slightly to give it a nice aggressive look. As a big-inch pushrod design, high revs are not feasible, nor are they necessary.

However, the output numbers claimed by Motus do indeed deliver on its promise—the top-of-the-line MSTR motor’s slightly more aggressive camshafts take it to a powerful 180 horsepower at a modest 8200 rpm. Peak torque is a stonking 126 ft/lbs at just 5000 rpm.

Once that sleek-yet-chunky motor is red up though, it is not just the looks that hint at muscle-car aggression. Blipping the throttle in neutral creates a healthy bark from the dual Akrapovič pipes; clearly the Motus will have more than enough beans to justify Motus’ claim that the MSTR is truly a sportbike, and not a sport-touer.

Motus MSTR horsepowerEasing out the light-feeling clutch moves the MSTR off the line smoothly, although it requires some revs to get it going. This is not a big cruiser V-twin that pulls like a tractor from idle—it’s a super-powerful V-4. If you treat the bike like a typical multi-cylinder and goose it just a little, the Motus responds quickly— and very impressively.

The fully ride-by-wire closed-loop fuel injection is quite—but not perfectly— smooth; of course, the relatively slow- revving, heavy motor internals help iron some vagaries out. The throttle connection is excellent, and it makes the Motus supremely easy to ride.

Although the MSTR has a gentle nature, it is deceptively fast. Hard acceleration and high performance are very easy to access, and grabbing some throttle has the motor responding quickly. The Baby Block delivers on its torquey promise, and I was easily able to chirp the rear tire or lift the front wheel in the rst two gears at will.

Torque reaction from the longitudinally mounted motor is there, but it’s minimal and, for me, it helps bring the machine alive. As the Motus has a chain Final-drive there is no contra-rotating driveshaft to offset the slight sideways wiggle when blipping the throttle on downshifts.

The MV4R motor is modular so it has a separate clutch/gearbox assembly; this enables Motus to sell crate-engines for a variety of other non-moto vehicles, and it has been quite successful with the strategy.

Although the clutch is light and has good feel, the gearbox itself is still a little raw. It’s certainly not bad, but gear changes are heavier and slower than anything from the Japanese stables, and this is one area that the Motus engineers will undoubtedly continue to refine.

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While false neutrals weren’t evident, finding neutral while stopped borders on impossible; I was successful on occasion by clicking down from second gear. In other words, it is better to select neutral before the Motus comes to rest.

The Motus is unequivocally a premium motorcycle, and both the price and specifications reflect that. Clearly aimed at the affluent, pricing starts around $30,000 for the marginally more touring-oriented MST, with the MSTR and its slightly higher level of equipment coming in around $36,000.

Knowing that the pricing was going to be on the higher side, Motus executives made the smart decision to equip the models with the best equipment, such as Öhlins forks, Brembo brakes, Akrapovič mufflers, and Sargent seats. The R version adds an Öhlins TTX36 rear shock, BST carbon fiber wheels, Brembo M4 Monoblock calipers, and adjustable sporting handlebars from Rizoma.

Interestingly, both models come with cruise control, which speaks volumes about the machine’s sport-touring capability. Motus currently does not offer ABS or other electronic aids such as traction control; I suspect for the target audience that’s not a problem. The instrument panel is a very attractive LCD color display that contains all the information a rider needs.

The Sargent seat is very comfortable, and even the slightly more aggressive riding position of the MSTR had me feeling like I could just take off and ride across country. Allied to the cruise control and the 5.5-gallon fuel tank, Case will never know how close he got to not getting his bike back. This is definitely a ride-all-day motorcycle, but it most certainly has a bent towards sport riding.

At a claimed 565 pounds curb weight with bags and a full tank, the MSTR is a solid machine, so it simply won’t flick through corners like a racebike. This is motorcycling’s equivalent of the Shelby Mustang rather than a Ferrari.

Motus MSTR top speedFortunately, the MSTR is well balanced, so it feels light once underway, transitions smoothly from side to side, initiates turns quickly, and overall has neutral, easy handling.

Through fast corners it feels solidly planted, and cornering clearance is excellent. The bottom line is that the suspension is exemplary, and the MSTR will rush through corners with as much confidence as anything out there, apart from the pure sportbikes.

The chromoly tubular trellis frame works well, and the chassis is, of course, Motus’ own, designed in conjunction with engineering partners Pratt & Miller. I heard some criticism of the welding being a little funky in places and, on close inspection, that’s not wrong. As with all small volume manufacturers not having a robot-built machine, imperfections can actually give the machine some character. You be the judge.

Regardless, the overall build quality of the Motus is very good, and the MSTR exudes quality. The paint is thick and well applied; although they “don’t do chrome”, the highly polished shiny bits and other detail finishes are all beautifully done. The MV4R motor is low-maintenance, and Motus displays its confidence in reliability by offering an unlimited mileage two-year warranty.

Motus is a company of hard-core motorcycle enthusiasts initially funded in small steps by family and friends. That the final product is so cohesive and well put together is impressive.

While the pricing may raise eyebrows in some quarters, remember that the richest flavor of Honda Gold Wing tops $30,000, as does the CVO touring range from Harley-Davidson. Still, the Motus MSTR is about twice the price of a Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS—not an unreasonable equivalent motorcycle—so that price tag will purchase some exclusivity. Regardless of the cost, the Motus motorcycles are designed for wide appeal.

The Motus MSTR has that elusive old-school character that many of us value, and it helps me remember why I love motorcycles so much. Far from spoiling my enjoyment, the couple of quirks actually add to that intangible, distinctive quality of experience. I felt totally connected to the machine— riding it, I felt alive, and the bike did, too. Owners will thrash this bike through the canyons and ride it across country on a whim. Lucky guys.

Photos by Shaun Lang

Riding Style:

Helmet: Custom SAK_ART Arai Corsair-V
Communications: Sena 20S
Jacket: Joe Rocket Comet
Gloves: Racer Guide
Jeans: Icon Strongarm 2
Footwear: Sidi Doha

Motus MSTR Review – Photo Gallery