That contrasts with the Aprilia’s APRC electronics package, which is very complex in function yet intuitively easy to control and interact with. Traction control can be toggled on the fly (via left-bar-mounted paddles) at any time, whereas the Ducati (which now comes standard with TC) requires scrolling through multiple menus and a series of selections to change settings, and only when the bike is stopped. Activation of the MV’s TC is another story entirely: Learn the secret handshake and join an underground society, and then the bike may just let you into the proper menu. We carried a cheat sheet with us to navigate its menus, which are stupidly complex.
As for the actual functionality of the systems, the Tuono and Streetfighter TC can be set up to be virtually transparent, performing the task of saving your butt without taking away any of the thrill. The MV seems to cut power for a longer duration and makes drive feel like it has fallen flat on its face. On the Tuono and MV, we left the power modes in the manliest settings; we were trying to get into trouble on these bikes, not avoid it. The Ducati and Triumph are all man all the time.
Considering the diversity of the engines in these machines, it’s surprising how closely matched are their chassis. They all have their own distinctive handling characteristics, but for the most part, they all can be hustled along a sinuous stretch of road at a pace that will shock your average racer-replica owner. Top-notch chassis components support all four bikes, so “tuning” them was simply a matter of dialing in the clickers on the suspension. We made a couple of tiny adjustments to the Tuono, performed major setup surgery on the MV and left the other two essentially untouched from their baseline settings.
In both handling and ergonomics, the Streetfighter stood out like a sore thumb. As Canet pointed out, “The Duc feels tall and stinkbug. The flat, odd-feeling bar bend delivers an eerie, uncomfortable sense of being nearly over the front wheel. It really requires some time to acclimate and develop trust in its handling ability.” The Streetfighter’s excellent brakes, though, received nothing but positive comments.
Although the Speed Triple R provides uncanny stability and composure, “It feels big, weighty and has a high roll-center,” said Cernicky. “It’s tall and can’t be hurried when transitioning through ess-bend corners.” Neither was it nearly as happy as the Aprilia or MV when trail-braking to the apex of a corner; the Triumph tended to stand up a bit, especially due to the front brake initially being a bit grabby. But as Canet noted, “Excellent Öhlins suspension and sticky Pirelli Supercorsa SP rubber [same tires as on the MV] make the Triumph a very effective track-day mount or weekend canyon carver.”
Out of the box, the Brutale’s suspension was too soft, especially the shock, causing it to squat and make the bike understeer on corner exits; but with that solved via a few preload, rebound- and compression-damping adjustments, it became an excellent handler. “Where the MV stood out for me was how well it worked at high speeds over broken, slurry snaked, bumpy and rippled asphalt,” said Cernicky. The RR was perfectly happy in tight second-gear corners, as well, giving the rider a great sense of traction. And trail-braking never upset the chassis. “I could brake hard to adjust my entry lines with a lot of feel from the front tire, and that instilled confidence,” added Cernicky.
If there is a bike amongst this quartet that is forgiving in almost every handling situation, it is the Tuono. Its light, agile steering is helped in part by a wide handlebar, and yet the front end never feels nervous. Turning traction is easy to find on the Aprilia, because the bike communicates quite well what the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa up front is doing; that allows the rider to concentrate more on finding the ideal line through corners. And when it comes to providing the best combination of power and feel, the Tuono’s brakes are tops.