This trio of triples absolutely represents the modern evolution of what we used to just call “motorcycle.” They are essentially denuded sporty bikes meant to engage our bodies in a human-friendly stance and offer great all-around performance. Some more than others.
The big news here is Yamaha’s FZ-09, a displacement-busting big middleweight powered by an 847cc inline-triple that cranks out 107 hp on the dyno. It is lightweight, styled right for the times, and, as we said in our “Working-Class Hero” preview, puts a bullet in boring bargain bikes by having an aggressively low price of $7,990. Not to spill some of the beans so early in this comparison, but the FZ-09 is a lot of bike for the money.
So is the MV Agusta Brutale 800—but in a different way. Peeling $11,998 for a motorcycle (add $500 for Electronic Shift Assist) is no small thing, but this is a burly, hard-edged sportbike with a tubular handlebar that will challenge, satisfy, and enthrall you. Most of the time, you won’t think about the price. Except maybe in traffic (more later). Still, performance is stimulating in a way that only the Italians seem capable of producing. We enjoyed the Brutale 675, but this 798cc version erased the smaller bike from our memory the first time it power-wheelied in third gear.
The British are pretty good at making killer performance bikes, too, but do it without asking quite as much of your soul as the Italians. The Street Triple has been one of the great motorcycles on the market since its 2008 introduction, and the R version added in 2009 has become the model of choice. We have a 2014 R to test here, but the MSRP hadn’t been released as of this writing. Expect the price to be similar to the $9,999 of the ’13 R, which was only $600 more expensive than the base model with lower-spec suspension and brakes. No one of sound mind would skip the upgrade. The 675cc engine is very nice, even though it gives up significant displacement to the two other bikes here. The 1,050cc Speed Triple was tempting, if pricey, at $12,799, but our official ceiling for the middleweight class is 899cc. And the Street Triple is the originator of the modern middleweight three-cylinder naked bike.
|MV Agusta Brutale 800||
ON THE GAS
Is 850 the new 750? What about 675? We used to wax about how finely balanced the 750cc motorcycle was, but we are officially stoked with the 800 to 850 range. As Contributing Editor Ryan Dudek, Road Test Editor Don Canet, and I rolled out for our big ride after piling up the commuting miles, slipping the clutch on the two bigger bikes here underlined the meaty tractability offered by these triples.
Recent ride-by-wire MVs have had very poor throttle response, but the factory issued a new version of the software. It’s better but still flawed around town. There is much torque, which is delivered imprecisely when leaving the line or rolling back on the throttle once moving, no matter which engine-response mode (Sport, Rain, Normal, or Custom) is selected. “No such issue mid-revs and working the twisties,” Canet said. “Love that top-end rush and traction control is nice, though I favored leaving it off for unadulterated wheelie fun on corner exits in the bottom three gears.” Our MV had the optional quick shifter, which worked well, but overall transmission behavior was long-throw and notchy.
The Triumph has a great engine and just one throttle “mode”: full natural. It runs great and gives you all its power when you open the twistgrip all the way. Or predictably less when you don’t. Its powertrain is as fine as any on the road. And the gearbox is magic.
Torque and power from this smaller engine are, predictably, lower than the others here, but the 675cc mill makes more than 40 pound-feet from 4,000 revs all the way to the 12,250-rpm limit. Still, it gets left behind when the going gets quick, particularly in roll-on performance.
The FZ-09, though, takes the cake. The engine and transmission are fantastic: pure Japanese refinement with a killer torque curve and healthy peak of 62 pound-feet. Even better, there’s 43 pound-feet at 2,000 rpm, and the engine pulls cleanly in sixth from 1,000 rpm.
Both the A and Standard mode are a bit “switchy” when in off/on throttle application, but A mode is awesome on a back road, unleashing full power with the sharpest response. Standard is a bit gentler coming in and gives full power, while ultra-smooth B mode was the choice for commuting or lazy riding—but peak output is reduced to 97 hp/57 pound-feet. Overall, it’s pure awesomeness that sounds great, too. Interesting to note that top speed is limited to 132 mph in both fifth and sixth gears. Neither the MV nor the Triumph has electronic limits.
|Triumph Street Triple R||
We dream of never-ending winding roads, but freeway droning is a fact of life for most of us. Here, it is hard to fault the Yamaha. It has the highest bars, the best seat, and the most comfortable overall ergonomics.
The FZ-09’s suspension compliance is decent, mostly because the overall setup is pretty soft. We cranked up spring preload front and rear (stepped at the back, tool in the kit) and increased rebound damping, but action was still less controlled than that of the others. When we finally got some lean time, that Yamaha proved nimble and capable, with light, neutral steering and quick turn-in that helped the bike shine.
At least as long as the pavement, and rider, were smooth. That soft suspension was easily upset by bumps and made line correction a delicate process. Initial bite on the front brakes was aggressive, too. If the fork were stiffer and reacted less to that sharp input, it wouldn’t be an issue.
Still, the mega motor and a good, not great, chassis made for an awesome back-road ride. The FZ-09 is also comfortable enough for daylong treks. Too bad the gas tank is only 3.7 gallons (the MV’s is 4.4 and the Triumph’s is 4.6), limiting range.
The Brutale 800, in typical MV fashion, has a firm, slippery seat and taut suspension. But you feel far more in touch with the tires’ contact patches than on the FZ. The bars are lower, the pegs are higher, and the overall feel is just more aggressive. Hit the twisties and it’s a total scalpel, offering easy midcorner line adjustments and put-the-front-tire-anywhere precision.
“The bike instantaneously reacts to rider input, making it easy to dart through traffic or quickly adjust to a sharp corner on a mountain road,” Dudek said. “The brakes are great, too.”
We were less enthralled in the day-to-day grind, where its hard-edged nature and fluffy low-end throttle response hurt the MV around town. Fully adjustable suspension allowed some latitude to soften things, but you never shed the MV-ness. Which is the whole point of the bike, really. Well, that and great styling with the nicest materials and finish (except for the cheap-looking stickers on the tank).
The Street Triple R splits the Brutale 800 and FZ-09 riding position, keeping a sporting, over-the-front feel but with more comfort than the MV. Compliance in daily riding from the fully adjustable suspension was good and composure on back roads was excellent. This is really the best all-around suspension in the test.
As we upped the cornering pace, the Triumph felt ultra stable and, as a result, it exhibited heavier steering. You’re most committed to your cornering line on this one. Front-end feedback was a bit more isolated than on the MV or Yamaha, but we’re really splitting hairs here. It is a satisfying and fun bike on the daily commute and at knee-dragging pace.
IN YOUR GARAGE?
After all the testing was done, we were all stoked on how awesome the modern all-around middleweight motorcycle has become. It’s even better now that we’ve seen displacement get into this sweet 800cc range.
And smaller displacement really is what hurt the Street Triple R in this company. Triumph has 800cc versions of this engine, and perhaps it’s time for one in this model. If you can live without the quick snap and meaty muscle of the other bikes, the Street Triple has the best chassis compromise and is a reasonable value if they don’t raise the price too much.
The MV does what MVs are supposed to do: move your body and your soul. The 798cc engine is top-end centric, and the chassis feels like magic on a back road, but the price and lack of engine-tuning refinement really hurt it when we considered what bike we wanted to ride home.
Which leaves the Yamaha. When we first heard the FZ-09’s price, we were worried that the bike would have a cheap feel or that there would be serious compromises. But the compromises are minor. Dudek summed it up well: “You really can’t go wrong with the Yamaha, especially for the money. It feels like it is pumping 1,000cc power out of the 847cc motor. The performance of the suspension may be lacking a bit compared to the others, but the trade-off for power and price is worth it. On smoother roads, the Yamaha behaves fantastic, and the riding position is best for longer rides.”
Sure, fuel capacity is a bit of an issue, but we like the bike so much and the value is so good that we just decided to live with stopping for gas more often. You’ll smile every time you top if off.
|MV Agusta Brutale 800||Triumph Street Triple R||Yamaha FZ-09|
|DRY WEIGHT||388 lbs.||392 lbs.||396 lbs.|
|WHEELBASE||54.4 in.||55.3 in.||56.8 in.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||32.0 in.||32.8 in.||32.0 in.|
|FUEL MILEAGE||33 mpg||37 mpg||38 mpg|
|0-60 MPH||2.8 sec.||3.1 sec.||2.7 sec.|
|1/4 MILE||10.68 @ 128.14 mph||11.15 @ 122.28 mph||10.66 @ 125.24 mph|
|HORSEPOWER||113.3 hp @ 12,090 rpm||95.0 hp @ 12,040 rpm||107.2 hp @ 10,120 rpm|
|TORQUE||55.5 lb.-ft. @ 8,940 rpm||46.0 lb.-ft. @ 8,380 rpm||61.5 lb.-ft. @ 8,480 rpm|
|TOP SPEED||148 mph||142 mph||132 mph|
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