MV Agusta may have 14 models available for 2014, but its triples are the Italian manufacturer’s lifeblood. And the flagship motorcycle in MV’s triple range is the F3 800, whose engine is based on the unit in the F3 675. The 798cc version shares an identical 79.0mm bore but is stroked to 54.3 (from 45.9mm), which requires shorter connecting rods to maintain the engine’s physical dimensions. Another key difference: The 800 has a slightly higher compression ratio, bumped from the 675’s 13.0:1 to 13.3:1. Otherwise, the engines are very similar, even sharing identical 59mm throttle bodies. Horsepower, however, has jumped considerably, from the 675’s claimed 126 at the crankshaft to 148 for F3 800.
Both bikes share transmission ratios, but the 800 has taller 17/41 final-drive gearing compared to the 675’s 16/43. Also, the 800’s slipper clutch has been beefed considerably to handle the additional power, now sporting 10 discs compared to 8 for the 675.
Looking at the chassis of the two bikes, very little separates them. Both share the hybrid steel-trellis/aluminum swingarm-pivot-plate frame. The only major difference is the 800’s use of more powerful Brembo four-piston, radial-mount, monobloc calipers with larger 34mm pistons instead of the 675’s 32mm pots. This, in turn, required the spring rates of the 800’s 43mm inverted Marzocchi fork to be increased due to the additional braking power.
When Cycle World last tested the F3 675, it was apparent that MV still had a lot of work to do in terms of refining the Eldor engine management. Not only did MV’s engineers bite off a lot with a very complicated electronics package, but they also admit to rushing its development. Fortunately, the Eldor package is easy to update, and when new mapping becomes available, owners can take the bike to their dealer for the most current revisions.
I had the opportunity to ride the new 2014 F3 800 at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, located in the California desert just east of Indio. With ample track time on this familiar circuit, I was able to experiment with the bike’s MVICS (Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System) quite a bit. With four ride modes (Normal, Rain, Sport and Custom), eight levels of traction control, and settings for initial throttle sensitivity, maximum torque output, engine response and engine braking, the F3 800 has a myriad of set-ups to try.
After my first session, I decided to change the Gas Sensitivity (initial throttle response) from Sport to Normal, as the aggressive response from the engine when picking up the throttle from a closed position midcorner was way too abrupt. After I made this change my confidence with the bike improved dramatically. Next, I needed to pick a traction-control setting that didn’t sacrifice too much drive; I eventually settled on TC 1, or the lowest level of intervention. I left the rest of the engine options on their most aggressive settings.
Delivery from the triple is linear and smooth, which meant that TC was more of a mental safety net than a necessity. Which is good, because the TC on the F3 isn’t that sophisticated. It relies on a single rear-wheel speed sensor and takes information from the bike’s various other sensors to predict slip and apply an appropriate map. Other systems with twin wheel-speed sensors can calculate the exact amount of slip by comparing front- to rear-wheel speed, then cutting fuel and/or ignition more accurately.
In 800cc guise, the F3 engine creates a bike that’s far more enjoyable to ride than the 675. The smaller engine is far peakier, which makes its less-than-perfect electronics stand out all that much more. The 800 simply feels like a completely different animal.
That’s not to say the package is perfect. Over the course of the day, I sampled three or four different test units and two of the F3 800s had a transmission issue that wouldn’t allow the next gear to be selected without two stabs at the shift lever. The ratchet mechanism wasn’t fully engaging the selected gear, so when I went to shift again, the first attempt was only completing the last shift and the next stab was finally making the desired gearchange. The quickshifter and its ignition cut made this whole operation quite herky jerky.
As a track bike, the F3 800’s chassis is really good. Chuckwalla is a busy track with a good variety of corners but not too many hard braking zones and only a couple of short straightaways. The F3’s front end felt light and steered precise, but also tended to shake its head under hard acceleration without the benefit of a steering damper to calm things down. Midcorner stability felt quite good through a couple of the track’s sweepers, allowing me to use the Pirelli tires’ grip and maintain good corner speed. Of note: MV claims its counter-rotating crankshaft helps the bike transition from side to side more easily, but I had no way to compare the 800 against a conventional triple that day. As mentioned, the track doesn’t have too many hard braking zones, but the Brembo front brakes were excellent, with feel and power right up there with the best.
At the end of the day, I walked away feeling that MV has made a lot of progress in a short time. While there are still some refinements that need to be made to bring the F3 800 in line with the competition, the company is making big strides. Of all of the sportbikes in MV’s lineup, the F3 800 has the potential to be the best. It’s engine feels the most refined and has the fewest quirks, while its chassis offers outstanding handling and agility.