When I first heard about the MV Agusta F4CC, I thought: Yeah, right. What thrill could I get for $120,000 that I couldn't for one-tenth the price? Then MV gave me the bike. Even better, they provided the key.
In my job, it's easy to be a power junkie. I get to sample all kinds of yummy fun sport bikes that tempt me to get into all kinds of trouble with a simple flick of the wrist. Usually, I'm able to get my ya-yas out without going completely overboard, which explains why I'm still standing after two years of riding more than 100 bikes.
But the F4CC broke my will. Riding the world's most expensive (limited) production sport bike, I felt like Zeus.
I was fast. I felt rich. I felt sexy. Though, riding a bike that costs more than my annual salary, I didn't exactly feel carefree.
It's difficult to ride a 200-horsepower, $120,000 sport bike to its full potential. First, my name's not Valentino or Dani or that of any other top racer. Second, it's easy to be psyched out by the price.
Confident as I am in my riding ability, I was plagued by the fear that I'd drop it, cause thousands of dollars of damage, draw all kinds of attention to my newspaper for the wrong reasons, lose my job, lose my house, lose my kid and end up on the street eating Snausages. It's enough pressure as it is to be a female motorcycle critic for the mainstream press in a male-dominated enthusiast-driven sport, and the F4CC didn't help.
I'm the sort of person who flubs when I'm trying to show off anyway. Dress me up in heels and they'll walk their way onto the nearest banana peel, which was pretty much what happened in my first day with MV's most exclusive bike, though it started well enough. The first stares I got atop the F4CC happened before I'd even left the parking lot. The first roll-down-the-window compliment: within two blocks. When you pay so much money for such a high-class bike, that's exactly what should be happening.
But riding a bike that draws so much attention made it all the more mortifying when I was stuck at the front of a line for a left-turn arrow at an exceedingly long red light because of a train. I glanced down at the dash and saw the engine temperature clicking up a couple degrees every few seconds. That isn't unusual for a high-performance machine, but it kept going up.
When it got to 234 degrees, the number started blinking. I started panicking. And in an effort to avoid an impending meltdown, I turned off the ignition. Then the arrow went green, the engine hadn't cooled enough to want to turn back on, and I was stuck. By the time I got the bike to go, I was over-revving, running a red light and looking like I'd learned to ride yesterday.
I've never been so relieved to get on the freeway, which thankfully was just around the corner. But just as I entered the freeway and was about to crack the throttle to leave that memory in the dust, I saw a black-and-white. So I stayed in first gear, which on the F4CC meant I wasn't even straining at 75 mph.
The F4CC uses a modified version of the 190-horsepower, 1,078 cc, inline-four motor used on MV's new F4 RR 312 1078 — a $30,000-ish bike that looks like a spittoon next to the F4CC. The CC's additional 10 horses are derived, in part, from the lighter-weight titanium intake valves and oversize throttle bodies — improvements that will trickle down to the production F4 in a year or so. It also features the F1-derived Torque Shift System that MV introduced on an earlier limited-production F4-1000, the Tamburini.
But that isn't the reason the F4CC costs twice as much per pound as a Ferrari. Only 100 F4CCs have been built, and 90 percent of each one of them was made by hand. The steering damper, hand levers, foot pegs and fork feet were all machined and hand-assembled by MV's top artisans rather than the Regular Joes on the assembly line.
The F4CC is the bike that MV Agusta President Claudio Castiglioni wanted for himself, which is why it was built and where it gets its name. The bike I was riding was No. 001 — the first one built. Not only did it belong to Castiglioni personally, his signature was on the carbon-fiber body.
The F4CC is the sort of bike that needs its own bodyguard. It's the kind of bike that wants to be fed high-octane gas and bathed with Evian and buffed with a silk rag dipped in rare Camellia seed oil.
But it also wants to be ridden hard and fast. Despite my fears of dumping it, I was happy to oblige because the F4CC is about excess.
"When in Rome" was pretty much my justification for riding faster than I ever had previously. I'm sure some will say I was reckless, and maybe I was. While I never used more than four of the bike's six gears or came anywhere near its 13,000 rpm max, I wanted to feel the power and savor the grumble and growl of its pipe-organ titanium racing exhaust, which to me was catnip.
Riding the F4CC, I felt as if I'd been touched by the hand of God, and, in a way, I probably had been. I was pulled over on this bike, and I didn't get a ticket. I like to think it's because the authorities were as blown away by MV Agusta's premium product as I was.
Sadly, the legendary MV Agusta is in financial trouble right now, due to problems with the Italian banking system and a weak dollar that's eroding the company's profitability in its second most lucrative market — the U.S. The problems are so dire that Castiglioni is looking for a business partner, even one that would hold a majority stake. According to Larry Ferracci, chief executive of the firm's U.S. importer, Cagiva USA, companies from India, Italy and the U.S. are in talks with MV, which is likely to finalize a business partnership with one of them this summer.
Personally, I think MV could solve its financial problems by renting saddle time on the F4CC.
(c) 2008, Los Angeles Times