Riding Impressions of the new Motus MST

In Guest Writers, Reviews by Abhi13 Comments

Share Button

Courtesy of Walter Barlow (who has written some other great stuff here on Bike-urious), here’s some thoughts on the new Motus MST V4!


Let me start off by saying if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t see the point of a Patek Philippe watch when a Timex tells pretty good time and, as we know, “takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’” (am I dating myself here? lol); or if your idea of high style is a color-matched milk crate for your motorcycle, chances are you’d be happier moving along right now.

photo from Motus

photo from Motus

For the rest, even those of us who might not live in a neighborhood where folks buy $35,000 motorcycles as a matter of course, read on.

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

I won’t go into the history of Motus here; it’s a story that has been told often by others and there’s a lot of information on the Motus website. Suffice to say that the principals had a vision for an unique, high quality, distinctly American sport touring bike optimized for how most folks would use it; and though the gestation has been long, the resulting bike has pretty much delivered on that goal.

This an impression rather than a test because I just rode it on about a 20 minute loop following Lee Conn (Motus President) during a demo day at Martin Moto in Pennsylvania. As an aside, if Martin Moto is typical of the dealers that Motus has/will be recruiting, the brand will be in good hands: as Martin Moto is a first class operation and a terrific supporter of the sport.

Having said that, Lee wasn’t hanging about pace-wise, and this was one of the most fun guided demo loops I’ve ever done: covering quite a few real nice twisty two lane backroads blacktop with all sorts of turns and quick elevation changes. It would have made a pretty good supermoto loop.

Doing a relatively short ride, what sticks out are the highs and lows – things that are done very well or things that you’d say need improvement.

Here are the things that were done very well:

1) A fun ride – to me the first thing a motorcycle has to be to consider owning it. Passes this test easily. The rest are the “here’s why”.
2) Handling & suspension compliance- I’d say they nailed the frame geometry as the bike both steers easily and tracks well; is pretty responsive while being stable. The Ohlins forks/Progressive shock provides that all too elusive combination of being really able to control the bike when hustling along, while providing a high degree of suppleness as you’re doing it. What I found particularly impressive was how quickly the bike settled down after getting a bit airborne (remember me mentioning those quick elevation changes?) It was the aspect of the bike that surprised and delighted me the most. I’d suspect the R version which has Ohlins at both ends and BST carbon wheels (the MST comes with forged aluminum OZ wheels) takes it up another notch.
3) The brakes are excellent- Brembo calipers on the MST and Brembo M40s on the R.
4) The ergonomic seat/bars/pegs package is remarkable- instantly comfortable and natural. The Sargent seat surely helps. Though bars, pegs, pedals, and hand controls are adjustable, I don’t think I would have changed anything if I had the bike long term.

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

I might fiddle with things “just because” but I’d be perfectly fine if I couldn’t change anything. Normally, I might attribute that to luck of the draw, but I noticed that whoever got on the bike felt pretty much the same way- and there were a few folks of different shape/size among the people who rode it. I felt the riding position was “in the bike” while one of the people who was on the ride said they felt they were “on the bike”. What’s odd is that we were both about the same height, though I had a few (alright, damnit, more than a few!) pounds on him.
5) Same for the wind management. The bike I rode had the slightly wider touring windscreen (btw the screen is easily adjustable without tools) and there was zero helmet turbulence, no chest buffeting, and minimum wind noise. I took the ride without using earplugs and was surprised at how quiet it was. I didn’t hear anyone mention anything negative about how it managed air flow. I’ll include heat management here- didn’t notice anything, even when stopped. Just for reference. the temperature was in the low-mid 80’s.
6) Instrumentation is pretty comprehensive, all within a customizeable and brilliant TFT liquid crystal display. (I have a short video of Lee presenting the highlights). I was particularly impressed with it having what is basically an onboard OBD with codes and the ability to keep a maintenance log. Neat stuff.

7) The bike looks terrific- clearly a sport-tourer without being overdone, different in a non radical way, and those valve covers and exhaust plumbing just knock it out of the park for a distinctive look that should resonate with any gearhead.

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

8) Alternator – no one should have any complaints here – 720 watts at idle. Heated everything if you want.
9) The motor performance is pretty entertaining. I like V4s (I’ve owned 7 Honda VF/VFRs going back to 1984 and still own 2) and think they are the most engaging engines for street bikes. In most respects, this one is a peach – just the right level of non-intrusive vibes, flat powerband, good rush to redline once off the bottom, and makes beautiful noises through the standard Akrapovic cans.

Lee said that the motor is optimized for the 20-90mph range where the vast majority of street riding is done, and from a design pov it’s hard to fault that. Within that range the bike performs really well- allowing you the choice of riding it in a traditional shifting way or finding the right gear and, as they say, surfing the torque curve. You’ll have fun either way.

Ok, here’s what I’ll identify as issues I had with the bike:
1) The first 10-15% of the throttle response down low is “lazy”. The best way I can characterize this is if it was an old school throttle and not a ride-by-wire system it would need a more aggressive throttle cam. I found it really noticeable because the throttle is very responsive and linear once past that point. Oftimes something like this is a result of a manufacturer having to meet emission standards. In any case, being electronic in nature it should be (as we in IT were fond of saying) “simply a matter of programming”.
2) The standard bike runs out of revs pretty quickly. I hit the rev limiter a few time accelerating out of corners. Here’s the thing, I know it doesn’t need to be revved that high for great forward progress, but the engine surge feels so good and the rest of the bike is so composed and fun while accelerating out from corners that it’s a real disappointment when it gets the blind staggers at the rev limiter. Maybe it’s just a matter of remembering this and riding accordingly, and I seriously doubt it would be a deal-breaker. The R gets you another 1,000 revs which might do the trick.

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

3) The transmission is not exactly snick-snick: on the other hand it’s not exactly clunky. Sort of in between. It shifts easily enough up or down, but you certainly know that a quantity of metal has been moved around to get to the gear you wanted. While on this subject- when I sat on the bike before starting it up and worked the clutch it had a really hard pull and I thought it would be problematic when riding. Never noticed it being an issue during the ride though.

4) I think the sidestand is a little too short– ok getting into nit-pickery territory here; but it makes the bike seem heavier than it really is when coming off it. On the other hand, it’s got a good angle for stability which is admittedly more important.

It’s time to get to some nitty-gritty because, let’s face it, there are tons of really good to great bikes out there for lots less money- is the Motus worth the premium?

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

If I can make a judgment based upon an hour with the bike- unquestionably yes to the right person- and I think there are enough people out there who will have to have one.

Like several other premium priced products, the bike flatters the owner in so many small ways. First there’s the exclusivity factor and all that it implies. Sure, a 6 cylinder BMW 1600GT, which has won several “Best Sport Tourer” awards might be faster, smoother, have more electronic wizardry, and cost substantially less. But show up at a “bike nite” and you’re on just another BMW. Show up on the Motus and be prepared for a night spent talking about your bike (and most of us love talking about our bikes).

But forget about that for a minute. Take the axles as an example- on most bikes they’re just, well, there. When you change tires you unscrew them, put them aside until you need them, and then reinstall after checking the manual for proper torque setting or taking a “there, that should do it” tightening approach. On the Motus, not only are they machined exquisitely, but they’re engraved with the torque settings and directional arrow.

Everyone who looks at your triple clamp will probably admire the finishing touch etching lines on it. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that the person who crafted it carried those etchings on the non-visible underside of it as well.

Just like the very high quality carbon bodywork- the inside is good enough to be the outside. The polished stainless steel exhaust is another visual point of pride; especially as it ages and turns wonderful colors.

These are just some of the details that will delight the owners- and I’m sure they’ll discover more as they spend time with the bike.

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

I said earlier that the bike will flatter the owner, so let me put this into some personal perspective. I’ve owned one ego (for lack of a better term) bike- a used Honda RC30. It cost $15,000 in 1990 which is about $30,000 in 2015 dollars. When you consider that Honda was said to have lost about $3-5,000 or more per bike (if you don’t believe that, consider that the follow-on RC45 cost $27,000 in 1995 ($42,000 in 2015 dollars).

Photo from http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/honda/honda_vfr750r_rc30.htm

Photo from http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/honda/honda_vfr750r_rc30.htm

I’d always lusted for the RC30 because it is to me the most beautiful motorcycle ever made; it’s legacy/provenance, and the fact that it embodied everything that Honda Racing and Mr. Honda represented. Owning it for 10 years, I was constantly amazed at what an exquisite device it was. I used it for track days so had a complete spare set of bodywork, and every time I changed bodywork and tank or did routine maintenance I marveled at how well it came apart and went together- even the precision of the fairing Dzus fasteners would bring a smile to my face. I was blown away at how light the HRC rear wheel was, as well as that it had a 300 page owner’s manual. I loved that it ran as well with 57,000 miles as it did when it was new. I had it for 10 years, and it always made my heart skip a beat when I opened the garage and saw it. Even when it was long “obsolete” as far as then-current sportbikes were concerned it was still magic on the track as I channeled Miggy at Daytona in 1991, even though I was just Barlow doing laps at Pocono in 2005. That, friends, is something that has no price tag.

Photo from Motus

Photo from Motus

Time will tell of course, but Motus has a good probability of providing owners similar kind of ownership satisfaction.

Share Button