Test Drives

December 18, 2014

Such a Drag

Photo: Bill Petro

Nixon had more fun in low heels than he'll admit to.

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All it took was a dress to put the Drag in Dragster
 

On a day with Neil Graham that’s essentially a string of first dates, I question my masculinity — especially when he keeps holding doors for me (did I just feel a touch on the small of my back?). Then, at dinner, in a dimly lit restaurant, the most emasculating moment of all: “We’ll share the beet salad.” I have a choice — I can either brood or I can embrace. I remount the MV Agusta, slide my hands along the sides of the fuel tank so that my fingers read the graphics like braille, and feel my answer: Dragster.

The Dragster 800 may look like a stretched version of the Brutale 800, but the two bikes have the same wheelbase (1,380 mm). The Dragster’s top-fuel look is an illusion created by a wider rear tire (a 200 mm section, up from the Brutale’s 180 mm), by its miniscule tail section, and from the effect of ditching a tailpiece- mounted taillight for one mounted to a hugger-slash-fender at the outermost rear of the bike. Otherwise, the bikes are essentially identical (though at $15,995, the Dragster is $1,600 more than the base Brutale 800).

The changes don’t just serve aesthetic purposes, as I discover after trading clunky boots for low-heeled sandals and a leather jacket for a subtle floral print. After hitching your hem, the Dragster’s truncated tail makes it much easier to mount up modestly (no worries of passersby sneaking a peek up my dress), and the low-mount taillight helps to avoid embarrassing snags. The hard seat narrows considerably at the front, and the way the rider is enveloped by the bike (like a baby in a Bumbo chair) makes the saddle feel lower than its 811 mm height. The sporty seating position — coupled with exposed outer thighs — gives the Dragster a racy feel.

Artfully displayed by a single-sided swingarm and MV’s signature arcing exhaust pipes, the beefy rear tire has other, more abstract advantages. The big skin furnishes a more complementary visual counterpoint to my dress’s volume as it billows in the wind. And with a howling 798 cc triple between your knees, keeping your dress down to demure levels is a challenge.

Hard-edged and unapologetic, the engine is enthralling when ridden with vigour — especially in Sport mode (the Dragster also has Normal, Rain, and customizable modes). Acceleration, even when rolling on in higher gears, is immediate and ferocious. The engine has a degree of buzziness, and a flat spot between what I believe is 3,000 and 4,000 rpm (the dash is exceptionally difficult to read, the fonts far too small to be deciphered at speed). Trying to ride smoothly is a challenge, as the fuelling hunts at steady throttle settings. But in fine Italian tradition all is forgiven when the engine rears its head and surges to redline.

MV describes the Dragster 800 as irreverent and brash, brusque and irascible. It’s an apt description, though those qualities are only positives if tempered with sophistication. If the Dragster 800 was a little more refined, it would be utterly fabulous. As I sit at a busy intersection fidgeting with my dress, I can relate. Passing cars take longer to make turns, their drivers greeting me with open-mouthed stares. I’m feeling self-conscious. Then a man in a cement truck does a double take, breaks into a huge grin and gives me an enthusiastic thumbs up. I blow him a kiss, and revel in my manliness.