When I hear the phrase “new American motorcycle,” I usually roll my eyes and groan—how many chrome-laden, raked-out customs does the world really need? But when I saw pictures of the new Motus MST I knew there would be no eye-rolling here—unless it was from the ecstasy of being punched back in my seat by the 161 horsepower and 122 ft.-lbs. of torque promised by its unique V-Four powerplant.
Katech Engineering, a supplier of top-shelf racing engines, designed the KMV4 motor. It uses pushrods and a V configuration, but that’s where similarities between this bike and any other motorcycle built in the USA end. Sure, it’s dripping with good ol’ USA traditions—it’s essentially a scaled-down (and chopped in half) version of the famous LS7R motor from the GT1 Corvette, complete with two-valve per cylinder heads with hydraulically adjusted lifters and the aforementioned pushrods—but it’s also packed with 21st-Century high tech. Fueling is by direct injection—something becoming more common in cars but not seen before on a production motorcycle—which means fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinder head for optimum power and efficiency. Displacement is 1650cc, and the very compact mill weighs in at just 130 pounds. The power peak is at 8000 rpm (blame the pushrods and hydraulic adjusters, but with that much torque, who’s complaining?) and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a particularly orgasmic exhaust note.
The chassis is also something not often (okay, ever) seen on American bikes. Developed by the uber-engineers at Pratt and Miller (developer of many winning racecars and engineers to aerospace and military clients), it’s a Ducati-ish chromoly steel trellis design that uses the KMV4 as a stressed member. With dual counterbalancers to smooth out secondary vibrations, it should be smooth as butter pudding, which means a lighter frame, which means a lighter bike. In fact, the bike should be around 550 pounds with its six-gallon fuel tank topped off. The wheelbase is a sporty 58 inches, and final drive is by a good ol’ chain. Suspension is fully adjustable, and brakes are monstrous rotors with radial-mount, four-piston calipers. An MST-R will also be available with full Öhlins suspenders and Brembo brakes. And carbon-fiber bodywork, of course.
Speaking of bodywork, the Motus’ is minimalistic, but functional. It’s enough to keep the wind off the rider, but not enough to conceal what may arguably be the coolest motorcycle powerplant ever made (suck it, Morbidelli!). There’s also a pair of big Givi sidecases and a wide, scooped-out saddle that’s extra-narrow at the front to let any rider firmly put both feet down.
So this looks like good news and bad news. The good news is it may be the ultimate sport-tourer for all us aging gearheads. Smooth, torquey, good-handling and packed with cool details. It’s the kind of motorcycle I’d imagine airline pilots would ride. With ergonomics “almost identical to Yamaha’s FZ-1,” according to Motus co-founder Brian Case and that giant gas tank (which should provide a genuine 300 mile range, if the claims of great efficiency are to be believed), the MST may be hard to beat as a sport-tourer.
The bad news is that it’s not really a mass-market bike. According to a New York Times blog post about the bike, Case says Motus will build just “hundreds of bikes per year, not thousands.” Bad news for those of us looking for performance and comfort. I’m guessing the bikes won’t be cheap, either. Nor should they be. It’s pretty clear that demand for a truly American sportbike is small, which means small numbers and big prices—just look at Erik Buell Racing, Roher and Fischer.
Case and Motus President Lee Conn will now be taking the bikes around the country to drum up public support and possibly some dealers. Let’s hope MD gets offered some seat time when they reach the West Coast.