MV Agusta kisses its iconic F4 superbike goodbye with exclusive Claudio edition
The MV Agusta F4 Claudio is the end of an era and the last MV to carry Tamburini’s iconic design
Another day, another special edition MV F4? Not this time. This is it. The ultimate MV Agusta superbike in both senses of the word. Named for the company’s late President, a giant of the motorcycle world, the F4 Claudio marks the final chapter for a gorgeous bike that has entranced riders for more than 20 years.
The combination of Claudio Castiglioni’s passionate, “insistent” management style and designer Massimo Tamburini’s otherworldly mastery of form brought forth some of the most beautiful and lauded motorcycles in history.
The partnership began in 1985, when Tamburini went to work for Cagiva, which had been founded by Castiglioni’s father back in 1950 and which owned the Ducati brand at the time. But it took until 1994 for the pair to unveil their first masterpiece. To this day, many folks consider the Ducati 916 the best-looking production bike ever made.
When Cagiva sold Ducati shortly afterward, the pair’s next bike provided some of the 916’s strongest competition for the title. The MV Agusta F4 (first released as the F4 750 Serie Oro in 1999) was absolutely exquisite; a track-focused sportsbike that looked beautiful from a distance, but seemed to get sexier the closer you got.
From the diamond-like headlight, to the wickedly flared tank, to the hint of visible trellis frame, to the signature slotted fairing vents, the detailed bump stop, the sensuous tail section, the star-shaped rear wheel on its single-sided swingarm and the imposing row of four organ-pipe exhausts under the tail – one for each cylinder – the F4 was, and remains, the kind of bike people are just as happy to put in a glass display case as they are to ride the things.
Sometimes even happier; the F4 was famously a hard taskmaster for riders willing to take this work of art out on the road. Performance was always extreme, with Castiglioni’s first signature edition, the 2006-edition 1,078cc CC bike, claiming a whopping 200 hp at the crank in an era where Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 was leading the rest of the sportbike world with just 160 ponies.
But the ergonomics were just as extreme as the engines for anyone less lithe and flexible than a racer. The F4 was a wrist-busting chiropractor’s dream that ran hot and cranky any time it couldn’t stretch its legs – and they were some very long legs. Devotees – and those who loved this bike truly were devotees – loved it all the more for its foibles, throwing around words like “character” and “Italian passion” as they attempted to straighten their spines from a few hours in the saddle.
And Tamburini’s obsession with making every part of the bike a work of art could bite you in other ways as well – as a friend of mine discovered when he went to take off the rear wheel of his rare F4 Nero, only to discover that the sexy starburst wheel nut holding it on was going to need a sexy starburst tool to undo.
Nobody ever questioned that it was fast, though. While Castiglioni’s resurrected MV brand never had the budget to make much of a noise in World Superbike racing in its early years, its roadbikes were plain bonkers. In 2007, MV stomped on the fabled “gentleman’s agreement” between Japanese brands to cap their bikes at 299 km/h (186 mph) by releasing a bike named after its top speed: the F4 R 312 (312 km/h, 194 mph).
The venerable F4 has lasted 21 years as a model line. MV has done a good job of improving the underlying platform while honouring Tamburini’s generational design – a design that only perhaps Ducati’s V4 Panigale rivals for sheer hotness to this day.
Frequent special editions kept the shape fresh with their own paint jobs and specification levels, from the aforementioned CC and Nero editions to bikes honouring Agostini, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton and Tamburini himself. But the company is now concentrating on its new (and Euro-compliant) three-cylinder range and kissing the F4 goodnight. It’s fitting that the honor of the final special edition will go to the man who resurrected the MV marque – Claudio Castiglioni himself.
The details of this instantly collectible classic, built on the current F4 RC platform, are almost irrelevant, but here they are: the F4 Claudio runs a 998cc inline four engine making 205 hp in road trim, and 212 hp in a track format that includes twin underseat SC-Project race exhausts and a dedicated ECU. It keeps the variable-length air intake setup that has made previous F4s such raging beasts north of 10,000 rpm, and adds an extra Custom mode to the switchable engine mapping, and an up/down electronic quickshifter to the removable transmission.
The AIM dash has a full datalogging system built in for track use, with its own inbuilt GPS for added accuracy. Hence, it runs its own specific dash software, including a Claudio-specific graphics scheme.
All the fairings are carbon fiber, with matt and gloss finish pieces alternating to make a bike as visually stunning as you’d expect for this swansong. The wheels are also carbon units by BST Rapid TEK, while the triple clamps, levers, footrests, fuel filler cap and that starburst wheel nut are now machined aluminum alloy. The color scheme features gold detailing on silver and black, and it’s another absolute masterpiece to look at. Mind you, I’m starting to get the impression my four-year-old could paint this bike and make it look terrific.
Claudio’s name appears in several spots on the bike, and his blotted signature several more. The suspension is top-shelf Ohlins TTX gear, the brakes are Brembo’s equally top shelf Stylema gear, and all in all it should ride extremely well if you’re silly enough ever to tank its considerable value as a collector’s item by taking it out of the crate.
Only 100 will be made, and they’ll likely be in hot demand for a stratospheric price that reflects what they represent: a timeless masterwork of the high-octane motorcycle world and the fruit of a once-in-a-generation pairing of great minds: the late, great Massimo Tamburini and Claudio Castiglioni, who are neck and neck, elbows down, on the great racetrack in the sky as we speak.