Review: Motus MST-R – American Made

The  Motus MST-R is an American hot rod. Its push-rod “baby block” motor hearkens back to the days of monster V-8 Cobras, GTOs, Trans Ams, Z-28s and Dodge Chargers. Badass. The Motus also hints at the exotica of a Ferrari with its high-end components and sophisticated styling.

Engine

The centerpiece of the Motus is the 1655cc longitudinal V-4. Firing up the Motus is like awakening an angry beast. The mechanical raucousness from the push-rod motor is a bit unsettling until you realize that it’s supposed to sound that way. Jokes about needing to add more oil should be expected. The racket smooths out significantly once underway and transitions to a song of badassness coming from the carbon-fiber exhaust.

The motor is well controlled but is also kind of a brute at the same time. The combination of mechanical sensations and gobs of torque make this a bike that gets attention.

With a claimed 180hp and 120 ft lbs, power is plentiful (the regular MST makes 165hp). Acceleration is less urgent than a pure sports bike, like an R1, but the Motus sure can get up and go. And the always-available torque means it pulls like a freight train.

180-ish horsepower can be intimidating, but the Motus delivers the power in a controlled manner and right from the bottom of the rev range. Rev it to the 8,000rpm redline (push-rods limit RPM) and the landscape rushes by with immediacy.

Thankfully, the bike can also lope along at legal speeds. It just doesn’t really like to. The fueling is fine, but I suspect it is the motor that causes the bike to surge at steady low-range RPM where it hunts for a calm and steady pace. Get on the gas and the motor is happier, just keep an eye out for the authorities.

Fueling

The Ride-by-Wire throttle meets modern standards and is easy enough to control, but there is a slight amount of surging that is reminiscent of a system that is not 100% sorted. Like many OEM FI systems, a bit of re-mapping may smooth things out. That said, the bike is controllable enough to make tight parking lot maneuvers, but it takes some extra skill to do it smoothly.

These days, we expect electronic nannys on our premium bikes, but the Motus does not have Traction Control or ABS. Next year, I’m told.

Transmission

The 6-speed (with overdrive) tranny is kinda industrial. It reminds me of transmissions found on big cruisers. Clutchless upshifts are possible, but not recommended. The clutch is easy to control when leaving from a stop and I never missed a gear, so it’s all good. Finding neutral is a chore, though. The full color LCD instrument cluster includes a helpful gear indicator.

Handling

It puzzles me when a bike ships with the best available shock and fork components, but is not set up very well. This is the case of the Motus. The fully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 and NIX30 forks will allow the right settings after some fiddling.

Jim Hamlin of Hamlin Cycles noted that the shock spring rate is also too soft for most riders. The resulting low rear ride height causes some awkward handling characteristics and hinders feedback, making me apprehensive to push it too much.

The bike turns in fine, feels reasonably neutral mid corner, and is stable. Like the motor, the suspension works best when is being worked hard. But, that’s when the too-light rebound damping showed its head. Four clicks of added rebound damping put it in the ballpark, but more tweaks will be necessary to get this sorted.

The forks seemed fine, so I’d concentrate on getting the shock set up first.

Comfort

The MST-R comes with a Sargent seat. It’s supportive enough around the sit bone area, but becomes too narrow at the front. I give it a 5 out of 10.

The windscreen is adjustable, but the stock touring screen that is fitted on this bike created a lot of wind noise at the taller setting. Apparently, the sport screen is the same height, so I don’t see that as a solution. I hear some riders have cut down the stock screen to try and get the wind to hit closer to shoulder height. Your results may vary.

This particular bike was fitted with adjustable Heli-bars. They reach back toward the rider and feel like ape-hangers to me. I would opt for a more direct connection to the bike and a position that is lower and more forward.

You’ll may want to buy some asbestos-lined riding pants, because the engine heat is pretty intense.

Brakes

Brembo makes top shelf braking components that offer good feel and controlled power delivery. They are not overly powerful, which suits the task of this bike. The rear brake is controllable and well placed. But, no ABS. Really?

motus-poseOverall Thoughts

I was grateful to my student John for letting me take his ultra-cool sport tourer out for a spin. The bike reminds me of an angry Moto Guzzi. The transverse motor rocks side-to-side when you blip the throttle at a standstill and the chassis has that lazy, yet sporty feel to it, like a Norge.

So, who would love this bike? I’d say it is someone who wants a unique experience over refinement. Those who love visceral feedback and a bully-like sound from their machines will be happy. Honda ST riders will likely not be able to get past the relative coarseness.

The Motus is a tough guy, but is not an unshaven bully who hangs out in dark bars. Instead, it’s more like a well-dressed mobster who is polite and charming. It’s just the thing for those who like living large and don’t mind some rough edges.

Value

At over $30k the Motus is expensive. It performs well, but is a bike that takes getting used to…like so many things worth owning. Is it worth the money? For a lot of folks, it is. It would be a tough sell for a frugal Yankee like me.

Motus Motorcycles


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Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Reviews, Product Reviews Tagged with: , ,
5 comments on “Review: Motus MST-R – American Made
  1. Phil Boncer says:

    Just a note for accuracy: It is not a transverse V-4; it is longitudinal. Honda VFRs have a transverse V-4. Likewise, Harleys have a transverse V-twin, and Moto Guzzis have a longitudinal V-twin. It is the orientation of the crankshaft that determines this.

    I love your line: “The bike reminds me of an angry Moto Guzzi.” I’m considering one.

  2. Guy Hoovler says:

    I was able to test ride a Motus along with a friend of mine last weekend in PA. The engine and transmission was like an angry muscle car – tons of torque and infinitely unrefined. Noisy, clunky, but it put a smile on both of our faces during the 20 minutes we got to ride it. I thought the windscreen was surprisingly good (coming from an 09 Connie with stock screen), and while the transmission did clunk on shifts, I love as able to easily do clutchless upshifts – that kicked me in the ass like a big block Chevelle with a shift kit. A very unique bike – very light and nimble with miles of torque, rides and corners well, and I found the seat comfy. Just way too expensive, more of an elite toy. Maybe if they make it a few years they might be able to sell one for the rest of us.

  3. …like a well-dressed mobster who is polite and charming.

    “Don’t ask me about my business, Ken…”

  4. Thanks for the detailed review AND video, Ken! I remember seeing a White body Motus at track day on 8/22 (parked…not sure it was headed to the track.) Great to hear the engine sound. Cheers, Greg

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