Remember the Cagiva Elefant?
Back in the 90s it was doing the adventure bike thing long before the term adventure bike even existed. Blazing across the desert sand, charting paths unknown, the Cagiva Elefant was so good at its task that it even won a few Dakar rallies.
Emblazoned across the Elefant’s bodywork were the words “Lucky Explorer” with a logo strikingly similar to the Lucky Strike tobacco company’s (no coincidence).
Fast forward to the present day and Cagiva has been absorbed into what is now MV Agusta. Somewhere along the way, however, the same company also owned Ducati, which provided the engine for the Elefant (and thus the Lucky Explorer).
At EICMA 2021, MV Agusta announced the Lucky Explorer Project, which is MV’s return into the adventure bike market. In a bit of a twist, the MV is coming back with not one, but two models: the Lucky Explorer Project 9.5 and Lucky Explorer Project 5.5.
If the name hasn’t given it away already, the influence for both bikes comes from the Lucky Explorer Cagiva Elefant. But this time engine development won’t come from what is now MV’s Italian rivals.
Here’s what we know about both Lucky Explorer projects.
Lucky Explorer Project 9.5
This one is the highlight of the range. The jewel in the crown. The Lucky Explorer Project 9.5 is an all-new motorcycle from MV Agusta from the ground up.
And yes, that also includes the engine. It’s a new 931cc three-cylinder, which is far enough removed from MV’s existing 800cc engine to call it a fresh motor.
Yes there are likely some shared components, the cylinder head, intake and exhaust valves (which are steel, by the way), base gasket, and forged aluminum pistons are new pieces.
Which, in a way, would make sense considering the significantly larger displacement. MV says it’ll make 123 horsepower and 75.2 lb-ft of torque – plenty to blast you through the dunes or wherever the desert may take you.
MV fans will know the company’s partnership with Rekluse with bikes like the Brutale or Turismo Veloce SCS (Smart Clutch System), which essentially fits an automatic Rekluse clutch into the bikes to ensure they never stall again.
MV is saying the partnership is extending to the Lucky Explorer Project 9.5. But fans of traditional gear shifting don’t need to worry – a normal clutch will also be available.
A beam frame harnesses the engine in between its two frame spars, and a bolt-on trellis subframe keeps its off-road worthiness in check – because bolting off a twisted subframe and bolting on a new one (or straightening it out with a tree branch and some leverage) is the way adventure bikes are supposed to be.
Electronic suspension is very popular these days and you’ll find it here as well, this time provided by Sachs. The fork measures 50mm with 8.66 inches of travel and the shock gives you 8.27 inches. MV says this will give you at least 9 inches of ground clearance.
Moving further south, stopping power comes from two Stylema calipers from Brembo, 320mm discs up front, a 265mm disc in the back, and Cornering ABS with rear wheel lift mitigation courtesy of Continental.
We’re sure the bike will come loaded with other electronic rider aids as well, but those details haven’t been sorted yet. It is still just a “Project” after all.
Lucky Explorer Project 5.5
The baby explorer, the 5.5 is obviously a smaller version of the 9.5. This one boasts a 554cc dual overhead cam two cylinder engine.
Unlike the 9.5, which was designed in house, the 5.5 engine was developed in partnership with QJ – MV’s Chinese partner.
Don’t let that distract you though – MV joins a long list of manufacturers combining forces with Chinese companies that have, as of late, been making very nice products.
In the case of the 5.5, MV says to expect 46.9 horsepower and 37.6 lb-ft of torque. The smaller engine size also indicates the 5.5 will be the more tame of the two models. You get a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, in contrast to the 9.5’s 21/18-inch wheel combo.
On the suspension side, a KYB 43mm inverted fork offers rebound and spring preload adjustment with 5.31 inches of travel. In the rear a KYB shock also offers rebound and spring preload adjustment.
You can also expect slightly less fancy brake components, but not by much. Brembo still provides the 4-piston radial-mount calipers, working with 320mm discs in the front, while a single 260mm disc is paired with a 2-piston caliper.
Bosch supplies the ABS brain for both ends, but it doesn’t feature a cornering function.
Otherwise, as far as we can tell, the two models share relatively similar components. With the different wheel sizes, the 5.5 can be expected to wear less aggressive rubber, but should still be capable of the odd adventure. Electronics and rider aids have yet to be sorted here as well.
If there was ever any doubt about this being a great time to be an adventure motorcyclist, you can put those fears to rest now.
This market is growing at a rapid pace, and the arrival of MV Agusta – of all brands – to the space is a bit of a shock, but a welcome one.
To come at the market with not one, but two models presents an interesting proposal for potential riders to choose between. And while we can’t forget these are technically still prototypes (hence the “Project” in their names), they look very close to being ready for primetime.