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Modern classics from Italy in comparison

In praise of diversity

The classics among Italian motorcycles – there is a lot. We introduce you to our selection of Aprilia, Benelli, Bimota, Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Gilera and MV Agusta.

I.Italy is a country with a rich, diverse motorcycle culture. Today there are no longer as many manufacturers on the Stiefel peninsula as there were in the 50s, 60s or 70s, but there are still many more than in Germany. And in the past 30 years they have all produced at least one motorcycle that deserves the high status of a modern classic. In honor of these beautiful machines, MOTORRAD has collected a small selection and presents them on the following pages.

Modern classics from Italy in comparison

In praise of diversity

Ducati 916

This Ducati 916 is not original in all details.

Ducati was founded in 1926 and manufactured electronic components, radio receivers and razors for 20 years. It was not until 1946 that the company started becoming a motorcycle manufacturer with the license to build an auxiliary bicycle engine. In 1954, the young engineer Fabio Taglioni joined the company, who continued to dominate motorcycle technology until after he left: his Pantah engine formed the basis for the Desmoquattro four-valve engine, on which Ducati’s current position as a manufacturer of high-tech motorcycles is based.

Anyone who has ever removed the fairing of a Ducati 851 or 888 and does the same work on a 916 knows what this style icon can do besides being beautiful: practical, screwdriver-friendly, at least within the scope of the possibilities given by the complex engine.

Anyone who has ever had the bad luck to throw the top-class sportswoman into the gravel bed while having fun on the racetrack knows what she is still, besides beautiful and practical: solidly built. The 916 has a pretty robust core.

And anyone who has enjoyed the luck of laps without falling on the 916 knows that it is not only beautiful, practical and robust, but also wonderfully balanced to drive. And therefore very, very quickly.

It owes these virtues to its legendary designer Massimo Tamburini. Of course, he did not create all the details of the successful overall package, but with his perfectionism, which is only slightly affected by cost considerations, he drove all his employees to top performance. This immensely elaborate development work paid for by the no less legendary Claudio Castiglioni. Raised in the heyday of Italian motorcycle culture after the Second World War, the two united a rather powerful mixture of motorcycle passion, national pride, enthusiasm for technology and a feeling for aesthetics. Only in this way could something like the 916 come into being at the beginning of the 90s, and only then could it happen that it is still considered the epitome of the sporty Ducati, although both have long since left the company and this world.

Anyone who drives the 916 today will find its chassis still fully up to date. The old “Desmoquattro”, which it took over from the 851/888 with a slightly larger displacement, is still a very nice engine for country roads. There it shines with a strongly pronounced medium speed range in which it also runs very smoothly. However, as it climbs to the highest torque and continues towards maximum output, it vibrates hard. High continuous speeds on the racetrack are quite exhausting for him and the driver; the later Testastretta engines could do that better. What is remarkable about the machine that was made available to us for this story is the exact pressure point of the brake, although only the brake lines and discs were replaced.

Technical data Ducati 916

Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 90-degree V-engine, two overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, desmodromic actuation, injection, Ø 50 mm, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, bore x stroke 94.0 x 66.0 mm, 916 cm³, 83.0 kW (113 PS) at 8500 rpm, 96 Nm at 6800 rpm, tubular steel frame, upside-down fork, Ø 43 mm, single-sided swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, double disc brake at the front, Ø 320 mm, four-piston fixed calipers, rear disc brake, Ø 220 mm, two-piston fixed calipers, rims 3.50 x 17; 5.50 x 17, tires 120/70 ZR 17; 190/50 ZR 17, weight with full tank 212 kg

Bimota YB6 Exup

Noble: perfectly milled and welded aluminum as well as hand-laminated GRP on the Bimota YB6.

Bimota, founded in 1965 by Messrs. Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini, initially built heating and ventilation systems. In 1973, after Massimo Tamburini had optimized an MV Agusta 600 and a Honda CB 750, the production of chassis for racing machines began, most of them for Yamaha TZ engines. In 1975/76 ten HB1 (Honda-Bimota 1) were built. Chassis for Suzuki, Kawasaki and again Honda engines followed, all with highly complex tubular steel frames. The YB4 and YB6 established a series of light alloy frames. Today, Bimota builds models with tubular space frames and Ducati engines in small series.

YB4, YB6 – behind these sober names hides the beginning of the most successful series from Bimota: for the 750 and 1000cc five-valve four-cylinder from Yamaha, the manufacturer from Rimini built a bridge frame made of light metal profiles that is as beautiful as it is torsion-resistant. It was tested by Virginio Ferrari, who won the TT-F1 World Championship on the YB4 in 1987. In 1988, Davide Tardozzi achieved third place in the newly created Superbike World Championship, and the runner-up in the constructors’ championship also went to Bimota. If the injection that the idiosyncratic technicians applied to the Yamaha engine had worked reliably, then even better results would have been possible.

For wealthy collectors and sports drivers, Bimota built the YB6 with the 1000cc engine from Yamaha between 1988 and 1990, and the Tuatara with injection in 1989/90. At the same time, 114 copies of the YB6 with Exup engine were built; the motorcycle in this story comes from this series. Lovingly cared for by its owner since 1994, the YB6 still conveys the typical dry rigidity of the chassis and the GRP monocoque with the thin foam rubber layer. The distance between the seat cushion and the handlebars is long, the knee angle brutally sharp. Nevertheless, you can feel that the chassis concept would still work today with a few modifications. It was not without reason that it was continued until YB11 and 1999. Yamaha ended up with the new engine of the YZF-R1. The old drive was no longer available. A development that was tragic for the Riminese also manifests itself in the R1: Japanese series chassis were now beautiful and good enough to make special frames superfluous.

Technical data Bimota YB6

Water-cooled four-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, two overhead camshafts, five valves per cylinder, constant pressure carburetor, Ø 37 mm, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, bore x stroke 75 x 56 mm, 989 cm³, 103.0 kW (140 PS) 9500 / min, 113 Nm at 7500 / min, bridge frame made of aluminum, upside-down fork, Ø 42 mm, two-arm swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, double disc brake at the front, Ø 320 mm, double-piston floating calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 230 mm, Two-piston fixed caliper, rims 3.50 x 17; 5.50 x 17, tires 120/60 ZR 17; 180/60 ZR 17, weight with full tank 211 kg

Aprilia RS 250

Playing with the narrow speed range is not that easy, but the Aprilia RS 250 circles the curves like a dream.

Aprilia was founded in 1945 as a bicycle manufacturer; the brand name is inspired by the Lancia Aprilia, which company founder Alberto Beggio particularly valued. His son Ivano initiated the manufacture of motorcycles. The first off-road sports machines were created in 1968. Aprilia followed a modern production strategy early on – the focus was on development and assembly; the individual components came from suppliers. Profits from the sale of well-styled scooters financed the development of the motorcycles, but when the scooter boom subsided, the banks refused new loans. Ivano Beggio had to sell the company to Piaggio in 2008.

Nine drivers’ world championships were won on Aprilia in the 250cc Grand Prix class. Actually there are ten, because Marco Simoncelli’s world champion machine from 2008 trades under the brand name Gilera, but also came from Aprilia’s racing department.

Nothing could be more natural than to market these successes with a street motorcycle for sale. The first RS 250 came onto the market in 1995. Instead of the difficult-to-tune rotary valve engine of the racing machines, Aprilia used the diaphragm-controlled two-stroke V2 from the Suzuki RGV 250, the only two-stroke in the recent past that was homologated in Germany with its full output of 56 hp. As far as the chassis is concerned, the RS 250 surpasses its engine donor in terms of both driving characteristics and workmanship: The fast-paced little sports motorcycle is hardly less elaborately built and equipped than the 1000 RSV Mille that Aprilia presented in 2008. The only differences are found in the quality and equipment of the spring elements.

As the recently renewed acquaintance with the still popular lighter has shown, RS pilots today need more attention and self-discipline than before. The brilliant acceleration and razor-sharp handling of the RS do not match the sluggishness of modern city tanks (also known as SUVs), whose drivers usually underestimate the potential of the Aprilia.

Technical data Aprilia RS 250

Water-cooled two-cylinder V-engine, flat slide carburetor, Ø 34 mm, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, bore x stroke 56.0 x 50.6 mm, 249 cm³, 40.0 kW (55 HP) at 10,500 rpm, 35 Nm at 10,750 rpm, bridge frame made of aluminum, upside-down fork, Ø 41 mm, two-sided swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, double disc brake at the front, Ø 298 mm, four-piston fixed calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 220 mm, two-piston Fixed caliper, rims 3.50 x 17 ; 4.50 x 17, tires 120/70 ZR 17; 150/60 ZR 17, weight with a full tank 165 kg

Moto Guzzi Griso 1100

Engine mumm and driving stability.

For decades Moto Guzzi has mainly produced horizontal single-cylinder or used all possible engine concepts in racing, including the 500cc V8. But no other type of engine has shaped the recent history of the traditional brand as strongly as the 90-degree V2, introduced in 1966, with a longitudinally installed crankshaft. An air-cooled two-valve engine with 744 and 853 cm³ drives the classic models of the V7 and V9 series today, while the current Griso and Stelvio received a 1151 cm³ four-valve engine, the California models even a 1380 four-valve engine . Regardless of whether the series is small or large, the Guzzi engines rely more on consistently powerful pulling force from the center than on hectic high revs.

Griso is a character from Alessandro Manzoni’s novel “Die Verlobten”, the plot of which is partly set on Lake Como. This local reference to Moto Guzzi played a role in the choice of the model name, as did the character Grisos in Manzoni’s novel: He is the henchman of a villain, but always fails in his attempts to commit truly nefarious deeds. Just as outwardly evil, but with a good core, the great Guzzi should also appear to the audience. Which she has managed to do well in her eleven-year career.

The motorcycle shown here is equipped with the original 1064 two-valve engine, which undoubtedly represents the good heart of the supposed villain. Dull in tone, with pithy but not unpleasant expressions of life, it pulls through very strongly even at low speeds. With the Guzzi-typical, powerful moment of inertia, it does not turn up sharply even at full throttle, but it pushes over load peaks, for example in the form of short climbs, completely unimpressed.

You shouldn’t call this characteristic sedate, because it promotes a brisk basic pace. The chassis with the visibly long wheelbase of 1554 millimeters and 108 millimeters of caster fits well. Not exactly the right geometry for jagged baffles on the racetrack, but just right for fast, long curves on the country road. If these are peppered with bumps, the Guzzi will not be upset either.

The “evil” or perhaps better emphasized masculine component of the Griso personality create details such as the long, strong frame and exhaust pipes or the massive appearance of the engine and the drive train. Quite a lot of metal that Moto Guzzi has shed for it.

Just two years after the release of the Griso, for the 2007 season, Guzzi brought the Griso 8V with a four-valve engine that was enlarged to 1151 cm³ and increased in power from 88 to 110 hp. This model is still offered as a special edition today.

Technical data Moto Guzzi Griso 1100

Air-cooled two-cylinder oven-stroke 90-degree V-engine, one underlying camshaft, two valves per cylinder, bumpers, rocker arm, injection, Ø 45 mm, regulated catalytic converter, two-disc dry clutch, six-speed gearbox, cardan shaft, bore x stroke 92.0 x 80.0 mm, 1064 cm³, 64.8 kW (88 PS) at 7600 / min, 89 Nm at 6400 / min, tubular steel frame, load-bearing motor, upside-down fork, Ø 43 mm, two-joint single-sided swing arm Aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, double disc brake at the front, Ø 320 mm, four-piston fixed calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 282 mm, double-piston floating caliper, rims 3.50 x 17; 5.50 x 17, tires 120/70 ZR 17; 180/55 ZR 17, weight with full tank 243 kg

Gilera Saturno 500

Beauty can be so simple: successful shapes, lots of red and a few black accents.

As early as 1909, Giuseppe Gilera was producing a single-cylinder four-stroke engine that it had designed itself. Four-cylinder supercharged racing machines were built during the 1930s and, after the Second World War, the legendary Grand Prix four-cylinder machines with which Geoff Duke won three world titles. At that time, Gilera built the mighty single-cylinder 500cc Saturno in series, named after the motorcycle presented here from 1988. At that time, the company was already part of the Piaggio Group, which stopped motorcycle production in the mid-1990s in favor of scooter production.

The modern Saturno is without a doubt a modern motorcycle. With water-cooled double-cam single cylinder, minimalist tubular steel frame, swing arm with lever system and four-piston brake caliper. Nevertheless, it conveys more than a hint of the era of classic single-cylinder racing machines such as the Manx Norton or the Matchless G 50. In the 50s and 60s, many racetracks were still completely unsanitary; Between a few bends, people bolted straight ahead without restraint or asked in long sweeps whether one could still get through here at full throttle.

One such "Don’t risk anything, leave it alone"-Driving program fits perfectly with the Saturno. The driver can relax and lie down on the long tank and rely on the stable chassis geometry; his hands will find the handlebars that point steeply down by themselves. In return, the Saturno demands surprisingly strong emphasis when turning. Amazing for such a light motorcycle on narrow tires.

The engine also resembles earlier models in terms of its performance characteristics; it only wakes up from 6000 rpm, but then really. The later 600 versions for the RC 600, RC 600 R and Northwest had a lot more power in the middle. Unfortunately, they are all in the past. Gilera now manufactures 50, 125 and 500cc scooters.

Technical data Gilera Saturno 500

Water-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine, two overhead camshafts, four valves, rocker arms, round slide carburetor, Ø 40 mm, five-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, bore x stroke 92 x 74 mm, 491 cm³, 28 kW (38 PS) at 7000 / min, 47 Nm at 6000 rpm, tubular steel frame, telescopic fork, Ø 40 mm, two-arm swing arm made of steel, front disc brake, Ø 300 mm, four-piston fixed caliper, rear disc brake, Ø 240 mm, two-piston fixed caliper, rims 3.00 x 17; 4.00 x 17, tires 110 / 70-17, 140 / 70-17, weight with a full tank 167 kg

Benelli Tornado Tre 900

Benelli Tornado Tre 900.

The long company history of Benelli can be divided into four phases: the early phase under the Benelli brothers, that from 1973 to the mid-1980s under Alejandro De Tomaso, that from 1988 to 2005 under Andrea Merloni and the ongoing phase under the Benelli family is owned by the Chinese Quinchiang Group. The tornado presented here comes from the Merloni era. Today Benelli only builds three models with three-cylinder engines: the TNT 899 and TNT R 160 as well as the TreK 1130.

It was a surprising experience, the re-encounter with the 900s tornado. Well, the clutch was as brutally stiff as ever, and the long-legged motorcycle wasn’t that easy to maneuver. But when the engine started running, it turned out to be very smooth. The rustic three-cylinder only began to vibrate a little more vigorously at higher speeds. But also to mark properly. Relatively pleasant for Benelli standards was the throttle response, which was quite rough in early models. This well-maintained tornado from the early year of construction 2003, however, benefits from further developed mappings and all matching setting parameters that were worked out in the workshop of the former importer Ronald Marz.

Like the Ducati 916 and the subsequent MV Agusta F4 750, the Tornado is not a motorcycle for “resting rides”, you can hardly just roll around with it. City traffic is even more torture for the driver and the machine, because then the unusual cooling system with the radiator in the rear reaches its limits. No, the Benelli requires open roads, better still a proper race track. Although the back of the tank juts backwards, the Tornado is ergonomically designed for sporty driving. If you drive quickly and are always allowed to accelerate vigorously after cornering, you can comfortably relieve your wrists.

Because the engine was moved far forward – hence the radiator in the rear – the Tornado was emphatically front-heavy. This is why the rear of the car begins to wobble a little earlier when braking sharply into corners than with other super sports cars. But that can be checked without any problems. Despite the high front wheel load, the Tornado finds it easy to incline and pleases with its high cornering stability. The following acceleration phase is then pure enjoyment: weight backwards and accelerate. Despite plenty of thrust, the front wheel stays on the ground and you hit the straight with thrilling momentum. Not for wheelie acrobats, but good for passionate speed drivers.

Technical data Benelli Tornado Tre 900

Water-cooled three-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, two overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, injection, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, bore x stroke 88.0 x 49.2 mm, 898 cm³, 100.0 kW (136 hp) 11,500 rpm, 100 Nm at 8500 rpm, bridge frame made of steel, upside-down fork, Ø 43 mm, two-arm swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, double disc brake at the front, Ø 320 mm, four-piston fixed calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 180 mm, two-piston fixed caliper, rims 3.50 x 17; 5.50 x 17, tires 120/70 ZR 17; 180/55 ZR 17, weight with a full tank 207 kg

MV Agusta F4 750

The red-silver paintwork is reminiscent of the historic MV Agusta F4 750.

Emme, wu. This is how Italians speak the abbreviation for "Meccanica Verghera". That means "mechanical workshop in Verghera" and doesn’t sound very special. Nevertheless, every motorcycle fan around the world notices when he hears this sequence of sounds. This is mainly due to the legendary racing machines that won 38 drivers’ world titles in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The series machines of those years were less glamorous designs. That was to change when MV was bought by Claudio Castiglioni after a long slumber in 1992 and the F4 750 was subsequently developed.

Tamburini for the third. The extent to which the engineer and designer shaped classic modernism in Italian motorcycle construction is shown by the fact that another of his works appears here after Bimota and Ducati. The F4 750 was the first motorcycle in recent MV history. It emerged immediately afterwards and in a conscious departure from the Ducati 916. Features such as the arrangement of the headlights, the frame assembly made of light metal cast parts and steel tubular structure, and the extremely compact engine stand for the departure. He helped the developers to give the F4 a favorable weight distribution and thus high driving stability with very pleasant handling.

The two motorcycles show similarities in some fundamental construction principles, for example the single-sided swing arm or the silencers that open under the rear. An extremely compact design is also go of the Tamburini philosophy, and in the case of the F4 it was almost taken too far in some details. If you want to push the motorcycle with the handlebars fully turned, one hand is wedged between the handlebars and the edge of the fairing, the other between the handlebars and the intake air duct. But the master would have punished such pettiness in trifles with contempt.

The elaborately – this term is always used in the description of the F4 – designed engine with radially arranged valves and backpack alternator behind the cylinders produces a pithy mechanical running noise. It also runs quite rough and shows its strengths especially in the upper speed range. There it produces an impressive howl, accompanied by mechanical percussion. Regardless of whether a straight line or a curve is pending, this is the driving condition in which the driver involuntarily orientates himself forward. And suddenly everything fits. Gone is the wrist pain that plagues you in city traffic or when bobbing around; the F4 shows its driver how it would like to be moved: with commitment and speed, please.

By today’s standards, the F4 would not be called super handy. When it appeared in spring 2000 – the Seria Oro, limited to 300 copies, was created in 1999 – other standards were applied. The author can still remember how he rumbled over the inside of the curb when he first came into contact with the F4 in Hockenheim, because he had pulled too hard on the handlebars. Even so, the F4 held the line with wonderful precision in the fast corners. Today we know: This is typical for MV.

Technical data MV Agusta F4 750

Water-cooled four-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, two overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, injection, Ø 46 mm, no emission control, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, bore x stroke 73.8 x 43.8 mm , 749 cm³, 101.0 kW (137 HP) at 12,650 rpm, 80 Nm at 10,500 rpm, tubular steel frame with screwed cast aluminum parts, upside-down fork, Ø 49 mm, single-sided swing arm made of aluminum, double disc brake at the front, Ø 310 mm, six-piston Fixed calipers, rear disc brake, Ø 210 mm, four-piston fixed caliper, rims 3.50 x 17; 6.00 x 17, tires 120/70 ZR 17; 180/50 ZR 17, weight with a full tank 219 kg

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