MY MORINI AND ME

In 40 years of her own­er­ship, Chris­tine Wise’s Moto Morini has raced at the TT, com­muted in snow, won the Na­tional Rally and even been writ­ten off – yet it’s still go­ing strong

Classic Bike (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS: CHRIS­TINE WISE, IN­TER­VIEWED BY MIKE ARMITAGE. PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: STU­ART COLLINS & COUR­TESY OF CHRIS­TINE WISE

In 40 years of own­er­ship, Chris­tine Wise’s Moto Morini has com­muted, raced, been writ­ten off – and is still go­ing strong

Ifirst saw a Moto Morini 3½ Strada in MCN. My brother rode mo­tor­bikes and I read his pa­per ev­ery week. I was only 12 years old or so, yet I said: “I’m hav­ing one of those when I pass my test”. The Morini was just pretty – sim­ple as that. They did the Strada and the Sport in both colours, red and sil­ver, but for me the Sport should only have been red and the Strada should only have been sil­ver. And only the sil­ver Strada is pretty… My par­ents were never fans of me hav­ing a mo­tor­bike, but I per­suaded them I needed to pass my test so if boyfriend Trevor was taken un­well, I’d be able to ride us both home. It was 1978 and I was 18. I’d spent six months in plas­ter af­ter break­ing my leg com­ing off my learner bike, a Suzuki B120.

A week af­ter pass­ing I went and tested the Morini at On­gar Mo­tor­cy­cles in Es­sex, near where we lived, with Trevor on the back.

The Morini felt big af­ter the Suzuki and had en­gine brak­ing, which was new to me af­ter a lit­tle two-stroke. This wasn’t go­ing to put me off, though – I don’t know why I had the test ride re­ally, I was buy­ing one re­gard­less. I went back the next week and col­lected the same bike.

Trevor was busy rac­ing, so I looked af­ter the Strada. It was my only trans­port. I was com­mut­ing into Lon­don, go­ing to the bike club, nip­ping to col­lege. The most dif­fi­cult thing was, and still is, chang­ing spark plugs – I had to buy a spe­cial spanner. When I first got the bike I had a real is­sue start­ing it too, which turned out to be plugs. We spoke to a chap from NGK who Trevor knew through rac­ing, who sug­gested bet­ter ones. Prob­lem cured. An­other ec­cen­tric­ity was the man­ual had tyre pres­sures in ‘at­mos­pheres’, so I had to get a new gauge.

I bought the Morini in Fe­bru­ary, and by July had done 10,500 miles. Trevor and I were get­ting mar­ried, and my mum fool­ishly asked how he was get­ting to our wed­ding. He replied he was go­ing on my bike. As soon as she sar­cas­ti­cally said: “Yes, dear,” that was it – the Morini was go­ing. Our pho­tog­ra­pher no­ticed its rib­bons and in­sisted on a photo, to the an­noy­ance of Trevor’s new mother-in-law. It went on the hon­ey­moon too.

I never con­tem­plated a car as I’d fallen for the Morini’s rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as its looks. We moved to Rut­land, and though it had coped with rid­ing into Lon­don, the new roads to work were what it was de­signed for. On the A606 to­wards Mel­ton Mow­bray it was adorable – lovely bends, lit­tle traf­fic, and fast. The fi­nance di­rec­tor at work stopped me one day and said he couldn’t stay with me through the bends, and wanted to know what car to buy to keep up. I told him he needed a new 7-Se­ries BMW… the next week he pulled up in one. Come rain, come shine, I went to work on my Morini.

It proved tractable in the snow. There was an oc­ca­sion when I aban­doned it, got a lift on a farm ve­hi­cle and went back later to collect it from within all the aban­doned cars, but gen­er­ally if a car could get through so could I. How­ever, one morn­ing the snow was par­tic­u­larly heavy, hid­ing deep ruts un­der­neath. A lorry tried to over­take me but didn’t make it, hit the back of the Morini and took ev­ery­thing off its right­hand side – mir­ror, in­di­ca­tors, rack, as well as my leg. The driver was shocked at the ex­ple­tives from the girl un­der the hel­met!

Trevor was rac­ing a Yamaha TZ250 by this time. We’d al­ready got 350 heads and bar­rels, so we could swap about and en­ter two classes, but he’d moved up to Na­tional level and there weren’t as many races. He’d fan­cied rac­ing my Morini in the production class, which was ob­vi­ously a no… but when I got knocked off, Trevor said all the bits he’d risk dam­ag­ing by rac­ing were al­ready off the bike. New parts were com­ing on the in­surance and he could fit them af­ter­wards. So, for some reason, I agreed.

Dur­ing that 1979 sea­son I was still us­ing my bike for work. We’d take off the stand and num­ber­plate in the pad­dock, and Trevor used road tyres. They were club-level races with grid po­si­tions drawn out of a hat, and at the sec­ond meet­ing he drew front row. There was a grid full of two-strokes with dropped ’bars, in-gear with the riders’ thumbs on the starters, and a bloke at the front stood ready to use the kick­start! He got a few tro­phies, though – the Morini had use­able grunt, han­dled dif­fer­ently to the Ja­panese bikes and took a dif­fer­ent line. And if any­one barged up the inside, they got hit on the head by the high ’bars.

North Le­ices­ter Mo­tor­cy­cles were in­ter­ested in what Trevor had done on my bike. I don’t know how the con­ver­sa­tion came about, but we per­suaded them to en­ter a Morini in the F3 TT in 1979, a World Cham­pi­onship round at the time. They had a writ­ten-off bike to use as the core of the racer, so ev­ery­thing was ar­ranged and booked. Then, at the very last minute, the bike be­came un­avail­able. On the prom­ise of a cos­metic job af­ter­wards, Trevor asked if he could use mine… From mem­ory, we fit­ted sport cams (“Not that they did much,” says Trevor), changed jet­ting, used open mega ex­hausts, and re­moved the al­ter­na­tor and charg­ing sys­tem. We had an old TZ tank, some clip-on ’bars, and adapted a TZ fair­ing and seat. The wheels, forks, brakes and af­ter­mar­ket air shocks I al­ready had, all stayed. The bike’s nar­row so took the TZ parts, but looked very tall. Race day at the TT was wet and foggy but gave us a mo­ment I will trea­sure for­ever. The live com­men­tary moved to the Bun­ga­low where they awaited the ar­rival of Char­lie Wil­liams on his two-stroke Yamaha (in the F2 class, run at the same time), with the mi­cro­phone ‘open’ so ev­ery­one could hear the noise. They didn’t re­alise the fog had thick­ened and Char­lie had slowed, and the whole is­land got the sound of my four-stroke V-twin on open ex­hausts go­ing flat-out into the gloom. It sounded amaz­ing. The com­men­ta­tor had to rapidly ex­plain it wasn’t Char­lie Wil­liams – it was Trevor Wise on his wife’s Morini!

All the race parts came off af­ter­wards. This took a while so they loaned me an MZ 250. Not im­pressed. How­ever, once it was a stan­dard Strada again – just as Trevor promised, com­plete with new in­di­ca­tors – it went on be­ing a com­muter. Trevor again pushed his luck and used the bike to do the BMF Na­tional Rally with my brother. A spe­cial test de­ter­mined the over­all win­ner,

which in­volved rid­ing a short, bendy course at a fixed 28.5mph or sim­i­lar ran­dom speed. Trevor didn’t stand a chance, as the Morini’s speedo was only ac­cu­rate to the near­est 10mph and waved around. He just kept the nee­dle be­tween 20 and 45mph – and won. My brother, a sea­soned tri­al­ist, was miffed to say the least.

By now I’d qual­i­fied as a teacher and started at a pres­ti­gious girl’s school. Most staff lived on site, but at the in­ter­view I said I’d travel to work on my bike. “Oh, a mo­tor­cy­clist,” they said. “We haven’t got one of those.” From there I moved to a lo­cal school and, af­ter hav­ing two chil­dren, the Morini was treated to a more se­date way of life in­volv­ing Sun­day af­ter­noons and lo­cal events.

As the chil­dren grew and could be left with grand­par­ents we de­cided to do the 1990 Na­tional Rally; Trevor on his bike, me on my Morini. He was run­ning a lo­cal rider train­ing scheme and the lads gath­ered to wave us off. A car de­cided to dash be­tween the two of us and I hit it side-on, break­ing both wrists. The frame was bent and the forks were a very strange shape, so the bike was a write-off. We bought it back from the in­surance, had the frame straight­ened, fit­ted new forks and plenty of other parts – Trevor loved re­build­ing it.

This didn’t stop us do­ing many more Na­tional Ral­lies. They brought ex­cit­ing times, like when the lights failed on the Cat and Fid­dle Pass. The charg­ing sys­tem doesn’t cope with all the electrics run­ning for a long time. First the in­di­ca­tors come on but don’t flash, then the rev counter stops if the brake light is on, then the fuel so­le­noid stops so you have to use re­serve, next the lights go, and the rev counter stops com­pletely. Switch it all off, run the en­gine for a while and it all comes back.

I think we might have had the coils re-mag­ne­tised a long time ago, but I’ve had no real me­chan­i­cal is­sues. The bike’s com­muted, production raced, done ral­lies, com­peted at the TT, and we’ve never had to do any­thing ma­jor. The 47,000 miles show­ing isn’t far out – there was a short pe­riod with­out a speedo ca­ble, plus the rac­ing miles, but it’s near enough. A cou­ple of years af­ter the TT we took it to Wales where Gazelle made new pipes, and Trevor made the heat shields. I’ve fit­ted fork gaiters, and had new rear shocks as and when they got tired. I had a rack from new but this is the sec­ond one, as the first was ru­ined in the snow crash. It’s got tank stick­ers as the badges kept lift­ing off, but it’s the orig­i­nal 40-year-old seat. It was re­placed af­ter the lorry hit me with a wider one from a later model, but I was never comfy pad­dling around so the orig­i­nal was re­paired.

Some­times there’s ex­tra neutrals; this year’s ride to the In­ter­na­tional Morini Riders Rally in Kent in­volved not hav­ing all the gears all the time, and some­times more neutrals than re­quired. You can sit at lights with it tick­ing over, think­ing you’re in true neu­tral, and it’s only when you pull away you re­alise you’re be­tween third and fourth. It can pull off in third two-up, so it’s not an is­sue; it’s a Morini let­ting you know she’s still a Morini.

Trevor was di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s dis­ease a few years ago, and as he’s no longer able to ride the Morini stood for a while. We re­built it last year, with help from our eldest son, just be­cause it had stood, but didn’t find any­thing wrong. We’re now back putting miles on. We al­ways ride two-up so have rear shocks to suit, al­low­ing the Morini to still han­dle as it should. We planned to visit On­gar in March to cel­e­brate our first two-up ride 40 years ago, but snow put paid to that. I’m too old for rid­ing in the snow now. We are cel­e­brat­ing our Ruby Wed­ding An­niver­sary this year with a re­turn to the ho­tel we hon­ey­mooned in, on the Morini.

Who could have pre­dicted the life my Strada would lead over the four decades? Who knows what ad­ven­tures lie ahead? But she’ll al­ways be pretty...

‘THE EX­TRA NEUTRALS ARE JUST A MORINI LET­TING YOU KNOW SHE’S STILL A MORINI’

BE­LOW: Chas­ing two-strokes at Mal­lory Park

ABOVE: Who needs a white Rolls? This is far more fun

Ex­ten­sive his­tory file in­cludes quotes for re­pairs af­ter the Morini hit a car

BE­LOW: Al­ways well used, it had a rack fit­ted from new Hagon shocks are spe­cific for two-up du­ties

ABOVE: Trevor and Chris­tine, sum­mer 2018. Note sat­nav mount on the ’bars Ev­i­dence of past ex­ploits worn with pride

Tucked in and wide open dur­ing the F3 TT back in 1979

Trevor and loaded Morini ready for a run down to Kent

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