FROM THE FRONT
The Shed currently has a guest motorcycle – a rare notion. This one’s a twin, a pushrod air-cooled twin, of which there are lots of others in there, but it’s an Italian twin this time. Cylinders arranged in a V. Aha! So it’s a Moto Guzzi, is it? Nope; it’s a Morini, parked next to Rowena’s Guzzi V35 – so a brace of Italian 350 Vees. And what a fine machine it is, too: more next month.
Riding the 3½ provided several opportunities for what passes for thought in my sun-baked cranium. At a predictable tangent, too. Remember the 1970s? Remember the derision from the Press about the UK’s motorcycle offerings – Triumph and Norton by then, mostly – being hopelessly outmoded and outclassed by the far-eastern imports? Remember also that those same Press guys almost universally admired Italian Vees, the only one of which to sport a more modern ohc engine being the least reliable…
I told you that my thoughts had been lateral! Back then I rode almost exclusively ancient Brit, mainly because ancient Brit was cheap and affordable, while anything Italian was not. I also rode eastern European, for similar reasons and with variable results – I switched to a cheap used Jawa because it should have been more reliable than the ancient Brit. But it wasn’t, so I replaced it with a brand-new MZ, which was. And was also my first-ever new bike. Glory days, of course.
Riding the Morini along the sinuous lanes which are so common down here, I wondered whether those derided Triumph twins with their ohv top ends could actually have been developed further. And if they had been how well they’d have stacked up – not against the ohc multis from Japan but against the aircooled ohv opposition from Italy. Certainly, the Commando is as decent a ride as any contemporary big twin from Italy or indeed from Germany.
Some of this thinking had been prompted because unconsciously somehow I’d been riding down small roads which we’ve ridden a lot on Rowena’s Triumph T100C – another ohv air-cooled low-tech twin, and in truth the Triumph is every bit as competent as the Morini. That changes when we hit the main roads, heading home so that this magazine could actually get finished!
Once onto the A39, the amusingly named Atlantic Highway, the Triumph’s limitations become unavoidable. It really is screaming when pushed to 70-75. I’m uncomfortable with that. No doubt lots of folk habitually ride their 1970s Triumph 500 twins like that … or they claim to. The Morini has more gears than the Triumph and although it has little extra performance to offer at 70mph it feels a lot less stressed. I’d not want to tackle a long motorway journey on it, but there’s no doubt that the extra years of development and the extra gears make a huge difference.
Which set me to wondering… I have a memory that I once rode a late Daytona fitted with a 5-speed box, but… But no. I can’t remember anything else about it. Just food for thought.