MILES COURTS CON­TRO­VERSY

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Morini rid­ers are fan­tas­ti­cally en­thu­si­as­tic about their won­der­ful and bril­liant mo­tor­cy­cles. So I ex­pect that Paul Miles, who wrote about the 3½ Strada in RC175, has by now had terrible things done to him, prob­a­bly in­volv­ing the Of­fi­cial Morini Fly­wheel Hold­ing Tool. His main crit­i­cism is that it is ‘un­der­pow­ered’ com­pared with the Ja­panese bikes of the 1970s. It might be but, some­how, that is a com­par­i­son most Morini rid­ers do not think about. When buzzing a 3½ Strada or Sport along a nice twisty road, most rid­ers are think­ing about the de­lights of the han­dling and the lovely free-revving urge of the en­gine. Some say the ac­cel­er­a­tion and speed are not far short of an old Bri­tish 650 of the go-to-work va­ri­ety.

Ac­cord­ing to an old road test I have in front of me, a mid-1970s Honda 360 pro­duces only the same power as the Strada (34bhp for the Honda, 35bhp for the Strada), although there were of course more pow­er­ful Ja­panese 350s. I was go­ing to claim that the Strada is much lighter than a Ja­panese equiv­a­lent but the fig­ures do not back that up: Strada dry weight 353lb, mid-70s Honda 360 357lb. How­ever, I think the Strada car­ries its weight lower and its wheel­base will be shorter. The lat­ter, par­tic­u­larly, is the key to the Strada’s lovely han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Paul did sort-of ac­knowl­edge the lovely han­dling. Morini rid­ers would go a bit fur­ther and, per­haps, say they have never ex­pe­ri­enced a more com­pletely-to­gether mo­tor­cy­cle. Steer­ing, sus­pen­sion, brakes, en­gine and gear­box all work as a pack­age — as they were de­signed to by Franco Lam­ber­tini, the for­mer Fer­rari en­gi­neer who was brought in and given the free­dom to de­sign some­thing dis­tinc­tive. Rid­ing a 3½ briskly on the sort of road mo­tor­cy­clists like is a de­light­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. Some­times it seems you just have to look into a bend and the weight-shift steers you round. Some­times you want to lean over hard at slow speed — com­ing out of a round­about for ex­am­ple — just be­cause you can.

Ac­knowl­edge­ment of im­per­fec­tions: yes the kick­starter is very awk­ward. My 1976-reg­is­tered Strada (prob­a­bly made in 1974) is pre-elec­tric so I just have to put up with it. Be­cause I have never learned to left­foot kick, I have to do the start­ing while off the mo­tor­cy­cle. That is a prob­lem if you stall in traffic, of course, es­pe­cially if you have re­moved the side­stand to al­low you to give a longer kick. Be­cause of the way Mori­nis make their sparks — the bat­tery is not used in the spark­ing depart­ment — you need to give a long yet brisk kick on the starter to pro­duce the re­quired elec­trons from the al­ter­na­tor, while reach­ing across to open the throt­tle a lit­tle as you do so. A fin­ger on the front brake lever is also a good idea, be­cause the mo­tor­cy­cle can rock for­wards off the main stand while you are jump­ing up and down. Spec­ta­tors love it when this hap­pens.

Paul’s Strada has a disc brake at the front and he feels it is ‘wooden’. Rid­ers of drum­brake Mori­nis know theirs are the best: mine will do ev­ery­thing from the slight­est re­tar­da­tion to a full emergency stop with just a cou­ple of fin­gers on the lever. It is ex­tremely com­fort­ing to know that this power is avail­able — and I made use of it last week when a car de­cided to change lane swiftly in front of me with no hint of a sig­nal. I am think­ing of start­ing a pres­sure group for the rein­tro­duc­tion of drum brakes. Yes, they might fade when you are rid­ing down a moun­tain hair­pin road, but how many peo­ple do that very of­ten?

Paul com­ments on his Strada’s vi­bra­tion. That is not a gen­eral crit­i­cism in Morini cir­cles and I won­der if his en­gine is set up just as it should be? If not, that could also ex­plain his ob­ser­va­tion that the power avail­able seems less than of­fi­cial 35bhp. Also, of course, strange things can be done to the in­ter­nals of per­fectly good mo­tor­cy­cles over 40 years.

There is no car­tridge-type oil fil­ter, just a strainer as he says, but was this not the norm in the 1970s? Since the clutch is a dry­plate type, the wear par­ti­cles com­ing off the fric­tion ma­te­rial do not get into the oil so the strainer is ad­e­quate. The 3½ car­ries

2.5 litres of oil in its sump, in­ci­den­tally, a de­cent vol­ume which helps to keep the oil cool. Good lu­bri­ca­tion ar­range­ments and in­spired en­gi­neer­ing ex­plain the ro­bust­ness of the 3½ en­gine. Martin Quin­lan, mem­ber

I’m no stranger to the press slag­ging off my cho­sen steeds, and it doesn’t usu­ally bother me. Af­ter all, I was an MZ pioneer in the early days when they were slagged off as Com­mu­nist rub­bish. I also bought an En­field Hi­malayan (read my ini­tial im­pres­sions in RC171) when ini­tial press re­ports were dis­parag­ing, so I have quite a thick skin. How­ever, the Morini 3½ re­view by Paul Miles in RC175 does not de­serve to go un­chal­lenged. His clos­ing com­ments are, to my mind, un­fair on the bike. Ad­mit­tedly, the test does list a num­ber of pos­i­tives, but the con­clu­sion (I para­phrase) that the Morini is a good bike, but no bet­ter than a num­ber of its Ja­panese con­tem­po­raries, left me speech­less.

I had the plea­sure of work­ing in a busy, multi-fran­chise bike deal­er­ship in the 1970s and 80s and rode ev­ery avail­able Ja­panese mid­dleweight when they were new and at their best. There were some good bikes, but very few truly mem­o­rable ones, and most were cer­tainly not in the same league as the Morini. I hes­i­tate to dis­cuss Paul’s cho­sen ex­am­ple, the Honda Su­perDream, as I’ve no wish to en­rage cur­rent own­ers, but with the best will in the world they were quite or­di­nary.

The Morini 3½ twins have a well-de­served rep­u­ta­tion and, from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, I can only say that ev­ery sin­gle ride on mine is mem­o­rable for the right reasons. These bikes are in­volv­ing and charm­ing in a way that has to be ex­pe­ri­enced. I think that Frank agreed with me when he wrote (in RC161) that the Morini Rid­ers’ Club Strada was ‘a truly re­mark­able ma­chine’ with ‘sub­lime’ han­dling. Would he have writ­ten that about a Su­perDream? I doubt it.

It just goes to show that it is not dif­fi­cult to find di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed views on any bike. How­ever, if you have even the slight­est in­ter­est in buy­ing a mid­dleweight clas­sic, have a ride on a Morini. Whether af­ter a ride you’ll agree with Paul or me is a mat­ter for your judge­ment alone. I know where my money would be... John Moul­ton, mem­ber 5592

I sus­pect that we could di­vide the world into ‘peo­ple who adore Mori­nis’ (of whom a sig­nif­i­cant sub­set would be ‘peo­ple who own Mori­nis’), and ‘peo­ple who don’t quite un­der­stand what all the Morini fuss is about.’ Ace Tester Miles is ob­vi­ously in the lat­ter group! And I’ll let Frank tell you his Su­perDream anec­dote… Rowena

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