MILES COURTS CONTROVERSY
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