With a name that translates to English as ‘Myth’ it’s no surprise that the Cagiva Mito would become an instant icon.
This Italian filly ticked all the classic bike boxes. With racing heritage, stunning looks and class leading performance, the Mito was the bike that 1990s teenagers lusted after. The fact that it had a seven speed gearbox when everything else had a mere six cogs made it an instant legend.
Feisty two-stroke 125s became a big deal in the 1980s, as learner laws restricted new riders to just an eighth of a litre for the first time. The challenge was therefore to push the boundaries as far as possible and create the most desirable bikes within the rules. Japanese manufacturers brought a new generation of sports 125s developed mainly for the European markets. Honda introduced the Italian built NS125, while Suzuki brought the RG125 Gamma and Yamaha gave us the TZR125, but it was the Latin manufacturers who brought out the real high end models, mainly for their home markets.
Gilera (with the SP-02), Aprilia (RS125) and Cagiva’s models were not just street bikes. They were developed to be competitive in Italian Sport Production racing, which was the go to series for any youngster who fancied themselves as a future Grand Prix racer. In 1994, Cagiva gave a young lad called Valentino Rossi a Mito to race and he won the championship before going on to have a decent career. That, alone, means that the Mito has its place indelibly inked in the history books.
Even without Signor Rossi’s help, the Mito was already destined for legendary status. The bike was unveiled at the back end of 1989 as an evolution of the futuristically styled Freccia and paid homage to Cagiva’s 500cc Grand Prix machine. The first Mito looked stunning and had performance to match. The two-stroke motor, when derestricted, made 34 peaky horsepower and was good for a flat out 100-ish mph.
The Mito legend was further strengthened in 1992, when American racer Eddie Lawson won the Hungarian Grand Prix on the company’s improving V4 GP racer. Cagiva quickly released an ‘Eddie Replica’ version of the 125, with race bike livery.
The 1990s saw Cagiva and Aprilia battle for top honours in the 125 class with regular updates, which saw the Mito gain upside down forks (cutting edge at the time). In 1994, Cagiva (who also owned Ducati at the time) gave the Mito a stunning makeover in the hands of Massimo Tamburini, who had also styled the Ducati 916.
These mark three Mitos were arguably the pinnacle of the model’s evolution. Looking every bit like a mini 916, the 1994 model had all the performance of the Lawson reps, but with an improved chassis and iconic styling. This is also the model, in limited edition SP spec (with improved suspension), upon which Rossi started his career.
Later Mitos suffered at the hands of legislators. As emissions regulations tightened up, Cagiva were required to clean up the Mito with a resultant loss of power. The SP525 of 2008 was the last of the line, with a new fairing (more 500GP inspired than 916) and an electronically controlled carburettor. These bikes were about 10% down on power when compared to earlier models, but were able to meet the Euro 3 standards for exhaust emissions.
The Cagiva Mito may not have enjoyed the horsepower of other 1990s classics, like the aforementioned 916, Honda Fireblade or Suzuki GSX-R750, but it was every bit as focussed and well designed. Its desirability among younger riders of the time makes it a fondly remembered bike, and with those children of the Eighties now approaching middle age, it’ll be no surprise to see these sporting 125s gain true classic status in the coming years.