The 2008 Moto Morini 1200 Sport is a close cousin of the 9½ base model, tweaked slightly for the Sunday morning breakfast run.
Alastair Walker took a quick spin.
Morini are definitely back, with new the Gran Passo Adventure Tourer, 1200 Sport and Avio models all arriving this year. Once, Moto Morini were renowned chiefly for their oddball 3½ Sport café racer, which remained an expensive alternative to an RD400 for many late Seventies enthusiasts.
But that was decades ago. Morini obviously has new investment now and a plan to expand its range. So what is the 1200 Sport all about?
According to the factory blurb, this Morini 1200 Sport takes inspiration from their 70s classic 350 sportbike, but as soon as you fire up the 1187cc V-Twin motor and ease away through traffic, you realise this bike is just as comfortable commuting, or lazy Sunday riding, as it would be for occasional backroads scratching.
OK, on first glance the trellis frame, hydro-formed swingarm, massive 50mm Marzocchi forks and twin 320mm Brembo brakes suggest a sporty ride. This is top notch kit and the ride is firm, on the sporting side. The brakes in particular are outstanding in terms of feel, you can leave braking late into a corner if you feel like having some fun.
You’d be right in the assumption that Morini want you to enjoy a twisty road on the 1200 Sport. But the bike does much more. In that regard, the Morini is far closer to machines like the Ducati Monster S4R S Tricolore, or Classic Sport 1000, maybe the Aprilia Shiver too.
This is something which looks sporty, offers a meaty V-twin punch, handles with typical Latin style, yet also gives you a healthy dollop of laid back rider comfort, a pleasing soundtrack on the move and physical comfort that older motorcyclists will recall from 70s bikes.
The Morini has a reasonably low seat height, thanks to the big `cut-out’ section next to the 21 litre gas tank. Once on the move you find your knees fit perfectly into the tank cut-outs and the handlebars, which are slightly narrower than on the 9 ½ base model, give you a perfect, slightly tipped forwards, braced-against-the-wind stance.
This is how bikes used to be designed years ago – to fit the average rider – and many manufacturers seem to have forgotten that basic need. Middle-aged riders don’t generally want to ride hunched over their handlebars, straining to bear their bodyweight on their wrists, or feeling several vertebrae clicking as they perform a `lifesaver’ backwards glance.
This bike is built for the rider who wants to tour twisty lanes, slowly, taking in the scenery, as well as give the bike its head occasionally on a sweeping A road. There’s nothing wrong with that and I even think the pillion perch looks reasonably sensible compared with some rivals.
One of the reasons people bought a Morini back in the day was to stand out, to make a statement to the rest of the motorcycling world by choosing an expensive 350 V-twin, featuring Heron type cylinder heads, a drum front brake and elegant styling. The old 3 ½ had an appeal to those who wanted to go their own way, it was undeniably different. I think Morini need to keep this element in their modern range, because there are plenty of V-twin powered rivals to the 1200 Sport on the market.
Styling touches I liked include the retro style tank badge, the Spartan, purposeful look of the trellis frame, spoked wheels and the convoluted route the exhaust takes to its flashy, almost flat-tracker look exit points. The 1200 Sport stands out a little bit.
I think it lacks the hewn, sculpted beauty of the Monster S4RS, or the rakish lines of a Triumph Thruxton, but the Morini 1200 Sport is a hundred times easier to live with than the Thruxton, or any other retro café racer.
It also has a distinctive, almost classic simplicity that bikes like the Aprilia Shiver 750 or Honda’s new CB1000R don’t offer. The Morini’s closest rivals for me are the Guzzi Griso or Bellagio sport-cruiser models, which are rorty, fun and satisfying to ride, no matter what the road conditions.
Who would buy this bike?
This is a bike for someone who needs something easy to manhandle on a garage forecourt, flickable on a favourite road and capable of commuting as well as many a 650 class machine.
As with all Italian machines there will be question marks over spares availability and the Morini dealer network may not offer a shop near to you just yet. You have to consider that factor.
Value? Well, at £7999 on the road the 1200 Sport is up against rivals galore, from the Buell 1125CR, Triumph Street Triple 1050, Kawasaki Z750, Honda CB1000R, Yamaha FZ1 etc. It does the job, but its rivals also provide a versatile, responsive overall riding experience – and some are cheaper.
There’s no doubt that many of the mainstream four cylinder rivals can do much the same job for less money. Out of the Italian competition I think the Morini is faster than the Guzzis, not so handsome as the Monster S4RS and I haven’t ridden the Shiver yet.
The 1200 Sport is one for Morini fans, who might want to come back to owning one after selling a 350/500 twin a decade go or more. For those new to the world of biking the Morini 1200 Sport is worth a test ride up against something like the Triumph Street Triple 675R (about to be launched) or the Guzzi Griso 1100, KTM Super Duke 990 and perhaps the Buell 1125CR.
You have to be searching for something different, a little twist of lemon in your motorcycling cup of tea. Sometimes it’s good to get away from the mainstream and the Morini has that quality in spades.
Get Carole Nash motorbike insurance for the Moto Morini 1200 Sport.
Moto Morini 1200 Sport
Engine: 1187cc, liquid cooled, 8 valve V-twin.
Maximum power: 117bhp @8500rpm ( claimed )
Maximum torque: 102 Nm @6700rpm
Gearbox: 6 speed
Final drive: Chain
Frame: Tubular steel, trellis type
Suspension: Front; 50mm USD Marzocchi forks, fully adjustable.
Steering head angle; 24.5 degrees
Rear suspension; Single lateral-mounted shock absorber, fully adjustable
Brakes: Front; Twin 320mm Bembo discs, 4 piston callipers. Rear; Single 220mm Brembo disc, with 2 piston calliper.
Tyres: Front; 120/70 17 inch
Rear; 180/55 17 inch
Seat Height: 800mm/31.5 inches
Dry weight: 198kgs/440lbs
Fuel capacity: 21 litres
Price: £7999 OTR
Contact: Moto Morini UK. 01202 823 344