While there can be little doubt that the current generation of electronically endowed superbikes are at the cutting edge of technology, for many of us the zenith of sportsbike evolution came in the early 1990s, in particular with the gorgeous two-stroke 250cc bikes that were the nearest things to Grand Prix bikes for the road.
These waif like strokers, such as the Aprilia RS250, Honda NSR250, Suzuki RGV250 and Yamaha TZR250, squeezed out close to 70bhp in packages that weighed in the region of 130kg. And because licencing laws meant that big bikes were virtually unobtainable for the ordinary rider, 250cc two-strokes (as well as 400cc four-cylinder four-strokes) became the showcase products for the Japanese manufacturers in their home markets. Some of them even made it over here (as grey imports, by virtue of equally draconian MoT laws), ensuring that these trick little machines retain a cult following – years after most have had their date with the crusher.
A bunch of social and political circumstances meant that sportsbikes took a different direction as the 1990s moved on. Japan’s love of the sportsbike waned. The 250s and 400s were always fashion items on the streets of Tokyo and the race reps were shovelled into containers marked ‘Liverpool’ as the local bike culture went all retro. That was good news for British riders (and the grey importers who made a killing for quite a few years) but the manufacturers lost interest in small sports bikes.
Insurance changes also saw motorcycles categorised in car style groups rather than by blanket capacity caps. Alongside that, impending emissions regulations effectively killed the two-stroke. Four-strokes may have been bigger, heavier and more complicated, but they gave out less exhaust emissions. All the small sports bike trickery switched to 600cc four-strokes and only Aprilia soldiered on with the (RGV250 powered) RS250 until the turn of the millennium, when the emissions laws put a final nail in the two-stroke coffin.
Until now… Vins is an Italian company set up last year in the heart of Italy’s motor valley. They’re based in Maranello, home of Ferrari, which is hardly surprising as the company was founded by a group of ex-Formula One engineers from the Scuderia’s race shop.
They’re planning to develop two versions of the Duecinquanta (literally translated as two hundred and fifty), a standard street model and a race version, the Competizione. Vins say that it is a new motorcycle concept, although in many ways it is as simplistic as it gets. Embracing the philosophy of Lotus’ Colin Chapman, the Vins way is to make the bike as light as possible.
And light it is. The street version weighs in at a claimed 95kg thanks to a carbon fibre monocoque chassis, while the track bike sheds a further 10kg (thanks to the removal of the lights and other road going gear). While the street bike is expected to run a 248cc version of their all-new direct injection V-twin, the track version runs a 288cc motor that’s good for 80bhp and a near 150mph top speed.
No performance claims have been made for the street model, presumably because the biggest challenge will be getting it through the emissions regulations. Hopefully the brains behind the project are able to achieve that without the motor becoming too emancipated.
While they’re working that out, you’d better start saving. Reports coming out of Italy suggest that you’ll need 40,000 Euros to have a Vins in your garage, or 50,000 Euros if you fancy rocking up to Silverstone on the ultimate track day model.