Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Black Pig

This '67 MV 600 is one of very few built, but is it also as ugly as it is rare?

Full feature coming up in Issue Four soon...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hammer time!

My friend John W (who built the stunning Guzzi cafe' racer in Issue Two) came up from Bristol way yesterday to provide motivation and some tunes (Otis Taylor - 'Truth is not Fiction - what an album) for my Guzzi Le Mans 2 special.

Everything was going swimmingly until we discovered the front engine bolt is seized in. Solid. Luckily John had brought the special Guzzi tool no. 3865 for removing said seized bolts with him by strapping it on his back - so we cracked it out and got going. Hammer time! Suffice to say it didn't do the job, so we gave up, and like most frustrated Englishmen, decided the next best course of action was to retire to the local to discuss a course of action over a pint of fine ale. Then it was on to another local boozer which has regular bike nights. Only other Italian there was a 'chocolate' brown Jota. Royal Enfield Constellation was lovely, as were the two Indians, one of which (the blue Chief) I have ridden, and is a blast.

John then discovered he had no lights so a quick blast back before the sun came down and a last pint in my local before closing time. Thanks John for the help and a good time - hope you didn't get too wet on the way home......

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

FMB Telaimotor 'America'

Rare and Yankee market-inspired 'America' model from 1963, spotted at this year's Reggio Emilia mostra scambio.

FMB Telaimotor (literally 'framesmotor') was one of the myriad companies in and around Bologna through the '50s to the '80s that specialised in building their own chassis, and buying in motors to suit - FMB was based at 38 Via Fossolo, but sadly now there's a company building lab equipment instead.

The motors used would often be Minarelli 50cc strokers, but I reckon in this case it's a 125 Mondial four-stroke motor, and I'd expect to see 'Mondial' cast into the cases on the other side of the bike. Buckhorn bars, white grips, chrome tank and studded Roy Rogers-type saddle flaps vie for the attention of potential US customers. Wonder how many they sold in the States - anyone out there own one?

More bikes from Reggio Emilia coming up in Issue Four soon.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Comic nostalgia

Saw these issues of 'Commando' magazine today in my local newsagent and was pleased to see it was still running, 5oth anniversary this year. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, this was what we were into, tales from World Two, which wasn't so far away in those days - everyone knew someone who was involved. We all preferred the German uniforms, Tiger tanks, Stukas and BMW with sidecar and MG42 machine gun, though in play, the Brits always won. I couldn't afford to buy these small comic books new so would pick up piles of faded, dog-eared ones for pennies from local church jumble sales (sorry, not sure if you have/had jumble sales where you are - er, garage sale type thing.). Nice to see we haven't gone so PC in this country that we can't still have some decent WW2 stuff on the shelves for kids.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Monday, 13 June 2011

Moto Guzzi do themselves no usual

As you might have realised by now, I have a penchant for Moto Guzzis, mainly the older twins and pre-war singles, but I have been particularly impressed by some of the new bikes from the last three years or so. The Stelvio 8-valve NTX 1200 is a fantastic motorcycle, and I was very impressed with it on the launch in Italy a couple of months back - hopefully there'll be my review of it in the upcoming Issue Four. I've always tried to be very positive (but honest) about Guzzi's products in any article or test published in my work as a journo because Guzzi's bikes are good but misunderstood, and you can't keep flogging bikes to a small band of already converted punters.

So it's sad to read an article in the latest issue of Italy's most influential bike rag 'Motociclismo'. They carried out a massive and comprehensive 28 page mega-test in Sicily of the current enduro tourers on the market, including the MBW F800GS, BMW R1200, Honda Transalp 700, KTM 990 Adventure, Triumph Tiger 800XC, Yamaha Tenere 660 and the Yamaha ST 1200.

I started to read the spread (as posted above) assuming the Stelvio would be in there - after all, the test was in Italy, and these bikes are its main competition. Then I noted the small panel on the bottom left hand page, with the headline 'Guzzi Stelvio - Absent without Leave'. It continues (imagine terse, tight-lipped speaker) 'The Italian contender is missing from our comparison: we asked Moto Guzzi for the Stelvio, but the bike was delivered extremely late, when we were already well into our test in Sicily'.

Obviously I don't know the details of why Motociclismo didn't get the bike in time, but if five other manufacturers can get their bikes sorted, why can't Guzzi? Or is it Guzzi's masters Piaggio that don't care? It's sad because the Stelvio is easily as good as the BMW 1200 GS (I've ridden both) and probably better than some of the other bikes on test here, but now the readership of Italy's top bike mag aren't going to know that, and people who might have bought a Stelvio might now buy a Bimmer instead.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The one that got away

... and I've been chasing the story of this one for about five years now. I first saw this amazingly patina-ed GT 750 at the Ace Cafe some years ago, chatted briefly with the owner. Was apparently found in a shed with an SS too. It ran beautifully. Saw it again two years ago, didn't see the owner. Saw it for sale in some bike small ads, called the owner. Yes, he was selling, but yes he'd be interested in maybe getting it into a mag. I left him my number. And that's the last I heard or saw of it. Shame.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


One of the treasures spotted by us at Reggio Emilia mostra scambio (autojumble/swap meet) this year - much more coming up in Issue Four. Florio Monti used to drive truckfuls of these for Piaggio around Northern Italy in 1944, trying to avoid German SS patrols and partisan ambushes at the same time. 

Read his amazing story as a bike racer in Issue Three 

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Idrobad internals for pushrodmofo

It's not much clearer to me how it all works either, but we aim to please...

Thanks again to Dorian who is the incredible source of all this information.

TECHNO UPDATE: Here's a great explanation as recommended by Oldtimerworkshop below - thanks man!!:

Monday, 6 June 2011

Mystery MV revealed - 175 Idrobad prototype

Your guesses as to what this rare MV Agusta 175 might be and why it's unusual were excellent, and most of you deduced that it is a motorcycle with some kind of automatic transmission, hence the obvious lack of any kind gear change pedal on the right side of the machine where you'd normally expect it to be.

This is what was officially named by MV a "Motoleggera MV 175cc 4 tempi, con cambio idraulico progressivo (Licenza Idrobad), but for short the 175 Idrobad. It features a hydraulic transmission unit, designed by Sig. Badalini, so has no gearbox (so no pedal). The infinitely variable hydraulic transmission is controlled by the left hand twistgrip, whose cables run down into the motor not unlike those of an MV Pullman - in fact the handlebar cable mechanism looks similar at a glance. This Idrodad features a small button also on the left hand twist grip that allows the bar to be pulled in, and kept in, as a sort of neutral, handy for sitting at traffic lights and so on. At its simplest (it's not simple, it's complicated!!) the Badalini transmission used a hydraulic pump and hydraulic motor, both of a swash plate type - a ring of pistons is actuated by an inclined disc to give the variable part of the drive - like a belt on a cone in a modern CVT system I guess.

A special prototype of a modified 175 CS Sport had appeared on MV's stand at the 1954 Milan Show, and there's a photo of this bike in Mick Walker's book on MV Agusta (see above). The bike in this photo looks exactly, and I mean exactly like the bike I rode last week, and photographed. Another strong link to this prototype show bike is that the bike I rode has a lacquered fuel tank - MV didn't lacquer their tanks on these models, so it was probable it was done for a special purpose, like putting the bike on show.

I think it's one and the same bike, which makes this rare bike even more special, especially as it is in superb, original and conserved and UNRESTORED condition, which is how it should be left.

Watch a small video we made here on You Tube which will help to explain how it works.

There'll be a full feature on this very special motorcycle in Issue FIVE of the magazine.

Thanks as always to Dorian for making this very special MV Agusta experience possible.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Italian food interlude

I know this is the kind of junk people post on Twitter but had to leav ethe mystery MV scenario to go and take a break and make dinner, spaghetti bolognese - my wife is Italian, and from Tuscany, so I have to make it well otherwise I'm in trouble. Her parents are over from Italy next week, and I'm hoping they'll be stashing some good stuff (food stuffs that is) from Tuscany in their bags, mm mm..

Right, spaghetti's almost done, gotta rush..

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

World exclusive for ITALIAN MOTOR - but what's wrong with this bike??

Thanks again to my friend Dorian, I've managed to photograph, and in this case document for important reasons, a very rare MV Agusta.

In fact, in this case we're talking about a genuine world exclusive for various reasons, and I'm very honoured that ITALIAN MOTOR magazine will be the first magazine, on the whole planet no less, to run a full feature on this machine in the near future.

But what's strange about this bike?


UPDATE: Ok, here's another photo - you're all very close, I'll be posting up a small video soon that shows all.....

UPDATE number 2:  Here's another!!