bimota tesi

12 More Breathtaking Italian Motorcycles – Part 2

This is part 2 of my journey into the wonderful world of Italian Motorcycles. If you haven’t seen the first part I will link it at the end, It is definitely worth a watch. But today I am looking at what I consider the renaissance of the Italian Motorcycle industry.

After such a long period of Japanese domination on the road and on the track, the Italian manufacturers were always going to have a hard fight to claw back their share of the industry. The bikes that made that a reality are as exciting as the bikes built to try and save the industry in the first place.

These are motorcycles that pushed the boundaries of what we thought possible. They brought a level of power never before seen on road going motorcycles. They were also leaders in the introduction and extended use of electronics on motorcycles.

Whether you think that is a good thing or not is another question entirely.

Don’t forget to like the video if you enjoy it and Its always worth taking a look at the fantastic comments, You can let me know your thoughts there too.

If you like a good read, you will find the complete article on our website. You will find the link below in the description. You can also get in touch with me via the contact form there if you need to.

So, back to the bikes.

Bimota Tesi 1990 onwards

I will begin where I finished the last video, with the Bimota Tesi. The first Tesi hit the market in 1990, powered by the Ducati 851cc engine, but it evolved over many years. They were differentiated by the 1D, 2D and 3D names and used Ducati Engines until 2014. Then, after the Kawasaki buy-out it was relaunched again as the Tesi H2.

The first prototype actually goes back to 1983, but it took until 1990 for the design to be ready for road use.

The Tesi is like no other motorcycle, the first 1D was groundbreaking, and even today that 40 year old design still looks modern.

Its 188kg dry weight is carried low and central to give perfect balance and the the Ducati engine will take it up to a theoretical top speed of 155mph or 250kph if you prefer.

The front swingarm and hub centre steering give it a unique look that some will love and others will hate. That doesn’t matter, it is a high quality, niche motorcycle not built for the masses.

In 2004 it evolved into the Tesi 2D when dry weight was brought down to an incredible 154kg or just 340 lbs. Unheard of for a 1000cc motorcycle. This bike was even more visually striking and the swingarms were strengthened in a major and very obvious way, giving the whole bike a more brutal look. But R&D continued.

2006 brought us the Tesi 3D and it went into production in 2007. The swingarms were redesigned again. This time to mimic the Verlicci style trellis frames Ducati had immortalised and it transformed the bike again. The engine grew to almost 1100cc and the look got even more aggressive.

Front suspension was redesigned with a pull rod system that lowered the centre of gravity even more.

All bodywork was made from carbon and the wheels are forged aluminium. This time those unique frame plates are shown off instead of being hidden behind a fairing and the complete design is simply breathtaking.

We have a saying that describes these bikes, they really are as rare as hens teeth, but they are unmistakably Italian.

Cagiva Gran Canyon and Navigator

The next motorcycle here ended up being 2 different bikes.

The story of the Cagiva Gran Canyon and Navigator starts like all good Italian stories with a big row . After using Ducati engines for years and even owning The company outright at one point, the Castiglioni brothers sold all of their shares in Ducati.

This led to Ducati refusing to sell engines to Cagiva anymore. So some of the bikes in the Cagiva product range needed a rethink .

Massimo Tamburini had designed an incredible motorcycle in the Cagiva Gran Canyon, but a new engine was needed. Suzuki stepped in, with their legendary TL1000 engine.

This was a match made in heaven. The engine was far stronger and more powerful than the Ducati engine. It finally gave the big Suzuki V-Twin engine a frame that would handle it’s power, and it created the most powerful adventure bike of its day.

You can see more about it in the video linked above

The Navigator was ahead of its time. The adventure bike market was in its infancy and many people still saw adventure bikes as the slower boring option. This definitely wasn’t the case with the Cagiva Navigator.

The riding position is more super-moto than anything else and it really did have the power and torque to embarrass plenty of sports bikes.

Having owned one I can speak from experience and they are a fantastic riders bike. A real hooligan that rewards you for riding hard. It likes being pushed into corners is possibly one of the best mile munchers I have ever owned.

Aprilia Pegaso 1990-2012

Next we have the Aprilia Pegaso, which went through 3 different engines in its life. From 1990 to 1993 it had an air cooled 600cc Rotax engine similar to the one Cagiva were using in the Canyon and River. This was replaced by a water cooled 650 Rotax lump from 1994 to 2005. Later ones had the 660 Yamaha engine from the Tenere and many will say that that is the one to have.

I disagree. I think the water cooled 650 Rotax engine is much better, but I am biased. I am a certified Rotax fan :-). It is a similar engine to the 650 used by BMW for years, but it has a 5 valve head. It revs out better than the Yamaha and is never short of a wheelie or 2. To me, it just feels like a stronger engine all round.

This is footage of my first ride on a 1997 Aprilia Pegaso 650 I acquired and there is more in the video linked above.

Yes this is me not buying any more bikes. I cant quite believe how light it is compared to any modern ADV bikes. A dry weight of 157kg or 346lbs means even fully fuelled it weighs just 175kg. Putting bikes like the Tenere 700 and Aprilia’s own Tuareg to shame.

The Rotax engine is strong and revs out really smoothly for a single. Compared to my old DR600 and KLR600 it is comfortable and fast. Who knows, at this rate I might well end up keeping it longer than I had planned. For a 25 year old motorcycle it is still in remarkable condition. A testament to the quality of the original finish and some careful owners.

Ducati 916 1994-

Next we come to another motorcycle penned by the masterful hand of Massimo Tamburini, the Ducati 916 was to become the dominant force in Superbike racing during the late 90’s. In the hands of Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser it won 6 out of 7 years of the WSBK title with only John Kocinsky breaking that dominance in 1997 on the Honda.

I think there is little I can say about the 916 that hasn’t already been said by someone.

What may surprise you is how small and compact this bike is. With a wheelbase of just 1410mm or 56”, a seat height of just 790mm or 31” and a wet weight of just 204kg this was a bike built for sharp steering as well as speed.

In 1994 it had 115 HP on tap and this was increased for some of the later specials, producing around 125 HP. However, it was always the torque of the Desmo engine that set it apart from the rest.

This was the last Tamburini design before he departed for Cagiva and to concentrate more on Bimota. Its styling was continued right through to the 996 and 998 final edition in 2004.

Its silhouette is as recognised as any motorcycle ever built. Its sleek lines and aggressive stance make it look like it is travelling 100mph even when it is stood still.

It still stands as the epitome of a road going race bike.

Moto Guzzi Centauro

The Moto Guzzi Centauro is a bike that divides people and I have to say I love them. It is another motorcycle that has unmistakable lines.

Now for starters ill apologise to any purists out there already shouting about how I say the name. I know I am supposed to pronounce it “Gutsi” but I guess old habits die hard, they will always be Guzzi’s to me.

The Centauro was built to celebrate Guzzi’s 75th anniversary and used the then new 8 valve overhead cam Daytona engine which gave it 95HP. Now that might not sound a lot, but with almost 100Nm of torque from below 6000rpm this bike has masses of grunt for the real world.

Fitted with WP suspension, Brembo Serie Oro brakes and a Bitubo steering damper the chassis is stable and inspires confidence. You definitely feel a part of the bike when you are sat on it unlike many bikes.

I just love the flowing organic lines and have to say I don’t think there are many bikes that have the sheer presence of the Centauro. It truly is a one of a kind motorcycle.


Now this next part was a difficult one for me, and the compromise was to mention several bikes from one range.

Although they had history, Aprilia were still seen as the new kid on the block. But that isn’t always a bad thing. It meant whatever they did they were breaking new ground.

In the late 90s they really came of age as a company and released some of the most fantastic bikes made anywhere.

The first bike I will mention is the incredible RSV Mille, but alongside the Mille will always live the Tuono.

Aprilia RSV Mille plus

The gen 1 Aprilia RSV Mille is the bike that put Aprilia on the map in many ways. After its introduction in 1998 a homologation special was built in the RSVR. Troy Corser went on to take 3rd place in the riders championship In 2000 just a year later.

The Rotax designed engine was a compact 60 degree V-Twin that kicked out a massive 128HP in the standard model and 133HP in the RSVR. This gradually increased to around 140HP by the time it was replaced. But again it was the massive torque of the engine that was its most impressive characteristic.

To put this into perspective, the RSV Mille was sat on the showroom floor with almost exactly the same power as the full factory Ducati race bike. This was a time when anyone could just go and buy a bike fit for World Superbikes.


Then came the Tuono. Stripped bare of its bodywork the RSV became the ultimate factory street-fighter, with more power than any Monster had even dreamt of. I have to say that for me, the bike has possibly the best looking swingarm ever produced and the rear light cluster is a masterpiece. It also happens to be the only bit of the bike that most riders see as it flies past. Fitting really.


Just separating those two bikes was hard enough but when you consider that Aprilia were also making the world championship winning SXV 450 and 550 Super-moto’s, the Falco, Dorsa, Shiver and Caponord, you can see why I was having problems.

This is the era when Aprilia earn’t the title of being the Italian Honda. They pioneered ride by wire throttle control and were always at the cutting edge of electronic integration on motorcycles. They aren’t the simplest bikes, but they are fantastic riders bikes, built to a very high standard.

Laverda 750 Formula 1998

Now, Laverda were another company that had died and been resurrected. The new company went through several phases and multiple owners. They built what was basically several versions of one bike. Initially the engine was a bored out version of the old Laverda Montjuic engine that had hotter cams and many other changes.

Then it was decided that water cooling was the way forward, and the 750 engine was the result of that redesign. The 750 Formula was the top spec, high performance model, the cams were re-profiled again and the engine pushed even further.

This was a great engine, but by this point it was pushed to its absolute limits. They are affectionately known as hand grenades, but what an engine. It rides more like a 2 stroke than any other 4 stroke I have ever ridden. Keep it spinning and it is a joy to ride. However, the most incredible part of this design was the chassis,

I owned a 750S for many years and it is without a shadow of doubt the best handling motorcycle I have ever ridden. You can see from the video linked above how the bike handles around Cadwell Park, the most wonderful and technically challenging race track in the UK.

Designed by the great Nico Bakker the chassis was a fairly standard looking twin beam, but it was a far cry from anything else on the market. To put it in perspective, a Bakker Framebau chassis without wheels or suspension will cost you in the region of 15 thousand euros, that goes up to over 20 thousand with the wheels and suspension. So even at today’s prices, the Laverda is a steal for the price they are available for.

Even the die hard Breganze Laverda owners are finally beginning to realise what a fantastic riders bike the Zane 750 is, and the 750 Formula is the best example made.

MV Agusta F4 1999

Next we have the MV Agusta F4. Rarely have so many technical innovations been thrown at one engine.

With a heavy heart, Claudio Castiglioni had scrapped the Cagiva 500cc GP team and he set the Cagiva Research Centre the job of building the most advanced 4 stroke superbike engine they could. At the helm of the project was the same genius that penned the Ducati 916.

Massimo Tamburini had been central to the design of the radial valve system developed alongside Ferrari, and this was the first bike to take that idea and use it on a road bike, but this was no ordinary road bike.

The 750 four cylinder engine would rev to 12,500 rpm producing over 125HP on the base model and 140HP on the SPR model. It didn’t hit the maximum torque figure until 10,500 rpm.

The frame is a piece of Chrome Moly artwork, and the engine block was designed to be as narrow as possible to reduce overall drag. The exhaust came from Tamburini spending a day stripping Castiglioni’s Ferrari to see how they had designed its exhaust and resulted in the unique 4 under seat silencer design that was one of this bikes most noticeable features.

The single sided swingarm is another. Built from Magnesium alloy, as well as being gorgeous it weighs just 3kg. Even the aluminium version used on the F4S only weighed 4.5kg.

I could go on waxing lyrical about almost every component used on the early F4’s as it really was a collection of the best of everything, put together by one of the industries most renowned designers.

You could see this bike as the result of all the efforts the Castiglioni brothers had put into motorcycles and racing over the years. They had nurtured the Cagiva brand, rescued Ducati, resurrected MV Agusta and put everything they had learned into building the F4. That is the sort of dedication that deserves the utmost respect. They helped to make the Italian motorcycle industry what it is today.

Benelli Tornado Tre 900 2002

Now I know this next bike is another one that will split opinions and I am in no way saying it was without flaws. However, the Benelli Tornado Tre is in my view one of the most beautiful bikes ever built.

Andrea Merloni had taken on the job of reviving the company in 1995, and by 2000 had reached a point where he thought Benelli could compete at World Superbike level, so a race team was born.

The 3 cylinder water cooled engine produced over 140 HP and had torque figures that rivalled the big V-Twins from Ducati and Aprilia so in theory it was the best of both worlds. It did score points, but was never on the podium. However, what it did, was give Benelli a great opportunity to perfect the road bike.

The bike was designed around a minimum drag concept and in an “out of the box” moment, the whole cooling system was turned around so that 2 small fans on the back tail unit would suck air through a rear mounted radiator linked to the engine by long coolant lines.

The bike went through many changes and although the build quality was good the consistency and reliability of the bike was questionable at times.

The bike grew to 1130 cc and the bigger engine produced 163 HP . The new bigger Tornado looked more muscular all around. It has a very distinctive headlight shape made up of 2 vertically mounted projector lights in a thin vertical strip at the front of the pointed nose.

This bike does have a very distinct style and sound all of its own.

Moto Guzzi MGS01 2003-2004

This next bike is another anomaly from Moto Guzzi. The MGS 01 is the mutant child of Ghezzi and Brian and the “Style Laboratory” set up by Moto Guzzi to explore more radical approaches and new technology.

Built around the air cooled 4 valve transverse V-Twin engine from the Centauro and Daytona and the 6 speed box from the V11, every inch of this motorcycle was built from the ground up.

High compression 3 segment cosworth pistons and a 15 litre air-box pushed power up to 122 HP but again it was the torque of this muscular engine that shone through.

The swingarm is a striking piece of brutalist art. Valves were made from nickel chromium superalloys for better thermal stability and it had ceramic coated cylinder bores. Bushings were replaced with bearings too.

Despite the massive engine the whole bike weighed in at just 192kg dry, so about 210kg with a full tank. Weight distribution was kept as balanced as possible with just a 200gram weight difference front to rear.

Brembo Radial calipers with Ohlins suspension front and back and a 56.1 inch or 1445mm wheelbase gave this the handling of a pure sport-bike but with every part of the design on show.

It is still a modern looking design over 20 years on, so you can imagine the impact it had at the time. Show after show the crowds poured around them, but above all else, this was a riders bike.

Now I am going to have to make this one the last one on the list for now. I may come back in the future to add more but it is endless when you love Italian bikes like I do.

Moto Morini Corsaro 2005 and 2013


So last for today we have the Moto Morini Corsaro made between 2005 and 2013.

The design concept was comprehensive. It read that “this motorcycle” should show how “Power and Elegance”, “Solidity and Agility” and “Tradition and the future” can exist in harmony in a motorcycle design.

Cradling the engine is a classic Verlicci inspired trellis chassis built from wide bore tubing which almost mocks the lighter tubing of the Ducati Monsters chassis. The engine too is a V-Twin, but an 1187cc, 87 degree V-Twin, designed by Franco Lambertini. The Bialbero engine was the centrepiece of this bike. Brutally strong, it produced a massive 123Nm of torque at 6500 rpm and pulled to 140 HP at the 8,500 rpm redline.

Front suspension was top spec Marzocchi, USD forks with 50mm stems, and rear suspension was a high tech German Sachs unit. Brembo brakes and wheels finished off the package in style and helped to make this one of the most muscular looking naked bikes coming out of Italy at the time.

This bike is in my opinion one of the best and purest examples of motorcycle design at its best. It took the concept of the already successful monster and just gave it more muscles. Who could argue with that approach?

Final words

Well I got to the mid 2000’s this time so I guess there will have to be another video at some point to cover the newer bikes that haven’t got a look in yet.

There are plenty and so it will take time thinning them out.

But I will get there when I can.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the video and aren’t too annoyed if I didn’t include a bike you had hoped I would. I do try to show you some of the less noticed bikes as well as the ones we all know and love. What I consider the best is not always the most famous. Otherwise I would be listening to Boyzone not Primus.

Thanks for watching and if you’ve got this far please like the video so we know you’ve enjoyed it. If you haven’t seen it already, part 1 looks at some of the earlier Italian Supermodel Motorcycles, and you can follow the link at the end, it is definitely worth checking out.

Take a look on the channel for more news, views and adventures from the world of motorcycles.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss the next videos ,and do share the video with anyone you think will be interested if you could too.

The renaissance of the Italian motorcycle industry was an exciting time to ride and there is plenty more to come from the newer bikes. I promise I will get there at some point.

You can visit the website or the Redbubble shop linked in the description for the best biker T Shirts and other merchandise too. There are brand specific shop fronts with designs for Laverda, Ducati, Cagiva, MV Agusta, Moto Guzzi and Benelli, there are some new Bimota designs up now too.

There are also more exciting motorcycle adventures, and other stories from the shed and beyond on the website, as well as the channel, so why not grab a cuppa and take a look around.

You won’t be disappointed.

I hope you get some great riding in and find some fantastic roads

Ride Free everyone

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