a load of bologna

Words and Pictures by Stelvio Verdiani

Editor's note: Stelvio, you may remember, was fortunate enough to ride the BMW K1200S around the Nurburgring last year. He went to the Bologna show and submitted this report in his own style. We liked it but the format doesn't really fit in with our corporate image. So we left it as it is...

Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ducati, Bimota, Imola, Misano, Fiorano. What do these names and places have in common? They are all from a region of northern Italy called Emilia-Romagna.

Just to give you an idea of what types of motorheads live in the region, I've personally seen a road (a public road) crossing the hills in the direction of Florence, where somebody had built concrete kerbs in a series of corners, and they were painted white and red.

If you move just a few kilometers out of Emilia-Romagna, in a region called Marche, you'll find the town of Pesaro, where Benelli is based, hometown of unforgettable Renzo Pasolini. And very close to Pesaro, the village of Tavullia, hometown of a young guy who calls himself "The Doctor", ever heard of him?

Emilia-Romagna is the land of motorsports, and Bologna, site of the oldest University in the world (est. 1088), city of the Two Towers (both of them leaning, but not as much as the tower of Pisa) and hometown of a guy called Pierfrancesco Chili, is the capital of Emilia-Romagna.

Every year, in early december, the expo district of Bologna hosts the Motor Show, the second largest car and bikes exhibition in Italy.

As the name says, it is more of a show than a real expo, and usually the space dedicated to cars is way much larger than the one dedicated to bikes. However, this year I had reasons to believe that more bike makes were going to be present, and that a few new models were to be introduced, so I took advantage of a day off at the office and headed for Bologna.

Well, the original plan was to go to Bologna by bike, as real men should, but the thought of 350 km in a cold and damp winter morning, plus another 350 back, in a dark, colder and damper winter evening made this old man chicken out and buy a round-trip ticket for a nice and warm (and cheap) italian train (the downside of it was to wake up a a quarter to four, to be at the station on time to catch the 4.55 train).

So, at half past nine, I was entering the gates of the expo district in Bologna, to visit the XX edition of the Motor Show.

First stop was of course going to be the bike area. First stop and first disappointment: no Yamaha, no Suzuki and, shock-horror, no Ducati!!

It is not uncommon that the Japanese are absent from the Motor Show, specially in years (like last year) in which the Milan expo is also held, but Ducati!! They are based about 5 km away, one of their sponsors is the City of Bologna!! What can I say? Too busy? Trouble with the budget?

I'll have to go back to Bologna, one of these days, and ask them. And while I'm there, I will take the chance to visit the Ducati Museum.

But ... wait a minute! I was wrong: Ducati is here, after all. It took a while to find them, and they only have one item on display, but it's good news they are finally coming out with something a bit cheaper than their standards.

And it comes with Loris Capirossi number, in Loris Capirossi size ...(sorry Loris, I just couldn't help writing it).

For unknown reasons, this Ducati was shown in the Polini minibikes area. First thing I noticed, even minibikes are sharing the true Motor Show spirit.

So, with Ducati sorted out, let's take a look at who else is present.

As usual, the largest area is occupied by Honda, with all their products on display (sports, off-road, touring, naked, supermotard, scooters, whatever), and the largest part of the Honda area is occupied by their best-seller: the Hornet 600.

Once again, despite being under serious attack by the new Yamaha FZ6 and by the Kawasaki Z750 the naked from Honda is the most sold motorcycle in Italy.


I'm not specially a fan of the Hornet 600, but this time they had a few specials on display, and I must admit that some of them were quite interesting and good looking.

Like one featuring twin peripheral brake discs on the front wheel, the new upside-down fork and a lot of chrome.

Or this one, featuring ... well, never mind ...

(I told you it's more of a show than an expo).

Honda was presenting several upgrades of existing models, but no major new model was introduced (oh, well, maybe a new scooter, but I don't think I can tell one from another).


I could not help noticeing that the top supersports model, the CBR1000RR Fireblade, which is just one year old, and is starting to do very well both in World and in AMA Superbikes, was going almost ignored.

The Repsol color scheme did not help. Nor did ... the rest.

What is it? Are we bikers getting a bit too hungry for new models?

Or maybe it is just disappointment with Honda, because none of the three bikes in the picture here below, despite all the money and all the power and the good riders, is wearing the crown of World Champion.

No wonder the girl sitting on Gibernau's bike does not look too happy.

By the way, beside the one on display at Honda, I counted at least another four specimens of Sete's bike (at Team Gresini and at various sponsors). That's millions of Euros. And yet, no title.

They had better luck (and probably much less espenses) with Andrea Dovizioso's 125 ...

... or with Karl Muggeridge CBR600RR

But this is enough space dedicated to Honda. It's time to move on and take a look at the only other Japanese manufacturer present at this year's Motor Show.



And that's Kawasaki.


Their area was delimited by two huge trucks, belonging to the two Superbikes and/or Supersports teams preparing for next year, Team Bertocchi and Team PSG-1.

First of all I had to check whether my 9-months old ZX-10R was getting obsolete by some new "2005 model".

No visible differences that I could detect. Good. It's always disappointing when you suddenly find out that your bike is the "old model". Not only my ZX-10R is still "new", but it still looks great when it's seriously set for racing.

"Ehm ..., Miss? Aren't your legs a bit too long for Superstock racing? You must spend a fortune on knee sliders .."

"Oh, they're alright. You should see the legs of my blonde colleague, and she's racing Supersports.."

Kawasaki was showing the quite good looking new ZX-6 Ninja, in the usual versions R (636 cc.) and RR (600 cc.), the 636 claiming 136 bhp @ 14000 rpm.




They are also introducing a Z750 with a cockpit, called Z750S.

Z750 has been a huge success in Italy: good looking, relatively cheap and quite powerful. I find that the naked Z750 still looks better than the Z750S (not as good as the Z1000, though), but we all know how nice it is to have some shelter from the wind.

We'll see how this Z750S will do next season.







We'll also see how Mauro Sanchini will do in World Superbikes, racing again on a ZX-10R, but this time with the team that used to race Ducati with Pierfrancesco Chili (PSG-1, and they are trying to keep their yellow color scheme).

That's all for Japanese manufacturers, folks. Oh, no wait a minute! There's another little japanese bike on display, almost hidden in the (rather dark) area of a tool maker who also serves Ferrari (you can see a glimpse of a F1 wheel in the top right corner of the picture).

Pity the owner was not in sight.

So, let's take a look at the Europeans. Let's go to Spain, first.

This girl was trying to dance me into buying an off-road Derbi 125.

And her colleague, was trying same in favor of a Derbi Muhlacen

According to italian magazines, this bike has been a huge success at Intermot in Munich. Several desingers, including Massimo Tamburini (designer of Ducati 916 and of all recent MV Agustas) were very impressed.

So much that it is now turning from a concept bike into a production model.


I don't know. I appreciate when someone is trying to create something new, but my favorite Derbi is still this one:

And speaking of successful, small GP bikes, let's now pay a visit to Aprilia.

Aprilia is undergoing some major financial turmoil, with bad effect on their marketshare both in motorbikes and in scooters. Accordingly, their area at the Motor Show was rather empty of visitors. It's a shame, because their products are very good. Look at this RSV1000.

As you can see, the expression of the girl reflects all the trouble of Aprilia. Now the property has changed hands, and large investments are announced: let's hope for the better.






How many of you remember Moto Morini?

Moto Morini was a glorious italian manufacturer, based in Bologna (less than one kilometer away from the Ducati plants of Borgo Panigale) and active until the late '80s. They were making a good 4-strokes motorbikes, up to 250 cc. I remember a good range of off-road competition bikes ("Corsaro" 100, 125 and 160 cc.) in times in which races were not yet dominated by 2-strokes, and a very nice "Corsarino" 50 cc., whose 4-stroke tiny engine was a little masterpiece. It came in sports and off-road versions, it had a beautiful sound and probably it could go from Bologna to Beijing and back without refueling.

The greatest success of Moto Morini, in the mid '70s, was a 350 cc. V twin called "3 1/2" ("Tre e mezzo"), a modern and quite sporty bike that dominated the italian market in times in which mid-range Japanese bikes were still subject to import restrictions.

The success of the 3 1/2 was so big that Morini had to give up production of all other models and convert all of their plants to build more and more 3 1/2. A few years later, they tried to evolve the 3 1/2 in a 500 cc. and to build a single-cylinder 250 cc. but the success of the original was not repeated, and they no longer had a baseline of models to fall back on, so, in a way, they were killed by their own success.

After years of silence, members of the Morini family, and a few engineers who had links with the old management, bought back the brand (which had been in various hands, including those of the Castiglioni brothers, former owners of Cagiva and Ducati), and started working on a new project.

These are serious guys, not like nowadays take-the-money-and-run ruthless businessmen. Their project is proceeding ahead of schedule, and the results were on display at the Motor Show.

Ladies and gentlemen, the "Corsaro 1200".

Twin 87-degrees V engine, 1187 cc., 140 bhp @ 9500 rpm, with a torque of 123 Nm @ 6500 rpm; 6 gears; 198 kg.

The color scheme, and the name, are a replica from the original Moto Morini range. And what about this?




This is Moto Morini "9 1/2" ("Nove e mezzo"). Same architecture as the "Corsaro", 998 cc., 105 bhp @ 9000 rpm, 98 Nm @ 6200 rpm, weight undeclared.

Look at the guys at the back of the picture: I'm not sure, but it seems to me that they speak with a strong Bolognese accent, and they have tears in their eyes.








Ok, enough for Bolognese nostalgia. But, in order to see a few more bikes I will have to move ... to the car area.

Next to this impressive, Hydrogen-powered monster, the guys of Bayerische Motoren Werke were introducing their new tourer R1200RT.

About 20 kg lighter and about 20 bhp more powerful than its predecessor, with the new rear suspension leverages introduced by R1200GS and K1200S, it also looks quite good.


It looks smaller than in pictures when you see it live. "Specially when you sit on it!". "Mhm, thanks for the information, miss".


The new K1200R, introduced at Intermot, was not present, but there was a naked K1200S frame and engine, which is more or less the same, isn't it?


This is one of the nice saddlebags that were designed for the K1200S. It's extensible, and it can carry a decent amount of luggage in style. The Germans are very good at these things.

That's it, for motorbikes. Let's see if there's anything else of interest in the BMW area. Well, maybe this:

(Don't kid yourself, you Brits: it's a BMW).

All I can do now, is to go for a stroll in the outdoors area of the Motor Show. This year there was a little trial acrobatics going on, courtesy of Honda ...

... and, like every year, they had transformed a big parking space into a multi-purpose racetrack.

The day I was there, some F3000 racing was held (as a 1-to-1 chrono). The program of the week includes some rallying, go-kart, all-stars Supermoto races, Honda, Subaru and BMW demos and passenger rides (some of them with another guy from Bologna, a certain Alex Zanardi,). Usually, the last weekend of the Motor Show hosts a

Ferrari F1 exhibition, with fast laps and timed pit-stops (last year they were timed to replace all 4 wheels in about 3 1/2 seconds).

On my way to the exit, I have to cross some more car show area, and I must admit, this Motorshow atmosphere almost convinced me into buying a car.

Maybe a sporty Alfa Romeo ...

... or even a small Lancia ...

... or one of many others, all engaged in a fierce competition about whose models were more ...

Out of the Motor Show, I still had some time before my return train, so I had a chance to go walking around Bologna.

If you come to Italy, I recommend you pay a visit to the town. Take a chance to visit Ducati, but also go see the Towers.

Walk the porches of Bologna streets

And go see Piazza Santo Stefano, with its three churches.

Or the Nettuno (Neptune) fountain. (What is Neptune doing here? The sea is 70 km away).

Or even the City Hall.

But I'm sure, while you walk around the street of the city center, going from one monument to another, you will notice another characteristic that makes Bologna famous all over the word: food.

One could gain a couple of kilos just standing in front of a window like this. "Some Parmigiano cheese, Sir?".

"Tortellini?" (it's the yellow things in the trays; stuffed pasta, Bologna speciality, served in a bouillon: "Tortellini in brodo")

"What about some ham? With a good glass of Sangiovese (red wine from Romagna)"

"Some arrosto, with a souffle'?"

"And a dessert, to top it up."

So, if you decide to visit Bologna, for the Motor Show, or to visit the Ducati museum, or to complain at the factory for the typical "red bag of nails" noise of Ducati's disengaged clutches, or just because it's Bologna, drop me a line. I can give you directions to a couple of restaurants ...

Copyright © Motorbikestoday.com 2004. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Motorbikestoday.