Now listen carefully class, first up we have a history lesson for you. In 1937, Alfonso Morini began manufacturing two-wheeled sporting conveyances, which he called Moto Morini. His creations were very successful, and many other well-known two-wheeled conveyances of the time were blown away by these masterful machines. So much so that the great Giacomo Agostini began his racing career on a Moto Morini.
The photo on the left shows a 1975 500cc model.
But, alas, success was not enduring. Blame it on the Japanese, or blame it on other European competitors, or blame it on the lack of R&D finances inevitably suffered by smaller manufacturers, but by the time the 1970s rolled into the 1980s, the proud marque was in trouble. In 1987 the company was sold, and gradually faded into oblivion.
Then in 1999, the Moto Morini brand was bought by a company owned by Alfonso’s nephew, Franco. And in 2004, Moto Morinis began to roll off the production-line once again. Then in late 2007, the marque was re-introduced to the Australian market.
They came back with two models; the Corsaro 1200 and the curiously-named 9 ½. Both are naked bikes, with the Corsaro being the more overtly sporty of the two. It’s 1200cc engine develops a healthy 103kw, and the general style and seating etc all say “naked sports-bike”.
The 9 ½ is still “naked sports-bike”, but less so. You notice the difference most perhaps in the seat, which is less sports-style and more comfortable.
From the name you’d assume the engine would be a 950cc. Nope; it’s the same 1200cc mill the Corsaro uses. In the Corsaro it’s been tweaked for a few extra horses, but otherwise they’re the same. The name is apparently a throw-back to previous models like the 3 ½. To those who remember them, it’s a link to the past. To others it’s just weird and misleading!
I got to sample the Moto Morini when the company brought some test models to the local dealer. There is some sort of marketing link with the Benelli brand, which are apparently owned by a Chinese company, (although I think they’re still made in Italy), and there were a couple of those along for the ride too.
The Moto Morini rep said that Moto Morini has one of the best testing-facilities in Europe, and other manufacturers have been using these facilities. This, he said, ensured that the brand had top build-quality. As an example he mentioned the bolts holding the throttle assembly. They’d found that, on the current models, the bolts had begun to rust. So they quickly ordered the bolts to be replaced with stainless-steel ones. Hmmm, okay, but ….. wouldn’t you think that something as simple as using bolts that wouldn’t rust would’ve been done right from production-run number one? I mean, use alloy, or stainless-steel, or just give them a good coat of paint; it ain’t rocket-science!
Looking around the bike I rode, I found other signs that suggested build-quality might not be as high as the rep would like us to believe. The most glaring example of this was the exhaust. Down underneath the engine the exhaust showed significant rust; as you can see in the photo. Oh, and the rusty throttle-assembly bolts were still there too. I thought this was pretty disappointing; especially for a demo-model presented to impress those who were there to evaluate it and ride it!
On the positive side, they do offer a 3-year unlimited-kilometre warranty. They also claim that the bikes have been designed in such a way as to make servicing very quick and easy; and therefore cheap. An example (although this goes beyond “servicing”) is the engine / transmission unit, which is made from a single casting. (The cylinders have wet-sleeve liners). The unit can be opened up at the bottom to allow easy access to the gearbox, without having to remove the cylinders. Having the engine / gearbox, which is a load-bearing unit, all made from a single casting also makes it stronger, Moto Morini claim, thereby allowing the frame to be made lighter.
I first put my name down to ride the Corsaro, but on closer inspection changed to the 9 ½. As indicated above, it is more user-friendly in seat and general ergonomics than the sportier Corsaro.
The ergonomics are quite good. The seat is comfortable, and the riding-position fairly up-right. It’s a comfortable bike, although it feels a bit “compact” perhaps. The bars are fairly wide, which offers good control, but they did feel a bit strange. They seem to turn upwards at the end. And was it my imagination, or was the left side higher than the right?
The mirrors are small and round. Silly! Also lacking a bit on practicality is the tail-light, which comprises a thin row of LEDs. Yes, I know LEDs are supposed to be brighter than globes, but I reckon this thin strip of light would be hard to see.
Instruments include the usual analogue tacho and digital speedo. Included in the digital display are, so I’m told, two trip-meters and a trip-computer that gives readings for average speed, lap times, and ambient temperature. There’s also a clock and a gear-indicator.
Front suspension is by Marzocchi, rear is by Paioli, brakes by Brembo, and exhaust by Termignoni. So some pretty impressive kit! Wheels are a uniquely-patterned spoke type, 17” of course, and carry the usual 120-section front tyre and 180-section rear. The frame is a very Ducati-ish trellis affair, and the whole show tips the scales at just 198kg.
But let’s get to the heart of the beast; that 1200cc Italian donk! Actual capacity is 1187cc, and it runs a compression-ratio of 12.5:1. This results in 86Kw of power, coming in at 8,500rpm, and 102Nm of torque developed at 6,700rpm.
Start the engine up and the exhaust emits a wonderful sound. An angry sound. Blip the throttle and it’s like an angry tiger snarling at you; “Grrowl! Grrowl!” I love it!
The route chosen by the dealer was very different to those used by other dealers in the area. Where most go through a mix of suburban roads and a bit of highway, this ride got us out of the traffic as soon as possible and onto a major up-hill highway section, then turned off onto some seldom-used back-roads which varied from tight-and-twisty to reasonable open straights. An ideal location to let the big Italian sportsters get out and play in their natural environment! So, what was it like?
Through the traffic the bike was pretty easy to ride. The only problem I had was with the gearbox; neutral was hard to find. Once on the move though, the changes were smooth and easy.
And speaking of gearbox, the bike is geared quite high. Around town I was often in 2nd or even 1st through the traffic. Top (of 6) is geared at 29kph per 1,000rpm; with 5th being just a tad lower at 27kph per 1,000rpm. That gear-indicator is useful!
The bike pulls well from low down, although prefers to be above 3,000rpm. It accelerates well from pretty much anywhere, but get it up above 6,000rpm and the engine smoothes out and it really starts to fly!
While “softer” than the Corsaro, this is still a sports-bike, so you’d expect the suspension to be fairly firm, and it is. Any reasonable-sized bump brought a thump through the bars and seat. Bumps mid-corner made it wriggle a bit; although it always felt stable.
Handling is good, of course. (Would you expect an Italian sports-bike not to be?). Although it would take some getting used to. In corners it seemed to respond better to shifting your body-weight than it did to simple counter-steering.
Brakes, of course, were excellent!
As I mentioned, the test-route allowed the bikes to get out and play; and play they did! The lead-rider kept up a good pace, both through the twisties and on the straights. Behind him there were some interesting shenanigans going on! A few bikes got caught up in traffic, and more than made up for it when we left the cars and there was nothing but tarmac and trees. I was towards the front when we turned onto the back roads, but got dusted-off by a few of the bikes behind me. I was going a bit slower than the lead rider through the corners, but that gave me a good opportunity to open it up on the straights. Good fun! The riders behind me might have been a bit frustrated at this, but they just wound on even more speed to get past. As I said, interesting shenanigans! At one stage I was slowing down from about 130kph and a woman on a Benelli went ripping past at what must have been well over 160kph! (What? The Old Bloke dusted off by a woman? Why would I be embarrassed? She was a lot younger; and the Benelli was more powerful anyway!).
The wind-pressure wasn’t too bad, for a naked. At around 110 – 120kph it was windy but not bad. I had it up to about 140kph and the wind was still pretty good for a naked.
So there it is; Moto Morini is back! And what do I think of the 9 ½? Well, as a naked sports-bike, it’s a good thing; and more practical, as a day-to-day ride, than the more sports-focused Corsaro. At $18,990 (plus on-roads) it isn’t cheap. No Italian sports-bike is! But I do have some reservations about the quality. The obvious competitor is Ducati, and while they might be just a bit more expensive for an equivalent model, I think the build-quality is probably a bit better. Good to see them back though!

Ridden 2008

UP-DATE 2010
No changes have been made - just detail quality-control issues as mentioned in the test here. That is, if you can find one! There were problems with the local importers going broke and so the whole distribution of Moto Morini was thrown into confusion. However there are dealers listing them again, so they are available. Dealers are a bit thin-on-the-ground though.
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