Five Top Italians


Moto Guzzi V7 Sport (below)
I first saw one of these long and low stunners basking next to a tent at an early ’90s Bulldog Bash. A churning hit my guts that was unrelated to days of semi-ferral survival on hoof ’n’ eyelid burgers and rough keg bitter. I was in love. Yes, I liked the later Le Mans, but back then Guzzis rumbled beneath my radar. This earlier bike’s all-new chassis and engine mods improved hugely all Guzzis that followed. It’s a 120mph race-bred gem that when released in 1971 was fast, exotic and twice the price of a Honda CB750 Four. A few years after the campsite encounter, I bought one cheap, in bits. We’re still married.

Ducati 900SS
There are rarer versions of the big sporty 1970s Dukes, but this one has always done it for me. Lean and muscular, like a whippet on steroids, it barks a deep bass thud through barely-silenced Conti megaphones that spit trouser-flapping, chest-punching pulses. The stretch to the clip-ons is like assuming the position prior to something unspeakable, but being stretched across that tank as the long-legged torque from the desmo V-twin makes all around you go blur and boom is what riding is all about, isn’t it?

Bimota Tesi 3D
You’ve got to give it to Bimota, for a little firm they’ve got massive, well, let’s say gnocchi. When they debuted a concept of their freaky hub-centre-steered creation at the Milan Show in 1983, it’s argued that it so overshadowed their other models that the punters kept their money in their pockets to await the production version, thus bankrupting the firm. The Rimini factory’s fortunes have since gone up and down like a bride’s nightie, but they’re still there and this latest incarnation of the Tesi, the Ducati 1100-powered 3D, is a weird and beautiful praying mantis in metal. Love it.

MV Agusta Magni 850
When Phil Read won MV’s last 500cc title in 1974, grand prix bikes looked like this. I was nine years old and it had a lasting impact (as did Wendy Johnson showing me her gerbil behind the shed, but I digress). Arturo Magni was MV’s last race boss and when the firm closed in the late ’70s he started creating heavily-modded versions of the slightly disappointing 750S road bikes. Loads of neat features, including a great chassis, the swap to chain drive and those swooping, barely-silenced pipes. Forget the price. I’d have to sell a kidney from every member of my extended family, which might be deemed unethical. I’ll continue to dream.

Aprilia RSV4 Factory

Not a typical choice for me. I’m often left cold by bikes that so humble my abilities I can hardly see the point of them. But the Factory gets my vote for its bogglingly high spec, buttock-clenching performance and yet at a price that, while not cheap, isn’t outrageous given what you get. It’s cramped, loud, ridiculous for the road and probably says something unfortunate about the size of my manhood, but there you go. Oh, and given that Aprilia is part of the Piaggio group, I love that such exotica is essentially funded by sales of humble little scooters.