Milan Show Mania - Best of Italy 2007

Ducati steals the show-- with a little help from its friends

The 64th International Motorcycle Exhibition in Milan promised to be filled with new Italian motorcycles, and it did not disappoint. The all-new, 160-horsepower Ducati 1098 Superbike (Motorcyclist, January) was one of the highlights of the show, looking especially lovely in its S-model's tricolore paint scheme. But lurking in the NCR booth was a Ducati-powered special that should prove no less appealing to Americans. Nicknamed New Blue, it's a replica of Old Blue, the historic 750SS campaigned by Cycle magazine's Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling in the 1970s.

Commissioned by Ducati to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Neilson's 1977 Daytona Superbike win, New Blue began life as a Sport 1000S. NCR stripped the bike to race trim, boosted output by 30 bhp and trimmed weight by an astounding 84 pounds. The company will build a limited number of replicas for the American market. They won't be cheap.

Aprilia has been quiet of late, but presented two new models and a new engine in Milan. Many expected the Noale-based firm to debut a Tuono 750, but the new naked bike bears the name Shiver after one of the company's early prototypes. It's powered by a brand-new, 90-degree V-twin that produces a claimed 95 bhp and 60 pound-feet of torque. The frame is a mixed trellis/aluminum construction and the complete bike allegedly weighs 416 lbs dry.

Aprilia's other new model is the Mana 850, which is similar to the Shiver but features a seven-speed automatic transmission. Push a button and you can switch to sequential shifting, with your choice of push-button or foot-pedal shifting. Its engine is tuned for torque, pumping out around 75 bhp and 75 lb.-ft. Under the tank there's room for a helmet or other items you'd usually need a scooter or big tourer to carry.

Also on show was a new, 999cc, V-four superbike engine projected to produce more than 210 bhp at 13,500 rpm, with titanium and nymonic valves in each cylinder, a six-speed, cassette-type gearbox and a fly-by-wire-ready ECU from Magneti Marelli. Aprilia will commence testing of the engine in a brand-new chassis this spring, and the first finished version should be on show next year at Milan in anticipation of a 2008 attack on the World Superbike crown.

Aprilia's sister company, Moto Guzzi, showed the new 8V Griso; a sportier version of the Griso 1100. Like the original prototype, it's powered by an eight-valve V-twin that in 1200cc guise is said to produce 110 bhp. To complement the sporty riding position and the extra speed available, the 8V comes with radial brake calipers, the first Guzzi to be so equipped.

Other new models included the 1200 Sport, which is basically a return to classic Guzzi sportbikes such as the V11 Le Mans, plus the 940 Custom with twin pipes and a shorter wheelbase than on the California cruisers. Guzzi will also have a Norge 850 tourer based on the Breva 850 in its '07 range.

Piaggio is Aprilia's and Moto Guzzi's parent company, and it showed the MP3 400ie, a big scooter with three wheels (two front, one rear) for added security. A sportier, large-displacement version of the same concept was badged as the Gilera Fuoco 500ie. Gilera also showed a new, long-wheelbase, 800cc scooter called the GP800.

The last and most famous brand in Piaggio's portfolio is Vespa, which had a stand at Milan that was too extravagant to miss. On show was the new Vespa S (for special) scooter, accompanied by lovely ladies in black dinner dresses and jewelry. Very Audrey Hepburn.

Bimota displayed the latest version of the groundbreaking, hub-steered Tesi called the 3D. It follows the pattern of the Tesi 1D and 2D but substitutes a trellis front swingarm and, as on the '07 DB5 models, the latest Ducati DS 1100 engine. The Rimini-based company will produce 30 examples of the show version and then another 100 next year.

Moto Morini has yet to arrive in the USA but has made waves in Europe, its Corsaro 1200 winning a host of naked-bike comparisons. New at Milan was the MM3, a concept bike based on the Corsaro that moves in the direction of the Ducati Multistrada. Also shown was the Veloce, basically a Corsaro with some fancy performance extras.

Benelli showed the same new models as at October's Cologne Show: the parallel-twin Due 756, 449 BX dirtbike and the new 899 engine for the TnT naked bike and Tre-K adventure-tourer. Also on display was the prepared Tre 1130 K Amazonas the Brazilian importer will use on a 9000-mile journey in the Amazon delta in South America.

Last and likely smallest of the Italian manufacturers was Terra Modena, whose 198 Reverse derives its name from the number of its cylinders (1), its bore (98mm) and its counter-rotating balance shaft. Reportedly designed by Piero Ferrari, son of the late Enzo Ferrari, the 500cc single has a claimed output of around 60 bhp. The supermoto-style bike is littered with exotic parts from tip to toe-just look at the solid carbon-fiber wheels. If you have $29,000 to spend on a single, this is your bike.

Not every motorcycle at the Milan Show was Italian, however. Spanish manufacturer Derbi surprised show-goers with the Mulhacen Xvision, which features four cameras-one up front, one in back and one on each side-with which to tape your ride or your riding buddies. A dash-mounted LCD screen lets you keep tabs on the action and doubles as a rearview mirror. Talk about virtual reality...

NCR Ducati New Blue
Aprilia Shiver 750
Aprilia Mana 850
Moto Guzzi 8v Griso
New Bikes '07Ducati's 1098 Superbike broke cover in the days leading up to Milan, but the tricolore S version still came as a surprise. Its high-tech gauge package lets you download 2MB of data.
Bimota Tesi 3d
Can there be more lovely a machine than a Bimota Tesi? The new 3D version features a tubular front swingarm and Ducati's latest 1100cc Dual Spark motor.
Derbi Mulhacen Xvision
Terra Modena 198
Can there be more lovely a machine than a Bimota Tesi? The new 3D version features a tubular front swingarm and Ducati's latest 1100cc Dual Spark motor.