With the warmer weather Im sure you have seen more and more motorcycles out on the streets so i thought id start out with a public service announcement. Please keep an eye out for bikes! They are considerably smaller and harder to see so be extra cautious. I’ve already seen a few people on their bikes getting cut off on the highway with people merging and not paying enough attention. It’s hard because of their size and speed in which they can change lanes and accelerate. Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about motorcycles. In the first volume we talked about some of the different genres of motorcycles and what I thought was cool. I thought I might go a little deeper into a few European manufacturers that I particularly like. I will mention again that I don’t ride nor have I ever ridden a bike so you are welcome to take my opinions with a grain of salt like always!
The first company i would like to talk about is a little one out of Italy you may have heard of, Aprilia. For me, this company is synonymous with road racing. When I think of MotoGP bikes this company is the first that comes to mind for me. Maybe its because im used to seeing them all decked out in racing colors and the name Aprilia across the tank and fairings. They just look like GP bikes. The company also offers other styles of bikes as well like the really cool “sport naked” style and enduros. Aprilia was founded soon after World War Two in a small province of Venice. The company started out as a small bicycle manufacturer but started producing small internal combustion engine powered “motorcycles” in 1968. The company produced their first motocross bike in 1970 and added Enduro, trials, and road bikes into their lineup in the 1980s. Aprilia launched their flagship superbike, the RSV Mille, in 1998 and soon was racing in the World Superbike Championship the year after. Since then Aprilia has enjoyed considerable success in road racing. Aprilia is a fairly small motorcycle company compared to other Global manufacturers but they have always done well in motorsport. Shortly after they were acquired by the Piaggio group Aprilia became the most successful motorcycle racing racing brand in history in 2010 surpassing another italian motorcycle manufacturer, MV Agusta. Aprilia is still a force to be reckoned with in road racing to this day.
Triumph motorcycles Ltd is the largest British motorcycle manufacturer and is located in Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK. It was actually founded by a couple of German guys and produced their first motorcycle in 1902, although they had been importing German made bicycles into England since 1885. The first All-Triumph motorcycle was released in 1905 and by 1907 Triumph had established itself in the road racing circuit. The First World War broke out 1914 and Triumph benefited with producing 30,000 bikes for the allied forces. These model H roadsters became known as the “trusty Triumph”. In 1936 the company split its car and motorcycle production up into two separate companies while also producing one of the most famous Triumph motorcycles in their history, the 500cc Speed Twin. Once again the government called on Triumph when the second World War broke out to build bikes for the allied forces. The factory was producing nearly 300 bikes a week at full tilt. Although the manufacturer changed hands numerous times over the years they were able to keep going. Through two World Wars, multiple bankruptcies, and even a fire in 2002 that destroyed huge parts of their factory, they were able to stay on their feet. Today they produce a range of bikes including modern classic bobbers, adventure enduro, cruisers, and my favorite, the Speed Triple.
Italians know how to make beautiful things and one of the most popular and recognizable motorcycle companies in the world, Ducati, is no exception. You might have noticed many of today’s motorcycle companies started off making bicycles but Ducati is a little different. The company, founded by three brothers, actually got their start making radio equipment in the northern italian town of Bologna. The company’s holdings were ruined during the Second World War but they emerged from it building motorized bicycles in the early 50’s. It didn’t take long before the company was making a name for themselves in motorsport. A lot of the brand’s racing success was due to the trick desmodromic valve system developed in house for their bikes. Ducati’s racing success continued through the 60’s and 70’s. The company was purchased in 1983 and merged with the Cagiva group, another motorcycle manufacturer. More new models were offered during this ownership, most notably the Monster line. They were purchased by an american group in the mid 90s and saw even more racing success in the World Superbike Series. Today the company produces multiple genres of bikes with the Monster line still leading sales for the most part. Ducati builds some of my personal favorites like the Monster, Diavel, and the Panigale. Ducatis superbikes have always been at the top of my motorcycle wish list and some of the best sounding V-twin engines out there!
Founded in 1945, MV Agusta was a branch of Agusta Aviation Company founded in 1923. The company’s founder, Count Giovanni Agusta passed away just four years after founding the aviation company leaving it to his four sons. One of them produced their first prototype in 1945 which was a small scooter. The family saw a need for cheap efficient modes of transportation by the end of the Second World War so they, like many, developed motorcycles for the public. Two of the four brothers were very interested in motorsport and built a bike in 1948 for the Italian Grand prix. Their bike won the race putting them on the map over night and the company won their first world championship in 1952! The brothers wanted to now build bikes to fund their racing habits. MV Agusta produced smaller cc “cafe racer” style motorcycles through the 1950’s and 1960’s. They eventually started building larger displacement bikes as demand for them went up in the late 60’s. Domenico Agusta passed away in 1971 and he was really the heart and soul of the company. They won their last grand prix in 1976 and were out of racing by the end of the season. MV sold their last bike in 1980 but the company was revived when the Cagiva group, same company who purchased Ducati years before, purchased the rights to the name in the early 90s. The company bounced around from owner to owner over the next 25 years including Harley Davidson and Mercedes AMG minority stock holding. They build some of the coolest looking bikes in my opinion like the F4 superbike and the naked Brutale.
I’m not saying that if you are going to buy a superbike it has to be European but you’d be a lot cooler if you did. Just kidding, I’m not knocking other countries manufacturers either but there is just something special about the Euro bikes. There is an aura around them that the Japanese bikes just don’t have. Whatever it is, I can see it. Someday I’ll own something with only two wheels. It will probably come after my kids are grown but that’s ok. Just like cars, I don’t Judge whatever it is you like to ride. Everyone has their own opinion on what is best and many have strong brand loyalty. As long as you enjoy what you ride, that’s all that matters. From all of us here at Gearbox, have fun, ride safe, and keep the shiny side up!