Champing at the bit to replace the aging Monster 620, Ducati will proffer the Monster 695 as an early release 2007 model. The centerpiece of the upgrade is a new 73 hp L-twin desmodromic motor that, according to a Ducati representative, has “the highest output per cubic centimeter of all our Ducati air-cooled engines.”
How brilliantly audacious for legendary Italian manufacturer Benelli, resuscitated from the brink of dissolution just a few years ago, to blast back onto the scene with an all-new machine bearing the sinfully appropriate TNT nomenclature. It is a bold statement born from a company that, since its inception in 1911, has endured a tale of exalted success and melancholic near ruin.
From its introduction in 2004, Honda's CBR1000RR (labeled in Europe as the “Fireblade”) has always been a light, agile machine with astounding acceleration. In normal street riding and occasional track excursions, the bike produced far more performance than most of us could fully tap, but somehow it was tamed into a real-world package. Make no mistake, this weapon astonished, and delighted all but the most battle-hardened veteran of the superbike wars.
When Polaris industries launched Victory Motorcycles in the mid-1990s, the upstart did not exactly cause The Motor Company to quake in its engineer boots. Polaris made snowmobiles, personal watercraft and ATVs—scarcely a threat to the primacy of the big boys in Milwaukee. In 1998, Victory introduced the first all-new, mass-production, American-made street bike in over 60 years. Despite listless sales, Polaris persisted, knowing that something big was on the horizon.
The Spanish Andalusian countryside is an endless rhythm of hills, ancient trees and bleached medieval cities—possibly one of the last places one would expect to establish a world-class racetrack. Yet, after months of searching, Dutch racing enthusiast Klaas Zwart, a resident of Marbella, discovered the future home of his Ascari Race Resort while piloting a Eurocopter 130 above the virgin terrain just outside of Ronda.
Because testosterone-fueled monikers like Monster, Firebolt, and Intruder abound, it seems natural that MV Agusta would christen its no-holds-barred machine the Brutale. While first generation Brutales boasted gorgeous design and crisp handling, the 749cc motor came up a bit short on torque and horsepower.
To the disappointment of a number of adherents, the K 1200 GT vanished from the BMW motorcycle lineup in 2005. Striving to satisfy the open-class sport touring enthusiasts, BMW has revived the K 1200 GT designation, assigning it to a wholly redesigned machine. A close cousin of the K 1200 S sportbike, the new GT shares its in-line 4-cylinder motor (albeit in a torquier state of tune), frame, and suspension components with the S.
Of all the classes and categories that exist in motorcycling, none is as hotly contested among manufacturers as that of the supersports. Middleweight sportbikes represent the cornerstone of street-going product in the United States, with bragging rights and consumer demand driven directly by success on the racetrack.
It may seem naive to assume truth in advertising, but MV Agusta's description of its bikes as “contemporary motorcycle art” can be regarded as reliable: Its F4 1000 Tamburini—named for Massimo Tamburini, the designer of watershed sportbikes such as the Ducati 916—might be the most technologically advanced motorcycle available today.
The tangerine red Ducati Monster S2R parked in front of a small café in the hills outside Fermignano, Italy, quickly attracted the admiration of two stout, elderly men. One of them furrowed his brow in deep concentration, carefully choosing words from his charming economy of English. “In America, Harley-Davidson is patriotism; in Italy, Ducati is religion.” That elegantly encapsulated the reverence with which Italians regard Ducatis, an esteem that verges on the sacrosanct.
We all fantasize about creating the ultimate bike, one that combines the improbable ideas we dream up during commutes, long flights, or while lying on a beach. For most of us these chimeras remain unrealized, but occasionally someone surfaces with the drive, determination, and—above all—the resources to build a dreambike.
Fire up the radial-valve 998cc 4-cylinder motor of the MV Agusta F4 Tamburini (MT4), and you will know that this masterpiece of design, bristling with technological innovation, must be Italian.