In 1911, the widow “Mama” Theresa Benelli gambled the family assets on the Benelli Garage, a modest Pesaro workshop that she hoped would marshal the talents of her six sons repairing automobiles, motorcycles and quaintly enough, firearms. Through the 1920s, the Bros. Benelli were famous for building and racing motorcycles. By the 30s, Benelli had ascended to the Italian Pentarchia (the big five of the bike industry) along with Garelli, Moto Guzzi, Gilera and Bianchi.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the racetrack, or so it goes. Recently, on my way to Thunderhill Park Raceway in Northern California, I decided to visit the Monterey Peninsula and say hello to my friend Dan Kyle of Kyle Racing Engines. In a conversation about what's new, Dan showed me the daily ride he's using to get back and forth between home and shop. At first look, in the dark confines of the shop, I thought it was merely a cleaned up Kawasaki ZX-10.
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.
Since the reintroduction of Triumph motorcycles in the mid-1980s, the English motorcycle manufacturer has continued to make pragmatic, measured movement forward with its motorcycle model lineup. Its engines have grown gradually larger and more powerful, the styling slowly has become more modern, and sales figures have continued to climb. Triumph built its loyal fan base with reliable, enjoyable motorcycles, but it also established a reputation for having a relatively conservative nature.
While the Japanese manufacturers set superbike standards with lightweight, high-horsepower production motorcycles showcasing futuristic technology developed on the racetrack, Italian bike builders created a signature niche with handmade, race-inspired motorcycles that fit like exquisitely tailored suits. But German BMW long scoffed at the crotch rocket tradition, declining to engage in such two-wheeled games. Until now. BMW has finally entered the high-speed fray with the introduction of its new K 1200 S.