They may be a huge sales success, but big trail bikes come with a lot of baggage more often that not, literally. These big, ugly, heavy, serious lumps of metal have a certain degree of pomp to them, partly influenced by the people who ride them, but also due to their considerable price, sober styling and functional intentions. In building a machine to go the long way down, round, through or over, these machines harbor so little character that the journey becomes the event, rather than the bike itself. All of which is fine in itself, but while solemn rides and earnest journeys enable you to see the world, they hardly stir the soul. For all the excellence of the BMW Rl 20QGS and the like, one thing they aren’t, is adrenaline-fuelled.
The solution? Sneak a rip-roaringly fun motor into a jacked-up sports chassis, dress it appropriately, stick a fascist-hijacked eagle on the motif of your machine and laugh yourself silly on any ride; be it on a shoot to the shops or a country-long slog. Triumph adopted this approach, albeit without the eagle motif, when it had a rethink of the successful Triumph Tiger, and now Moto Morini has adapted likewise, producing the new Granpasso, a frivolous take on the genre with accompanying mischievous intentions.
The grand old firm, in its new modern guise, may be little more than an engine at the minute, but when it’s as good and as flexible as the Bialbero Corsa Corta 1.187cc 87-degree V-twin, then who cares? Having seen action in the rippling Corsaro, the near perfect 91/2 and the retro 1200 Sport this hermit crab of a motor finds a surprisingly willing home in the Granpasso. New pistons, smaller valves, less aggressive cams and a re-map are the engine’s concessions to its new environment – not that you’d know as you fly through a blanket of autumnal colors. Only when you get close to the bike’s 8.250rpm redline are you reminded that there’s not quite as much of a rush at top that in the sportier bikes in the range.
Tall and lanky it may be, but this is no fledgling Bambi trying to find its feet. Indeed, it’s business as usual for the power-plant, meaning creamy delivery and plenty of punch wherever you look for it, whether it’s lazily cruising in top, hustling between villages or crawling through traffic, the motor behaves at all times – allowing you to misbehave at will. Be it 4mph or 144mph, the Granpasso simply delivers.
With its friendly fuel injection, nice pipe and slipper Moto Morini is really on to a winner with this engine, and should be commended for not ruining the formula. The odd idiosyncratic moment isn’t beyond it, mind; neutral lights illuminated when it’s in gear, occasions when it won’t start on the button without reinitiating the key, the bike slightly hunting for fuel on a constant throttle at high revs, almost anticipated an overtake. But for the thumping good fun it offers these minor niggles can be all but ignored.
Perilous on mud
The Granpasso’s off-road styling, is pretty much that, styling. I’m sure that it could cope with smooth gravel fire roads no problem, but at 210 kilos dry, and with so much power, life on mud is perilous to say the least. Still, BMW has proved that this sector sells regardless of whether they ever get dirty or not, and in aping the GS’s rough silhouette Morini is certainly in the ball park. It’s no oil painting, but with its bulbous headlight eyes and slick angles, it’s on the agreeable side of quirky. In white with its red trellis frame, it looks much better than the dour grey job here.
It works once you’re on board too, if you can cope with the slightly badly positioned footrests interfering with an above average seat height
The chassis is the same as 9.5 but with more relaxed geometry and the bike uses un-adjustable Marzocchi forks and a fully adjustable Ohlins shock. It should be the other way round as the ride at the front isn’t as sophisticated as it should be while the rear copes with no trouble. Over rough surfaces the forks don’t support the bike well enough, causing a harsh ride when it really should be floating over the road’s imperfections. Get it on a smooth surface and the Grandpas fares much better. Despite a 19-inch front wheel, 150-section rear rubber and Metzeler Tourance EXP tires, the Morini loves being flung about and could really embarrass sports bike riders on cross country rides – the spirit of the brand’s livelier bikes is alive and kicking in the Grandpas. Allied to this is the naughty motor, which wills happily wheelie out of slow corners or ping you skywards off crests.
A set of Brembo calipers at the front match the bike well, and are typical of the thought that’s gone into this machine. Neat little design touches, like the grab rails incorporating the rear indicators although they’re not the most visible flashers you’ll seal, the massive 25-liter tank, and the little crash protectors on the tank are all indicative of style and substance living in a happy harmony. It’s practical too, with long 7,000-mile gaps between services, easy access to the motor and Morini itself being interested in its after sales service. A bit more weather protection and a better turning circle would really be the last pieces of the puzzle.
World domination enterprises
Somehow, Moto Morini remains the best kept secret in motorcycling. Bologna’s second manufacturer remains firmly in the shadow of its big, red brother but perhaps the Grandpas is the bike that will propel the firm into a more prominent position. Its intentions are never of world domination, but of an efficient factory building intelligent, creative bikes with fervent passion.
Being both flexible and fruity at the same time, the Grandpas open Morinis market up to a whole new customer whose eyes glaze over at the thought of buying a BMW GS or any of its rivals. Offering the sanity of its competitors, but with a wicked dual personality, the Grandpas are the bike that the class has been crying out for; a giant trailed with a giant personality.