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Bike Review - Posted 6th November 2015
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Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport

A wet and windy classic trackday at the Snetterton 200 circuit proves the worth of a cartridge fork conversion, a digital speedo and some reproduction silencers. Martin Gelder is still drying his socks...

I'm catching the bike in front as we tiptoe through the slick and tight Montreal chicane that leads onto the Snetterton 200 back straight. I can see the surface water being kicked up by its tyres as the rider gingerly applies the throttle and then it steams away from me as its superior power makes itself felt. Morini's 344cc pushrod vee-twin is never going to compete with six double overhead cam cylinders, 24 valves and 1,000cc of Honda's nineteen seventies flagship.

Flat out down the Bentley straight, I'm tucked in as tight as my sedentary stomach allows, trying to cheat the headwind. Ahead of me (a along way ahead of me) the Honda's brake light flickers on as it approaches the 300 metre marker board. I keep the Morini's throttle wound hard against the stop and watch the digits on the speedo tick up towards 80mph. Don't laugh. I flash past the 300 board where the Honda braked, past the 200 board, and then.. bang, hard on the front brake and change down as the front end dips and the tyre cuts through the water. I'm still braking through the Brundle left hander, then give a squirt of throttle before changing down again for the tighter Nelson right hander.

The Honda is closer now and the Morini is much quicker through the Bomb-Hole. I ran too close to the apex last time round and the bike squirmed as the tyres and suspension fought to keep the bike in line. This time I stay a little wider and get a clean run through the gears into the never ending Corams right hander. The CBX rider is tentative, I'm on a mission.

I pass him round the outside and pull clear before we have to brake for the tight Murrays hairpin. I run the Morini to the redline through the gears along the start-finish straight but we're barely level with the first of the pit buildings before the CBX flashes past. If I leave my braking as late as possible and then hold a little more speed through the fast right of Riches, maybe next lap I'll be able to catch the Honda at the start of Corams rather than the end, and make my pass stick.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport

It's the end of November, it's raining, it's windy, water is seeping in through my boots and gloves, but there's nowhere I'd rather be than this classic trackday. There's a different crowd here than the usual Beezumph / Morini Club / Mallory Festival regulars; the bikes are a bit more modern, speeds a bit higher and the 'race' group is filled with teams who will be competing in a four hour classic endurance race in a couple of days time. I was in two minds about bringing the Morini, the weekend's smallest trackday entrant by far, but in the end it acquitted itself very well, able to match some of the 1,000cc bikes it was sharing a track with and, I'm told, sounding magnificent through the gears past pitlane.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport Some of the other bikes in the 'slow' group

This was my second trackday of the year; the first was an initially tentative outing at the Morini Riders' Club event at Cadwell Park. The cartridge emulators fitted to the Marzocchi forks last year had been modified and while still stiff for road riding they proved themselves confidence inspiring on the track. Second time round, at Snetterton, the reworked forks really came into their own on the wet track, allowing me to brake later and later as the day went on, while still transmitting feel to the clip-ons. The front suspension is now very good for track riding but in need of some fine tuning (perhaps a bit less high-speed compression damping) to deal with the harsher bumps and ripples found on normal roads. At times it feels as though the forks are simply kicking the bike up when it hits a small bump rather than deflecting and allowing the wheel to track the road while the bike remains stable. I'm still using the thinnest fork oil I can find (2.5W) so there's room to enlarge the damping holes and then use thicker oil if necessary to regain feel and control.

And finally, I can admit that the Bridgestone BT45 tyres I've been using for many years are past their best. They still grip well but the profile of the rear in particular has worn away, something I could feel in the quicker bends at Snetterton. I'll stick with Bridgestones as I like their feel, but it'll be interesting to see what difference a new pair makes come the spring.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport

The other change to the Morini this year apart from the last minute paint-job and shiny new tank badges is the digital speedometer and tachometer, after the old speedo made a bid for freedom while the bike was on a trailer. Who knew that the only thing holding the speedometer in its binnacle was the cable? The 90 degree cable drive was broken and when I got home, the speedo was gone. This gave me a bit of an excuse to fit something a bit different, and a lot smaller. I went for a basic ACE-3100 from acewell.co.uk . It has a digital speedometer, a bar-graph tachometer, an odometer and tripmeter, a clock and a gentle blue backlight. It was easy enough to plumb into the Morini's electrics and the standard speedo cable is replaced with an electronic sender so there's no need for magnets and sensors stuck to the wheel and forks.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport Readout shows maximum recorded speed - this was at Cadwell Park in the summer - and maximum recorded rpm. Speedometer is pretty accurate, tachometer... isn't.
Moto Morinis on Now...

The speedometer is accurate but the tachometer plugged into the Morini's standard electronic tacho connector on the coil seems to be picking up extraneous signals and over-reads quite a bit at higher revs. I'll try using a shielded cable or a different way of picking up the ignition pulses (a couple of turns round an HT lead should do it) and report back, but so far the simple benefits of having a trip meter and a clock far outweigh the optimistic tachometer.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport Seamed silencers from North Leicester Motorcycles. Paint on tank still needs to be T-Cutted....

Finally, I've fitted a set of NLM's reproduction 'seamed' silencers in place of the fruity sounding but much too loud shorty-megaphones. If the loud ones were baffled enough to meet Cadwell Park and Snetterton's noise limits, they were restricting the top end power. With the extra baffles removed they were okay at Mallory Park but probably not okay with my neighbours. The repros now fitted are loud enough to stir the soul during spirited riding but quiet enough to avoid offence and slip comfortably though trackday noise tests.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport The Morini also gets used on the road. Suspension needs fine tuning for road bumps.

The Morini held its head high at Snetterton and I feel a little ashamed for worrying it would be dwarfed by the circuit's long straights or the outright power of the other bikes it was on track with. It truly is a remarkable motorcycle.

Moto Morini 'Three and a Half' 350K Sport Words and Photos: Martin Gelder


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