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Bike Profile - Posted 28th October 2011

Silence is Golden - Moto Morini 350K Sport
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Even though all he's had to do is ride his Morini, he's left baffled. It all gets a little exhausting for Martin Gelder. Keep the noise down at the back!...

Has it really been a year? Twelve months ago I de-bodged the gearchange linkage on my 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport, and since then I've been too busy riding it to get busy writing about it.

Actually, that's not strictly true. Over the winter the Morini gets shuffled to the back of the shed and put into hibernation, like the Blue Peter Tortoise but with less attention to detail. It gets its floatbowls drained as a sop to the gloopiness of modern petrol, but that's it. Come the spring, I'll whack some charge into the battery and some air into the tyres, and it'll fire up on the second or third kick.

It'll get a service at the same time, but that's little more than an oil change and tappet check. And as the MOT runs out conveniently just before the Morini's annual track excursion at the Festival of 1000 Bikes, that gives me a timely reminder to check the cycle parts, tyres and brakes.

Apart from that, and particularly this year with all the attention I've been lavishing on Roxanne my 100,000 mile R80/7, the Morini is a ride-it-and-park-it classic. It feels like this year has been the pay-off for all the fiddling and faffing of the past. The engine's running better than ever, the handling and braking are sorted and secure, even the tail light has stopped coming loose.

Note unusually long silencer... 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport, VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes, July 2011

It's a proper sports bike, the Morini Three and a Half. Not the fastest, by any means, but with what the Italians would call a 'Sporting Characteristic'. It loves to be thrashed, and the harder you ride it, the better it feels. Something clicked with my riding at last year's Festival of 1000 Bikes, and I stopped treating the Morini like an old bike and began braking later, turning tighter, leaning further; the bike ate it up and I enjoyed it so much that I booked myself a proper trackday on my modern Yamaha.

This year's outing at Mallory on the Morini was just as much fun, the highlight being running round the outside of a (carefully ridden, to be fair) Ducati 851 while chasing Classic Bike's Hugo Wilson on his own Morini. It seems almost wrong to have this much fun on a race track on a twenty nine year old bike.

I probably wouldn't be writing this if all I'd done this year was flog the bike mercilessly to the redline through gear after gear. While swapping Morinis in the course of trying out Paul Compton's 500 Sei-V, he commented that my 350 felt a little flat at the top end compared to his. My Morini has been fitted with a set of ludicrously long Sito pattern silencers since I bought it, and I suspect they were fitted more because they were finished in black chrome rather than for any performance enhancing reasons. They're certainly very quiet, and recently they've been starting to display the ridged deformation which is a sure sign of internal corrosion, as well as a bit of bubbling on the outside near the wheel spindle.

Suspecting that they may be the restricting factor, and that they might be about to crumble to dust anyway, I began to cast around for some alternatives. I didn't have to cast very far, because another Morini owner, Andy Wegg, lent me a set of reverse cone megaphone 'silencers' that he'd had on his Triumph Daytona. He'd been given them by John, another Triumph riding friend, who'd got them from someone else, and so on. They've been around the block, these exhausts.

...with Shouty Pipes 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport. Silencers look like they're purpose built.

Loosely fitted to the Morini, they looked like they were made to be there. All they needed was a bit of sleeving to pack the exhaust pipes to the diameter of the silencers inlets, and the simplest of straight brackets to attach the silencer's universal fittings to the Morini's footpeg loops.

Exhausts should never extend beyond the back wheel. Fact. 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport. Especially when compared to the standard and long black chrome items.

They might have fitted fine, but they did little to silence the bike; it sounded like it was running on open pipes. This might be considered acceptable (I don't think it is, personally) on a low-revving and slow Harley Davidson, but on a sporty Italian 350 twin with a 9000rpm redline it was anti-social at best, quite possibly licence threatening (it's easier to catch you if they can hear you coming five miles away) and almost certain to destroy what little hearing I have left.

The silencers were reverse cone megaphone shaped, but inside they consisted of a simple perforated absorption tube wrapped with sound deadening material, sitting in a conical sheet steel trumpet, with cast and polished aluminium end caps holding everything together. It should have been a simple matter to undo the three screws holding each end cap in place, pop out the perforated tube, repack with suitable material, sling everything back together and then enjoy the fruity but restrained tones of a briskly ridden vee-twin.

As far as I got...

I don't know if these particular exhausts have ever been repacked in their forty or so years of existence, but I do know that it took the best part of an afternoon to ease out five of the six end cap retaining screws. The final one gave its life defending its position. No amount of heat, cold, Plus Gas, soaking in oil or plain old brute force would shift the perforated tubes, however. I am happy to admit that I know when to give up, and I decided I could probably live with the noise. With the help of some ear plugs.

Shortly afterwards I borrowed Paul the Destroyer's Sportster for a week, a bike so loud that it became the first one in thirteen years that my long suffering neighbours complained about. Well, they're too polite to complain directly, but the fact that they commented at all on the infernal racket it made gave me pause for thought. Time to do something about the Morini's shouty silencers.

My modern Yamaha is fitted with a single, not particularly big, aftermarket end can which reduces the exhaust noise to a fairly legal and quiet burble (there's no getting round the noise testing at modern road bike trackdays) using nothing more than a perforated absorption tube system similar to the Morini's reverse cone trumpets - although admittedly with the packing material still inside - and a small "dB Killer" baffle inserted in the end.

Surely peace will follow... Spot the difference...

It therefore follows that inserting similar dB Killer baffles into the ends of the Morini's megas would reduce their din to something a little more restrained. You can buy anything on Amazon these days, and as if by magic a couple of days later a pair of Viper Can Noise Reduction Baffle Kits dropped through the letter box. A bit of drilling, a little hammering and a small amount of bolting later, they were fitted.

What do you mean, 'You have to fit them in both sides'?...

And they've made virtually no difference. They've taken a little edge off the staccato crack of each exhaust pulse, but there's still a resonant booming under power and on the overrun. There's no getting away from it; the silencers need repacking.

And do you know what the most annoying thing is? The silencers look like they're meant to be there. Modern versions of the same design are available new, and I think I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and buy a set.

Words: Martin Gelder Pictures: Martin Gelder, Peter Wileman Photography


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