With the choice of four very different bikes to traverse the Peak District, my eyes were immediately transfixed on the Moto Morini X-Cape for a couple of reasons. Firstly, of the four bikes we had, this was the only one I had no prior knowledge of and I like to be educated, though had enjoyed seeing what Dave had been doing with it as a long-term test bike, of course.
Secondly is the fact that this bike was the most ‘suited’ to the trip. From the lower-powered adventure category, this bike sits with a machine that has kept me buzzing for the past six months on board Yamaha’s Ténéré 700. A similar engine capacity, the Morini’s de-tuned ER-6 motor and the CP2 engine of my T7 were actually preparing to battle it out against the Paton at this year’s TT in the Supertwin race (heavily modified, of course), thus I was preparing myself for a Ténéré -esque ride that matched the 200 miles already completed that morning to join the fellas for the test. This was not to be.
What is the Moto Morini X-Cape like to ride?
From starting the engine and the low murmur from the exhaust via a slight twist of the throttle, I knew that I was leaving the Ténéré experience a long way behind me; there would clearly be no comparison between them. My toys left the pram – “If we are in a hurry, I will get off the bike and walk!” I stated ashamedly to the chaps. My expectations were set via a very high bar indeed and I was left somewhat grumpy by my ride choice.
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A scathing start to this review for sure, but an important one to note as, without passing on my petulant first impression, I could not demonstrate how much this bike grew on me as the trip unfolded. How the X-Cape delivered across the three rainy days in March as we traversed the Peaks, and how it became a favoured ride for us all.
As a package this is ‘a great little bike’, in quotations as this came out of the mouths of us all by the end of the tour. Sure, the engine is old tech and could use more kick in the acceleration department as discovered leaving our HQ for the Peaks trying to keep up with throttle-happy Ross on the DCT Gold Wing and Dave (loves a Hayabusa does Dave), and was ready to give it a stretch from the off. Keeping up was difficult, not because of the speeds we were travelling at particularly, but the time it took the Moto Morini to get there.
This was all in the initial stage of getting used to the ride; you do have to make the X-Cape’s engine sing to progress swiftly. But when you achieve this, it holds an impressive tune maintained through the right choice of gears and engine speed, especially when approaching roundabouts and left turns to keep the momentum. If you come up a little quick the braking supplied by the Brembo set up is very intuitive. Riding the Morini is a joint effort, a partnership if you like; the more you put in and understand the capabilities of an aging engine – by modern-day standards – the more you get out and the smile did not take long to reappear on my face, which admittedly resembled a smacked arse at the start of our journey.
Gear changes also challenged me at the start, needing a positive and determined action to progress through the box. Again, a foible that worked against our relationship initially which was personal, having personally been described by HM Quickshifter’s technical bods as having a ‘pussy-foot’’, more akin to tickling an up or down shift than making my intentions truly felt. But again, this is easily managed via changes to your riding style.
As we progressed and entered the National Park the roads became more interesting and the handling capabilities more apparent, counter-steering into the corners and making the Bridgestone AT41s do their thing in the damp. High revs and low gears were the order of the day and by the time we met Gary, wet through and begging for coffee and a late lunch, I can safely say that the X-Cape and I had begun to understand each other.
Gary greeted me with a man hug and said “Great looking bike that”, and it wasn’t until that moment that I turned to look at it and really appreciated just how striking the X-Cape was. Much like the Ténéré, its styling heralds from the Dakar, though with a very strong Italian influence with a pronounced colour scheme of black and red with white trim. Hints of heritage dotted around with the green, white and red of ‘il Tricolore’ subtly framing the 649 and X-Cape branding. The finishing touch being the engine cases proudly displaying Morini on the right-hand side and the famed logo on the left.
There is genuinely a huge amount to applaud about this bike; from screen to tail it is beautifully designed with the rider in mind. The screen is ample enough to get behind and cut out the wind noise at speed and, as we were to discover, the more detrimental effects of driving rain. The TFT dash is backlit and big – 7in to be precise – which almost struggles to be filled despite all the information you need being displayed in front of you. A USB charging point, heated grips, two riding modes, ABS options (albeit on or off), and an extremely comfortable seat aid the riding position that could keep you in the seat all day.
Further to this, an ample pillion seat with grab rails, which aided bag strapping for me but more importantly gave the option of a considerate pillion experience, though granted, two up was going to make that engine work even harder – though again, given an understand of the engine’s characteristics, I see no problem with that.
Keeping in mind the price tag, any new bike that boasts all of the above with extremely credible parts including fully adjustable Marzocchi forks, Brembo brakes and a Bosch-controlled ABS system, starting with a six as new has to be worth a look. Even if the six is followed by 995… At £6995 this is an investment in a machine that boasts an impressive Italian heritage, despite ownership changing to the Chinese Zhongneng concern which is keeping the brand alive so that it can continue to turn heads, whilst entertaining those on board even if it doesn’t keep you at the front of a group that includes an MT-10, Hayabusa and Gold Wing…
We spoke about the price and at the time I stated if I had £7000 to spend would I go for a brand-new Moto Morini X-Cape, or a reasonable secondhand Ténéré? At the time it would be the latter, and if I am honest, it still would be… But if my boy, fresh from passing his test, wanted to get into the adventure market, this would be a very real option indeed. It did everything asked of it on our little tour; you work it hard and you work it right, you will get the pay-off. Ultimately for me, the Moto Morini X-Cape has proved that class and style really don’t need to be ballistic.
And it has bucketloads of both.
What was Dave’s final impression of the Moto Morini X-Cape?
If you’ve seen our video of the Peaks trip (below), you’ll perhaps have realised that we all ended up with something of a soft spot for the Morini. It’s not the most comfortable, most powerful, most hi-tech or most gadget-laden of the four, by a long way, yet it stands tall as a very capable machine. Maybe the weather (wet) played into its hands, and maybe the fact that it’s been one of the long-term fleet helped my positive view, but the three other riders were equally as effervescent in their praise of the little twin. It’s just a lovely little bike.
Moto Morini X-Cape
Engine: 649cc parallel twin cylinder, water-cooled, four stroke
Power: 44kW/59bhp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 56Nm / 41.3lb-ft @ 7,000rpm
Frame: Tubular steel
Brakes: (F) Twin 298mm discs, Brembo twin piston calipers, (R) 260mm disc, twin piston Brembo caliper
Transmission: 6 speed/chain drive
Suspension: (F) Fully adjustable 50mm Marzocchi forks, 175mm travel (R), KYB monoshock, preload & damping adjustable, 165mm travel
Wheels/tyres: (F) 110/80×19” Bridgestone tyre, (R) 150/70×17” Bridgestone tyre. (Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR as standard)
Seat height: 845/820mm (33/32in)
Tank: 18 litres
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Warranty: Two years