Motobi 125: When Small Is Better

The charm of riding small Italian singles becomes clear in the 205-pound Motobi 125.

| September/October 2013

1955 Motobi Catria Imperiale Sport 125cc
125cc air-cooled OHV 4-stroke, 54mm  x 54mm bore and stroke, 6.5:1 compression ratio
Claimed power: 5.8hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 75mph (est.)
Weight: 205lb (93kg)
Fuel capacity: 4gal (15ltr)

It’s an ill wind that blows no good, goes the old saw — though the good sometimes arrives in unexpected ways. When an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease caused the Isle of Man TT races to be canceled in 2001, Ducati maven Vicki Smith changed plans, diverted to Bologna instead, and hitched a ride in the Motogiro d’Italia. It was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted 12 years.

Riding the Motogiro

“Ducati sourced me a vintage bike” for the Motogiro, Vicki says. “I showed up at the Ducati factory and there was this Motobi. I had never ridden a vintage bike farther than around the block, and I’d never really kickstarted anything. I developed a passion for Ducati singles because of that Motobi. I think it had been dragged out of someone’s shed. It had cracked tires that were more than 20 years old. The bike was terrible. Honestly, I can’t possibly begin to describe how bad the bike was. And yet with simple tools that I carried in my tool roll and the help of those who were willing to stop and help me, I managed to be the first woman to ever start and complete a Motogiro. They put me in the Motogiro d’Italia hall of fame!”

That Giro experience turned Vicki on to small Italian singles in general, and Motobis in particular (though Ducati remains her first love). “The Motobi was uniquely suited for the Motogiro. What I liked about it was that it had a lot of power even though it’s a small, relatively slow bike. They’re very bulletproof, and they’re attractive — that ‘egg’ motor alone was remarkable. And what I like about the little bikes in particular is that they have made me a much better rider than I ever could have become on the big bikes,” Vicki says.

A Motobi of her own

After her experience with the Motobi during the Motogiro, Vicki decided she needed a Motobi of her own. “I went to the Imola Swap Meet (the Mostra Scambio) in Italy in search of a Motobi. I found the one that I wanted.”

After a day of searching the meet, Vicki Smith had decided on a red Motobi 175. But when she went back the next day to buy it, she discovered the vendor had left early. But she quickly spotted another — the blue 125cc featured in this story — in the back of a truck heading back to Germany. Knowing no German, Vicki tried to explain that she wanted to buy the Motobi. It was when she produced a copy of a magazine showing her participating in the Motogiro that they understood — and recognized her: “Ahhh, Motogiro Vicki!”

1/28/2014 2:24:17 PM

As most know, "egg motor" bikes were badged as Benellis and imported by Cosmopolitan Motors through the 60's. My first bike at 16 was a '65 Benelli Sprite, bought from my neighbor for a whopping $250. Never having ridden a bike, he gave me the standard instructions, "One back, 3 down. give it some gas and let out the clutch" After stalling it numerous times, I popped a wheelie and took off out of his driveway, stopping only after I got to my friends house down the street. I rode the heck out of it that summer and, not knowing what I had, I "chopped" the bike, replacing the beautiful tank and seat with a peanut tank and solo pad, and adding Z bars. Eventually I sold the bike to a friend in favor of a more fashionable Honda Scrambler. Now that I'm older and have run a few Motogiros here in the US, I'd love to have that Sprite back. If I have a second chance, I'll treat it with a little more respect..

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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