Borile? More observant readers will remember we posted a news piece back in February announcing Borile is interested in coming to Canada.
Shortly after that, I bagged an invitation to attend the launch of their new B450 Scrambler in Milan, Italy. This was the perfect chance to check out the brand, and also an opportunity to get a start on the riding season by exploring northern Italy.
Borile is a small Italian operation based around the creations of the company’s namesake, Umberto Borile.
The company doesn’t limit themselves to producing just hand-built motorcycles. No, they also make boats (the fancy type with mahogany), wine (I have a bottle and it’s rather good) and even three-piece suits.
My contact at Borile was a Brit by the name of Simon Green, who used to be in the motorcycle journalism business but now is in charge of getting Borile bikes out into the world. According to Simon, you’d be surprised just how much hand-built motorcycles, boats and tailored suits cross over.
But I digress.
Umberto Borile actually started tinkering with bikes back in 1988 when he released the first Borile bike called the Piuma (feather), but it wasn’t until 1999 that he unveiled his first notable bike, the B500CR Café Racer. Powered by a reworked GM speedway 500cc motor, the CR was simply gorgeous.
After the Bassi family bought into the company in 2010, Borile launched two new bikes at the 2011 Milan EICMA show; the B500 Ricki (a limited edition dirt bike) and the Bastard (an on and off road chassis ready for the engine of your choice). More importantly, they also showed a mock up of their B450 Scrambler, which we’ll get to shortly.
Then in 2012, Borile released the more commercial Multiuso …
The Multiuso is an odd-looking bike by any definition. Looking something like a cross between a Sachs MadAss and a Gas Gas trials bike, it’s powered by a 15 hp Zongshen 230 cc air-cooled single (the same unit used by Cleveland Cycle Works and based on the Honda CG125 unit) with a five-speed box and fed by a Mikuni carb.
But with a wet weight of only 85 Kg, it weighs almost nothing, thanks to the use of a 7020 aluminum alloy frame that also uses the top frame tube as a gas tank. Then there’s the trials-bike-tight turning circle (230 cm), thrashable motor and Marzocchi adjustable forks, all adding up to make it rather well-suited for city use.
I took one for a blast around Milan, and it’s great for squeezing around cars, thanks to its slender profile and turnability. Sadly, this advantage would be hard to use in Canada’s inflexible attitude that bikes should wait inline with cars no matter what.
It also should be well suited for the trails too, but unfortunately there were no such things in the center of Milan, so we’ll have to save that for a later date if the bikes actually arrive in Canada.
Though it’s a tad ugly in photos, it looks far better in the metal and even more so with the optional fold-out racks which apparently work well for transporting boxes of wine – this is Italy after all. There’s also an optional six-litre gas tank for mounting piggy-back on the top frame tube, which is handy if you want to add range (it’s only 130 km with the standard 4.2 litre set up). It also helps the bike look more conventional.
One thing to note is that the seat is a cleverly disguised as a slightly padded 2 x 4, so the 130-km range may actually be a useful limit to stop and pull out your undies from thong mode.
The downside is the price, which at 5,750 Euros (export retail price) translates to about C$7,500. Even Suzuki’s highly priced TU250 comes in at over two grand less, but then that’s assuming that the Multiuso would be a direct exchange rate cost for Canada, which is not usually the case.
And now to the B450 Scrambler
Launched this week, the Scrambler uses one cylinder and the head from an air-cooled Desmodue 1100 v-twin Ducati motor, mated to a bottom end created by Borile. To give a capacity of 450 cc, Borile used a shorter 60 mm stroke at the crank. Since the cylinder is from the rear of the Ducati mill, the inlet comes in from the front and the exhaust out the rear.
Although it means the cylinder has a bit of a visually awkward canter to the rear, it is a somewhat unique way of laying out a motor. It also means that the tank is actually the airbox, with gas being stored under the seat and behind the side panels.
Carburation is by fuel injection and there’s a cassette-style six-speed box and balancer shaft to deal with vibration. Starting is electric and the wheels are 19-inch up front and 18-inch at the rear; both have a single disc brake fitted.
I was given an opportunity to ride the only pre-production (more prototype) version of the Scrambler just north of Milan, and had the distinction of being the first journalist to ride it (no pressure, no pressure at all).
A quick visual check shows the motor is still a work in progress, with some roughly finished covers on the cranks, some zip tied piping and even some gasket goo to seal up bits here and there.
The chassis is more finished, though the tank shows the pre-production work of a ball peen hammer and the pipe puts a Harley to shame but audibly expresses the soul of the Ducati’s business end rather well. The rest has the classic well-crafted look that a bike like this demands.
As I’m getting ready to leave, I’m told that there’s a slight issue with carburetion around 2000 rpm that they haven’t been able to dial out yet (on a single, this can be a tough job to do) and it shows itself as a marked dip just off idle. This makes for a bit of clutch slipping to get off, but also prevents the bike from being chugged.
I instantly feel like I’ve gone back 50 years as I wind through some Italian countryside, the Ducati top end’s amplified exhaust bouncing off the aged cement-sealed houses. It’s a smile inducer, with a near perfect slight forward riding position complimenting the classic feel.
But revving the motor brings a mix of galloping torque and thumping vibes through the bars, despite an integrated balancer. The motor revs to a surprisingly high 9,000 rpm, bringing with it a good turn of speed, though I’m not sure if I could cope with the higher vibration over the course of a longer day. Still, it is the soul of the Scrambler and has character by the barrel full.
At higher speeds I can also feel a slight weave, though the rear shocks are set to their softest setting, so I don’t know if this is something that can be taken out with set up or will require some more investigating.
Braking is fine (though I was told that these are not going to be the production units) and the front forks seem perfectly civilized, though a side jaunt down a pot holed road for photos had the rear shocks bottoming out. Umberto reckoned that they would be fine once adjusted to my, err, larger physique, but they seemed to offer only an inch or so of travel and I suspect that the production machine will have to come with longer travel units.
I’m worried that I’m being a bit over critical of the bike. After all, despite this day being promoted as the bike’s launch it’s more a sample of what Umberto is in the process of creating. And that is a unique, characterful and exquisite piece of rolling art.
With a little bit of further refinement, Borile should have a rather desirable motorcycle on their hands.
The other ones
I should also mention that there is another bike in the works, the B350EN Enduro that has yet to have any pics shown but which also uses a single Ducati lung, only this one taken from the 696 to give 350 cc.
Keeping the theme of Ducati singles, the gorgeous Café Racer will soon have the 500 GM motor replaced with the 450 Ducati powered one that is currently found in the Scrambler, creating a line of very desirable, Ducati-powered classics.
Borile in Canada?
Making motorcycles by hand in a small facility somewhat limits capacity but Borile is determined to explore new markets outside of Europe and that includes North America. Of course, price is going to be perhaps the biggest factor as to any kind of success in what is one of the world’s most competitive markets.
For the likes of the B-series Scrambler, Café Racer and the 350EN, I can see the wealthier Canadian motorcycle enthusiast buying one for their exclusivity and looks, to be used for a Sunday jaunt or to ride around the city. But sales would obviously be very limited, and that appears to be the company’s expectation too.
As for the Multiuso, it would make a fine urban or cottage bike but then there’s the price (though I wonder if it’s something that could be made in China at a more marketable price). And as for looks, although it’s definitely distinct, it’s in a different world when compared to the Ducati motor derived B-series.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.