My Ducati 999 is going to be spending an entire year at the garage. The reason for this is too tedious to go into and you don’t care, so let’s skip it. But in order to make some amends, and conscious of the fact that I haven’t done any motorcycling so far this year and probably won’t be doing any on my own bike, my Ducati witchdoctor has lent me his Moto Morini Corsaro to play with for a few weeks. I’ve just been to pick it up and put 200 kms on it riding it back home and this is what I think of it.
I took the scenic road back. This still starts off with a few miles of motorway into the teeth of a gale. The Valais, as a canton, is essentially the Rhone Valley with a lot of mountains and smaller valleys running off it on either side. The motorway runs along the valley floor. On hot summer days a fearsome warm wind gets up that blows up the valley from west to east - think in terms of the French Mistral. This makes your first few kilometres on an unfaired bike a lot less fun than they could be.
After the motorway, I headed up the pass to Les Mosses which is a typical Swiss mountain road with plenty of switchbacks and tight corners, bends galore and some variable road surfaces. Then I took the valley road which is also twisty but wider and generally very smooth and fast. Finally, I finished off with more curvery local to where I live and which I know extremely well, over hills and through forests.
The Corsaro is a fairly handsome bike, but nothing that special or, to my mind, droolworthy. The tank looks very MV-like, the front as if it has come off a Triumph. Take the name off the tank and you’d not be sure who made it, but it looks European. The huge underseat silencers are not very lovely (slimmer Termignonis exist) and the swingarm is also not a thing of beauty – very similar to the ones on recent Ducati Monsters (I’d be prepared to bet they are made by the same firm).
The riding position is very natural with quite wide, flat bars (good for leverage), a comfy seat and reasonably high, rearset pegs. The pegs may seem surprising for a naked bike, but if you are used to sportbikes as I am, they feel perfectly comfortable. At least you probably won’t be grinding your boots, although your legs may get a little cramped after several hours in the saddle. So you are sitting comfortably and although you aren’t that high up, if you’re much smaller than my 5 foot 10 (1m 78) you’ll have difficulties paddling the bike around; it’s all a bit tippy-toes.
You can tell from the dash that the bike wasn’t released yesterday and indeed, this one is a few years old. The tacho is large and analogue, similar to the set-up (if less beautiful) than the one on my 999. The rest of the info is on an LCD display which is highly readable (a lot better than the one on the MV which I also tested and wrote about on this blog). There is a menu somewhere but no riding modes or much to fiddle with, so you don’t have to use it. At least the trip is easy to reset and that’s about the only thing I bother with.
Again, unlike the MV Rivale, all the controls are where you expect them to be and for a Ducati rider it all felt very familiar.
You get sticky fat tyres and a beefy Verlicchi trellis frame and superb Brembo brakes. There may be more powerful brake options these days, but these ones seemed to be very good with lots of feel. Very similar to the ones on my 999 in fact. I thought the suspension was well set up. It might not be a magic carpet ride but it’s pretty damned good with a nice compromise between road feel, so that you know what is going on underneath you, and comfort. The front is supposedly Marzocchi, the rear Ohlins. At least, I think they are. Handling-wise, there are no unpleasant surprises. There may be a hint of understeer and you don’t quite get that “on rails” Ducati feeling, but I bet with that chassis and those tyres you could corner harder than I was (even if I was displaying not a little of my customary enthusiasm).
I’m not a huge fan of upright riding positions. I prefer to be lower and more over the front wheel, but the price you pay for that is sore wrists. The Corsaro will not give you sore wrists. In fact, for Swiss mountain roads (and most of them are), the Corsaro makes a lot of sense. It’s comfortable in this sort of territory. You have essentially got a comfy sportsbike, but you’re perhaps not sitting in the best position to exploit it. Probably depends on what you’re used to.
So then there’s the motor. It’s a 1200cc V-Twin lump and it makes a decent amount of power. Riding it, you can see that it doesn’t have the top-end of the 999 and is almost certainly a few horses down on that bike, but it is hugely torquey and for blatting about, there is plenty of fun to be had. Some reviewers have described the engine as a beast, difficult to control and prone to wheelie everywhere. I have no idea where they got that from – probably just the product of journalists trying to inject some excitement. No, the Ducati 1098 Streetfighter is like that. The Corsaro is not. It’s very civilised, I found. Of course, you have got a big V-Twin on your hands, so it’s not going to be very flexible in town, but it’s not bad at all. You tend to trundle around town in 2nd, whereas the 999 is too brutal in town in 2nd and needs to be ridden more in 3rd to keep it under control. Hairpins on the Corsaro seem to have you using 1st as 2nd is too high, but you don’t want to be in 1st as the bike has monster engine braking. Sadly, you quite often find yourself dropping into 1st when encountering a very tight corner as 2nd seems a bit too fast. Maybe I just need to take them faster.
Of course, I bet you could easily do wheelies on this thing. You’re sitting in the right position, and you’ve got an easy tug up and a big torquey motor. But it doesn’t start pawing the sky at the slightest provocation as some would have you believe. Still, crack open the throttle at about 4 or 5’000 rpm and it takes off very smartly. It’s a great bike up to about a ton (160 kph) and after that, although there is obviously plenty more, you’ll probably be cooling it because of the wind blast. This is one of the differences with the 999. At 160 kph in top on that bike, it is just beginning to ride the torque curve and wants to go faster and faster. The Corsaro doesn’t have that urgency up top. It’s a torquemeister and riding the torque is where you get the most fun. It actually made me think of my old Ducati 907ie Paso in the motor department: lots of grunt low down with not so much urgency up top, although the Corsaro is surely considerably more powerful.
The mirrors are OK, but you could scarcely say they were “designed”. They are just round, flat mirrors stuck on the handlebars. You get a smallish if adequate view of what is behind you. They look like the sort of thing that you found on Japanese bikes of the 70s. At least they are vibration free.
I was also a little surprised by the fuel consumption. The Corsaro seemed to have almost a full tank when I set off, but it had gone on to reserve by the time I reached home so I went to fill it up. It drank 16 litres. That’s pretty thirsty for 200 kms. Other reviews confirm this appetite for fuel. It apparently has an 18 litre tank. I can’t think that despite having 4 litres more tank than my 999 it will really have much more of a tank range. I wasn’t hanging around but it wasn’t as if I was redlining it everywhere. On a similar trip, I will barely use the final 4000 rpm of the Ducati’s engine, make just as fast progress on it (probably faster - I’m more used to it) and get much better fuel economy. Just goes to show how well engineered Ducati motors are. After all, mine is 10 years old. I reset the trip when I filled up, so soon I really will know just what you can expect from a tankful. The Ducati has a 200cc smaller motor, but it seems that you get just as much performance, rather more in fact, and burn less fuel having it.
So what’s the verdict? Well, it’s odd. What I found was that the Corsaro doesn’t really have many shortcomings, but for some strange reason, I don’t find it that exciting. It looks nice enough, but not that special. I can’t think of a single feature which calls out to me. It’s great to ride, but there is nothing about it that really stands out. The MV Rivale had an astonishing motor that was such fun to rev, but a lot of annoying foibles that sort of ruined it. The Corsaro has no real foibles, but hasn’t offered me many surprises. I’d sooner be riding my own bike for sure. It seems to make perfect sense as a bike, but its lack of fairing would be annoying on really long trips and definitely on motorways. In some ways it is better suited to the current regulatory environment. It is one of those bikes that gives you the impression that you are going faster than you are, whereas it is all too common these days to find yourself on a bike doing Warp 7 and feeling as if you are sitting still. That is surely more licence-friendly. Certainly you can have fun without going ludicrously fast, but you don’t quite get the same carving-through-corners feeling that you get on a Ducati sportsbike. It surely makes a great everyday bike and if you bought one, you wouldn’t see many others about. Well worth a try out.
I’ll still be looking forward to the day I get my Ducati 999 back though.