Sunday, 12 November, 2017 saw a section of inner suburban Melbourne buzzing with Italian bikes of all types, sizes, conditions and eras when the annual Festival of Italian Motorcycles (FoIM) was held in Carlton.
Fittingly for an all-Italian bike event, the FoIM is held in Piazza Italia; a public square off Lygon Street that’s Melbourne’s hub for all things Italian.
While the FoIM has been a staple for Italian motorcycle owners and enthusiasts since 2003, the 2017 event was arguably the best in almost a decade, thanks to a big turnout of motorcycles, splendid weather, more parking space and a number of other tweaks and improvements.
Bikes started rolling in from 9:00AM; by noon there were around 400 Italian motorcycles under glorious sunshine in the Piazza. Closing one of the side streets allowed significantly more space for participating bikes, with this area soon swimming in Ducatis.
Within the Piazza itself, there were strong contingents of Laverdas, MV Agustas and Moto Guzzis, with smaller groups of Vespas, Aprilias and rarer Italian marques. If you were looking for a Bimota, there were a cluster on show, including the radical Tesi 3D. If Moto Morini was more your style, there were a few of them, plus a classic Benelli 350, race-spec Aermacchi Harley, a beautifully restored Gilera and a few Lambrettas, too.
Speaking of Lambrettas, one particularly odd-looking unit was the C1951 example that had FoIM visitors scratching their heads until they read an information plaque that explained it was a racing scooter with competition history at Bathurst and numerous other Australian circuits in the 1950s.
A race bike of a much different sort was Julian McLean’s MV Agusta 350 replica that always draws a crowd when it’s fired up during the day. McLean explained that this particular unit has been ridden by the legendary Giacomo Agostini no fewer than seven times, so has impressive local pedigree.
Classic and Modern
As well as a broad spread of makes and models of Italian bikes, there was an equally broad spread of ages, with everything from pre-war to 2017 machinery on show. Amongst the latest motorcycling Italiana, SWM displayed their fresh range, while their sponsored riders, Ryan Taylor and Ryley Oakes (who race SWMs in supermotard and enduro competition), were on hand to chat to visitors.
There was plenty of fresh machinery amongst the big Ducati contingent, too, which resulted in some good-natured ribbing from Moto Guzzi owners (who consider themselves hardier souls!) that it was only the perfect weather that saw the red machines represented en masse.
Joking aside, the street space that was added to the 2017 event - exclusively for Ducatis – proved to be a godsend and will be added to future FoIMs, as it allows room for more bikes, trade stands and food stalls within the Piazza itself and, most importantly, provides more room for visitors to wander amongst the bikes without feeling like they’re in a tin of sardines – Italian sardines, of course!
Each marque had something beautiful, unusual – or both - on show. On the Ducatis, virtually every iteration of the 916 was present, along with an Evoluzione, carbon-faired 900SS, 750 F1 and a TT2 600 sans fairing. A slick 750 Sport won the Best Bevel Twin award, while Stewart Doig’s restored 1965 Mach 1 scored both the Best Bevel Single and Best in Show - Restored trophies. In contrast, Rob Wilcox’s well-worn, but well-preserved Ducat 450 Desmo picked up the gong for Best in Show - Original.
Amongst the Moto Guzzis, there was a bit of everything, from the newest machines to a very tidy 1956 Falcone single, which picked up the Best Moto Guzzi 750 & Under – pre-’07 trophy.
Another notable Guzzi was Mick Crane’s 750 Ambassador which, judging by the numerous stickers adorning its bodywork, had travelled the length and breadth of America.
The MV Agusta group included an immaculate 1971 150 GT, which was a deserving winner of the Best Classic MV Agusta trophy, while a new F3 800 won the modern award.
Laverda twins and triples on show included rarely-seen models like the 668, 1000 Jarama and 1200 Mirage, along with a couple of RGS1000s and 750 SFs in a kaleidoscope of colours.
That aforementioned racing Lambretta displayed by Garth Rhode picked up the Craig Bondini Memorial award for Best Special, with another highlight being Greg Shears’s ’95 Cagiva Elefant. Winner of the Best in Show – Adventure Tourer and Best Other Italian trophies, this rare Cagiva was fully restored by Shears, then ridden as intended on off road adventures.
Caffè, Cannoli e Grazie
Finally, it wouldn’t be an Italian bike event without coffee: that came courtesy of Crank Coffee and its sidecar-mounted La Spaziale machine (appropriately Italian, even if the bike wasn’t!), while That’s Amore Cheese provided porchetta sandwiches and cannoli.
While the FoIM is organised and hosted by the Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria (MGCV), we receive invaluable support from the Ducati Owners Club Victoria, Classic Italian Motorcycle Association of Australia, the Laverda Club and numerous other individuals. Our thanks to all for a successful 2017 event. Make sure you mark the 2018 FoIM in your diary!
Words: Ash Walker, Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria
Photos: Dishan Marikar