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Egli Harley – Davidson

Former Swiss racing champion Fritz Egli has been building beautifully engineered bikes around his own chassis for over 25 years. When Egli adapted his traditional steel spine frame to hold a tuned, 1607cc Harley – Davidson V-twin engine, the result was an exciting machine that was outrageous by any standards, and especially those of environment-conscious Switzerland, notorious for its strict limits on motorcycles’ power and noise.
Big, basic and muscular, the first Egli Harley, built in 1992, hand an aggressive and vaguely classic look, thanks to bodywork fashioned from 1960s style unpainted aliminium. A huge petrol tank curved over the top of the grey finished Evolution engine. Large triangular sidepanels ran below a one-and-a-half-person seat. Front and rear mudguards were also made from bare alloy sheet.

The frame consisted of a main steel spine, which doubled as the oil reservoir, plus narrower tubes that held the motor in a conventional twin cradle. Egli himself built numerous parts, including the 38mm diameter front forks and their yokes. At the rear, the triangulated steel swing-arm worked a single, multi-adjustable White Power Shock Absorber.
The motor was far from standard, having been built by Egli to incorporate a long list of tuning parts including Cosworth pistons, Carrillo rods and Manley valves. Plumbed with a 36mm Mikuni carburetor and an Egli made exhaust system, the results was an increase in the V-twin’s capacity from 1340cc to a massive 1607cc, raising peak output to 120 bhp at 550 rpm.

When the big Harley burst into life, it did so with enough noise to start an avalanche. The view from the pilot’s seat was intimidating. There was a long stretch across the alloy tank to adjustable clip on bars that were set low and wide. Standard Harley clocks perched above the protruding fork tops, the tacho needle flicking across the dial with every blip of the throttle.
Riding the Egli Harley confirmed that it was no docile modern sportster but a big, old-fashioned bruiser of a bike that needed a firm hand to give of its best. Its wheel base was compact by Harley standards, at 60ins. But conservative steering geometry, an 18 inch front wheel and a high centre of gravity meant a good deal of effort was needed to change direction.
Suspension was firm and worked well on smooth roads, the forks feeling reassuringly rigid and well damped rear unit keeping the back end under engine was a tractable as any Harley motor. Crack open the throttle and the bike hurtled forward to the accompaniment of an increasingly frenzied barrage of sound from the exhaust.

Vibration from the solidly mounted motor added to the sensation of speed, too. Below 3000 rpm the big V-twin was smooth, giving a relaxed feel up to 60 mph in top gear. But the vibes arrived at that Egli stormed past 100 mph on the way to a top speed of about 130 mph, fast cruising was best limited to short bursts.
Rubber mounting the engine would have been one solution, but, as Fritz Egli pointed out, much of the bike’s appeal came from its raw feel, to which the untamed V-twin lump was a major contributor. At least there was no pretence with an Egli Harley. What you saw was a big, old-fashioned V-twin brute of a machine, and that was precisely what you got. Plenty of sports bikes were faster and more agile than the Egli. Few were more thrilling to ride.


Ducati 900 Monster

Ducati made their reputation by building uncompromising sports bikes for those with the discernment and money to appreciate them, but in recent years they have branched out in another direction. In late ’92 Ducati unveiled the M900 Monster to a stunned public, proving that they could build exciting bikes for all tastes, not just for the race replica sports rider.

The M900 was the first Ducati for many years to appeal to a wide range of riders, from the traditional Ducati fan to the rider in search of something ‘a little different’. And the Monster is certainly different. Although it uses the same engine as the Ducati 900SS, the Monster is designed to be a muscle-bike. A bike that accelerates with startling rapidity, and which is more at home cruising the urban jungle looking for traffic-light Grands Prix to take part in than jockeying for position into turn one at Monza.

The Ducati 900SS has an engine blessed with masses of low-down power and usable torque, so to make it into a serious muscle-bike Ducati lowered the gearing and slotted the engine into the steel trellis frame that is their trade-mark. The engine puts out 84 bhp at 7000rpm, power enough to hustle the Monster to a top speed of almost 130 mph. That’s not all that fast for a 900cc machine, but this is a bike built for cursing and back-road riding, so there is no fairing and the riding position is very upright. That makes is great in town or on country lanes, but painful at speed on motorways.

Where the Monster is really at home is cruising the Promenade des Anglais in Nice or parked outside Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navonna in Rome. This is a bike for being seen on, for posing on, for getting you around town in style and comfort, and with a large grin on your face. And that grin is there not only because the Monster is very fast from a standing-start, not only because it is equipped with the best suspension and brakes around, but because it is stupendous – looking machine. The feel-factor gained from riding II Mostro is enormous.

Of course it does help that the Monster will out drag all but the most powerful sports bike or supercar, that it comes with state of the art 41mm upside-down forks and a multi-adjustable rear monoshock, and that it wears a massive pair of Brembo disc equipped with four position calipers. All the elements come together to make a bike that it is real pleasure to ride, and even more of a pleasure to look at.

For the head core Ducati fan (a devotee of rock solid suspension, agonizing riding position, and ‘idiosyncratic’ electric) the Monster will be a disappointment. But to everyone else the combination of good looks, lightning quick steering, excellent suspension, eyeball popping brakes and a lusty motor will ensure a huge grin and a much-depleted bank balance.