Magni Sfida 1100 




Make Model

Magni Sfida 1100 




Four stroke, 90°transverse V-twin,  OHC, 2 valves per cylinder


1064 cc / 64.9 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 92 x 82 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 10.5:1


2x 40mm Dell'Orto


Weber Marelli
Starting Electric

Max Power

90 hp / 66 kW hp @ 7800 rpm

Max Torque

96 Nm / 9.7 kgf-m @ 6000 rpm


5 Speed
Final Drive Shaft

Front Suspension

Double steel cradle Forcello Italia forks rebound and preload adjustable with antidive.

Rear Suspension

Twin Koni shocks, Magni Parallelogrammo suspension

Front Brakes

2x 290mm discs 4 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 260mm disc

Front Tyre

100/90 VR18

Rear Tyre

130/80 VR17

Dry Weight

195 kg / 430 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

22 Litres / 5.8 US gal

From the moment the button is pressed to bring the big red machine to life, the assault on your senses announces that this motorcycle could only have been made by one company. The starter motor engages with a resounding kerthump, the exhaust pipes thrubba a unique greeting, a blip of throttle sends the whole bike rocking to the right. The rider's-eye view of an enormous cylinder head poking out from below each side of the fuel tank merely confirms that this is a Moto Guzzi.

Yes and no. The powerplant is a Guzzi Vee-twin all right, but the motorcycle itself was constructed not at the old firm's plant in Mandello del Lario but another spiritual home of Italian motorcycling.

The little town of Gallarate, a few miles north-west of Milan, was put firmly on the map in the 1950s and '60s as the home of MV Agusta, the most successful bike-racing factory of them all. And the silver-haired gent beaming proudly through tinted specs as his latest creation is warmed-up is none other than Arturo Magni, legendary chief mechanic of the Gallarate fire engines whose 17 straight 500cc world titles between 1958 and 74 embellished a period of grand prix racing domination that seems barely believable today.

The Magni name on this machine's tank stands for Arturo and his sons Giovanni and Carlo. For the last decade the trio have been building their own distinct brand of Café-racer in the next-door village of Samarate, almost close enough to the MV factory for the wail of an open-piped four to be audible - if only Agusta were still building bikes as well as the helicopters they produce today.

MV's loss is the Magnis' gain, and their latest creation is the Sfida: the Challenge. Its powerplant is a 90-degree transverse Vee as only Mandello makes them; a Le Mans motor bought direct from the factory.

The look is unashamedly traditional, all the way from the spokes of the 18-iunch front wheel to the rear mudguard. The aircooled engine, the simple steel-tube frame, and the classical lines of the bulky half-fairing, the long tank and the simple seat - all finished in Italian racing red - give the Sfida a timeless elegance.

The appearance is a little deceptive. Look more closely, and you notice that the spoked front wheel is fitted not with some humble drum brake but with a pair of large, fully-floating and very contemporary Brembo discs. Four-piston Gold Line calipers bolt to thick Forcelle Italia forks whose tops hold knobs offering a menu of five rebound damping settings. (At polished alloy, to which is the bottom of the leg, attached an even shinier bracket compression damping is three- complete with warning lights, a V way adjustable too.) 260kph (160mph) speedometer

The forks are gripped by a top and a big trad white-faced Veglia yoke fashioned from a big hunk of tacho. Hefty round-section steel frame tubes run below the armpits of the sticking-out cylinders before arching back to the swing arm pivot - or rather pivots, for this is where the really interesting stuff begins.

The swinger consists of not one but two alloy members on each side, the word "Parallelogramo" picked out on the top one giving a clue as to their purpose. BMW's Paralever

and the similar system adopted by Guzzi themselves on the new Daytona 1000 are clever ways of reducing shaft-drive engines' traditional interference with the rear suspension when the throttle is opened or closed. Magnis, you might be surprised to learn, were fitted with basically the same thing five years ago.

The Sfida's combination of old and new technology is deliberate. On the wall of the firm's office is a poster of the BMW-engine bike

they built in 1985. It wears an angular full-fairing, quite snazzy and advanced for the time. But the customers preferred something more traditional.

"In Japan and Germany, where we sell many bikes, riders want their motorcycle like an Italian bike of 20 years ago," said Giovanni, who at 31 is a year older than brother and business partner Carlo. "They want very good brakes and forks and so on, but in a style that they remember. That's why we designed the Classic and the Arturo, our previous models, and now the Sfida."

So successful has the new bike been that production, which commenced in May at a rate of 18 per month, cannot come close to matching demand. When I called, everything the firm's five employees aimed to build in the next four months was sold out. South London Guzzi specialists Rotadale, the British Magni importers, currently quote a six-month wait for anyone wanting to place an order.

The bike retails for £9300 in its basic form with regular Brembo discs and calipers, or for around ten grand with the optional floating discs and Gold Line calipers. Powerplant of the base-model bike is stock Guzzi from airbox to exhaust, including the 949cc Vee-twin engine from the current Le Mans, but an I 105cc kit is available on request to boost the standard 948 twin's 80bhp-ish output by around lOObhp. (Rotadale boss Pietro Di Marino will also take on tuning work, from a £700 porting-and-big-bore job to full £2,500 blowout which includes modified pistons, a lightened crank and alloy clutch.)

The scarlet Sfida whose keys Giovanni handed me had the

I 100 kit fitted, and the big slugs hammering up and down inside the engine made their presence felt as the bike shook and rolled in typical Guzzi fashion when I cranked the equally traditional heavy-action twistgrip. Riding position leans you across the big tank to the steep clip-ons. Footrests are slightly more rearset than on a standard Le Mans, and give plenty of leg-room. The Sfida's a fairly tall bike but, although not particularly light at 4301b, it felt quite manageable.

We'd already come across its first major drawback, when lensman Goldcard and I arrived at the Magni HQ on the outskirts of Gallarate to discover that the bike was not registered and thus couldn't be ridden on the public road. Happily, salvation was at hand. Arturo picked up the phone, and one long call later had arranged for us to borrow Pirelli's extensive private test ground down the road that afternoon. You got the impression they knew who Signor Magni was in these parts.

Meanwhile I slipped out to get in some practice laps on the industrial area's private access road. This was a narrow tarmac track comprising little more than a couple of straights with a hairpin at either end, but it at east allowed me to confirm that the Magni patent parallellogram swing arm was the business. (Unfortunately for Arturo and Sons, those patents were not all-embracing enough to earn the Magnis a fortune from BMW et al for infringing them...)

Booming up to the first gear turn at the end of the street, flicking down through the gearbox, banking left and caressing the brake lever with respect for the gravelly surface, then dragging open the pair of 40mm Dellortos again coming out of the bend, was enough to convince me that the Magni swing arm system worked just as well as other firms' later variants. The Sfida simply shot back off up the road without a twitch from its firmish Koni shocks.

A further advantage is that the Parallelogramo has not increased the wheelbase, in the way that the equally effective Bee-Em Paralever has done. Or at least if that has happened, then Magni's otherwise fairly Guzzi-like trellis has compensated. At 1480mm the Sfida's wheelbase is actually an inch shorter than its Le Mans country cousin.

Rake and trail figures are a fairly Lemon-like 27 degrees and I 15mm, and help give the bike much the conservative handling feel you might expect. Tipping the 18-inch front wheel into a tight bend with a shove of the clip-ons was no problem, though by comparison with some current quickies the Magni's steering was a tad laborious. Conversely, the bike felt so planted and stable that it would take a hurricane to uproot it.

Just as well, too, for after half-an-hour's enjoyable circulating I was just contemplating returning to camp when the Guzzi's gentle chuffing was drowned by a fearful blast of sound that would have sent an RGV250 veering ino the opposite hedge. A large and very unhappy signora was announcing in what I took to be colloqual Italian that she's had enough and would I getta the hell out of her life? I did, with a face to match the Sfida's paint.

Fortunately Giovanni then indicated that the Pirelli track was about to become free, so we strapped the bike into his van and set off for the proving ground in the shadow of Malpensa, one of Milan's two main airports. The track was a brilliant place; all neatly laid-out handling circuits, artificial hills, water sprays for wet-weather tyre-testing and so on. When the last Pirelli-shod Porcshe had cleared off and the man in the cap gave the go-ahead, I gratefully nosed the Sfida out onto what was effectively an immaculately-surfaced private racetrack.

We'd been told to keep to a short-circuit loop at the one end, which was no hardship, but I couldn't resist one quick blat up the straightish section to give the Guzzi's big lungs some exercise. Just off tickover the Dellortos were a little spluttery but once the clutch was home the carburation cleared, the characteristic Guzzi low-frequency shaking - exaggerated a little by the big-bore engine -smoothed out, and the Sfida thundered off like a rampaging rhino in a Jacob's Club ad.

The big Vee-twin's flat torque curve sent the tacho needle sweeping steadily towards the 7750rpm redline as the bike headed for a top speed of around I40mph. Vibration and the old pushrod mill's clicketty-whirring increased a little as the revs rose, but the Vee never failed to feel just like the relaxed, unstressed but wonderfully gutsy great lump it has always been.

The anchors, not surprisingly, where even more efficient when it came to slowing down. The Magni has no Guzzi-style linked system, just those two floating-and-rattling Brembos up front and a smaller rear disc to help out. Grabbing a handful of Gold Line made the excellent forks earn their keep as the Sfida stopped with enough force to make me think that a fatter front wheel shod with something from Pirelli's current range might have been more suitable than the 100/ 90-section ribbed Phantom.

But the Sfida isn't trying to compete with modern bikes on performance or anything else. More importantly, navigating the circuit fortunately revealed that the somewhat skinny Pirellis were not going to embarrass our hosts by proving the Magni's weakness. The tyres gave enough grip for the sound of scraping centre-stand to demonstrate that the bike's ground clearance was the limiting factor when cornering on dry tarmac.

Round and round I swooped in the sunshine, the restrained sound of the pipes (loud Lafranconis are another option, but don't tell the IMC) echoing round the test ground as the Sfida was caned for lap after lap, my chin on the wide red tank as a sweeping right-hand bend unwound onto the heat-hazy straight, I watched the tacho needle unwind across its huge white dial and heard the engine's pulse quicken again as the machine surged forward on a torrent of torque.

The bike may not have been a factory MV Agusta, but the Gallarate sunshine and the watching Signor Magni (Giovanni this time, thankfully without stopwatch) gave more than a hint of what it must have been like for Surtees or Hailwood to test a new racer 30 years earlier.

That's the great strength of the Magni Sfida: it's got performance, but most of all it's got breeding and soul. Count Agusta's great bikes are just a memory now, but Arturo and his boys are making sure that the MV spirit lives on in Gallarate.

Source Bike 1990