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Could the Moto Morini Seiemmezzo STR be an Italian bargain?

We find out if it has got the metal to back up the name

Is this bike more Chinese than it is Italian? PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Greek mythology paints a picture of Theseus—the founding king of Athens and son of Poseidon—as a formidable warrior and great voyager. Despite his conquests, however, one seemingly tangential belonging of his came to be the subject of lore, legend, and debate: his ship. Philosophers have concocted a mind-teasing thought experiment around this vessel of his called the “Ship of Theseus” paradox.

Say the ship of Theseus was kept in a museum after his demise. As years went by, the wooden planks of the ship aged and rotted. In order to keep the ship in pristine condition, rotted parts had to be replaced by fresh planks and logs. When the time comes that every single piece of the ship has been swapped out for new ones, is it still the same ship that Theseus touched, owned, and sailed on? Or is it a different ship altogether?

Backlit buttons are delightful to find at this price point, but the tactility could be better, though. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Moto Morini is an Italian brand that dates back all the way to 1937. However, it has since been bought out and revived by the Chinese. And so it begs the same question: Is this Moto Morini Seiemmezzo STR still Italian when every piece and part is now Chinese?

Well, they’ve got the heat right, that’s for sure. The Seiemmezzo runs on a 649cc parallel-twin engine that simulates the intense warmth of cradling the second bank of a V-twin between your thighs by cleverly pointing the radiator fan at your prized jewels. I whacked the throttle wide open to unleash all of 60hp and 56Nm in the hopes that the heat would dissipate at speed, but no. Italians, eh?

Moto Morini has also got the spec sheet down pat. As you turn the key, a five-inch TFT gauge cluster comes to life and greets you. You look down at your right hand to reach for the starter button, and you will be surprised to find backlit switchgear.

Pirelli Angel GT tires, adjustable levers, tire pressure monitors, fully adjustable upside-down fork, an adjustable rear monoshock, a projector LED headlight—you name it. These are things you would find on a Ducati or an MV Agusta.

'Seiemmezzo' is Italian for six and a half. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Handling is another thing that Moto Morini manages to dial in perfectly. The STR carves beautifully in the corners, but the long peg feelers will keep you from getting too carried away. At 195kg, the bike is easy to throw around at lower speeds, too.

As a middleweight naked bike, it’s a good size for taking on daily commuting duties. The bike is lively and agile, sometimes a little skittish, too, when you’re not gentle enough with the controls. It actually reminds me of the Triumph Trident in the way the chassis behaves.

As the street-oriented model, the STR gets lower handlebars for a bit more of an aggressive riding position. The seat height is very approachable at 795mm, which further adds to the maneuverability of the motorcycle. There’s nothing in the way of wind protection, but that’s par for the course for retro naked bikes like this.

The Brembo brakes leave much to be desired in terms of feel and response. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Dual 298mm discs mated to Brembo calipers take care of stopping up front, although it must be said that the initial bite from these is extremely weak. It’s a tricky thing to modulate especially when trail-braking since it goes from nothing to throwing you over the handlebars without warning. Also, the rear gets a single 255mm rotor with a Brembo caliper. Both are pumped through a Bosch ABS system.

Would Mr. Morini be happy with the Seiemmezzo if he were still alive today? PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

As for looks, the jury is still out as to whether it’s passable as an Italian. Aesthetics is highly subjective, after all. To me, though, the design lacks a certain nuance. And it’s the little things, really. The flat lens on the round headlight, for example. I don’t think it was a deliberate choice to design it that way, but rather the result of doing what’s easy and using what already exists.

There are redeeming qualities, though. Moto Morini has done a great job of cleaning up the tail of the bike by installing a tire hugger instead of a rear fender. The tank is a little bland, but its 15.5L capacity more than makes up for it. The bike is peppered with subtle “6 ½” badges that work well to elevate the aesthetic. A wider rear tire would have done wonders to add some bulk to the bike.

We hope an updated engine comes soon. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

I don’t think that the Seiemmezzo is ugly. Not at all. It just feels a little off-the-shelf. And the biggest contributor to that is the engine. This motor traces its roots all the way back to the Kawasaki ER6 parallel-twin. Chinese motorcycle manufacturer CFMoto created a copy of the ER6 a while back, and that copy is what now sits in the frame of every middleweight model of Moto Morini.

It’s starting to show its age with the cable-operated throttle that disallows the presence of drive modes and the modest power output. And while the rest of the world has now figured out the secret sauce to making exciting parallel-twins (cross-plane 270° cranks), this motor is stuck in 2006 with a flat-plane 180° crank.

One upside is that it might actually be more refined than the original ER6. Power delivery is extremely smooth and linear. There are no unsettling peaks in power. It just drones along merrily. The six-speed gearbox is nice and precise; you get crisp shifts; and it’s perfectly suited for a variety of riding conditions.

'Six-and-a-half' is in reference to the engine's 650cc displacement. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Swap out sugar for high-fructose corn syrup to make a bottle of Coke, and you and I will still recognize the beverage to be Coca-Cola. But remove the fizz, and the experience just wouldn’t be the same. And that’s what the Seiemmezzo STR is missing.

That eye-watering, soul-satisfying tickle at the back of your throat. It’s a solid bike, for sure. Lightweight, torquey, and approachable. Handles like a dream, too. It also makes a case for itself as a very good beginner big bike.

But somehow, the Italian spirit got lost in translation somewhere between the design room in Italy and the factory floor in China. And so, the end result, while objectively good, feels flat. Clinical. Soulless. Unrecognizable as an Italian bike.

It's a good bike. It just doesn't get the intangibles quite right. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

But then again, the Seiemmezzo isn’t priced like an Italian bike. It’s priced like a Japanese bike that puts it in highly competitive company. The STR retails for P528,000, and is currently being offered with a P30,000 introductory discount. But even then, the Yamaha MT-07 with its CP2 cross-plane twin, the Honda CB650R with its howling four-banger, and the Suzuki SV650 and its rumbling V-twin are all still cheaper and arguably more exciting.

You can even throw Royal Enfield’s 650 twins into the mix. Granted, none of these bikes come with the toys of the Moto Morini, but those gizmos do not create the whole experience.

That being said, Moto Morini is onto something with this motorcycle. On paper, the Seiemmezzo STR offers incredible value for money, and if the manufacturer can prove that it is capable of building a reliable bike with a bit more character and soul, then it’s on the right track.

Simonn Ang

Simonn is just a regular guy who happens to love cars and motorcycles. He also loves writing about them, too.