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Moto Morini X-Cape 650 brings Italian flair to the middleweight segment

A stylish tourer with quality components

It passes the all-important café stop test. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

If it’s red and it’s sexy, then it’s Italian.

So, we have here the Moto Morini X-Cape 650, the boutique Italian marque’s first new adventure bike in quite a few years.

Unlike Italian giants like Aprilia and Ducati, Moto Morini hasn’t always had the most stable financials. The company filed for bankruptcy back in 2009. What followed were several years of creative ways to make money, ranging from direct selling to rentals.

Despite limited funds, the company still managed to stay afloat, specializing in hand-built machines for customers who just wanted something Italian but also different from the usual suspects.

An ADV bike for those who want to ride something different from the usual suspects. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

By 2018, though, the Zhongneng Vehicle Group had acquired Moto Morini for €10 million, bringing a much-needed infusion of cash to the company. And one such product of this new arrangement is the X-Cape 650. While the bike is now assembled in China to high standards, the long R&D period was still conducted in Italy.

The Italians know a thing or two about designing sexy bikes. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

By the looks alone, you can tell that an Italian designed it. Slim, sexy fairings and a beak-less fascia that’s a welcome change from the usual ADV aesthetic.

The 649cc parallel-twin engine is sourced from CFMoto, itself based on the venerable ER-6 of the Kawasaki Versys 650. In profile, everything just looks so right and neat from the stubby exhaust to the tight fit of the engine and the transmission. No big gaps or wayward hoses to take away from the looks.

CFMoto makes the engine, which is based on the Kawasaki ER-6. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

But there’s a penalty. Even at highway speeds, there’s a pocket of hot air that just sits in between your legs and never really goes away even when you go faster.

All big bikes generate heat, but engine configuration and fairing design play a big part in how much of that heat actually reaches you. In the X-Cape’s case, I suspect the shape of the fairing is designed more for aerodynamics than venting waste heat away from you. I’ve ridden many other middleweight bikes, but none felt as hot as the Moto Morini.

I actually had to stop mid-ride and check if I was not, in fact, riding a V-twin where one cylinder head is always near your crotch. It’s not unbearable, but it feels as hot as a Triumph Tiger 1200, whose big triple-cylinder also has a fan that blasts waste heat toward you.

It could do with a better breathing exhaust and a de-cat to spice up the engine. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Then again, it wouldn’t be an Italian bike if it didn’t make you even a tad uncomfortable. I remember riding a Corsaro 1200 a few years ago, and that was miserably hot.

Engine heat aside, there’s a lot to like about the bike. The seats are wide and generously padded for both rider and pillion rider, with good ergonomics. The standard seat height of 810mm is just right for my 173cm (5’8″) height, with a neutral seat-to-peg distance that won’t cramp me anytime soon.

The raised handlebars aren’t tiring to use at lower speeds, and they’re just the right height for stand-up riding. The big windscreen deflects a lot of turbulence at high speed, and has minimal distortion. While the seven-inch TFT screen doesn’t have a lot of features, it’s large and easily readable in all light conditions. There is no traction control, but an Off-Road mode disables ABS at the rear wheel.

The seats are plush and comfy. Grab rails and an integrated bracket are touring-friendly. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The engine has a 180° crank, so it trades the syncopated beat of a 270° crank for a smoother run up the tach. It’s rated at 60hp at 8,250rpm, and 54Nm at 7,000rpm. While it also has a top speed of 170km/h, acceleration is brisk but not especially snappy.

In fact, you really need to crack the throttle wide open to get the bike moving briskly. Part of this may be due to its substantial 213kg dry weight, and also to its Euro 5 emissions rating. A de-cat and a better breathing exhaust would be on your to-do list if you want your X-Cape to feel more snappy.

The big TFT screen is crisp and easy to read day or night. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The left switch pod handles all the menus and ride modes. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Ride quality from the adjustable Marzocchi USD fork and Kayaba rear monoshock is taut and responsive. The fork is also adjustable for preload, rebound, damping, and compression so you can fine-tune the ride.

With a 19-inch front wheel, it’s a more road-focused ADV bike than the bigger tired Yamaha Ténéré 700, but the spoked wheels and the Pirelli Scorpion STRs are up for a fair bit of off-roading anyway. Plus, they look really handsome. With brakes provided by Brembo, stopping power is linear and powerful as expected.

Once you come to terms with how the X-Cape generates its power and get comfortable with the weight, it’s fun to toss around in the bends and blast along empty roads.

Pirelli Scorpion STRs are a quality OE spec choice of rubber. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The six-speed doesn’t have a quickshifter, but the chain slots in neatly up and down the cogs without having to use the clutch after first gear. The Pirellis have a good balance between dry grip and wet, though they do tend to be a bit noisy and add some rumble to the ride quality.

On the more practical side, the bike already has a top box bracket integrated into the grab bars, and there’s enough clean air beside the tail for a rider to fit saddle bags.

The tank holds 18L, which at 20km/L translates to around 320km before the fuel-low warning comes on. You could probably get better fuel efficiency if you really baby the throttle, too. It also runs fine with 91 octane, so no need to spend more for the premium stuff.

The bike is specced well and has very good fit and finish. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The bike has an SRP of P658,000, but it’s currently being offered with up to P70,000 off as a promo, which works out to P588,000.

Not a hardcore adventure bike like the Ténéré 700, the X-Cape 650 is a stylish way to go touring compared to the dated aesthetics of established ADV/touring bikes like the Kawasaki Versys 650, and an alternative to the CFMoto 800MT.

I never got tired of looking at it while taking a mid-ride break, and while there will always be a better bike than the one you have right now, the X-Cape makes a positive and lasting impression.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.