Friday 28 February 2014

Friday bike

Moto Morini 350 Kanguro X3

This week's 'Friday bike' is one that I came very close to buying, the Moto Morini 350 Kanguro X3.
This was one of the last trail bikes Morini built using their 350cc V twin engine. (There was also a 500cc 'Camel' version).
Back in about 1990 or 91 (can't remember now), I had to go to UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) for an Open University summer school. I rode down on my MZ ETZ 250, and things went well until I tried to change down a gear and found that the lever had fallen off! This was not an uncommon problem on MZ 250s due to the poorly machined splines on shaft and lever. (I had it happen twice, and some MZ owners used to attach a loop of wire round the lever to catch it if it came adrift).
What to do? I had planned on keeping riding in top gear until I got off the motorway, then stopping and change the bike down into 2nd using Mole grips (Vise grips), and riding through Manchester to the University. As I would be there for a week, I could phone my brother and get him to post me down another lever from my other 250. This would have worked had I not had to stop for fuel. After filling up I started the bike and put it onto 4th gear on its stand, then holding the clutch in I started to run with the bike aiming to leap on, slipping the clutch, like racers did in the 60s. This didn't quite work out as as soon as I got the clutch fully out and was riding onto the motorway, the clutch started slipping badly!
MZ 250s' clutches are fitted onto the end of the crankshaft by being pressed onto a taper - no splines, no keyway - nothing! This means that if it's given any sort of abuse, it slips off the taper and you don't have any drive. If you're really unlucky, it scores the taper so you end up needing a new crankshaft and clutch centre. It is possibly the worse piece of design I've ever seen and it's no wonder I've never come across any other bike with the same setup.
So it was onto the phone to the breakdown people and they took me to the next service station. There the people who own the garage with the breakdown trucks let me leave the bike inside until I could collect it, and I arranged with the breakdown people to relay me and the bike home the following week after the summer school.
I was still about 50 miles (80 km) from Manchester, so carrying my panniers, I got a taxi to the nearest railway station, then a train to Manchester.
I was really annoyed with the MZ and its stupid clutch design, and one evening I was walking past a bike shop where they were selling Morini Kanguros for £1200. It was heavily discounted as the model had been dropped from the range, and was a real bargain as an MZ ETZ 250 was about £1000 and a similar Japanese bike at least £2000.
Next day I went into the shop and asked if I could buy a Kanguro using my credit card! They said they could have the bike ready for me to ride away the following Saturday (when I was going home), then I asked if they could fit a set of Krauser pannier frames to it so I could carry my panniers. They looked in the Krauser catalogue, but no fitting kit was listed for the Kanguro. I offered to pay them to make a fitting kit - I'd made a fitting kit for the MZ, all it needed was four stips of steel bent and drilled to suit, a couple of hours work at the most, but they weren't interested. When I said that I'd only buy the bike if they could fit the pannier frames, and I was willing to pay them to do it, they still wouldn't budge, so I didn't buy the Morini!
My plan had been to ride back to where the MZ was on the Morini and tell the people looking after it to throw it in a skip! I was so disappointed with it that I didn't even want it back.
In the end I got a train, taxi, and breakdown truck and got home at about 2 in the morning. I fitted a new gear lever and rode the bike for a least the next 10 years!
A couple of years ago when I was looking for a project, I started looking around for a Kanguro. All the ones I could find were either wrecks or ridiculously over priced (or even both!). So I ended up buying my CL350 instead.
I've often wondered what a Kanguro would have been like. As it is, I've still not owned an Italian bike (my Italian built Yamaha doesn't count), and my CL 350 is the nearest to a trail bike I've ever had. Anyone out got or have ridden a Kanguro?


  1. Just found out that in 1989 the list price of a Kanguro was £2395, so they had been reduced to half price by 1990/91.

  2. Perhaps your miss was your mercy as they say in the wee North, I've never seen them in Canada but that may be because homologation is expensive here.

    Blaming the clutch problem on the way it's mounted on the taper is a mite unfair after all you were slipping the clutch in fourth. Why didn't you just leave the mole grips on the shaft and use your toe to move it up and down? I know it's not the ideal but I suppose the shaft is recessed making it a tad difficult.

    Thanks for your side story, it looks like it might have been fun. Keep up the great work and ride safe :)

  3. I once went to australia on a one year work visa and i got a job as a bicyce courier, which often led me across that big iron bridge to north sydney, whixh is where the zoo is. One time i did go in and there were planty of kanagroos in an enclosure that was a circular pit embedded into the earth quite a bit cos i guess they were scared of the roos jumping out. I did ask a nearby rubbish collector if i jumped down into the enclosure how dfficult would it be to grab hold and ride one of them.....guy told me kangaroos are vicous bloody buggers and if i needed a ride that bad I would be wiiser to head up to kings cross.

    So no, Ive never ridden one either....dipped out on that one....I do remember when i was about 10 years old i did once see an "escaped" wallabe in southamptoon zoo about a month after it closed down...apparently they had just forgot this one wallabe and it was hopping around in the zoo unable to get out, despite it not being in a cade or enclosure. Me and my mate just stood at the gate watching it for ages cos we were so surprised...the next passing adult that walked by we told him there a kangeroo on the loose inside the zoo. He just laughed and said "dont take the piss lads" and fucked off. Yalk about irresponsible adults. Me and my mate just walked away and forgot about it....but now looking back i really wish we had jumped the gate and vaught that wallabe and taken him home to keep as a pet...i had a huge garden he would have happy enough, and at least he would have had food. I regret that. How cool would it have beem to have a wallabe in your back garden in could have used it as a chat up line with young and impressionable women......instead of stalking very young kids and saying "hey, do u want to see some puppies?" could have hit on over 16 year old girls at the park or skate rink and asked "hey, do you wanna come see my pet kangaroo?" betting you would have had a 50% success rate.

    yeah,,,just kidding...but the wallabe bit is true.....we both saw it so it wasnt the product of a young and unstable mind