Friday, 5 April 2013
Back in the room with Borrani
In the meantime a long-time friend (as in over thirty years) has taken over as editor of Classic Bike Guide and, given that he didn't sit in the big chair 'till February 6th, boy are there some changes - all for the good. As well as CBG now looking far more stylish and grown up than anything else on the market, the content is (I think) several rungs up from the "Here's another restored Commando", roadtest driven stuff on offer elsewhere. It's even got Gary Inman of Sideburn fame commenting on the link between loving vinyl and old motorbikes, plus a column by - scoop this - Paul D'Orlean aka The Vintagent.
I was also flattered that Gary asked me to contribute, which meant disappearing from here. Inevitably I got roped into a Honda 400/4 buyers' guide since I had three as a teenager. But did you know that the boxy tank and 4-1 exhaust were simply cost cutting measures? Me neither. Plus I did a piece on the new Borrani rims (see the pix), which caused a bit of a ruckus behind the scenes. Which, all you lawyers, I might have dreamt. A very big wheel builder and seller questioned whether these are actually made in Italy. In fact, he went further and claimed that he had seen the rims being made, dimpled and drilled in China before being sent to be stamped "Borrani - Made in Italy" near Milan before being dumped on a duped public. He also claimed the quality of the drilling was so poor that premature wear at the very least was inevitable.
Putting aside what Mr Concerned of Big Business Wheels was doing in a Shanghi factory that makes substandard spokes and rims, I chased up UK importers Disco-volante and we got onto the Italians themselves. Oh, what a tale emerged...
It seems Mr Concerned had a couple of goes at securing the UK distribution of these "poor quality Borranis" himself, and only turned whistleblower when he was politely but firmly told a deal was done with Disco-volante. Following his accusations, the Italian distributors (who make their money on the car side and are adding bike rims to the range as an act of historic enthusiasm) have said anyone can go to Italy and see the rims being prepped, "Except Mr(redacted) who we would only like to see in court."
The reality is that Italy has no natural resources, so even the original Borranis would have been made from imported alloy: in truth to keep costs down the new Borrani motorcycle (but not car) rims are made in China, but are polished, dimpled and drilled in Italy to the original patterns. Wheelbuilders who have used them like the new Borranis, and certainly feel they're better than running a 40 year old original. The point about having Borrani stamped on rims is important to lots of folk - so many bevel Ducatis were raced that inevitably their original wheels went in crashes or in favour of cast alloy items. Take it from someone who got bored to death of folk crouching down to see Akront stamped on the rim of my 450 Desmo and then saying (adopt adenoidal train-spotter's voice), "It's a fake then?" If only the new-old-Borranis had been available when I had it built in 2008...