Today I was doing my daily research on cool old motorcycles and started finding an interesting pattern, small displacement motorcycles seem to live on decade after decade with minor changes, but larger bikes come and go and change every couple of years. My closest reference is the Honda 350. Honda built that model for years with little changes and was the largest selling motorcycle in the world. Sure, the CB750 was a world changer and spawned the ‘Superbike’ (actually, Triumph trumped them on that one with the Trident, but Honda got the title…), but while everybody was one-upping each other in the performance range, smaller bikes just kept selling.
A great example of small displacement bikes that just kept selling and going strong was the Moto Guzzi Airone 250. This was a bike that was born in the 1930’s and finally retired in 1957. The Falcone (500cc) was the better known of the two Guzzi singles but the Airone was the better seller. In Italy,the Airone was up against scooters and ultra lightweight two strokes for market share and was considered a ‘big’ motorbike. If you had a an Airone you were definitely in the big leagues, the Falcone in its home market was considered too big?!
Early on the Airone was a very simple motorcycle, a pressed steel frame, girder front suspension and an eye-popping 10 horsepower that would propel the little single to a top speed of 60 mph! Pretty impressive for its time, but still the Airone was considered a very sedate motorcycle.
1948 brought out the ‘Sport’ version of the 250 single. The motor was pumped up to 13.5 horsepower and the top speed went up to 75 mph…now were getting serious here! The styling became a bit more ‘dashing’ with the new paint job and ‘Fishtail’ muffler,the new muffler did more than just look good, it did add a bit of power to the little single and it sounded much more robust (as robust as a 250 single can sound). You could get a speedo and a tach for the bike as options but as was the common thought of the day “If you have to check your speed, you’re not going fast enough”. The Airone was Moto Guzzi’s best selling single through the 1950’s outselling the Falcone four to one. It was also Italy’s most popular lightweight motorcycle at the time.
Today I found a very nice Moto Guzzi Airone 250 Sport on ebay that is selling for what I believe is a somewhat reasonable price considering some I have seen on the market and the fact that there are very few around here in the US. This particular Airone is a 1950 Sport model in really good condition that would only need a basic going through to make a fun rider right now. It’s not a show bike it is a rider…you show up at your local Sunday ride hang out on this bike with the ‘baloney cutter’ flywheel spinning away, you will have a crowd instantly…don’t expect to be eating breakfast all too soon.
For more info and pics, click on the pics below. Nice bike, it ain’t cheap but rare and unique bikes from this era never are. They are worth it however.