A decade ago, I would be super excited on the rare sighting of an imported motorcycle which would be anything from a sportbike to a cruiser. So much so that I wouldn’t blink until it would be out of sight. At that moment, nothing else on this planet would distract me from staring at one of the most remarkable things made by man. To see one then was so uncommon that among the crowd of our domestic motorcycles, a sportbike was an alien with superpowers. Back to the present, I’ve gotten used to seeing them since a lot are now available in India (and I would barge into a showroom shamelessly just to take a look at one!) and also because it’s part of what I do. What hasn’t changed is that I still get as excited to see a sportbike as I used to some 10 years back, although, the expressions are much calmer now unless there’s something extremely special and unique. A Ducati or an Aprilia, yes! An MV Agusta, hell yeah! But I didn’t really mean them when I said special and unique. Right now, what we are looking for is something from the history books perhaps and not too long ago really. Need Money to buy your dream Superbike! Sell your old motorcycle on OLX 2002 – 2014 Why are these thirteen years of any significance? Because during this time, Benelli made a name for itself by making one of the most unforgettable sportbikes of modern times. From 2002 to 2014, Benelli produced their only Superbike line-up by the name of Tornado Tre (900 & 1130). First launched in 2002 with a 900cc inline 3 engine, the Tornado Tre 900 gained instant popularity and presented Benelli as a manufacturer of competitive sportbikes even though the earlier models suffered from fuelling and reliability issues. To increase the performance, the Tornado Tre 900 was upgraded to the 1130cc engine in 2004 and was called the Tornado Tre 1130, the one that excited me again like a decade back. Tornado Tre 1130 The Tornado had a remarkably modern styling from the beginning and looked radical compared to the Japanese Superbikes. Its edgy design and especially the angular fuel tank grabbed everyone’s attention. But that isn’t the reason why it became so popular. What caught everybody off-guard was the fact that the radiator was placed under the rear seat. It looked like two under seat exhausts from a distance, but were actually the radiator fans. Irrespective of what people felt about it, it was a sight to behold. It was something that nobody had done before and still hasn’t been done, and in all likeliness, it will never be done again. The inline 3 engine was placed quite far ahead in the chassis, in order to reduce the tendency to wheelie under hard acceleration. But this left absolutely no space for the radiator up front! Hence, it was placed under the rear seat. To ensure that there was enough space left between the rear wheel and the tail section, the seat height was raised considerably, creating a high and an even more aggressive riding position. 2004 – The Onslaught of 1000cc Superbikes Although full-faired Superbikes were being produced since the late 1980s, it wasn’t until the year 2004 when all motorcycle manufacturers entered the 1000cc engine specification. Honda and Kawasaki upgraded their CBR954RR and ZX-9R to CBR1000RR and ZX-10R respectively while Yamaha introduced under seat exhausts into its YZF-R1. 2004 was a major turning point in the world of Superbikes. For this reason, Benelli’s decision to update the Tornado Tre 900 to Tornado Tre 1130 in 2004 was well-timed. Its 1130cc, inline 3, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12-valve engine was good enough to produce 163.2PS of maximum power at 10500 RPM and 124 Nm of peak torque at 8000 RPM. While the power figure was competitive, the torque was noticeably higher than what Japanese Superbikes produced at the time. This is because compared to the 1130cc Tornado, the Japanese Superbikes were 998cc (Suzuki GSX-R1000 was 988cc till 2004). Benelli Tornado Tre 1130 also used high-quality components. The frame was a steel trellis unit with a die-cast aluminium subframe. The swing-arm was also made of aluminium while the 50mm upside-down forks at the front were from Marzocchi and the mono-shock at the rear was from Extreme Tech. Two double disc 320mm Brembo brakes were radial-mounted along with a single 240mm disc brake at the rear.
The WSBK Experience Due to the racing experience, the Tornado was competitive in the real world with the top speed hovering in the 280s. The sorted chassis and suspension package ensured that the handling was impressive; however, the high seat meant that the riding posture was a too aggressive for prolonged riding. The Afterlife It could be possible that due to the ever-rising standard of Superbikes from the Japanese and other European manufacturers like Ducati and Aprilia, and also due to the lack of required finances, Benelli decided to stop the production of the Tornado Superbike in 2014 and instead, concentrate more on their TNT line-up of streetfighters. But the Tornado will remain the most important chapter in the life of the Italian manufacturer. In the late 1980s, Benelli was merged with Moto Guzzi, its motorcycle production stopped and the production plants sold. After years of struggle and under a new leadership in 1995, Benelli started working on their first Superbike and hence, the Tornado was born. It was the motorcycle that brought Benelli right into the game and established it as a serious motorcycle manufacturer. Benelli is now owned by a Chinese motor group Qianjiang. There is no doubt we have missed certain gems of the past that acted as the blueprints for the motorcycles of today. From the late 1960s all the way to the present, the motorcycle industry has seen possibly the most iconic, important, remarkable and trend-setting motorcycles that were ever put into production. And as we continue to move towards the future, a small part in the history of motorcycle making will always be occupied by the Tornado Tre 1130 by Benelli. Riding Impressions The Tornado 1130 was ridden by me on the Pune-Mumbai Old Highway which is a lot better than your city traffic but by no means a place to actually ride such an exotic motorcycle! But I can’t complain, I had created my own utopia – me with the Tornado beneath, the beautiful roar of the engine and the enchanting gleam of the silver and green paint. The bike’s engine and sound reminded me a lot of the DSK Benelli 1130 TNT which I actually raced in the JK Championship in 2015. The fuelling, though far from perfect, did not hamper my realization that this was a super quick motorcycle which handled very well indeed. Another point to be noted was that this bike was started after many months, if not years. The gear shifts were precise, the throttle response a bit twitchy, and the overall ergonomics almost spot on, except as mentioned – the seat was a little too high. But then a bike like this does not need to be ‘reviewed’, it needs to be used to pamper your ego, your soul and drive your rider friends into a fit of jealously until they match the green paint of this bike. No matter what they have, it will outdo any superbike available today in terms of exclusivity and design. Any bike!