A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles



Garelli - Road Impressions of new Models



At age 22, Adalberto Garelli received a degree in engineering and dedicated his work to developing and perfecting the two-stroke engine for Fiat. Garelli quit in 1911 due to Fiat's lack of enthusiasm for the two-stroke engine. He continued his own engine design between 1911 and 1914 which resulted in the 350cc split-single cylinder engine. Garelli worked for other motorcycle manufacturers from 1914 to 1918 during which time he won a competition organized by the Royal Italian Army to design a motorcycle with which he used his 350cc split-single engine.

In 1919, Garelli constructed a 350 cc motorcycle which set a long-distance record from Milan to Naples. Rider Ettore Girardi covered the 840 km (520 mi) with an average of 38.29 km/h (24 mph). Many famous Italian racers such as Ernesto Gnesa, Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi began their racing careers on Garelli bikes. The Garelli 350 cc split-single stayed in production until 1926 and made a major impact in racing. The company also produced motorcycles for the Royal Italian Army. After World War II, Garelli concentrated on producing smaller bikes and mopeds for the European market.

In 2019, in the centenary year of the foundation, the brand returned into the market with fully electric products: Ciclone Sic58[1] and E-Bike Ciclone Sic58.[2] In collaboration with the Marco Simoncelli Foundation.

WHAT'S it to be? Moped, scooterette or motor cycle? This is the question for those who limit their capacity range to the under 50cc category. If it's a motorcycle you're after, the Garelli Monza Special has just the right sporty appearance and is fastish for its size. As against a scooterette though, it offers a lower standard of comfort and is much less tractable for traffic riding.

Nevertheless, the scooter’s attractions - and those of a moped - are for a different type of rider. For the get-down-to-it brigade, this little Italian motorcycle provides riding fun.

The engine, despite its little 13.25 : 1 compression ratio, starts fairly easily; not full marks here, because, from cold, half-a-dozen kicks were occasionally necessary. A point to remember is that the downdraught Dell’Orto carburettor floods easily and the petrol must be turned off if the bike is left standing for more than a minute or two.

Once buzzing, the little engine goes very well, and seems virtually un-burstable. It doesn't object to full-throttle cruising (although, as would be expected, the speed drops appreciably when hills or a headwind are encountered) and 40 to 45 miles can be packed into the hour.

A highly tuned engine usually suffers in tractability, and that of the test bike was no exception. The Monza Special, then, is not at its best when used for town work.

The engine is well served by the transmission. Clutch operation is smooth and the four-speed, foot-change gear box is particularly sweet. Indeed, no special skill was required to make clean, clutchless changes.

As we have found with previous test Garelli bikes, the Monza Special provides top-drawer handling. Although the tyres are of only 2in section (which means you often feel the bumps), the bike can be cornered zestfully with absolute confidence. The only limitation to angle is grounding of the centre stand.

What level of comfort a rider demands is for him to decide and his stature must come into the reckoning. A small rider might well find the Monza Special to his liking but, for me, the seat was rather too narrow and the dropped bars placed too much of my weight on my wrists. The footrests would have suited me better if they were positioned slightly farther to the rear.

My weight is 11 stones and tucking in as best I could, top speed achieved was 48mph, with the mean speed only fractionally below this. Maximum power revs in top gear represent 52 mph. There is no doubt that a smaller, lighter rider would reach this figure. Indeed, I often exceeded it with only slight assistance from wind or gradient.


A good feature is that the maximum speed is achieved in under a quarter-mile. Acceleration tests showed a time of 26.8s and a speed of 46 mph for the standing-quarter. This is excellent from such a tiny engine and is, undoubtedly, one of the bull points of the machine.

Braking was first-class, 31ft to rest from 30 mph, and the brakes were smooth and progressive fuel consumption: 95 mpg at 30 mph: 80 mpg at 40mph.

All in all, then, the Garelli is a well-produced little machine with a strong appeal in its intended market. It is, also, suitable for 50cc-class racing and may be obtained with a special racing tank and seat for little more than £5 extra. (later in its development a full race kit was available from the factory, happily supplied by AGRATI UK. (editor).

A Completed Restoration

Garelli MONZA Racing Conversions  

As with most "Moped Marques" the Garelli Monza was used in 50cc road and track racing. On occasions only the engine was used, being housed in a bespoke frame of the builders design.

Here are some pictures of finished conversions and some of projects in progress.

 Theo Muers Garelli Racers

Derek Brightmore with the Muers Garelli Racer

Restored by Phil Cody the Muers Garelli Racer

Ron Ponti with the Muers Garelli Racer Ridden by George Ashton

The FAMOS  Garelli by Alan Leeson

The Garelli Monza - Greg Lawton

THREE records fell, and another almost fell!

To a Garelli “50” 

Although this bike is not a Garelli Monza, I have covered the 'Record Attempts' to give an insight into the Garelli approach to development. "Through competition and the constant development to win, comes the Improvement of the Breed"

With the reconstituted Garelli now under the control of Daniele Agrati, it was decided to return to the track in search of world records, which had been one of Garelli's major competition activities in pre-war days. In November 1963 two 50cc Garellis specially prepared by engineer William Soncini, running on alcohol fuel and equipped with large-capacity fuel tanks and all-enveloping 'dustbin' fairings

This started early on a Saturday morning, the “dustbin” streamlined midget streaked consistently round Monza to break the six-hour and 1,000 km records, failed by only 300 yards (owing to running out of fuel) to beat the 12-hour distance, and then broke the 24-hour record at an average speed of 108.834km/h (67.59mph), which has yet to be broken.

The riders were Gianemilio Marchesani, Luigi Pastori, Robert Patrignani, Giulio Parnigotti, Luciano Spinello and GianPiero 'Zubani'.  In order to wring every last ounce of speed from the tiny machines, a second set of footrests was fitted on brackets extending back towards the rear wheel, enabling the riders to obtain a lower, more aerodynamic riding position.

This episode in the life of Garelli was a great achievement for the Italian concern, for although Sesto Giovanni’s Garelli factory was one of the first Italian makes to gain international fame, they had been absent from the sport for forty years. 

The early successes were in the 1920s when their unorthodox 350 cc two-stroke "split" piston machines won many Grand Prix and broke several long-distance records at Monza. Then Garelli retired from the sporting scene only to make this comeback in 1963 with other long-distance record attempts - this time in the 50cc class. 

The machine was prepared for this enterprise by the development department chief of the factory, William Soncini and his staff and is strictly derived from the production models to give more value to performances, proving that without major tuning or modifications it is possible to achieve good results.

The orthodox two-stroke 40 X 39 mm (49 cc) engine with squish type head is fed by a 20mm choke Del'0rto carburettor with separate float chamber, burning alcohol-based fuel to suit the 15:1 compression ratio.

Maximum power output is 7.25 bhp at 9.000 rpm and this is transmitted by chain to the rear wheel through a twistgrip, controlled, four-speed gearbox.  Ignition is by flywheel magneto with external HT coil and only 14 degrees advance before TDC. Primary drive is by helical gears and the clutch is the usual multi-plate type in an oil bath.  

To facilitate the night-time running, necessarily involved in any 24-hour record attempt, a solitary headlight was fitted in the fairing's nose, as you can  see on this machines photograph. The fairing and the 3.5-gallon fuel tank are of light alloy. Tyres, front and rear, are 2.00 x 18.  Weight is about 143 lb and fuel consumption works out at about 77 mpg.  

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