It wasn’t all fizzers in the 70’s, the Italians had a fair bit to say on the subject too. CP catches up with a cracking Garelli to see what all of the fuss is about.
The KL50 had been around for some time on the continent but hadn’t made an appearance in the UK due to the legal requirement for all learner legal sixteener specials to have pedal power. With the impending law change that would see 50’s neutered and held back to 30mph Garelli saw no future for its successful tiger and tiger cross range. These models had pedals and the frame made up part of the mechanism so simply removing the cycle parts would have meant some ugly leftovers. The answer was to create a restricted KL50 for the UK market and this was achieved by fitting an inlet stub with a small 5mm aperture fed by a 14mm Dell’Orto carburettor, rather than the 19mm instrument seen on the European spec machine, this along with a ridiculously over geared final drive ratio, kept the speedo needle from ever considering passing the sacred 30mph marker. Of course it didn’t take long for kids in the know to spot this and more than a few replacement, or drilled out, inlet manifolds and carburettors changed hands, fully liberating the nifty fifty and allowing the full potential to be unleashed, making the Garelli a far more practical proposition for tuning than any of its Japanese counterparts. With its proper Italian frame and aggressive stance the Latin machine looked good too, far better than a pressed steel Fizzie, SS or AP and way faster than the TY50 and later restricted models. The UK specification machine differed in several ways to the model the rest of the continent got their hands on, most noticeable of all the changes is the contact breaker ignition which replaced the fully electronic ignition seen on the euro spec version. In reality, providing the points are set up correctly and the timing is spot on, there isn’t any perceptible difference to the way it rides, but long term maintenance and servicing is certainly an issue to be considered with the old style way of providing sparks.
There wasn’t a lot of Garelli machines around in the late 70’s compared to the more common Jap sector, because of this, and their stunning lines and striking colour schemes, they did tend to stand out from the crowd. Unlike to opposition, dealers were few and far between, so actually getting your hands on a Garelli would have meant travelling some distance if there wasn’t one near you, compared to the Japanese machine the Latin sector was a good deal pricier too. Honda Suzuki and Yamaha had a full range of models to keep there newly acquired bikers loyal to the brand so by subsidizing their 50’s you stood a good chance of getting them hooked for the rest of their biking careers. Garelli, with no such machinery to pull back some profit, didn’t have that luxury, also the Italian factory although relatively modern still relied heavily upon dated hand assembly and fabrication techniques adding much to the cost of production, whereas the oriental way of doing things resulted in greater numbers of machines sold, less people involved to make them and a good deal more button pressing to produce a motorcycle.
In use the KL rides with a reassuring confidence that, unlike the Fizzie and AP it faced as opposition, feels like a real motorcycle, albeit a small and compact one. It is a little awkward starting the engine with the kick-starter mounted on the left hand side of the engine, its far easier to leave in gear and roll the bike forward to bump it off than risk slipping and rearranging the skin on your shin. Luckily either method works as well, the engine is crisp and keen to start at the mere hint of the rider wanting to do so. The piston port engine is surprisingly tractable and torquey too, much fuss was made about reed and disc valves during this time of factory one-up-manship, and yet the old way of doing things does work as well when designed and built correctly. The engine is easier to assemble and with less mobbing parts cheaper to build and maintain too so the idea does make some sense. The left foot gear shift feeling far more positive then the wobbly and less assured right hand affair seen on earlier Garelli models, the five ratios inside the revamped engine matching the power far better than the old four ratio box ever could and helping the tiny engine trot along at a right old pace. With the bigger carburettor and inlet stub fitted, as most would have had in the day too, the little Garelli buzzes along nicely, revving out in each gear and singing a merry two-stroke song. As is the case with all Garelli peds of the period, the brakes do leave a bit to be desired and constant down shifting is the order of the day to help out in the stopping department. The 90mm diameter, single leading shoe drum brakes fitted at each end are tiny, even by moped standards, and not only do they lack power, they display contempt too.
Agrati Garelli KL50 5V Cross Specification
Engine – Air-cooled single-cylinder piston-port two-stroke
Capacity – 49.6cc
Bore & stroke – 40 x 39mm
Compression Ratio – 12:1
Carburetion – 14mm Dell’Orto
Max Power – 3bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque – 2.6ft-lbs @ 5000rpm
Ignition – contact breaker
Transmission – 5-speed, wet clutch, chain final drive
Frame – Steel tube duplex
Suspension – 28mm telescopic forks twin shock rear
Wheels – 2.50 x 19 3.00 x 17
Brakes – 90mm single leading shoe drum front and rear
Wheelbase – 1115mm
Weight – 84kgs
Fuel capacity – 6litres
Top speed – 30mph
Garelli KL50 5V Cross Road Test Gallery
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