The best value model in the new SWM retro range is definitely the Gran Milano cafe racer. For just an extra $500, it comes with Brembo brakes, fully adjustable suspension and a better quality finish.
The Italian manufacturer was given a new lease on life in 2014 with funding from the Chinese Shineray Group.
While they have been known for their dirt bikes, the old Husqvarna factory in Lombardia, northern Italy, now also produces three retro models.
The Gran Milano cafe racer costs just $7990 ride away, while the Gran Turismo naked roadster and Silver Vase scrambler are $7490 ride away.
They all share the same 445.3cc single-cylinder engine and frame, but the Gran Milano is a very stylish model with the better brakes and suspension.
It compares very favourably with the Royal Enfield Continental GT at $9590 ride away and the Yamaha SR400 at $8099 plus on-road costs.
Despite being a cafe racer with clip-on bars, it has a quite comfortable riding position.
The triple clamp is set high and the seat relatively low so you don’t have to uncomfortably crouch over.
Unlike many cafe racers, the bars also don’t bang into the tank, so you have a good turning circle and won’t crush your thumbs on the tank.
However, the Gran Milano feels a little smaller than the other SWM retro models, because the contoured seat pushes you forward.
That slots you into the big 22.5-litre tank which has scoops for your knees. I’m 183cm (6’) tall and it just fits.
After some time in the saddle you feel a little cramped because you can’t move around all that much. However, the seat is quite comfortable for long stints of riding. And if you ride until that big tank runs out of fuel it will be several hours!
Styling is very retro cafe racer with a short front fender, twin shocks, round headlight, twin instrument pods, short mirrors, rear seat cowl and wire wheels.
The exhaust pipe is swept up higher than on most cafe racers but it creates a sporty look.
Some feel the odd-shaped tank does not suit the styling, but it does add to that locked-in fit of the riding position.
Quality of fit and finish on the Gran Milano is the best of the three bikes as well.
The instruments look a bit cheap, but everything else is well finished. I especially like the way the rear taillight fits into the cowl.
When I first picked up the Gran Milano from Heavy Duty Motorsport at Oxley in Brisbane, the SWM distributor had taken out the baffles.
It had an absolutely awesome sound. Not wicked loud, but with a deep thump.
Unfortunately, it attracted the long ear of the law and I was sent back to have the baffles refitted.
Even with the standard pipes, it still sounds like a bigger engine than a single.
The air and oil-cooled, four-stroke, SOHC, four-valve, fuel-injected engine has 22.4kW of power (30hp) and 35.8Nm of torque at 5300 revs.
It felt slightly smoother and more responsive than the Silver Vase, but perhaps that’s a psychological affect from the racier riding position.
Like the Silver Vase, the Gran Milano engine loves to spin between 4000 and 6000 revs for most duties.
Above 6000rpm, it gets another lease of life and becomes more lively, running out of steam about 8000-8500, well short of the indicated 10,000 rev limit.
It had only done 36km when I picked it up, so I didn’t push it too hard, but the Silver Vase became smoother as it passed the 500km mark. Both bikes can be a little difficult to start when hot.
They will sit comfortably on the highway at 5500 revs in fifth (top) gear with a tingling vibration through the bars, seat and foot pegs.
The Silver Vase has rubber inserts in the pegs while on the Gran Milano they are bare metal, so you get a little more tingle in your feet.
With any thumper, you ride the torque and use your gears to keep the engine in its sweet spot.
Thankfully the transmission is pretty slick and it changes gears without hesitation or any false neutrals.
The light hydraulic clutch also makes it easy work in heavy commuter traffic.
Where this bike excels over the others is in the suspension and braking.
The Gran Milano features adjustable front and rear suspension for fast and slow rebound and compression damping and adjustable preload rear shocks with piggy back reserves.
The suspension was set up right in the middle, which actually suited my 75kg frame.
However, with all that adjustment available, I just had to have a play.
Slowing the settings down a little actually helped the front tyre track better over tar ripples.
The steering geometry makes this a light and nimble steerer with fast turn-in that makes light work of a quick change in direction through a series of messes or weaving through traffic.
But it also makes it a little nervous on irregular surfaces, so tweaking the damping settings will sort that out.
The brakes are budget Brembo callipers on a single 320mm petal front disc which is quite effective for a 145kg (dry) bike. They have good feel and plenty of initial bite.
While I’m not usually suited to the cramped crouched-over style of a cafe racer, the Gran Milano felt comfortable and immense fun.
With those upgraded brakes and suspension, it’s also the pick of the single-cylinder cafe racers.
SWM Gran Milano 440 cafe racer
- Price: $7990 ride away
- Engine: 445.3cc air & oil cooled, 4-stroke SOHC 4-valve single cylinder
- Power: 22.4kW @ 6800rpm
- Torque: 35.8Nm @5300rpm
- Bore & Stroke: 90 x 70mm
- Transmission: 5 speed, wet hydraulic clutch
- Suspension: Adjustable 47mm USD telescopic fork; adjustable rear shocks
- Brakes: Brembo 320mm disc, four piston caliper; 220mm disc, hydraulic single piston
- Wheels: 120/70-17-inch: 150/60-17-inch
- Seat: 809mm (optional pillion seat available)
- Wheelbase: 1410mm
- Fuel: 22.5 litres
- Weight: 145kg (dry)
- Colours: Bronze, Green Lagoon