Born in 1887, Giuseppe Gilera grew up in the Italian region of Lombardy. At a young age he already showed a sense of technology and a fascination for motor technology that was still in its infancy at the time.
Until 1909 he had some experience in the Bucher factory in Milan
The history of Gilera as a brand begins in 1909 when Giuseppe Gilera sets up a small workshop in Milan and builds his first motorcycle there, a 317 cc single-cylinder. That workshop grew into a factory where 499, 508 and 569 cc side valves were built.
Even before the First World War, the company had expanded into a real, quite large family business and there was a lot of demand for Gilera motorcycles. During the First World War a lot of motorcycles were sold to the Italian army. After the war, in contrast to many companies that had only run war production, the Gilera brand continued to improve.
And because Gilera was Italian, it was of course fully involved in driving competitions
More to the north there was the slogan 'Race on a Sunday, sell on a Monday'. But with Italians we just can't get rid of the idea that they dived into the competitive sport because they just enjoyed it so much. In Italy they always think first of the passion, only later of the pasta. So there is also an endless line of Italian motorcycle manufacturers that has at least once been overtaken by their own racing ambitions. But Gilera also popped up the circuits. And the brand did it successfully.
And how the brand history of the brand started?
That was because the daily sales were so successful. Gilera just bought another brand. Gilera was one of the big brands in road racing since the 700s. Exports started in the 1933s. At that time, the brand employed about XNUMX people. In XNUMX, the Rondine factory in Rome was taken over and Gilera acquired the four-cylinder engines from CNA. This was the start of a series of great racing successes.
During the Second World War, only war production was again run. When peace broke out, normal motorcycle production was restarted. Among other things, they make 'motocarros', three-wheeled transport scooters, which were also produced before the war. But those kinds of vehicles were of enormous importance in putting the post-war economy back on wheels. And Gilera was doing well. A factory - still existing until 2007 - was built in Argentina. The Gilera Quattro became famous for its victories at the 500 cc world championships. In the 500 cc GPs, another row of world championships were achieved.
Maybe also interesting: Gilera Nuevo Bialbero 500 Saturno
After the death of Giuseppe's son, there was no successor and in 1970, Gilera became part of the Piaggio Group. From that moment on, mainly light two-stroke branches were built. In 1990 a series of sporty single-cylinder four-stroke models were launched under the name Gilera, the Saturno and the Nordwest, but in 1994 the Gilera brand disappeared from the market.
In 2001, however, it came back with a 600 cc Supersport with a Suzuki GSX-R block. They also participated in GP racing in the lighter classes. This resulted in a world championship in 2001 for Manuel Poggiali.
The daily bread
That expensive competition was financed by the successful sale of ordinary motorcycles and motorcycles at a time when a 250 cc was still a medium machine. And those 'daily drivers' were good, but were not full of high-quality technology. A few years ago many Gileras came as a by-catch after the expeditions to the fair on the circuit of Imola. At the time, all that light stuff was almost given away there to motorcycle enthusiasts from the Netherlands who at a time took away trucks full of heavy old Japanese and Italians for prizes that they had once dared to dream about.
They are usually between 150-250 cc. They are unspectacular, beautiful, good and not very popular. And not expensive. So worth considering for the occasional sunny tour of the church or so.
Nowadays, Piaggio builds light scooters, mopeds, terrain bikes and sports models under the name Gilera.
More for lovers of classic engines.