Moto Guzzi V11 Le Mans

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

With the revival of the "mythic" Le Mans, Moto Guzzi has added an appealing sport-tourer to the line. And continuing a long-held tradition, the new Le Mans incorporates many elements commonly featured in the brand's other models.

Concept & Transformation
The name Le Mans harks back to the brand's seventies sport bike, named for the legendary racetrack west of Paris. Insiders know it as the Le Mans I. Originally developed from Moto Guzzi's successful endurance racers, the red-and-black beauty (available later in silver/black) arrived as an almost perfect, all-round sport bike. The seating position was still comfortable enough for taking longer trips, and the low-maintenance shaft drive was one detail that touring people highly appreciated. On the other hand, you also could use the Le Mans as a sportbike on curvy back roads. Finally yet importantly, the center stand (besides a weak side stand) insured solid parking downtown as well as making it easy to work on the bike.

According to their heritage, Moto Guzzi chose to use many parts from the rest of the model range. The Le Mans engine originated from the standard T3, but got hopped up by high-compression pistons, bigger valves, and 36mm carbs with open bell mouths (70hp @ 7300rpm). Also, the black painted "banana" exhaust added to the performance and featured the typical kink in the middle, which lifts the ends of the mufflers for better ground clearance. Seat, tank, and side covers, with a different paint scheme, were taken from the fast 750S3. The frame was reinforced for best results in hard riding conditions. But overall, the technology of the reliable V2 engine, a two-plate dry clutch, shaft drive and Guzzi's integrated brake system closely resembled other Guzzi models.

Engine &Transmission
Fortunately, Aprilia, the new owner of Moto Guzzi, decided to introduce a second-generation Le Mans to enthusiasts. Compared to the first incarnation, the current version of Moto Guzzi's sport-tourer gained in capacity (1,064cc vs. 844cc) and horsepower (91hp vs. 70hp). An electronic fuel injection regulates the combustion chambers with the right mixture of fuel and air - and those familiar with the old engine will definitely feel the difference when riding in higher elevations. But even though the black-coated motor highlights the latest stage of the company's development, it still has many of the features implemented in the models of the sixties and seventies.

And that's not a disadvantage at all. The deep roaring, typical shaking V2 has a lot of character, and is in its own way a very nice diversion from all those perfectly smooth-running inline-fours and twins of the 21st century. The valves are still activated by pushrods and rockers, which makes maintenance easy. If you twist the throttle at idling speed, the bike leans to the side - standard for a length-wise mounted crankshaft on a V2. Out on the roads, the Le Mans performs well enough to threaten riders on those new-technology bikes we've covered. Every moment you know the Guzzi engine is working, breathing through its intake, and exhaling through its mufflers. The good vibrations of the V-Twin decrease when you reach higher marks on the rev counter. The climax of the power output is reached at 7,800 rpm. Similar to BMW's paralever, the Italian manufacturer uses a linkage to eliminate movement of the rear end when shifting up and down. And by the way, the six-speed gearbox is the best Guzzi has ever created. Switching gears is easy and just a tad noisier compared to Japanese hardware with a little bit more distance between the gears than on other current bikes.

Chassis & Brakes
Famous American race team owner and dentist, Dr. John Wittner, developed the current setup of the Guzzi chassis. It uses a steel backbone frame and big alloy plates where the rear of the gearbox and the swingarm pivot mount, a layout that appeared in the first four-valve model 1000 Daytona in 1990 (Europe).

Since Aprilia's CEO Ivano Beggio took over, a lot of changes were realized in the Guzzi line. One of them is to increase the stability of the chassis at higher speeds. The new Le Mans is actually no different from a V11 Sport with a half fairing. Beggio's engineers lengthened the wheelbase from 1,471 to 1,490mm by moving the steering head farther forward. The frame was strengthened at the swingarm pivot. And the rear tire now measures 180/55 ZR 17 instead of 170/60 ZR 17. With those changes the Le Mans runs absolutely "solid" up to its top speed at 225 km/h (141 mph).

Also, handling is great on narrow, curvy roads. While the quality of comfort is not as good as that experienced on a pure full-dress touring bike, it's still good enough for long enjoyable rides in the backcountry. If the asphalt becomes increasingly bumpy, the rider appreciates the steering damper that successfully reduces the bike's tendency for kickback at the front wheel. The newer generation of Guzzis doesn't use the integrated brake system any more. But that's no cause for disappointment. The Brembo four-piston calipers in the front bite hard in the two rotors although it takes a hard grip on the lever of the master cylinder to get this braking power. On pass roads, for example, the rear brake is a good support for the front brake, most of all with luggage and co-rider.

Accessories &Arrangements
The bulbous half fairing makes a big difference in riding comfort compared to the V11 Sport. The rider's chest is well protected from the wind; some turbulence hits just the helmet. In rainy conditions, even the upper legs stay fairly dry because the fairing and the integrated V-shape of the cylinders provide adequate protection.

The cockpit indulges fans of classic design with its white clocks for speed and revs framed in chrome settings. But it's not so easy to recognize the small control lights in sunshine. The hand levers allow adjustment for different hand and finger sizes. The co-seat cover can be removed to take a passenger on board. Unfortunately, Moto Guzzi only offers some carbon parts for the Le Mans; so for touring equipment, you have to look for accessories from aftermarket companies. A good tank bag and some small soft cases will do it.

Test Summary
Like its predecessor from the seventies the current Le Mans is a great all-round bike that gives its rider a lot of pleasure. The engine has scads of character and is strong enough to take two passengers and their luggage over longer distances. The chassis has reached a satisfying stage in terms of stability and handling. Overall, the Guzzi turns out as a classically styled motorcycle that combines the right mix of high tech and heritage. There's also a special edition, the V11 Le Mans Tenni ($ 13,990), that comes in green/silver paint with a modified clutch and an upgraded fork.

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Moto Guzzi V11 Le Mans

Retail Price $ 12,690
Warranty Three years, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 1,000/6,000/every 6,000 miles(1,500/10,000/every 10,000km)
Importer/Distributor
Moto America, 455 W. Depot Street,
Angier, NC 27501,
phone (800) 872-6686,
website: www.motoguzzi-US.com,
Moto Guzzi Italy: www.guzzi.com

ENGINE
Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling air-cooled
Valve Arrangement 2 valves per cyl., ohv, cam chain driven, pushrods and rockers
Bore & Stroke 92 x 80 mm
Displacement 1,064 cc
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch dual-plate dry clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive shaft drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel backbone frame, alloy plates for gearbox and swingarm mounting
Wheelbase 1,490 mm (58.7 in.)
Rake 65 degree
Trail 92 mm (3.6 in.)
Front Suspension upside-down fork
Stanchion Diameter 40 mm (1.6 in.)
Adjustments compression and rebound damping
Travel 120 mm (4.7 in.)
Rear Suspension steel swingarm w/single shocks
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 64 mm (2.5 in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type cast-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 5.50 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320 mm (12.6 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 282 mm (11.1 in.)
Combining no

WEIGHT & FUEL CAPACITIY
Wet-Weight 250 kg (556 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 22 l (5.8 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)91 hp at 7,800 rpm
Torque 9.6 mkp (94 ft.-lbs.) at 6,000 rpm
Top Speed (Claimed)225 km/h (141 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 4.1s
Fuel Consumption 5.9l/100 km (40.3 mpg)
Fuel Range 373 km (233 ml.)

EQUIPMENT
Half fairing, dashboard w/speedometer, odometer, and tachometer, ignition switch/lock in front of the upper triple clamp, hand levers adjustable, side stand.

ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 4/5
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 4/5
Comfort 3/5
Luggage w/accessories 3/5
Equipment 3/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 3/5