Moto Guzzi

Text: Troy Hendrick • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Those comfortable cruisers represent the most popular motorcycle category in the U.S., and Moto Guzzi has composed several variations on this easy-riding theme, each an Italian orchestration built around the same California chassis and engine. Two of them carried the tune like impresarios in a recently conducted test.

Concept & Transformation
Cruisers are my favorite. What can I say? I'm American, and as a kid looking glassy-eyed from the windows of my mother's Buick, I saw fearless-looking men rumble by in formation on shiny machines, bandanas fluttering madly out of the backs of their helmets. That's when I first fell in love. Thenceforth a beautiful cruiser could always steal my heart.

So to look upon these two machines, much less be allowed to test them, was to chance heartbreak when returning them after our pavement prom to absent chaperones, the fine fellas at Moto Guzzi. And they do look good. In a classic mode, the air of cruising down Route 66 provided the inspiration and attitude that developed the California series over 30 years ago, and the lines on both bikes evoke this image perfectly - even though the first models were created only for (and might I hazard, somewhat wasted on) the California Highway Patrol in the early seventies.

We found the difference between our test bikes to be subtle in design, but in overall style that understatement revealed a hearty divergence. The major variances, mostly cosmetic, transform the California into two distinct models - one a classic touring cruiser (EV), the other a sportier-version cruiser (Aluminum).

Engine & Transmission
There being no significant mechanical difference between them, the two share the pleasing, comforting drone of a 90-degree, air-cooled V-twin with Magneti Marelli fuel injection. Both exhibit the same power and torque up from low revs, and their performance is the same: 74hp at 6,400rpm and 71.1 ft.lbs (9.6mkp/94Nm) at 5,000rpm. They pull underneath the rider at almost identical rates, with the slight difference attributable to weight discrepancy. As for vibration, either machine certainly sends waves throughout its body, but very few of these low-frequency vibrations transmit to the rider. The consensus is a smooth ride on both Californias.

The Guzzi gearbox is notoriously quirky, and while it is easy to find neutral on the bikes, the gears on both need to be clicked with just the right amount of pressure, or they grind. The five-speed, constant mesh gears performed well - if the rider does his job just as well. It's important to note we tested '02 models. The 2003 versions bear some changes (see RR Winter '02, p11). When testing the California models, we had the opportunity to ride a 2003 Le Mans and were pleasantly surprised. The new engine, with hydraulic valve adjustment and alloy pushrods, ran a lot smoother, and the transmission worked almost perfectly with short and exact steps between the gears and an absence of noise while shifting.

Chassis & Brakes
The bikes use a tubular-steel, double-cradle frame. Their suspension is also identical - 45mm telescopic forks on the front, and a swingarm with two hydraulic shock absorbers on the rear. The travel is 140mm front and 65mm rear. Surprisingly, the latter provides for an extremely comfy ride on both bikes. The guys at the factory picked a good spring and damping rate.

The major difference between our competitors occurs in the line that each bike is capable of grabbing and holding in a turn. You can plainly feel the willingness of the Sport to fall into a curve. Once achieving the correct position, the bike holds it like it's clicked into place. On the EV, a slightly wider bike, the feeling first is one of resistance as the rider pulls the bike out of its inertia and starts a lean. This has to do with added weight on this bike, its wider rear rim (4.00 x 17, Aluminum: 3.50 x 17), and the wider rear tire (150/70-17 69V, Aluminum: 140/80 VB 17). The flip side of this coin is all about behavior on long, straight roads, where the EV practically drives itself in comparison to the Sport Aluminum.

Riding position also contributes to overall handling. Obviously, the Sport Aluminum situates its rider closer to the gas tank, out further over the front of the bike. One reason: the new handlebars, much shorter in width to the EV. This, coupled with the bike's new and more ergonomic side covers, allows the knees and thighs to hug the bike closer. In this aspect, overall maneuverability is improved. But it doesn't come without some sacrifice. Compared to the Aluminum, the EV, with its thicker body, has a wider seat with more cushioning. Also, the handlebars are in a more relaxed position for a long ride - you don't need to place weight on your shoulders and wrists to support your upper body nearly as much.

The footrests (pegs on the Sport, running boards on the EV) are well off the ground. In curves, this translates into two bikes that can dip exceedingly low for cruisers, well past inclinations on other bikes in their class. The disadvantage is that neither is especially comfortable for taller people (over six feet), who tend to feel cramped after sitting all day with their knees in the air.

Because of the difference in sitting position, the EV pulls off a slightly smoother ride even with the same suspension system, and because the EV seating position relaxes pressure between the arms and handlebars, the shock of a bump doesn't affect your body that much - yet another inevitable difference between a sportier bike and a touring bike.

Both bikes use Guzzi's famous Integral Braking System (the first system used in bigger series production) with proportioning and delay valve. One of the two Brembo semi-floating 320-mm front discs with a four-piston caliper is combined with the 282-millimeter rear disc with a two-piston caliper. Both are activated together by the foot brake pedal and do a superb job. The other supporting front disc is activated by the handlever.

The single-activated front brake on our EV took some time getting used to because it engages very quickly. On the Aluminum, there's a more gradual grip and therefore it's more predictable. These slight differences might not occur on other series bikes because calipers, pads, master cylinders, and lines are precisely the same. But it just might have to do with different adjustments from the factory and less - or better - bleeded brake lines.

Also, the EV's rear brake pedal has a slightly unique twist, being high above the running boards, leaving plenty of space for the right foot to sit underneath it. There is a fulcrum placed just inside the right heel, and applying the brake requires lifting the whole foot, placing the heel on the fulcrum, and the toe on the large brake pedal. When consciously used, it's very reliable, but sometimes this is all too much movement to be useful when quick reaction is called for. The Sport employs a normal lever, and it's easier to get used to it.

Accessories & Arrangements
The EV Touring was created with unlimited and unfettered travel in mind. Made to be ultra-comfortable, it is partially dressed with a big fork-mounted fairing and feet shields. Its luggage system with hard cases (30 or 40 liter) offers good space for any long-distance trip. A folding sissy bar eases seating since legs don't need to be thrown too high to mount the bike. The big side stands on both bikes (the EV comes with a factory center stand, as well) make a quick parking job a snap.

The Sport is intentionally under-dressed when next to the EV but a wide range of options is available, such as windshields and hard or leather side bags. In stock condition, the Aluminum simply doesn't have the same level of long-distance comfort as the EV. But as we cruised the strip parallel to the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, it sure looked right at home. And the lower, tighter handlebars facilitate better handling, more like a toy, than the setup on its more cumbersome brother does. This is a nice advantage in town traffic, where darting in and out can be helpful.

Other than the handlebars, the only major differences in overall body design are the seat height, width (because of the EV's hard cases), and the rear tires of the bikes. The seat height on the Sport Aluminum is 29.5in. (750mm), whereas the EV is a bit taller with its 30.7in. (780mm) height.

Test Summary
These two bikes are about style. They simply look good and they definitely make some pretty music together. The Italians capture California, putting together two superb motorcycles that are smooth as butter on the highway, and so sharp they'd make Alfred E. Neumann look good. Mechanically, neither cruiser destroys the competition in its class with power but the idea was to create reliable, stylish motorcycles whose lines reflect a modern archetype, the Route 66 dream - each in its own way, for its own purposes. Conclusively, it's another success story for the Italian designers who have again set a standard to sing about.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Moto Guzzi California EV Touring

Retail Price $ 12,490
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 Guzzi North America, Inc., 109 Smoke Hill Lane, Suite 190, Woodstock, GA 30188, phone (678) 238-0902,
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 80mm
Displacement 1064cc
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no
Transmission
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch dual-plate dry clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive shaft drive
Chassis
Frame steel tubular frame, double cradle
Wheelbase 1,560mm (61.4in.)
Rake 60.5 degree
Trail 116mm (4.57in.)
Front Suspension cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 45mm (1.77in.)
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 140mm (5.5in.)
Rear Suspension steel swingarm w/two shocks
Adjustments spring preload, rebound damping
Travel 65mm (2.6in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type spoke wheels w/chrome-plated steel rims
Front 2.50 x 18
Rear 4.00 x 17
Front Tire 110/90-18 61V
Rear Tire 150/70-17 69V
Brakes
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 282mm (11.1in.)
Combining Integral Braking System
Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 780mm (30.7in.)
Wet-Weight 275kg (611lb.)
Fuel Capacity 19l (5.0gal.)
Performance
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)74hp at 6,400rpm
Torque 9.6mkp (94Nm, 71.1ft.-lbs.) at 5,000rpm
Top Speed 184km/h (115mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 5.0s
Fuel Consumption 5.7l/100km(41.7mpg)
Fuel Range 333km (208mls.)
Equipment Fork-mounted fairing w/windshield and leg shields, dashboard w/speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, tachometer and warning lights, two petcocks w/position for fuel reserve and additional warning light, ignition switch in front of the upper triple clamp, helmet lock, side and center stand, color-matched hardcase saddlebags, 12 V accessory outlet, heated handgrips.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 4/5

Chassis 4/5

Brakes 4/5

Comfort 4/5

Luggage w/accessories 4/5

Equipment 4/5

Design 4/5

Bike for the buck 3/5

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Moto Guzzi California Aluminium

Retail Price $ 11,490
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 Guzzi North America, Inc., 109 Smoke Hill Lane, Suite 190, Woodstock, GA 30188, phone (678) 238-0902,
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 80mm
Displacement 1064cc
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no
Transmission
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch dual-plate dry clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive shaft drive
Chassis
Frame steel tubular frame, double cradle
Wheelbase 1,560mm (61.4in.)
Rake 60.5 degree
Trail 116mm (4.57in.)
Front Suspension cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 45mm (1.77in.)
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 140mm (5.5in.)
Rear Suspension steel swingarm w/two shocks
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 65mm (2.6in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type spoke wheels w/chrome-plated steel rims
Front 2.50 x 18
Rear 3.50 x 17
Front Tire 110/90 VB 18
Rear Tire 140/80 VB 17
Brakes
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 282mm (11.1in.)
Combining Integral Braking System
Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 750mm (29.5in.)
Wet-Weight 266kg (591lb.)
Fuel Capacity 19l (5.0gal.)
Performance
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)74hp at 6,400rpm
Torque 9.6mkp (94Nm, 71.1ft.-lbs.) at 5,000rpm
Top Speed 189km/h (118mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 4.9s
Fuel Consumption 5.5l/100km (43.2mpg)
Fuel Range 345km (216mls.)
Equipment Dashboard w/speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, tachometer and warning lights, two petcocks w/position for fuel reserve and additional warning light, ignition switch in front of the upper triple clamp, helmet lock, 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 45/5

Bike for the buck 3/5