2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring and Custom: Cruisers that Can Carve Corners!

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Moto Guzzi

Moto Guzzi has completely revamped its flagship California model and offers two handsome versions for 2013, the Touring and the Custom.

Choose the Touring model and get hard saddlebags, fog lights, a windscreen, and a passenger grab rail. Select the Custom model and get a naked cruiser. Both versions share the same engine, chassis, and most of the same running gear. While there are many changes from the prior California series, Guzzi’s stylists carried over the old seat outline, the chrome grab handle, and the side panel shape from previous models. Color choices include black or white on the Touring model, and black or gray for the Custom.

Powertrain and Performance

Looking for more power, Guzzi’s engineers rolled up their sleeves and created the 1380cc mill, the largest twin-cylinder production motorcycle engine to ever be built in Europe. The air-cooled V-twin utilizes the traditional Guzzi layout, a longitudinal crankshaft with cylinders splayed at 90 degrees. Bore and stroke are 104mm and 81.2mm, and the over-square design allows the big twin a higher-revving sporty feel. To highlight the big engine, the gas tank is fashioned around the cylinders.

Air and fuel are metered by Magneti Marelli fuel injection through a 52mm throttle body with throttle-by-wire. Four valves per cylinder aid breathing, and twin spark plugs light the fires. The California 1400 is rated 96 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 87 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 rpm. Redline hits at 7,000 and a soft rev limiter cuts power above that.

A dry single-plate clutch feeds torque to the sweet new six-speed gearbox, then into a shaft final drive. The transmission is slick shifting, one of the best in a cruiser. The final drive is quiet and resists torque jacking. One weak part may be the clutch, which gave off a burning scent in heavy traffic.

The California 1400 duo features three power settings: Veloce (Sport), Turismo (Touring), and Pioggia (Rain). Settings can be changed easily. Veloce lets the engine rev up freely and reach full power. Turismo allows you to access full peak horsepower but slows the rate of throttle opening. Pioggia reduces both maximum power and slows throttle response.

The Turismo setting works well for most riding with full performance but smoother throttle response. Veloce is good for really sporty riding. If the road is wet, the Pioggia setting will help keep you upright. Cruise control, which is included on the Touring model, is easily operated and holds speed accurately.

Thumb the starter button and the big twin stirs immediately to life. Around town, you’ll find plenty of torque at low revs, and you can shift early if you like. Out on the open road, you can wick it up and feel the horsepower, which keeps going to far higher revs than the old two-valve engines. There’s plenty of power for passing, hill climbing, and riding two up; and the tall gearing keeps the rpm low for highway cruising.

Chassis and Handling

Moto Guzzi has rubber mounted the engine into a stiffer double-cradle steel frame. This changes the feel, making it much like a rubber-mounted Harley engine. At idle, the engine shakes strongly; but when going down the road, very little vibration reaches the rider.

The wheelbase is now 66.3 inches, (about the same as a Gold Wing: 66.5 inches) which aids high-speed stability but gives it a wider turning radius. A conventional non-adjustable 46mm fork provides front suspension. At the rear, a pair of shocks holds the weight up. Touring models offer adjustable preload and rebound damping, while the Custom model has only adjustable preload. The bikes have sporty spring rates and compression damping, which yield a comfortable ride with sporting ability. For a motorcycle with footboards, cornering clearance is surprisingly good, and the California can be leaned way over before hard parts start to grind.

Dual 320mm discs grabbed by Brembo radial-mounted calipers stop the front wheel. They work progressively and can deliver strong, controllable braking. The single rear 282mm disc with twin-pot caliper requires a firm press on the pedal to get much braking. On both models, ABS is standard, and it works well when needed without unnecessary activation.

Alloy wheels are wrapped with Dunlop D251 tires, a 130/70-18 at the front and a fat 200/60-16 at the rear. We found that they provide good grip for steep lean angles, stability at speed, and reliable stopping traction. They also follow a line through corners well. Despite weighing more than 700 pounds, the California 1400 features steering that requires little effort, and the big machine changes direction rather easily.

Features and Ergonomics

A round instrument cluster, found on both models, combines a digital speedo surrounded by an analog tach, plus the usual warning lamps. The Touring windscreen is low and wide, which allows the rider to peer over it, and it provides good wind protection without buffeting. The Touring version also has a different seat with a more upright riding posture, a wider pulled-back handlebar, and comfier passenger accommodations. The ergonomics of the Custom require a more forward position to reach the bars, although it still accommodates average-sized riders.

Touring models have large, locking, hard saddlebags that will hold enough gear for a long weekend or more as well as a small luggage rack. Tourers also get a built-in alarm system controlled by a key fob remote control. It activates automatically when the engine is shut off briefly, which can be annoying sometimes. (Don’t ask how I know.)

Final Thoughts

We were very pleased overall with both the 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring and Custom. They have strong engines, shift well, include useful electronic riding aids, are comfortable, and deliver capable handling. Additionally, they are nicely made and finished and stand out in the crowd—you won’t see another one at every intersection.

The California Touring has an MSRP of ,990 while the California Custom lists for ,990. Both showcase good looks and value, and Moto Guzzi offers a long list of accessories for both versions. You can even add Touring parts to a Custom if you change your mind after purchase.