Moto Guzzi California Stone

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

In model year 2002, Moto Guzzi debuted the California Stone to succeed the Jackal. Now with several improvements from Aprilia, the new owner, the bike is better - easier to ride and much more user-friendly.

Concept & Tranformation
It's a common marketing practice for European manufacturers to offer a less-expensive, entry-level bike as an alternative to their higher-priced range. Ducati did it with their Monster and SS, Dark or Sport versions, which turned out to be a good value for the customer. Moto Guzzi introduced the California Jackal in 2000, a bike they stripped here and there when compared to the loaded Cali versions. For example, the Jackal didn't have the combined brake system and featured only one brake rotor in the front. Different side covers, another rear seat, fewer chrome parts, and a Spartan cockpit, with only a speedometer, saved about $ 3,200. Not a bad deal! The sticker price for the Jackal at that time was $ 8,495.

The 'new' California Stone has the same concept. But in this case, the new owner, Aprilia undertook the several changes implemented to enhance the bike's usefulness and ride-ability. The handlebars are 30 millimeters in diameter now, with new handgrips and electric controls for better riding comfort. The gearbox has been revised, with a reduction in shift throw and effort. That makes neutral easier to find. Improved lever rubbers allow for easier shifting. The rear shocks have new calibration and springs. Modifications to the frame and swingarm allow for the mounting of a wider tire, although the equipped size is still the same (140/80 VB 17). The side stand, featuring an elegant cover, is now more convenient for the rider to reach. An advanced saddle enhances riding comfort. The cost of the bike: $ 8,790.

Engine & Transmission
The 1,064cc V-twin is the same as the one in the pricier California Special Sport or the California EV series. A computer-operated fuel injection mixes the right cocktail of fuel and air, a big advantage when passing traffic at higher altitudes. The power output is 74 hp at 6,400 rpm with a torque of 9.6 mkp/71 ft. lbs. at 5000 rpm. This gives you a wide range of traction. Whenever you open the throttle there is enough swing to take you through narrow turns. The gearbox works so much easier than on former Guzzi models that it is just plain fun to use. Only the distance between the gears is still a little bit long compared to the standards of Japanese brands. Also, operating the clutch doesn't take an ultra-strong left arm any more.

Overall, you feel that the V-twin has a lot in common with its sportier brothers, bikes like the Le Mans and the V11 Sport. It's surprising how competitive the pushrod twin still is, especially in a bike that belongs to the cruiser category. Additionally, the deep bass sound of the air-cooled twin is just great even after complying with all the emission restrictions imposed by European and American laws. If you want character, the Guzzi engine is the right partner for you.

Chassis & Brakes
The Stone's improvements are readily felt. With the new setup, it handles better than its predecessor, the Jackal, which by no means was a lazy turner. With little effort and steering impulse, the Guzzi turns and the wide handlebars offer the right amounts of leverage. The suspension is far removed from the typical stiffness older Italian bikes display. Even with the short travel of 65 mm in the back, you feel comfortable. Of course, at higher speeds (over 90 mph), the bike exhibits some shaking at the front end. But that's because a fairing doesn't cover the rider's upper body and you have to hang onto the handlebar that hard. In this case, the pilot forces the chassis to react like that. And who wants to risk his license by pushing a cruiser that hard anyway?

That's another reason not to complain about a setup with a single brake rotor in the front. Together with a four-piston caliper, you have enough performance at legal speeds with a good feel for the lever to modulate your braking power. And the guys from Guzzi and Brembo were careful about getting the ratio between the master cylinder and caliper surface right. The rear brake works fine, too. You can use it effectively because the cruiser's distribution of weight puts a good load on the rear wheel. And, by the way, we didn't miss the combined brake system of the Stone's brothers at all.

Accessories & Arrangements
Guzzis are easy to handle, even if they appear big and tall. The Stone's low seat height of 760 mm (29.9 in.) puts the rider's feet flat on the ground. There is no struggling for smaller people when maneuvering the bike into a parking spot. All the controls are easy to reach and easy to operate. Obviously, brand owner Aprilia has lots of experience arranging bikes for the normal customer. The absence of a tach shouldn't bother because the ohv engine sings its song so well you can tell when it's time to shift. The control lights could be a little bit brighter, most of all in the sun.

The rider's seat is the same as the Special Sport version. Together with the narrow fuel tank, it offers good contact with the bike and a comfy ride. Hardcore cruiser types probably would prefer the foot pegs positioned farther forward, though. With the Stone you get the classic riding position characteristic of the British bikes built in the fifties and sixties. The advantage: Better balance, which makes it easier to turn and roll in slow city traffic.

Although the Stone is an entry-level bike, owners can appreciate the expensive and shiny look of the spoke wheels. And there's still enough chrome onboard to contrast nicely with the black paint of the motor. The gas tank holds five gallons (19 liters), providing a fuel range of over 200 miles (320 kilometers) and making your uninterrupted fun on the 'Rock' last a little longer.

Test Summary
Even if the Stone has fewer accessories than its brothers, you never get the feeling you're riding a cheap low-tech bike. The subtraction of parts surely doesn't detract from the pure character of the machine, and character is more important than thousands of knickknacks. It also cuts off some of the weight the Special Sport carries around (5 kg/11 lbs. less). But most importantly, consider the big price differential: $ 2,200. And if you want to get into customizing, just add parts later on. Want something flashier? Then go for the Stone Metal ($ 9,290) with its great-looking chromed gas tank.

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Moto Guzzi California Stone

Retail Price $ 8,790
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 5-speed
Clutch dual-plate dry clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive shaft drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel tubular frame, double cradle
Wheelbase 1,560 mm (61.4 in.)
Rake 62 degree
Trail 98 mm (3.9 in.)
Front Suspension cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 45 mm (1.77 in.)
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 140 mm (5.5 in.)
Rear Suspension steel swingarm w/two shocks
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 65 mm (2.6 in.)

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

WEIGHT & FUEL CAPACITY
Wet-Weight260 kg (578 lb.)
Fuel Capacity19 l (5 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank) 74 hp at 6,400 rpm
Torque 9.6 mkp (71 ft. lbs.) at 5,000 rpm
Top Speed 185 km/h (116 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 4.6 s
Fuel Consumption 5.9 l/100 km (40.3 mpg)
Fuel Range 322 km (201 mls.)

EQUIPMENT
Dashboard w/speedometer, odometer and trip odometer, two petcocks w/position for fuel reserve and additional warning light, ignition switch/lock in front of the upper triple clamp, helmet lock, side stand.

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