16 Jan 2013

Moto Guzzi California 1400

Angela Freeman takes a look at the new Moto Guzzi California 1400

‘The sense of adventure and luxury, in perfectly balanced harmony.’ So says the official Guzzi literature for the long awaited new California.... Which comes in two variations: Touring and Custom.

After decades of promises from the company of a new updated bike, it seems that the wait has actually been worth it – this could be the most important bike that Guzzi have made in years.

The Touring is the California in its most classic expression, thanks to a great level of comfort, aerodynamic protection and load capacity.
Equipped with “Patrol” windscreen, supplementary chrome-plated headlights, 35 litre panniers, engine and pannier guard kit, the Touring is able to trot along all day with great comfort and a soundtrack to match, being powered by the largest V-twin ever seen before in Europe.

Special attention has been given to the chromatic colour schemes: white with dark pinstripes on the tank, inspired by the California Highway Patrol versions, or classic black with white pinstripes, reminiscent of the original versions, such as the V7 and 850 California. The LED lights look amazing and the overall look is very classy with lashings of chrome wherever you look – not sure how it would fare after a couple of British winters though!

The clocks are neat, functional and easy to read, and well laid out; there are inklings of the parent company Aprilia there with some of the switches being raided from their parts bin, but that’s not a bad thing. Everything looks fresh and modern, not futuristic like a Victory but not as retro as a Harley Davidson.

It’s a very big machine, not only in width, due to the massive cylinder heads on the transverse 8 valve V-twin engine, but it’s also very long; only a couple of centimetres shorter than a Honda Goldwing in fact. Weight could be an issue for the smaller rider, as the Touring tips the scales at a whopping 337kg before you’ve loaded it with luggage. The Custom should be slightly lighter, but probably not by much once you’ve accessorised it!

Interestingly, the California has pretty good ground clearance, and plastic sliders fitted to the footboards; cue much fun on twisty routes and roundabouts.

The addition of radial Brembo brakes is the first for a cruiser of this type, and should do a good job of hauling its significant mass to a stop without too much trouble. The engine may only produce 95bhp, but there is bucket loads of torque available; which is what you need for long haul trips on motorways.

The sculpted fuel tank holds around 20 litres of fuel, and the beautiful stylish panniers hold 35 litres of luggage and are lockable too; but they are bolted on to the frame so aren’t easily removed, and reports suggest that they struggle to accommodate a crash helmet, which is a shame. The frame itself is a new double cradle steel item, and is now the stress member rather than the engine as per older models. The engine itself is rubber mounted to eliminate vibrations.

The California Custom is the naked, hardcore version of the Touring.

It certainly looks every inch the bad guy! This can be seen in the details, such as the two-seater saddle boasting an Eagle logo, the drag bar handlebars with light-weight supports and the original rear shock absorbers with external tank. The design is also subtle, with minimal graphics based on textured colours such as mercury grey and basalt black, and black lacquered wheels with red Moto Guzzi logo and black wing mirrors.

Once in the saddle, the differences compared to the Touring emerge: the sport saddle and drag bar handlebars provide a low slung and backward sitting position over the rear wheel which is actually pretty comfortable. The California Custom, like the Touring, has cruise control as standard, with MGCT traction control which can be set at three levels of intervention and, thanks to RidebyWire, it is also possible to adjust the engine response according to three modes, Turismo (Touring), Veloce (Sport) and Pioggia (Wet), respectively. The Custom isn’t available in the UK yet, but it looks amazing and would definitely not look out of place in a Bond movie!

And if the rider of the California can choose the character of their motorbike according to the type of route and use, they can also adapt it to their personality, drawing on the most extensive accessories catalogue ever produced by Moto Guzzi. High performance silencers, chrome-plated and machined components, saddles of all types and materials, as well as support and the App which turns an iPhone into a supplementary dashboard to obtain all kinds of information can be found here.

Pricing is not too bad, with the Touring coming in at £15,770 on the road here in the UK. That’s more expensive than the Japanese competition; the Kawasaki VN1700 costs approximately £13,500 – but it is cheaper than the US bikes; for example the Harley Road King starts at £17,400.

I hope Moto Guzzi sells plenty of these bikes, the revamp gives the California a new lease of life and it really deserves to do well. Bellissima!