Church Of MO – First Impression: 1997 Moto Guzzi V10 Centauro

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Moto Guzzi motorcycles have been called many things. Bland is not one of them. From quirky to lovable, unique to downright strange, it’s unlikely you’ll forget riding a Moto Guzzi. For this week’s Church of MO feature, we go back to 1997 and Guzzi’s 75th anniversary. After three-quarters of a century, a celebration is in order and a special motorcycle is a must.

The 1997 Moto Guzzi V10 Centauro is that bike. If it looks big and portly in the pictures, that’s because it is. A nearly 500-lb. dry weight is portly even for 1997 standards, but luckily the hopped-up 992cc transverse V-Twin was up to the task. Like most Guzzi owners will tell you, the bikes have a distinct charm to them, and the Centauro was no different, as Antonio Regidor Rao will tell you below.

First Impression: 1997 Moto Guzzi V10 Centauro

Guzzi’s Anniversary Beast

By Antonio Regidor Rao Mar. 23, 1997

If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you’ll know that the Centaur was a half-man, half-horse beast. While Moto Guzzi’s all-new V10 Centauro doesn’t exactly fit the Greek description of its namesake, it sure is a hell of a lot of motorcycle.

Moto Guzzi Centauro left profileFirst, what can you say about its unique design? Like Ducati’s M-900 Monster, this bike is styled to provoke an intense emotional response. With its striking silhouette and yellow/metallic gray dressing the Centauro attracts a host of curious bystanders. Some are drawn to its unique styling, others turn up their noses. Love or leave it, Moto Guzzi’s Centauro slaps you in the face and demands that you take notice.

The Centauro packs plenty of attitude and charisma. Designed by Italian architect Luciano Marabese in honor of Moto Guzzi’s 75th anniversary, this is a sexy machine that blows away all your preconceptions about Moto Guzzi. It has an undeniable style, the best engine yet from Guzzi and, finally, a pretty impressive spec sheet.

Moto Guzzi Centauro gaugesLike Guzzi’s 1100 Sport, the Centauro comes well-equipped with Marchesini alloy wheels, dual 320mm floating front Brembo rotors, four-piston Brembo Gold Series calipers, a Bitubo steering damper, fully adjustable inverted White Power forks, a WP rear monoshock, Weber-Marelli fuel injection, Carrillo con-rods, and Pirelli Dragon tires. No comments are necessary, this is first class equipment.

The tasteful, chrome-plated instrument panel is laid out intelligently. Placed between the white faced speedo and tachometer are the standard assortment of indicators — turn signals, oil pressure, high beam, neutral, battery charge and fuel lights — that, as long as you aren’t in direct sunlight, are all read quite easily.

Moto Guzzi Centauro cylinder headThis new Guzzi is powered by a 992cc air-cooled, eight-valve transversal V-twin engine with single overhead cams. Basically it’s the same engine as found in the Daytona, with a few horses taken off the top to improve mid-range grunt. Cams are driven by a pair of silent, toothed rubber belts.  All these improvements make this engine the best yet from Moto Guzzi — powerful, quiet, and, strangely enough, vibrationless. Claimed maximum horsepower is about 94 bhp at 7400 rpm, with torque peaking at 6000 rpm. Like both the 1100 Sport and Daytona, this motor includes an oil cooler mounted at the engine’s leading edge.

Moto Guzzi Centauro engineThe real fun begins when you climb aboard the Centauro. Start the engine and listen to that beautiful sound from the pair of Lafranconi exhaust pipes. In spite of its 493 pound dry weight, the Centauro moves nimbly in city traffic, thanks to its torquey powerplant that allows you to forgo frequent shifting.

Head for the twisties, and you’ll find this machine handles surprisingly well. Its smooth and powerful acceleration and generous powerband allows fluid carving through the corners. But when you get down to it, this isn’t a sport bike and you can’t ride it like the 1100 Sport. Rider ergonomics are poor due to its awkward seating position: the handle bar is flat, straight and mounted a bit too low, and its footpegs are too high and mounted too far forward, all of which tightens your arms and exposes your chest to the wind. Any attempt to ride faster than 85 mph can be painful and is best left untried.

Moto Guzzi Centauro action shotThe Centauro’s powerful yet sensitive Brembo calipers inspire confident braking. Moto Guzzi’s integrated braking system has thankfully been left out, as well as the shaft effect. Only its chassis pitching caused by the crankshaft’s rotating mass reminds you that you’re on a Guzzi. Still, I found a few minor flaws I’d like to see corrected, like its inaccessible  fuel petcock, no center stand, indicator lights too dim to see in direct sunlight, and a temperature sensor that’s easily damaged because it is located right next to the headlamp.

Even with its imperfections, Moto Guzzi’s V10 Centauro is a beast to be reckoned with. Ride this machine and you might indeed become half man, half iron-horse. Set your imagination free and watch reality disappear in the mirrors! A new mythological creature has been born.

Moto Guzzi Centauro rear

Specifications

Manufacturer: Moto Guzzi
Model: 1997 V10 Centauro
Price: $12,000 (Spain)
Engine: Air-cooled, SOHC 4-valve,
transverse 90-degree V-twin,
4-stroke
Bore x stroke: 90 x 78 mm
Displacement: 992 cc
Carburetion: Weber Marelli fuel injection;
digital control
Transmission: 5-speed (Cardan shaft)
Wheelbase: 58.1 in. (1475 mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gal. (18 L)
Claimed Dry Weight: 493 lbs. (224 Kg)
Max. Speed (as tested): 139.8 mph (225 km/h)

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  • Thomas Kreutzer

    Still one of the best looking bikes ever made. I wanted one of these so badly back in the day and even took one on a test ride. Then my life ran off the rails and the brighter future I had hoped to make for myself evaporated.

    I can’t look at these without feeling a little nostalgic. I search for these and the Dr. John Daytonas in the online classifieds every so often – sigh – maybe one of these days….

  • dW

    I owned a Centauro for just on 10 years: Bought new in 1997, in the same yellow/ anthracite colour scheme as shown in the photos. It is hands-down my favourite ever motorcycle, and I deeply regret selling it. Did everything with it, from touring to track days, it really was a wolf in “chic” clothing. So cool looking from any angle, brilliant build quality and so over-engineered you couldn’t kill it with a sledgehammer…..I was hoping Guzzi would replace it, but, as good as the Griso is, the newer 1200 just isn’t as overtly sporting as the old Centauro…

  • halfkidding

    Here’s one. If you want one I doubt you could go wrong here.

    http://grandrapids.craigslist.org/mcy/4398264428.html