Moto Guzzi’s all-new 1400cc cruiser, the California 1400, lifts the legendary Italian marque from a quirky also-ran to a formidable, modernized opponent. The muscular-yet-elegant California combines chic Italian styling with modern technology and pavement-eating power, resulting in a motorcycle that’s so complete and so completely beyond its predecessor that it narrowly missed being our Motorcycle of the Year. Yeah, it’s that good.
The old California was a decent motorcycle, but not without its quirks. Its deficiencies and quaint funkiness were at once charming and annoying. But the new-from-the-ground-up California Custom and its Touring fratello (with windshield, saddlebags and revised ergonomics) make the old California as distant a memory as Roberto Begnini.
Powered by the largest 90-degree V-Twin ever produced by a European manufacturer (also the smoothest big-inch V-Twin ever), the new California easily stands on its own merit against established cruisers, including Harley-Davidsons. The California’s electronic rider aids make it more technologically advanced than most other motorcycles, boasting standard cruise control and ABS, plus switchable rider modes and traction control – a first for any cruiser, anywhere. At $14,990 (add $3K for the Touring model), the California isn’t cheap, but it’s less expensive than most American V-Twin cruisers. And you won’t find one with better handling, grippier brakes or a smoother-shifting transmission.
It’s too soon to put the impressive new 2014 Indians we recently reviewed in the Best of 2013 list, so this category wasn’t really all that close. The California stands out as something truly special. It retains Guzzi’s traditional charm but is enhanced by a vastly superior powerplant, useful (and class-leading) electronics, and a visual presence that looks outstanding riding down the boulevard. For bringing a different kind of cool to the staid cruiser category, the Moto Guzzi California is our 2013 Cruiser of the Year.
2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring Ambassador Review
2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom Review
2013 Moto Guzzi California Review: Emissary Of The New Guzzi – Video
Designer Galluzzi Discusses The New Moto Guzzi California 1400 – Video
Ten Questions With Piaggio’s VP Of Design, Miguel Galluzzi
Best Cruiser Honorable Mention: Star Bolt
Star’s “urban performance bobber” made a splash this year on a variety of levels. Capitalizing on popular trends is a game manufacturers are often late to, so it was refreshing to see an OEM take on a current style in a semi-timely fashion. Nevertheless, detractors and purists pointed out that the Bolt is nothing more than a brazen copy of Harley-Davidson’s Iron 883, and that it’s easy to simply copy a trendsetter. Besides, a poor imitation humiliates itself – see Pibb, Mr.
So credit Star (a.k.a. Yamaha) for not just reproducing the Iron, but for showing what that bike could have been. It wasn’t difficult: Star took the existing V-Twin motor from its V-Star 950 and, employing a host of steampunk-inspired, neo-industrial styling touches, created an undeniably sexy stripper.
But Star did more than make the Bolt look as good as the original; it built a better bobber. The Bolt has a stronger engine and better brakes, plus a vastly more compliant suspension. It also tracks far more steadily than does the Iron, particularly at freeway speed.
At just nine dollars less than the Iron 883, many Motor Company loyalists may prefer to own the bike with “Harley-Davidson” on its tank, but the Star Bolt is no cheap, sugary rip-off. It looks great and performs admirably, and for that it deserves accolades – and for anyone considering an Iron 883, a test ride.
2014 Star Motorcycles Bolt Review
2014 Star Bolt Vs. 2013 Harley-Davidson 883 Iron – Video
2013 Harley-Davidson FXSB Breakout Review
2013 Star V Star 1300 Deluxe Review
All Things Star Motorcycles On Motorcycle.com