When you think of Italian sportbikes, Moto Guzzi isn’t the marque that comes to mind first. Heck, it’s probably not the marque that comes to mind third or fourth, either. But every now and then, Moto Guzzi decides to break from its mold and produce a sport (well, sporty, anyway) bike. Such was the case in 1996 with the Moto Guzzi 1100 Sport. A combination of MV quirkiness and performance parts, the 1100 Sport wasn’t your typical Moto Guzzi. How did it work? Here’s Spanish correspondent Antonio Regidor Rao to tell you.
Mar. 23, 1996
When you mention large-displacement Italian sportbikes, most people think Ducati. Mention Moto Guzzi, and images of quirky motorcycles with agricultural long-stroke motors, enormous wheelbases, peculiar brakes, clunky gearboxes and vibration that could rattle your fillings loose come to mind.
But how did people come to associate these unfavorable qualities with Moto Guzzi? Because they’re true. Moto Guzzis have always been saddled with countless peculiarities that their owners chalk up to character while the rest of the world brands them as flawed.
But what happens to that same mental picture when you speak of a Moto Guzzi fitted with upside-down White Power forks, dual 320mm floating Brembo rotors, Marchesini alloy wheels, four-piston Brembo brake calipers, a Bitubo steering damper, White Power monoshock rear, Weber-Marelli fuel injection and sticky Pirelli Dragon tires?Kind of blows away your preconceptions, doesn’t it? With its impressive spec sheet and undeniable charisma, Moto Guzzi’s 1100 Sport may just blow a lot of other people away too.
Our gorgeous red Sport was awaiting us at Motos J. Caparros in Barcelona (141 Valencia Street, Barcelona, Spain), where its beautifully sculpted fairing and striking silhouette drew a crowd of curious onlookers. Immediately noticeable was the low clip-ons and sporty tail section that invited some serious sport riding. Other highlights included an oil cooler mounted at the engine’s leading edge, a welcome addition to the the Guzzi’s big air-cooled mill. Also contributing to the bike’s sporting focus are white-faced instruments that include only tach and speedometer.
But what makes the 1100 Sport significant over other Guzzi models isn’t what parts are fitted, but which aren’t. Guzzi’s integrated braking system has been left out on the Sport model, giving riders total control over that operation. For the expert riders to which this machine is targeted, that extra control is appreciated.
Weber-Marelli fuel injection is used to fuel Guzzi’s big 1064cc engine, and it provides easy starting and smooth acceleration. As expected, power starts as soon as the tach needle leaves its stop and pulls like a train all the way to its 8200 rpm redline. Peak power is claimed to be a healthy 90 bhp at 7800 rpm, but where this engine really impresses is in its strong torque pull. Vibration isn’t bothersome until engine revs soar past 7000, and by that time you’re doing 200 km/h (125 mph) anyway.
Owners of the 1100 Sport will be grateful for that mile-wide powerband, because it precludes the need for constant gearchanges from the clunky transmission. Shifting through the Guzzi’s gears is tiresome and sometimes frustrating with its stiff and imprecise action.
Wind protection at higher speeds is acceptable, although to take advantage of the small fairing you must tuck down low on the tank. Your wrists take some abuse from the low clip-ons, which are mounted below the triple clamps. For this reason, city riding becomes something to be endured, rather than enjoyed.
Although an 1100 Sport may be a pain in day-to-day commuting, it more then makes up for it when the road turns to long sweeping corners. Here the Guzzi’s chrome-moly steel beam frame and long-legged motor allow for a quick pace. Braking power and feedback from the Brembo calipers is awesome, allowing for one-finger braking. As delivered, the White Power forks were set up on the soft side, but are fully adjustable to suit rider weight and preference. Tighter roads, however, aren’t this bike’s strength, as its train-length 58.7 inch wheelbase and heavy weight (487 lbs. dry) slow turn-in and cornering speeds.
One particular oddity that plagues Guzzis is their tendency to rise and fall mid-corner in reaction to throttle cha
nges, due to the rotating mass effect of the crankshaft. For more experienced riders, this isn’t much of a problem because they tend to be smooth on the throttle through corners, but it can still be annoying. Guzzi’s have always done this; previously the significant shaft effect concealed this trait. Now that Guzzi’s parallelogram swingarm has all but eliminated shaft effect, the chassis rolling caused by the crank’s rotating mass can be felt.
Moto Guzzi’s 1100 Sport offers a unique combination of old-world sensations and modern components. While it doesn’t compare to a 916 in terms of all-out performance, it is an exclusive and capable machine. For those looking for a charismatic bike to travel through sweeping corners at high speeds, Moto Guzzi just may have the machine you’re looking for.
Manufacturer: Moto Guzzi