2005 Moto Guzzi Breva
I must admit that I wasn't expecting great things from the 1100 Breva. Although I rather enjoyed riding the 750 version almost two years ago, it was hard to deny that it was after all just a major face-lift job.
Under the very nice bodywork, I could spot too many mechanical parts that looked exactly like those of my cursed 81' V50 III of yore. A narrow rear tire, almost identical frame, same power unit and gearbox. OK, that's what Aprilia managed to do in the very short time right after Guzzi's acquisition, a nice upgrade but one that wasn't going to resurrect Guzzi from the doldrums all by itself. Yep, something meatier was needed. When I saw the Breva 1100 prototype in Milan's 2003 show, I could already spot a much deeper intervention, but who knew what would really reach production in the end?
I wasn't expecting a revolution but it turns out that's what I got. No less than 35 dedicated engineers have worked on the new Breva's conception for the last two years and it shows. If there is one single piece that was carried over from the good old big-blocks, it's the main crankcase casting which was renowned for its Kenworth truck-like robustness. This very casting ties the new Breva to the almost 40-year old tradition of transverse 90 degree V-twins.
A full list of all the new mechanical changes and innovations would be really long, so best stick to the major stuff. The one main prick, err... make it the two pricks spoiling the Guzzi riding experience, have always been those valve covers kissing your knees and not letting you grip the gas tank. If your height is above six feet, chances are that you'll have to splay your legs in order to miss the valve covers or just sit back and suffer from an extra-long reach to the bars. Personally, I always preferred this small nuisance to smashing/skinning my shins over a boxer's cylinder fins (an issue known only to folks over 6'4" tall, I guess). In any case, by moving the alternator from the crankshaft's end, to nestle in the V-shaped void between the cylinders, a good 1.75" was chopped off the engine length, thus enabling its 1.75" move forward. Hey presto! Here are 1.75" of extra knee clearance for you.
This engine placement also places more weight on the front wheel, improving steering response and stability as well as leaving room for a longer swingarm. With a longer swingarm in place, Gootsie engineers finally found room to install a proper progressive shock linkage. The lack of longitudinal real estate was the reason for the V11's straight rate early Yamaha-monoshock style rear suspension and it's always been a source of literal pain in the bum.
Between the swingarm and engine, you'll find an all-new gearbox with improved shifting mechanism and a lowered output shaft. Even hardcore Guzzisti might not know this, but Mandello's twins always had a 2.5° rearwards tilt, in order to "straighten" the kink in the drive shaft's CV joint. With this new gearbox, the engine can be rotated to a fully erect position, shifting the CG further forward and freeing even more room for the rider's knees.
Before we move away from the engine, it is worth noting that there are many other subtle changes. Double spark plug ignition, longer con-rods, shorter pistons, and an all-knew lubrication system with an external spin-on oil filter. Thing is, with all this fancy stuff thrown in, claimed HP for European models like the one I rode is very much the same as it was on the old 1997 V11: 86hp @ 7,500rpm, while max torque is down a bit and arrives at higher revs (8.5 kg/m @ 6,800).
So, what's happening here? In 2006, the new Euro 3 emission standards will be imposed on Euroland, and Guzzi wanted to be fully ready for that. The Breva 1100 is actually the first big motorcycle sold in Europe that's ready to pass these stringent standards and quite a lot of horses dropped dead by the roadside in order to stay within the limits. Interestingly enough, in the official US Guzzi site, claimed HP is up to 91, probably because of more relaxed emission requirements than the Euro 3. For once America gets the better deal!
The most visible bit of technical innovation must be the new torque reaction canceling system built into the swingarm. When I say built-in, I mean it. Unlike the V11 slightly agricultural solution of having the CV's and drive shaft running exposed to the elements, the new CARC system fully integrates the floating bevel case necessary to cancel the gear's torque reaction. From outside, it looks just like a normal single-sided drive shaft unit. Compared to BMW's design with its two small bearings transferring all of the cornering and suspension loads from bevel case to swingarm, Guzzi's patented solution seems much more rational and clean. Nice, very nice.
The Breva is also the first big Goose to use the engine/gearbox as a full load-bearing member (in the V11 it was used more as a stiffening element). The Breva's frame is made out of straight tubing segments that create a few basic and stiff triangles. The engine and gearbox tie up and close the main open triangle. From a side view, the Breva's frame looks rational, light and above all, modern. Another frame related first for Guzzi, is the use of silent blocks in the front engine mounts that absorb the very few vibes that a 90° twin emits in the first place, without compromising frame stiffness, as I was to learn. It's mainly on the cycle side of things that you perceive that the engineers worked in close cooperation with the designers. A fine aesthetic touch can be found even in rather mechanical items such as the dedicated fork sliders that include an aerodynamic apron where they meet the front wing. Ditto for the beautiful footpeg hangers & brackets, which show a fine marriage of style and function.
Since we're talking `bout design, the lion's share of the work was carried out by the "Marabesse Design" studio, a consultancy that worked in the past on the V11 and Centauro. Although those models are far from being my cup of tea design wise, with the Breva 1100 they did a really good job and the result is as sweet as the riding. Under the scrutinizing eyes of Signore Frison, Aprilia's design guru, the Marabesse team worked hard and achieved an impressive result. It's a modern classic with plenty of nice and surprising touches and good overall proportions. As I said before, a loving hand can be seen on so many details; the instrument cluster and the beautiful rear wheel casting come up as good examples while no off-the-shelf components were spotted. There is quality paint, good matching between panels, and nice chrome accents.
In the short presentation done for us journos, Guzzi showed us some nice market research PowerPoint slides and nobody was surprised to find out that BMW's R1150R was the main target in Guzzi's sights. "Naked" bikes are the fastest growing segment: in Europe, accounting for 30% of all motorcycle sales and Guzzi management decided to concentrate on the Sport-Touring niche. Rather than trying to compete with brute force nakeds such as the Speed Triple or S4R Duc, the Breva was conceived to be much more touring/fun oriented. Comfy yet quite sporty indeed, the Breva has an R1150R air about it.
It's naked indeed but with well sorted out solutions for mounting a full set of hard luggage, two big seats and spacious ergos. A tool that will be good for long-range touring and not just short 'n sporty weekend jaunts. A good identification in my humble opinion as tools such as the 919, Z1000, TNT and Tuono are somewhat lacking in creature comforts. For those wanting a more extreme tool, I have some news too. Guzzi plans to give you a sharp streetfighter: wait for the scoopie at the end!
Every time engineers make sweeping, dramatic changes in a bike model there will always be a strong faction of holdouts from the previous incarnation. Sometimes these loyalists will be abnormally devoted to their model-year choice claiming that unless the bike was changed for safety reasons, they (the engineers) should have left it alone. Others are less dramatic in their devotion and simply like the bike they have, seeing no particular need to run out to the dealer to purchase the latest and greatest, even if the improvements are substantial. MotoGuzzi devotees are no different than any other Italian bike lover.
A would be new bike purchaser can capitalize on the feeding frenzy brought on by new model changes and the subsequent glut by buying "last year's model." If you're of this mindset then you'll be aware that the Breva 750 IE may be still be occupying floor space. Fellow Moron, motor journalist, friend of MO and most importantly, a Guzzisti, Alice Sexton, recently loaded up a 2004 Breva and set out on her twelfth cross country trip to the 34th Annual MotoGuzzi National Rally (May 26-29). This event was somber as the host for the past 26 years, Bucky Bush, was previously killed when he ran a stop light. In his honor this year's event was a tribute to him and rumored to be the last. Nevertheless, Alice made the ride, gave some impressions of the bike and logged (or blogged) her adventures. Read some of her thoughts below from her weblog.
Final Day: Moto Guzzi National Rally, New Cumberland, WV"The Breva V750 is a terrific all-round bike. For my taste, it meets all the requirements of a fun ride: it's exotic and Italian, it's a v-twin, it's light and nimble, has a comfortable seating position for touring and comes with optional hard bags and touring windscreen. It's sporty enough for peg-scraping, handles well on all road surfaces--including dirt--and can run all day long in top gear with the optimistic speedo reading 100 mph. All the while consistently getting upward of 50 mpg. One of the most appealing aspects is that the Breva comes with the option of a low profile seat for the vertically challenged! The only drawbacks I could find are that it is quite fussy about it's break-in miles and oil consumption. Additionally, I experienced a consistent weave when negotiating high-speed sweeping turns, but you shouldn't be going that fast on the street anyway!"
"The Breva handles well through the sweepers fully loaded with gear, running in top gear right up to 7K for hours at a time." [MSRP: $7,990]
Alice Sexton has worked as a design and editorial professional for the past twenty five years and has been riding motorcycles for the last seventeen. She is currently National President of the Women's International Motorcyclist Association - USA Division (WIMAUSA) and on the planning committee for the 2006 AMA International Woman and Motorcycling Conference. She has been a contributor to Road Racing World magazine and Motorcyclist magazine. Alice commutes to work daily in Los Angeles on a 2000 Suzuki SV650, races a 1987 Cagiva Allazzura with WSMC, and takes her 1978 Moto Guzzi 850 Lemans for touring and weekend rides.