2005 Moto Guzzi Breva
Lowering my foot off the left peg, I mistakenly caress the gear lever with my boot and boom! First gear simply snicked in, effortlessly! What? In a Guzzi? In the first few miles it's indeed the buttery gear lever action that rivets my attention and you have to experience it to believe it. Who said that shafties with engine speed clutch should have stiff and clunky gear shifting? This new gearbox puts to shame BMW's and Honda's with its greasy and effortless shifting.
This is only the first of shocks. The second shock arrives by courtesy of the scooter- like steering. As we are leaving Mandello, we tackle some roundabouts with the required quick right-left-right shifts in lean and all I want to do is rub my eyes through the visor in disbelief. Where have the 500 pounds or so of this Breva disappeared all of the sudden? Something here defies logic. OK, a modern 25.5 rake angle goes some ways to explain the issue but I suspect that the main secret behind the Breva's agility is called: Aprilia.
Francesco Pellizon, Aprilia's chief road tester and the guy responsible for the RSV's sublime leaning manners was involved with the Breva's development and his touch can be felt. On our way to the shooting location in Lecco we hop on a highway stretch along the lake and within a few fast sweepers you can feel that this steering quickness does not translate into nervousness at high speeds. When the traffic does slow down in downtown Lecco, the fatiguing operation of Guzzis of yore (V11 included) fades into a memory. The smooth gear changing is just part of the story. Although the clutch is still a dry, two-plate affair, pick up on release is super smooth, and effort at the lever low. Repetitive U-turns for passes in front the photographers are carried out without any drama or foot paddling. The Breva's mill has a really nice pull from down low and take off from full stop is utterly easy. Before taking our lunch break, the only negative mental note is the jerky transition in on-off throttle situation at low speeds that's compounded by some driveline backlash.
We pull back to Mandello too late for lunching in a restaurant (Italian eating times are holy) so we are lead into the factory worker's dinning room. Some experience! The Breva might represent the new spirit in Guzzi yet this factory could serve as a perfect shooting location for a 50's neo-realist Italian drama by De Sica, just as it is, no dressing needed. It'll be interesting to see for how much longer this amazing and nostalgic setting will survive under the new hard-headed Piaggio management (Guzzi were a part of the deal in Aprilia's recent acquisition by Piaggio).
A shot of espresso and we are out again, this time with a good old factory road tester leading us. I've rode with him in the Breva 750's launch and this guy, who must be approaching pensioning age, knows the roads round here like the back of his hand and likes to keep it WOT most of the time. A short Autostrada stretch sees the Breva climbing with ease to 100-110 MPH, it's just that with nakeds being nakeds, it's a bit useless pushing beyond that. It's then when you notice that although the handlebars are rather high, it's still a long stretch to them so you end up riding with your elbows almost straight. So on one hand it prevents you from tucking down, but on the other hand, it lets you counter the wind pressure quite easily.
The support of the wide seat is very good and comfy; Guzzi claims to have installed a special gel insert in there. Although in theory a 90-degree V-twin should have perfect primary balance, the sharp spikes that the V11 would send through the handlebars at certain engine speeds are all too fresh in my memory. There are none of these on the Breva, nada. If there is buzz in the handlebars, it might be described as some light burbling that only serves to remind you that you are straddling a V-twin and not a in line four or a boxer (god forbid). In any case, at 90 and change, the engine settles down to a lazy 5,000rpm and the touring side of this naked Breva becomes evident. But there's more to it.
To the twisties then, time to clean the whole width of the tire's treads; handing back a test bike with dusty tire edges equals bad table manners. Our leader knows every twist and turn and he can be really trusted when diving into fast and blind corners. Under higher pressure, the Breva remains surrealistically quick for an 1100cc twin that has its roots in 1972. This super quick steering is supported by very nicely calibrated suspension and it's only when really pushing it that I would like to add a click or two of rebound to the rear strut (which is the only hydraulic adjustment that you can do in fact). In the slow and twisty, with plenty of braking and down shifting while setting up for turns, the CARC system manages to keep the rear wheel well planted without much chirping. Similar antics on my old 850 LMIII would mean major drama unless accompanied by copious throttle blipping on an every downshift.
While tilted hard, the Breva sits very well on the Z6 Metzelers (a lovely sport touring tire BTW) but personally, I would trade some of that steering quickness for some more front-end feedback. As you might guess by now, Mr. Tester and I are pushing beyond the Breva's planned flying envelope. At high lean angles, the center stand will drag on the left and the peg feeler on the right, but you really have to be trying. If there is something that leaves me a bit disappointed in the Breva 1100, it's the relative lack of mid range pull, like at 4,000 RPM when powering out of turns. It seems like top end HP remains the same, it's the mid range that has been scarified somewhat in the name of that Euro 3 thing, and the closeness of the torque and HP peaks hint at a high state of tune. While rolling fast you do find out that the 1100 mill actually likes to be revved and beyond 5,000rpm pull gets really strong. As soon as you learn to rev the thing the Breva does fly rather nicely and there is a satisfying power crescendo from 7,000rpm up to rev limiter.
While playing on this type of slow-medium speed roads, other points shine. The Brembos, although not being top-shelf items are strong and sensitive while the rear end setup swallows up the road imperfections very effectively. Gee, how many years did we, the Guzzisti, wait for such a nice rear suspension? It's progressive and comfy yet not too soft.
Up front, the fork copes well with hard braking. Though only preload is adjustable it's really fine as it is. On the back, there's a practical and accessible remote preload control knob and a rebound adjustment screw. With all due respect to the CARC system's performance, you still have to keep in mind that there is considerable unsprung weight down there. On certain combinations of bumps with sharp throttle and steering inputs, you might notice some stepping out. Just remind yourself that this is a sporty naked tourer with a shaft after all.
We take a break in a deserted parking lot in a small village and without us asking Mister Tester proceeds to perform some impressive burnouts and wheelies, as if to prove to us the beefiness of the new setup. In the meantime, the clouds that have been looming above seem darker than ever; time for a last quick decent down. This last downhill stretch is really mental, quick and fast left-right-left-rights yet the Breva isn't really fazed, like Dumbo, it can gracefully pull some high G's if need. By the end of the descent, I feel like kicking myself for not mounting the onboard camera until we are on a rather slow stretch.
Back in the factory and without the scrutinizing eyes of Stefania, Guzzi's cutePR officer, our tester brings us into one of the production halls to sip a last espresso next to a CNC machine milling cylinder heads. I can't help but comment to our guide about the Breva's quick steering. "This is nothing!" he says, "The new Grisso, now that one really handles!". The Grisso? Isn't that supposed to be a power cruiser? "Power cruiser, power schmoozer, don't know about these things, I only test them and that one really kicks ass, wait till you ride one!"
So you don't have to be Einstein to realize that this new Breva shows the way of things to come from Guzzi. It's easy to imagine this thing wearing full touring fairing and becoming an Italian RS or RT of sorts. Who knows, maybe even an Italian GS! But I must confess that I didn't think that the Grisso was meant to be such a sporty streetfighter (assuming the hype is true). And then there is the MGS 01. What about fitting the 120hp four valver of the MGS in this frame? Yes, there is hope for the hard cord Guzzi believers.
Guzzi ownership was until now like eating raw cocoa. Tasty yet bitter, you really had to dig it; hardly everybody's cup of tea. With this new Breva, you don't have to be an eccentric type to enjoy Gootsy-ing anymore. Some might say that some character was lost; one journo riding with us even added that this Breva might be a sort of 1,100cc beginner's bike with its ease of use. Maybe, as an aging Guzzi lover, I rather liked this newfound sweetness. Very much so.
|Engine:||90° V-Twin, 4 stroke|
|Bore and stroke:||92 mm x 80 mm|
|Valves & operation:||2 overhead valves with light alloy push-rods|
|Maximum power:||91 hp @ 7800 rpm|
|Maximum torque:||70 ft/lbs. @ 6000 rpm|
|Fuel system:||Weber- Marelli electronic injection with stepper motor|
|Ignition:||Magneti Marelli IAW electronic digital ignition with twin spark|
|Exhaust system:||Triple catalyzed with Lambda probe|
|Gear box:||6 speed|
|Lubrication:||Wet sump, forced oil, cartridge filter|
|Transmission:||Primary: helical gears|
Secondary: Cardano Reattivo; double universal joint with 9/33-ratio floating bevel gear
|Electrical system:||12 V; 12 V-540 W alternator; 12 Ah battery|
|Instruments:||Active matrix LCD display with speedometer with tripmeter, tachometer and warning lights|
|Frame:||Detachable tubular duplex cradle|
|Trail:||4.7" (120 mm)|
|Front suspension:||43 mm fork, preload adjustable|
|Front wheel travel:||4.7" (120 mm)|
|Rear suspension:||Single sided swing arm suspension with progressive linkage; rear mono shock, hydraulic adjustable rebound and pre-load|
|Rear wheel travel:||5.5" (140 mm)|
|Front brakes:||Double stainless steel, 320 mm floating disc with 4-piston caliper|
|Rear brakes:||Single stainless steel 282 mm disc with 2-piston caliper|
|Wheels:||Three spoke alloy|
|Front:||3.5" x 17" Rear: 5.5" x 17"|
|Tires:||Front: 120/70 17" Rear: 180/55 17"|
|Overall length:||83.85" (2130 mm)|
|Height:||51.57" (1310 mm)|
|Seat Height:||31.49" (800 mm)|
|Ground clearance:||7.28" (185 mm)|
|Wheelbase:||58.66" (1490 mm)|
|*Claimed* Dry weight:||513.67 lbs. (233 Kg)|
|Fuel capacity:||6.34 gallons (24 liters)|
|Reserve:||1.05 gallons (4 liters)|
|Available Colors:||Red, Grey, or Black|