When I sampled the new Moto Guzzi Breva more than a year ago, the only thing that prevented me from crowning it with a "Perfect Roadster" title was the nice but somewhat flat-ish 1100 motor. However, later this year, while testing the 1200 Norge tourer, all I could think of while enjoying the hefty oomph was: `for Gawd's sake why can't they put this fine engine in other Moto Guzzi models?'
The swearing was amply justified, in my humble opinion. In times past, you'd have to wait a lifetime for an Italian factory to move on and renew its offerings. Luckily, the pace in the reformed Piaggio group is very different nowadays. No more waiting around till clients crawl and beg for improvements or simply drop dead hoping. After setting theambitious sight of offering at least three new models per year, things happen fast even in the very sleepy village of Mandello del Lario. Seeing what a stonking engine the 1200 turned out to be and the enthusiastic reactions from the press, no time was lost in transferring the healthy mill into what is basically a "Super Breva". Wishful thinking fulfilled, and mighty quick too.
The "Sport" moniker evokes sweet memories among Guzzisti but don't let that carry you away too much. Back in `72, the arrival of the Guzzi 750 Sport shotthe company into the high-performance battle raging then against the likes of CB750 and KZ900. However, this 1200 Sport is clearly not a GSXR beater but rather a nice big-bore roadster. A quick glance proves that the term Sport carries a very different meaning in Mandello nowadays.
The transformation of the sweet Breva into a more aggressive tool started with the aforementioned engine transplantation. The claimed figures for the actually 1151cc mill are 95 hp at 7800 rpm with 73.8 foot-pounds of torque 6000 rpm; pretty much the same as in the Norge Seemingly, not many changes in tuning were effected and that's perfectly fine with me. In order to give the Breva a more aggressive and sporty stance, a small fly screen was added over the big front headlamp and most importantly, the tall cast handlebar halves have been replaced by a single stubby tubular item. It's got a typical Streetfigther bend and is fixed to the triple clamp with low risers.
There are other upgrades as well. There is now adjustable suspension at both ends; the fork got a TiNi treatment to the legs for reduced friction, while wave-type rotors replace the fully circular discs of the regular Breva. A humped rear seat with an optional racy cover and a "carbon like" finish to the silencer give the otherwise sedate-looking design of the Breva a more purposeful look.
The verdict when facing the Sport from up close? Nice, but maybe too much Breva has been left in there. Those front side panels with their chromed accents hovering above the cylinder heads are out of pace in this sporty context. Otherwise, it's got a cool sinister look with the commanding overall black color enhanced by the white accents that have a more than passing resemblance to race number plates.
Swing a leg over the thing and it's hard to believe the impact of those flat handlebars on the seating position. The original Breva bars put you in an almost "big-trailie" posture while here, the rider's upper torso is canted forward quite notably, to the point where shorter testers in the launch event complained about the long reach to the bars. For me it was spot-on, reminding me more than anything of the riding position in my old-skool GSXR-based streetfighter.
Blipping the throttle in the parking lot is quite a tease; the healthy bark reflected from the walls of the old factory is a nice tell-tale sign. Moving on slowly at first, all the sweetness of the original Breva is here intact, though the quick and light steering do not create the same shock effect anymore. Better get used to that; the truck-like steering manners of Guzzis of yore are gone forever.
Just as slick are the gear changing and throttle response. While dealing with the traffic along the shore of Como Lake, the 1200 Sport pulls cleanly from 2000 revs, already exhibiting some proper grunt in the process. As already noticed in the Norge 1200 test, the increase in capacity has enhanced the Mandello twins with even nicer manners down low the rev range.
We only have a few hours of riding planned so instead of taking the long way around, "Checo" -- our trusty lead and Guzzi road tester -- takes us straight to the nearest twisty road. He doesn't wait too much before rolling on in earnest and the 1200 turns out to be a tool that lets you start pushing with confidencefrom the word go. Roll on with decision driving out of turns, and the 1200 responds with a strong pull, the likes of which you could only dream of with the 1100 mill.
Between hairpins the Sport gathers speed in an impressive manner and above five or six thousand rpm things get really interesting. 95 horsies might not sound like much these days, but the Sport puts down the power down in an extremely effective way and in this 40-70 mph road dotted with some really slow corners, the wide powerband lets you get away with very little gear changing. The only item that initially bothers me is the strong engine braking, that coupled with a dab on the rear brake tends to lock up the rear while downshifting for turns. The solution is to downshift much less and accompany the move with swift throttle blipping.
Although it's a shafty, the CARC system does a good job canceling torque reactions at the rear, but just like on Beemers, the system can't get rid of the effect fully. Get used to that and it becomes a minor distraction, but for now, I'm really enjoying the extra precision that the flatter bars give. It might notamount to much, but the little extra weight over the front makes this "Super Breva" more reactive than the 1100 model while front end feedback is improved as well.
After this medium-length hill climbing session our guide is in bad need of a cigarette and we stop in the empty parking lot leading to a ski resort above the lake. Up here, sly smiles abound. Guzzis used to be mature rider tools, like connoisseur's wine to be enjoyed in slow sips, yet this one is like a good shot of grappa and can bring out a little devilish grin in anybody, experienced as he might be.
Checo notices that everybody's looking for some hotter action and suggest that we do the (in)famous Pian di Razzinelli hill climb. The road has been used in the past in numerous open road races. Sounds good -- our photographic session has been cancelled anyway (hence the PR shots at Monza) - so let's go.
The pace gets hotter and for most of the time the Sport 1200 handles very well with the increased loads while the Metzler M3 tires have no problem coping with anything we throw at them. It steers pretty quickly considering the 510 pounds (claimed) of weight. When you're pushing and going for it, the engine's got no problem climbing above 8000 rpm; it actually likes it. Even if there's no real advantage in stretching it that far, it's nice to know that unlike another 1200 pushrod thing -- namely the Buell -- this thing doesn't hit a wall up high the rev range.
The brakes, although not of the latest radial fashion, supply very reassuring deceleration rates with plenty of feel. These wave-type rotors might lack the classy looks but they sure work. If anything, an increase in fork preload could help here, but I didn't have time to play with the adjusters.
The one limit to the overall sporty groove lies in the footpegs. Close examination reveals that the cast aluminum members that also serve as footpeg brackets have not been changed from the Breva. So there's indeed plenty of leg room for long-gammed creatures like me, but while riding at a 95 percent pace, you have to place the ball of your feet on the pegs in order to save your boots and eventually, the pegs do drag. Regretfully these brackets can't be changed that easily with aftermarket rearsets as they are pretty big and have a complex shape. To put in the right perspective, you'd have to be following a mad Guzzi tester around on his "home track" to reach this kind of limit.
We finish our Hill climb race, err.... sorry, I mean ride and the stunt-oriented journos celebrate in a major burn out session in the little village square. For the ride down I ask for a special treat. In view of possible trackday use, Guzzi has developed a performance kit that includes polished inlet tracts and a pair of cool staggered open Lafranconi silencers, as well as a dedicated EFI chip and higher-compression pistons. The kit's spec sheet reads "at least 100 rear wheel horsepower". There's such an equipped Sport on hand and I ask for/grab the keys as soon as the bike is free. And boy, what a difference! The Duc Monster style Franconi kit emits a deep, almost impossibly loud bark. I almost feel guilty for the noise I am making but the way those free-flowing bits transform the power delivery is nothing short of amazing. I wouldn't be surprised if there were indeed an extra 10 hp down there as the thing really jumps ahead on throttle openings. It just goes to show you how strangled these big twins must be in order to pass the stringent Euro 3 emissions.
Nice way to finish the day. On paper, Guzzi did a parts bin special: a Breva frame, a Norge engine and some goodies thrown in. The reality? It not only works, but the Sport 1200 and Breva have an entirely different character. Need I explain which one I'd rather? Guzzisti can play the hoodlum hooligans at last.
|Specifications Courtesy of Moto Guzzi|
|Type||90° V-Twin, 4 stroke|
|Cooling system||air cooling|
|Bore and stroke||95 x 81.2 mm|
|Timing system||intake open 24° B.T.D.C.|
intake close 52° A.B.D.C.
Exhaust open 54° B.B.D.C.
Exhaust close 22° A.T.D.C. with valve clearance 1.5 mm
|*Claimed* Maximum power||over 70 kW (95 HP) at 7,800 rpm|
|*Claimed* Maximum torque||over 100 Nm at 6,000 rpm|
|Fuel injection system / Ignition||Magneti Marelli IAW5A, a-n type; 2 Ø 45 mm throttle bodies, Weber IWP 162 injectors, Lambda control, twin spark ignition|
|Spark plug||Internal NGK PMR8B (Long Life) external NGK BPR6ES|
|Exhaust system||stainless steel, 2 into 1 type with catalytic converter, height-adjustable muffler|
|Internal ratios||1> 17/38 = 1 : 2.235|
2> 20/34 = 1 : 1.700
3> 23/31 = 1 : 1.347
4> 26/29 = 1 : 1.115
5> 31/30 = 1 : 0.967
6> 29/25 = 1 : 0.862
|Primary drive||helical teeth, ratio 24/35 = 1 : 1.458|
|Secondary drive||Compact Reactive Shaft Drive CA.R.C.; double universal joint with floating bevel gear, ratio 12/44 = 1 : 3.666|
|Clutch||double disk, dry|
|Frame||tubular cradle, high tensile steel|
|Front suspension||telescopic hydraulic fork with Ø 45 mm and TIN surface treatment, preload adjustable|
|Front wheel travel||120 mm|
|Rear suspension||single arm suspension with progressive linkage, rear shock absorber adjustable in rebound and pre-load (hydraulic)|
|Rear wheel travel||140 mm|
|Front brake||twin stainless steel floating disc, wave type, Ø 320 mm, 4 opposed pistons|
|Rear brake||single steel fixed disc, Ø 282 mm, floating caliper with 2 parallel pistons|
|Wheels||three spokes, light alloy wheels, gravity die-casting|
|ABS||Two channels anti-block system|
|Front wheel||3.50" x 17"|
|Rear wheel||5.50" x 17"|
|Front tyre||120/70 ZR17"|
|Rear tyre||180/55 ZR17"|
|Battery||12 V - 18 Ah|
|Alternator||12 V - 550 W|
|Seat height||800 mm|
|Ground clearance||185 mm|
|*Claimed* Dry weight||229 kg|
|Fuel tank capacity||23 litres|
|* Technical specifications of 1200 Sport may change without notice.|