Moto Guzzi V11 Scura
In which Yossef uses the C-word. (Character)
Twisting the V11's throttle never fails to produce an impressive multimedia show of acceleration, sound and vibrations. When accelerating through the gears, a small problem might pass unnoticed, but when settling down into a steady fast cruise at 4500-5500 rpm, the handlebars transmit sizable and sharp spikes into your palms that cannot be cataloged as enjoyable.A shame really, cause this engine speed is extremely suitable for 90-mph touring. Eventually I chose to bomb along above the vibey rev range, and the V11 has no problem propelling me at 100 mph-plus for an hour or two. The handlebar's distant position allows me to assume a nice, comfy crouch behind the small bikini fairing, and the pilot seat is wide, long and accommodating. If you insist, the V11 will climb with authority into the 130-plus range while staying perfectly stable; new frame bracing for `02 sees to that. When the black top turns twisty, the V11 has no problem following suit as long as you remember that it's no lightweight, at 480 pounds dry, and not reallyshort at 58.6" between contact patches. At "Milan's Mount Palomar", a twisty mountain road that also ends in an astronomical observatory, the "Scura" loves to bend over and keep a steady and sweeping line while the wide Pirelli Dragons supply plenty of traction.
But you definitely have to give the V11 some time to lay down and make use of the impressive ground clearance it's got. When exiting turns the always-cooperative engine pulls on smartly from any speed making you really forget about shifting. In case you do want some extra oomph, the Suzuki-smooth box will supply you the next lower gear or two with unbelievable easiness and speed by any standards. The V11 might be slightly ponderous and lazy for true squidding, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining--actually the opposite.
Considering that this bike is built around a 30-year-old engine design--one from the era when good road handling meant "as if on rails" and truck-like steering, it's actually an amazing handling bike. The thundering exhaust note, the noticeable power pulses and those two Dumbo ears sticking out in the breeze always remind you that you're riding a time machine of sorts, one that can rock pretty well when the pressure is on. Suspension components had me waxing somewhat less lyrical. The golden Ohlins fork was really faultless, responded well to spanner twirling, kept dive in check when the stonking Gold Brembos did their anchoring act, the works. No amount of adjustment, in unpleasant contrast, managed to dial the rear monoshock into a good bump swallower; a classic case of lack of progressivity.
Yamaha stopped using those linkless suspensions for a good reason. Considering the intended use of the V11, I am pretty positive that as impressive as those Ohlins components are, they're a bit of overkill on the Sport. While I'm at it, I was also a bitpissed by the fact that when I wanted to take the V11 for an extended tour with my girlfriend, my universal soft saddlebags just couldn't be fitted on the V11's sexy rear end (too sloping), while the round-top fuel tank caused my tank bag to slide one way or the other. And don't get me started about those dedicated soft bags made for the V11. We like to carry more than just a few pairs of G-string panties and toothbrushes when we go touring.
A real shame, because if there is an adorable thing about Guzzis, it's their versatility--and that got lost on the way to more fashionable shapes and "enhanced" retro looks. Those upswept mufflers really prevent you from fitting sizeable touring bags. The V11 is one hell of a mile muncher and long-trip tool with its relaxed ergos, comfy driver seat and soothing engine (at the right revs). With 80 rear-wheel horsies, the big Gootsie has no problems tackling serious mountain roads, passing any four wheeled stuff or supplying grin-inducing roll-ons every now and then.
Well, here I am, judging the thing objectively at the end of the day--a totally useless approach, because Guzzis do it differently. If you really need to read it black on white, then any sporty 600 will trounce it in the twisties, a 900SS is a better handler and an R1150R is a much more sophisticated and refined machine.
And so I am left only to play, that's right, the character card. Yes that's what the V11 delivers by the truckload, a quality that never fails to make you grin from ear to ear if you're the right type (and I seem to be). The beauty of the whole thing is that those meaty "character" portions are wrapped in reliable mechanics, superb engine management and excellent road manners--ingredients that never existed in the heyday of the original big Italian twins. The admiring looks that were cast on the V11 at gas stops from intelligent looking 30 to 40- somethings that asked reasonable questions instead of the usual "what she'll do?", convinced me that this bike and this company still hold a strange and understated fascination.
The V11 can supply then a rather special retro-trip, an experience that's way out there at the left far end of the "alternative" spectrum. Nowadays when Ducatis and Harleys are sold from stores that try to mingle with DKNY, Guzzis are still being built in Mandello by mechanics who smoke fags while torquing bolts, and surely keep a nice bottle of vino in the locker for a sip during the long and sacred midday break. Thankfully, time moves on slowly in Mandello. Before the dynamic new management of Aprilia turns the 80-year-old factory into a fashionable and marketable "brand", we can still enjoy a cycle that's really built in the old way, and acts it.SPECIFICATIONS
1064cc air-cooled L-twin, overhead valve, 2v/cyl.
Bore and stroke: 92 x 80 mm
Compression ratio: 9.5 : 1
Fuel delivery: electronic fuel injection
Clutch: single disk, dry
Final drive: shaft, 11/32
Frame: steel rectangular box
Wheelbase: 1490 mm
Seat height 800 mm
Claimed dry weight: 221 kg (487 lb)
Front suspension: 43mm inverted Ohlins fork with 120 mm travel, compression/rebound/preload adjustable
Rear suspension: One Ohlins coil-over damper with 128mm wheel travel, cantilever swing arm, compression/rebound/preload adjustable
Front brake: two 320mm floating discs, Brembo Goldline four-piston calipers
Rear brake: one 282 mm disc, Brembo Goldline two-piston caliper
Wheels: Brembo 3.50x17, 5.50x17" cast alloy
Tires: 120/70 VB17, 180/55 VB17
Fuel Capacity: 22 litres