State of the Moto Guzzi
A Guzzi Twofer: 2005 Moto Guzzi Breva 750 IE :: 2005 Coppa Italia
The controls work nicely, with the exception of the turn signal and horn buttons. Someone in Italy thought it would be funny to reverse their positions so that riders would honk instead of signal. Really funny, until some yutz in a Pinto cuts you off while you angrily cancel your turn signal at the guy. That'll teach him!
But you're on the freeway onramp by now anyway, and you happily work your way through the crude but useable gearbox and feel a wash of gen-u-ine Italian V-twin sportbike oomph send you flying up the ramp. The upright position puts you in charge of your position in traffic as you work your way from gap to gap with just a twist of your right wrist. The seat is comfortable enough for hour-long freeway stints, which is a good thing, as we observed almost 40 mpg. With a 5 gallon tank and a 1.3 gallon reserve, that's almost 200 miles before the big throttle bodies suck that pretty tank empty. The springs are a bit firm for a 150-pound rider but the freeway ride isn't too choppy, even over big expansion joints and other rough bits.
But once you are at your favorite two-lane road, the V11 really comes into its own. With a low center of gravity and wide bars to counteract the long wheelbase and conservative steering geometry, the big machine can be hustled easily up a twisty, bumpy canyon road, as long as you aren't in too big a hurry. Big sweepers are even better, with that famous stability a perfect handmaiden to the long-legged gearing and torquey motor.
The engine does feel a little buzzy and intrusive at most engine speeds, although there seems to be a sweet spot at about an indicated 85 mph in sixth gear. The 90-degree twin may give perfect primary balance, but the secondary vibrations will constantly remind you that a large air-cooled engine is being worked with pushrods, huge valves, and a big, heavy flywheel. Those of you used to smooth, counterbalanced modern powerplants will require an adjustment period. Me, I just settle back and remember my 1977 BMW was worse, and that at the end of a long ride there is always my favorite Scotsman, Mr. Glenfiddich, to help counterbalance my jangled nerve endings.
The four-piston Brembo brakes are surprisingly mediocre, probably due to a conservative pad compound and the bike's higher weight. Downhill turns require a hefty three or four finger squeeze before the wooden feel is overcome and the bike bounces a bit on the oversprung, underdamped front end. Ohlins makes low-end components, built to a price point, just like KYB or Sachs.
I'm at a loss to understand why Moto Guzzi would charge an extra $3,500 for forks with no separate rebound or compression damping. I'm at a bigger loss to understand why anybody would shell out the extra money for the Ohlins if they provide no benefit over the less expensive Marzocchis on the $11,490 V11 Billabio. They don't detract too much from the overall experience and are easily fixable, I'm sure.
So it should be clear to you that this motorcycle has plenty of flaws. So you should be surprised to find out that this is absolutely my favorite motorcycle I've tested at MO so far. I really love it.
Bombing down Normandie Street, chasing the Maven at midnight as I get the South Bay tour, with the sound of the exhaust booming in the empty night, the V11 reminds me of the essentials of a great motorcycle: great sound, great feel, and the essential of power, comfort and handling to see you to your journey's end safely and comfortably with verve and style. The V11's hand-built, elemental feel blended with beautiful Italian shapes and sounds make it a rare heirloom-quality motorcycle that makes you understand why you so rarely see 1970's Le Mans for sale.
So which one of these is a better motorcycle? The Nevada works better as a motorcycle and exceeds the build quality, handling and performance of many of it's Asian competitors, although at a premium price of $7995. It's a bike I could recommend for a shorter or beginning rider without dooming them to a cheap rattletrap with limited ground clearance, soggy suspension and crummy brakes.
The V11 is not as good a motorcycle. In almost every objective category, it falls short of the competition, at a much higher price. Compared to a Yamaha FZ-1, Kawasaki Z1000, Honda 919 or a Triumph Speed Triple it's buzzy, heavy, under-braked, and has mediocre suspension. At $14,990, the Coppa Italia won't win the Coppa for Best Value. However, I understand that Moto Guzzis, like Harleys and BMW's, don't really compete against other brands of motorcycle. Instead, prospective buyers want to know how they compare against other Moto Guzzis. In this regard, the V11 is very, very good. It delivers the big-Guzzi experience far better than the wonky, hard-to-shift, ill-handling beasts of yesterday and is a very practical, comfortable and nice-handling bike judged on its own merits.
The sound of the exhaust, the satisfying heft and commanding presence of this beautiful misfit from Mandelo Del Lario make it an object of my desire. I like quirky, interesting bikes like this one that don't sacrifice too much comfort, performance or reliability, and I'm glad there are enough of us out there to keep a very charismatic and interesting brand in business.