2013 Moto Guzzi California Review: Emissary of the new Guzzi - Video

Italian-Style California Dreamin'

After riding the 2013 Moto Guzzi California, we’re convinced it’s the best representation yet of Guzzi’s transcendence from a quirky, also-ran benchwarmer to a formidable, modernized opponent.

Gone is the Black Eagle California we tested in 2011 and all its eccentricities including “plasti-chrome instrumentation,” “sloppy welds,” “muffler rust” as well as other foibles. In its place stands the California 1400 model boasting the largest capacity engine in Guzzi’s history, technologies including traction control, rider modes, ABS, cruise control, Ride-by-Wire and a level of fit and finish comparable to any class-leading OEM all wrapped up in uniquely Guzzi style.

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  Moto Guzzi California Black Eagle vs California 1400 Custom  

Our European correspondent, Tor Sagen, reviewed both 2013 California models, the Custom and the Touring, following their respective Euro press launches a couple months ago. Recently, however, parent company, Piaggio, invited the US media to familiarize themselves with the new Guzzi model in an appropriate SoCal setting. Standing witness to the transformation from the old to the new California, it was apparent that the bike is worthy of closer inspection.

Miguel GalluzziIn attendance during the California’s stateside introduction was none other than the man responsible for Moto Guzzi’s spate of exciting recent models: Miguel Galluzzi. After tenures with Cagiva and Ducati, and penning the iconic Monster lineup, the Argentine-born designer is now the Piaggio Group’s VP of Design.

A comment by Galluzzi during our interview with the renowned industrial designer sums up the new philosophy of the 92-year-old motorcycle manufacturer. “Before it was ‘We did it, it’s done.’ And now it’s ‘We do it correctly or we don’t do it,’” he said. The California 1400 is the epitome of this statement.

Examples of this new philosophy are found in the details almost everywhere you look on the new California. Gone are the wonky foot controls that didn’t allow a booted toe beneath the shift lever, the knob for repositioning your right foot in order to properly operate the rear brake, and the unacceptably long dual-spring kickstand that was nearly impossible to extend and always clanged home when detracted. All replaced with ergonomically functional components.

Claims of 96 ponies at 6500 rpm move the California from almost last to the top of the horsepower list in our 2011 World Cruiser Shootout. Even when ascribing a 15% drivetrain power loss through its drive shaft, the resultant 82 hp beats the most powerful bike participating in that story, Triumph’s Thunderbird, and its 1597cc parallel-Twin’s rear wheel power by nine horses (82 vs 73). The T-Bird’s 93.5 ft-lb of torque at 2700 rpm still bests the California’s claimed 87 ft-lb at 2750 rpm, but it’s a much better figure than the 59.7 ft-lb way up at 5700 rpm of the old California.

Unlike the former 1064cc powerplant, the new 1380cc Twin pounds out oodles of low-end grunt, while similar in fashion to its predecessor the new engine eagerly spins to its redline. At idle the bike mildly vibes with the throws of the engine’s internals, but the kinematic engine support system – that isolates the engine and its components from the frame – negates any unwanted vibratory nuisances at above-walking speeds.

2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom

Sadly, the low curb weight we enjoyed of the old California (590 lbs) has bloated by 111 pounds to 701 lbs (743 lb for Touring). With an increased fuel capacity of only 0.4 gallons (2.5 lbs) there’s no attributing its newfound heft to extra fuel capacity.

Highs:     Sighs:
  • Form & function
  • Rider aides
  • Individuality
  • Weight
  • Front brake disc carriers are fugly
  • Skinny brake/clutch levers

Endowed with its new electronic rider aides, the California 1400 stands more technologically advanced, in that respect, than Honda’s flagship supersport, the CBR600RR. The California’s cruise control is a simple, one-button affair of set it and forget it (no up or down incremental increases or decreases as found with other bikes’ cruise control), and its ABS system emits a loud clunk when initiated, but how many cruisers of this size, power and price are endowed with such applied sciences.

Moto Guzzi California 1400 wheel

The old California’s seating position seemed modeled after a motorcycle of 250cc displacement where the buckhorn bars would “trap a taller rider’s knees against the fuel tank during tight maneuvers,” we reported in our review of the 2011 Black Eagle. For 2013 Guzzi stretched the California’s wheelbase five inches to 66.3 providing ample room compared to old bike’s confined quarters.

The new model doesn’t boast the seemingly unending amount of cornering clearance of the old Cali, but it will certainly out-handle many similar “cruisers” built more for form than function. The Guzzi willingly flew through sweepers, happily grinding away its floorboards, then quickly transitioned to equally abuse the other side’s boards through the next corner.

13 California Custom Grigio Mercurio

Keeping all this fun in check are dual 4-pot, radial-mount Brembo calipers gripping 320mm discs – a nod to performance braking other cruisers can only dream of. Piaggio says the California 1400 represents the largest financial investment into any modern Guzzi model.

Where the old California was repeatedly given a pass using “it’s a Guzzi,” as the catch-all excuse for its oftentimes inexplicable funkiness, this new Guzzi’s in no need of get-out-of-jail-free cards. This is a bike that will easily stand on its own merit against established models from Harley, Honda, Star, et. al. It’s time for us to round up the players for a World Cruiser Shootout Part Deux!

1968 - 1969
The V7 Police is introduced for the LAPD.

01 V7 Police

1970 - 1972
V7 750 California

03 V7 Ambassador

1972 - 1974
V 850 California

04 850 California

1975 - 1980
T3 California

06 850 T3 California

1981 - 1986
California II

07 California II 1000

1987 - 1993
California III

13 California III

1994 - 1996
California 1100

10 California 1100

1997 - 2005
California EV

15 California EV

2006 - 2012
California Vintage

20 California Vintage

Moto Guzzi California 1400 Specifications
Engine Type 90° V-Twin
Engine Capacity 1380 cc
Bore x Stroke 104 mm x 81.2 mm
Compression 10.5:1
Fuel System Phased electronic Multipoint sequential injection
Horsepower 96 @ 6500 rpm (claimed)
Torque 87 ft-lb. @ 2750 rpm (claimed)
Transmission 6-speed
Clutch Single-disc with integrated anti-vibration buffer
Final Drive Shaft
Frame Steel tubing, closed double cradle with elastic-kinematic engine mounting system
Front Suspension 46 mm hydraulic telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Dual shocks with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front Brakes Dual 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo radial callipers with 4 pistons
Rear Brakes 282 mm stainless steel fixed disc, Brembo floating calliper with 2 pistons
Front Tire 130/70 R 18”
Rear Tire 200/60 R 16”
Seat Height 29.1”
Curb Weight 701/743 lbs
Wheelbase 66.3”
Fuel Capacity 5.4 gal
Electronics ABS, cruise control, traction control, rider modes
Colors Basalt Black, Mercury Gray
Warranty 2 year unlimited-mileage warranty. 1 Free Year of Roadside Assistance provided by Road America
MSRP Custom $14,990 / Touring $17,990

Related Reading
2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom Review
2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring Ambassador Review
2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Review
2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer vs. 2013 Triumph Thruxton - Video
2011 World Cruiser Shootout
2010 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Classic vs. 2010 Triumph Thunderbird
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