Moto Guzzi V11 Scura - Motorcycle.com
So sorry if the following road test will be totally lacking in objectivity and fair judgement, but then I'm in Italy and the rest of the MO staff is not.
As the owner of several Gootsies in diverse states of decay/restoration, it's hard for me to be impartial about the Moto-Guzzi V11 Sport "Scura" and to treat it objectively as if it was just another cycle. But what really turns me into an unsuitable candidate to test ride the V11 is totally unrelated to my intimate knowledge of the tiny needle rollers that sit inside a Guzzi's CV joint and the type of grease they like for breakfast.
Even the meanest journalist, one who has not grown up on valve-dropping V50s and can't tell a Falcone from a Galletto, would melt into a puddle under the sheer nostalgia overload that lands on the visitor to the Mandello del Lario factory. An early morning train from Milan transfers me within just one hour into another time dimension as I descend into the tiny and romantic train station of Mandello, an early century stone building that looks like it's been taken straight out of a fairy tale book. At the far end of the station, huge and decaying loading ramps are silent reminders of the times when this factory was among the biggest in the world and churned out hundreds of bikes a day. A one-minute walk brings me to the gate of the factory, and while waiting inside for my test ride I suddenly have to rub my eyes in disbelief: In a nearby open garage, a dozen or so of Moto-Guzzi's historic racers sit in a row, quietly reflecting the morning sunlight that filters in through the windows. The most exotic race bike ever built, Bill Lomas's 500c.c. V8 GP machine, some pre-war GP V-twins, a few world championship winning 350 singles with their hand-beaten aluminum "dustbin" fairings. A friendly mechanic with a cigarette dangling from his lips (while strolling between the most prized classic bikes on earth) notices my unbelieving stares, and without blinking asks me: "Wanna try them for size?".
And so, while I find myself seated on Omobono Tenni's 1937 Isle of Man Senior race winner, enjoying its Swiss clockwork delicacy and half-century patina, this mechanic decides to push me along an internal road so that I will be able to feel the feathery steering of the bicycle like 3.00"-section tires. Can you imagine such a scene at Honda HQ in Japan? Yeah, go and write an honest road test after such a personality altering experience, Guzzi fan or not. This is plain bribery, a real scandal, I bet it was all planned beforehand. I'll soldier on just the same.
A short history lesson is due. For the last 35 years Moto-Guzzi has been producing their big bore, across the frame V-twins, BMW's of sorts but with a 90 degree angle between the twin towering cylinders. As unreal as it might sound, the 2002 V11's engine is a straight descendant of this long dynasty. Mechanically, this family of engines which started as a failed project for Fiat car power units, hasn't changed much since the Ice Age. The family of V's was born in `67 as a 700, was seriously updated in `71 when the classic V7 Sport came out, received its "square" looks with the launch of the LeMans III of `81, and that's about it. There have been displacement increases, 844, 949 and lately 1064--but no major mechanical changes.
Those big cylinders sticking out beneath the fuel tank might look exactly the same as those on my `81 LeMans Mk III, but around the pre-historical engine there are very few age-related accessories. A six-speed gearbox was mated to the V11 when the model was launched back in `97, and full digital engine management (injection and ignition) was a Guzzi trademark long before being adopted by other makers.
The old vs. new theme continues with a fully up-to-date inverted fork and a rear triangular monoshock suspension that's linkless, just like in an early eighties Yamaha. Oh yes, I almost forgot to say that I am about to ride a rather special version of the V11 Sport, the new for `02 "Scura" (Dark). In the fashionable matte black "Scura" version, top-of-the-line Ohlins suspension components replace the more mundane regular V11 items. There's a titanium nitride coated fork up front, actually the same one as fitted to the Aprilia RSV Mille R, and ultra-adjustable Swedish damper in the back. Other expensive items that make the Scura stand out are carbon fiber side panels, front fender, tank top protector and mufflers. There is also a "Scura" bikini fairing and deluxe Ohlins steering damper.