2004 Moto Guzzi V11 Le Mans
A Timeless BeautyBy (I am an Owner) on Nov 15, 2008
The legendary Moto Guzzi Le Mans began its story back in 1975, with an 850 derivative of already legendary 750 Sport.
Because of the startlingly successful debut of the 850 at the Bol d'Or [motorcycling equivalent of the 24 Hours of Le Mans], Guzzi chose to name the model after ... the track, and it was a success from day 1. However, over the years, the technology of competing bikes progressed, while Moto Guzzi left the Le Mans pretty much unchanged. By the early 90s, the Le Mans seemed pretty long in the tooth, and didn't compare very favorably with the offerings of other manufacturers. Yet, owners still loved them; they were (and are) very much a "thinking man's motorcycle," the epitome of an eclectic choice. Why should such an apparently antiquated design generate such passion and devotion? Let's face it, the engine is virtually unchanged from it's original 1964 design, making it older by half than even Harley-Davidson's "retro" engines! Yet the rugged simplicity of the 2v, pushrod air-cooled engine still has it's saving graces, and while heavier than more modern bikes and down on power in comparison, the sweet powerband and handling still speak volumes out in the real world of daily riding!
After giving the Le Mans name plate a well deserved rest in the mid-90s, Moto Guzzi took the benefit of endurance racer Dr. John Wittner's experience and applied his efforts to producing a new generation of sport models, using the old 2v mill and a new 4v cam-in-head engine. At the end of the 90s, Guzzi took what they'd learned from these experiments and came out with a new V11 Sport, and in the new millenium, proceded to return the Le Mans nameplate to service on the proven V11 Sport platform.
So what does ownership of a V11 Le Mans get you? One of the most beautiful bikes ever made [second only to the 1997 1100 Sport Inezione or Daytona RS], with quality componentry and excellent build quality. A rugged and reliable engine producing reasonable power with an expected lifespan [given normal maintenance] *exceeding that of most automobiles*! While certain model years had their share of production foibles [bubbling case paint on '02s, shift return pawl spring failures on '01s], by 2003, all problems were mostly resolved. (The only catch with modern Guzzis is their use of marginal power relays: a complete set of 5 superior replacements can be had for under $20 and the originals can be kept for emergency spares.)
Guzzi owners tend to be a breed apart: high mileage riders with an appreciation for Ockham's Razor and rugged individuality. Oh, & did I mention we like to tear up the twisties? ;-)