The California is back, and Moto Guzzi with it. When I first saw the new California 1400 in photos, I thought the bike was competently styled. When I saw it in person at the Milan motorcycle show, I found that Miguel Galluzzi’s styling is absolutely beautiful.
Riding the California in the Cote d’Azur of southern France only intensified my impressions. It also made me think that the 1400 is the bike to resurrect Moto Guzzi and bring back its glory days. The Touring model seen here is a richly executed, fully dressed Grand Touring bike, ready to take you around the world in great comfort and style.
This ultimate evolution of the Guzzi 90-degree V-Twin was developed at Aprilia in Noale, where Piaggio’s R&D department is now located. Its cam-in-head, eight-valve, rubber-mounted engine has been bumped to 1380cc by enlarging the 1200’s bore from 95 to 104mm and retaining the 81.2mm stroke. Modern electronics are key: The throttle-by-wire fuel injection, with a 52mm throttle body, has three selectable settings (Rain, Touring, Fast), plus three levels of traction control. Twin-spark ignition ensures a clean burn in those huge cylinders. Moto Guzzi claims 96 horsepower and 88.5 foot-pounds of peak torque.
An all-new double-cradle, steel frame mounts a 46mm Sachs fork that is raked to 32 degrees, while a pair of shocks of the same make control the rear. Radial tires, 130/70-18 front and 200/60-16 rear, are fitted to the California, which has an impressive 66.3-in. wheelbase. ABS-equipped Brembo brakes feature radial-mount four-piston calipers with 320mm discs in front and a two-piston rear with a 282mm disc.
Our Ambassador edition, painted a glossy black with chalk-white pinstripes, is fitted with a two-tone seat (set at a sensible 29.0 in.), a Highway Patrol windshield, 9.2-gallon side bags in gloss black, and LED head- and taillights.
Immediately apparent is the ergonomically correct riding posture with the large handlebar set at an ideal height. Comfort is superb, and the windshield does a great job of protecting the rider. The single large, round instrument cluster has a digital speedometer, an analog tachometer and a tripmeter, plus a selectable multifunction display. Boots sit on rationally placed footboards with a rocker-type shifter.
Clutch-lever effort is light, thanks to the new single-disc clutch assembly. First gear engages with a light “clunk,” but the transmission otherwise is smooth and quick to shift. At idle, the air- and oil-cooled V-Twin shakes, but once past 1000 rpm, it’s perfectly smooth.
Solid torque and good throttle response are found south of 2000 rpm, while above 3000, the big engine really comes to life with impressive acceleration, especially considering the California’s substantial 743-lb. curb weight.
Perfectly capable of harnessing all that energy is a chassis that’s eager to lean into corners with good agility and neutrality. During spirited riding, I scraped the floorboards on a few occasions, which is as much a compliment to the quality and balance of the chassis as a criticism of its cornering clearance. At low speeds, the lazy rake angle is noticeable in the form of wandering steering, but beyond 10 mph, the problem disappears.
Moto Guzzi is back, with a sumptuous bike that exudes class and, more importantly, should help the storied maker capture back some of the limelight it so clearly deserves.
|Price:||19,300 euros/U.S. n/a|
|Engine type:||cih V-Twin|
|Seat height:||29.0 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||5.4 gal.|
|Claimed curb weight:||743 lb.|