Top 5 reasons to own a Moto Guzzi California motorcycle

May 1st, 201021 Comments »

I own and ride a Moto Guzzi California motorcycle.  Actually, it is a Moto Guzzi California Vintage.  A Cal-Vin, skunk, cop bike, whatever you want to call it.  I love it and the many variations within the Guzzi California series, including the Bassa, the V11, and so on, all the way back to the 850 California.

So, what makes a Moto Guzzi California motorcycle so good in my opinion?  Here’s my top 5 list of reasons why this is the right motorbike for me:

1.  It’s a motorcycle for motorcycle enthusiasts
.  Time proven.  No fluff (well,  not too much anyway).   A work-on-it-yourself kind of bike, built for the long haul and years of riding enjoyment.

2.  It’s not a me-too motorcycle.  It’s Italian, but not a Ducati want-to-be.  It’s classic, but not a Harley want-to-be. Overall it has a classic and timeless design that makes it hard to tell how old one actually is. I’ve seen 1998 and older models that look just as good as a 2010 model of any motorcycle on the market.

3.  Practical features.  For example: shaft drive, linked brakes, forks that you can adjust while riding, adjustable rear shocks, adjustable steering damper, choke/fast idle lever for quick cold start, easy access valve train and heads.  Sure, other motorcycles have such features, but usually they are mid-to-high end sport bikes, not standards.

4.  Guzzi owners.  Of course, there are going to be jerks everywhere, but I believe that people that own a Moto Guzzi seem to be real people.  What does that mean?  Well, partly, they’re not trying to put on a “bad” image.  The entire bad biker thing is lame and old if you ask me, but to each their own.

5.  Class-less.  Wait, that sounds bad,  what I mean is, a Moto Guzzi California is pretty much in a class by itself.  It’s not a cruiser.  It’s not a sport.  It’s not entirely a standard either.  What is it?  It is a unique and darn good handling motorcycle that you can enjoy riding for years and years, and not get bored with. Oh, and all that plus a touch of style, Italian style.

This is just my feeling about Moto Guzzi California motorcycles.  I’d like this to grow into an all-time list of best reasons to own one, directly from the the world-wide community of Cali owners.  So, what are your top reasons that the Guzzi Cali is the right motorcycle for you?

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About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotoGuzziCalifornia.Com. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding and maintaining his Moto Guzzi California Vintage.

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  1. Gordo says:

    Back in 1974, I first saw a California in the duty-free section of Schipol Airport. I wanted one but could not afford or justify it. After several Japanese bikes over the years (all Yamahas and all very good at what I wanted at the time) I could finally afford a new Cali and bought one off the showroom floor in 2006.
    It has not been as trouble-fee as any of the Yamahas – none of which ever broke anything. At 23,000km the fuel hose blew off inside the tank, stranding me on the side of the road miles from home. At 25,000km the sidestand decided enough was enough (I tour a lot with a pillion and all her gear). The only reason I did not drop the bike was because I was still on it when the stand cam-bolt sheared and I was able to catch it just before it hit the ground. Headlight bulbs last about 5000 km and now at 28,000km the speedo has given up. I HOPE it’s just a broken cable. The transmission leaks just like an old British bike. The plastic bits are rubbish and the rear luggage rack has been re-welded twice, but otherwise the bits that count seem solid enough.
    BUT, despite all these annoyances, it is a great bike. It handles well and takes quite a beating on our Aussie gravel roads. In fact I take it everywhere I used to take the TDM 900 (which is supposedly a far more ‘dual purpose’ bike).
    I am not very tall and it is getting a bit heavy for me now as the old bones get older. But my next bike will be another Guzzi – the new V7 looks great now that the silly plastic fuel tank is gone…

  2. Bastiaan says:

    I ve been reading quite interested all these evaluations of MG where I ve hesitated for almost 30 years on buying a Guzzi, because in the Netherlands, were I live, they have a quite questionable reputation.
    I’ve always liked them,their looks en character but never dared tot buy one,because of electrical problems and overall reliabitilty. Finally I did so one and a half year ago-a yellow Cali EV 2000 with only 18000 miles and since then I can tell- without exaggeration-I’ ve lived at my dealers place with problems like oil spilling from a cylinder head(at the and replacement of the cylinder head was neccesary) sludge spilling from all over the engine and recently oil spilling from the rear spring.Stil love the bike and its particular ride but I,m getting a little exhausted.Other people sharing the same experience or do I have just bad luck?

  3. Marc says:

    Hi everyone. What a breath of fresh air to read all this mostly positive stuff on the Moto Guzzi California. I reside in Sydney, Australia. Guzzis have always held a very small slice of the motorcycle market in Australia but a loyal following by those who know better! My first Guzzi was a 1984 SP1000 which had been modified to some LeMans specs. Previously I had been a BMW devote owning an R100/7 and an R100RT, both bikes gave good service but they did have some problems that in those days seemed to be a common thing with BMWs which destroyed the “Tutonic” mystique to some extent. The SP changed all that: never in all my years on bikes had I ridden such a well-sorted bike, braking, handling and build quality of my 84 SP was far above that of either of the BMWs, in fact the Guzzi gave me the impression of being a hand-built special not a production run bike available the the masses. I had only 2 years fun on that bike but covered over 100,000 effortless ks with no serious problems at all but had to let it go due to work and other commitments. About a year later I picked up a 78 R80/7 BMW that became a 21 year companion. That bike took me over most of Australia and yet I always thought of that SP and getting angry with my self for selling it. By 2008 the R80 was going well but I was so damned bored with it I couldn’t bear to even look at the thing as it lurked in my shed!!
    Then came the opportunity to buy a new bike. The R80 lasted to weeks on the market before it was grabbed by a restorer for $4,250, $1250 more than what I paid for it!! The R80’s replacement was an 08 build Guzzi California Classic, a model I believe is not available in the States? I ordered the bike with factory, Guzzi badged Hepco & Becker panniers and top case and factory windshield. When I arrived at the dealers to pick my baby up it took my breath away. Black mile deep paint, chrome and polished alloy everywhere gave finish to what was and still is the most beautiful motorcycle god put on this earth. I concur with the 5 points made on what sets California’s apparat from other bikes. There IS no comparison for to do so can be a negative. You have to look at Moto Guzzi as a stand alone motorcycling philosophy that really, is a reflection of the Italian passion for tradition, quality and sheer joy. I’ve never ridden a bike with such passion. I took a Harely Roadking Classic for a test ride during my marque evaluation process as it was with the Cali the most attractive looking bike on the market, but the Harely felt grossly overweight and terribly under braked! When I took the Cali for a test ride I fell in love after only a few ks! Relatively light, superb braking, an efficient well designed and enormously strong engine which gets plenty of air to keep it cool finished by timeless looks. What gets me about 90deg V twins is their ability to destroy hills with their enormous torque. I’ve found that with the Magnetti Marelli injection system you can give the throttle little stabs under load and the thing just keeps grunting into the grade- its inspiring. It’s now Feb 2012, I’ve only just put 20,000 ks into the Cali and it’s really starting to settle down into the best bike I’ve ever owned. I did have oil leaks and fuel hose dramas early on but all that has been left down the road!
    I’m not sure whether I’m keen on the new 1400 California, it reminds me too much of the M109 Suzuki Boulivarde. I suppose change is inevitable.

  4. Craig says:

    I can name another virtue of the California series: value. In a world of $20,000+ motorcycles, a Moto Guzzi California (new, or especially, used) is a bargain. A few weeks ago, I bought a pristine 2003 EV with 28,000 miles, equipped with all the touring goodies, for a modest $4,000. My friends who are into Harleys can’t believe how much motorcycle I got for the money; neither can I.

    While this may not speak much for the current resale value of EV’s, as a buyer, I don’t mind a bit. On the other hand, it’s a limited-production, exotic, Italian, virtually hand-built motorcycle; it will last forever, it will look timeless forever, and they’re not making any more of them. So, which way do you think used prices are going to go in the future? I’m betting my money (literally) on Moto Guzzi.

  5. Alan Davis says:

    So, I came home from work annoyed with the world, no real reason just one of those days when everything is wrong. (In my mind anyway!)
    The missus says go out on your Cali, I can hardly be bothered to get it out of the garage, that’s the mood I was in. Anyway I did as I was told, (do not ignore the commandment of the missus) and with in 1 minute life’s stresses were slipping away. I pottered along following a Bonnie at 50-60 mph for 10 mins, he peeled off and I had a gentle cruise around the local area, covered about 65 miles, went no where in particular then went home. Guess what? I felt great, no more stress, nice and relaxed Guzzi’s are good at this, don’t fight it, you know you want one!

  6. John says:

    Hello Thomas and thank you for your really great description of life with a Guzzi in Germany! I enjoy your comment and I also share your feeling about the Guzzis.
    North Carolina, USA

  7. Thomas says:

    Hi Leute,

    ich fahre seit 1978 Motorrad.
    Ich werde mal versuchen, das in englisch zu schreiben.

    Hi folks,

    I’m riding bike since 1978.
    My first bike was a Guzzi V 35.
    I loved it, but Guzzis were not very reliable at this time and so three years later I bought a BMW.
    Ok, this bike worked good.
    The angine was ok, it started at all times, when it had to start and I came to my Job every day and 100 % in time.
    But it was a cold and boring motorcycle.
    My heart hang on my old, but sold Guzzi.
    I never forgot her.
    So I bought a Griso in 2009.
    What should I say.
    I’m so lucky with the Guzzi.
    Its like coming home, when I open the Garage door and look on this fat back wheel and this colossal zylinders.
    Then starting the engine….
    Its the best sound ever.
    No other bike sounds like a Guzzi!
    You have to try it, if you don’t know it!
    You need another example?
    Do you think its cool to walk to the garage, open the door, sit down beside the bike with a bottle of beer and wath a BMW?
    Forget it!
    But thats the real life with a Guzzi.
    I love it!
    So I hope, you understand my “broken” english…

    Viel Spaß mit den Guzzis (ok, auch mit den Harleys und BMWs und und und…) aus Deutschland!


  8. Deane Keir says:

    Hi guys, did a post awhile ago. Still love this machine. Thought I would mention a couple of things that I feel really say something about these bikes build quality and over all solid performance.
    When I purchased mine it went like this: Never riden a Cali before, only a guzzi 500. Never had any experience with lift your foot off the floor boards, linked brakes. Rode home (300+km over mountain pass) in storm. 120+km side winds and torential rain. Got home to discover back tyre was approx 10lb psi instead of approx 40+. Also discovered spring was missing that set the flow of fluid between the front and back linked brakes (causes front dive)

    Then recently we have discovered that the phase sensor was faulty, and it has been missing intermittently constantly. Not ever owning one, I thought the rough start up and problems with changing power and vibrations at speed, were what a guzzi was. Was starting to get a little dissapointed after some very long and hard miles. Fixed the phase sensor and its like a different bike.

    Conclusion: Considering the various things that affected the bikes performance (that we were unaware of) it still started, ran with the pack ( albeit with some hard work and cunning riding)
    and handled extreme riding conditions that would have challenged other makes in perfect condition.

    The real joy, I could fix it using my manual.

  9. Alan Davis says:

    Well this is my second post. I have secured a 10 month old Cali EV and am taking an almost 4 hour train ride to pick it up in the morning. Looks fantastic on the phot’s and I am assured it is ‘as new’ I can hardly wait and am really looking forward to the ride home (around 200 miles) Just got to get rid of the Beemer now…..
    Thanks for reading.

  10. José Pedro Cruz says:

    Tengo 3 motoGuzzi y no quiero otra marca.

    Una Guzzi 1000 G-5 (año 1982)
    Una Guzzi Florida 650 (año 1991)
    Una Guzzi California EV 1100, Edición Especial 80 aniversario (2002).

    Los mejores frenos del mundo.
    La estética más bonita.
    Una moto distinta para conductores con personalidad.

    El mundo de las motos custom, se caracteriza por que cada propietario personaliza su moto para que sea distinta a las demás.
    Guzzi ya es distinta a las demás, y eso era lo que quería cuando compré mi primera Guzzi.
    Ahora me he enamorado de la marca, y no la cambio por nada.
    Me encanta que la gente vuelva su cabeza para mirarla, cuando paseo en ella por la Ciudad.


  11. Fred says:

    I have a Breva 1200 Sport. So far I am very happy with it.

  12. Deane Keir says:

    I have just purchased a 2000 EV. Never had a Guzzi before. I was told that it takes a lot to get used to the gears and brakes by the previous owner.
    I think the brakes are the best I have ever had on a bike, and got used to the foot shifter easily. I have had many vintage bikes and the slow solid action of the gearbox actually suits me. I think the box is excellent, and only get a false nuetral if I am not positive enough.
    What I cant get over is the amount of solid, well enginered bike I got for the price I paid.
    I also have a brand new Triumph Bonneville hybrid, and was very dissapointed at the things that were not included as standard, like they are on the Cali. Centre stand, steering damper, adjustable suspension, awesome brakes. I spent thousands extra on the Triumph to get it up to the standard I was wanting. I think many people overlook these guzzi’s, like I did, and if they realised just what a good handling, solidly made bike they are, more would be around that’s for sure.

  13. John says:

    Dave, thanks for your question. By a “me-too” bike, I mean that the Moto Guzzi is more unique, a little more unusual, and is not the same thing that everyone else is riding. I also mean that it is not trying to be a copy of a more popular motorcycle brand or model, and does not easily fit into a specific common category of motorcycle. Just my opinion, but I feel the majority of Guzzi owners might agree.

  14. Dave says:

    Ive got a 2003 California,its a great bike but not without its faults.
    I was wondering what you mean by a ‘me-too motorcycle’?

  15. JOHN LAMATTINA says:


  16. Anthony says:

    I had a bonnie in the sixties, a Honda 750 4 in the seventies (but wanted a Z900) and now had to get back into biking. My red Stone is everything to me. When I go riding I love to stop and walk around it -admiring its lines. I can’t fault its perfect shape. I feel like a man and his horse from yesteryear, stopping for a scenic view and a smoke and a few glances back at his waiting ride.
    Styles come and go, the Stone is a timeless modern classic.

  17. stuart says:

    hi ive had a 1978 lemans series 1 for 30 years ,i flogged the arse of it for the first 20 years and i mean really gave it a good hamering and apart from 2 alterantor repairs ,2 sets of valve guides ,1 rebore and then a nico seal 1000 kit and a clutch and 2 uni joint from doing burn outs and 2 timing chains its been and still is the best ,most reliable bike you could own,,,its just clocked over 200,000 kays and still rides like brand new and worth 4 times the $3750 i paid for it in 1980,,but now a need a more comfy cali to see me out ,,these no other chose,,,,cheers stuart

  18. phil goulet says:

    I bought my calif. vin. 2008 late last fall.First I had to change the fuel lines in the tank it came off driving down the road.I put on gates in tank fuel lines.Then I moved the gas filter outside the tank.Next I changed the brake pedal to make more room for my foot.I then changed the tail light I did not like the plastic boat trailer light. I added a clock & temp gage. this is my second bike I still have my first a 1977 yamaha xs650 that I bought new. I think the calif. vin. is a great bike . Someday I might try a H.D. but I do not think it can get better. Phil

  19. I think Guzzi’s are one of those things that is much more than an object or machine – they seem to have a soul. Thanks for sharing your experience and good luck your quest to get back on a Moto Guzzi again – tell us what you find.

  20. Alan Davis says:

    I had a 1997 Cali 1100i for 5 years, only ever put a battery on it, never even blew a bulb. I have always wanted a BMW flat twin so sold the Guzzi and bought a R1150R. Great I thought, far better brakes, handling finish etc etc but guess what? I’ve had it 3 years and can’t get the Guzzi out of my mind. I loved the feel of the thing, like it was alive, popping on the over-run and wobbling about at tick over. Fantastico, bottom line is I’ve got to have another, the childhood dream of owning a BMW flat twin has been realised and it’s back to Guzzi’s for me.
    Thanks for reading.

  21. Cliff says:

    Just bought a 2004 Stone from a Friend who are ONLY Harley riders . i,m sure he made a few $$ off me But I Trusted his Word. Always wanted a Harley but Now Iam getting to Blend Very Well with my STONE ! We’re not a Cookie Cutter Asian Bike nor are we a wanna be Harley , WE are something Better…. UNIQUE! Iparked in a line of Harley Friends included and Got more Questions and interest than their $30,000 Har Bikes. That was KOOL!