Moto Guzzi California Motorcycle Owners News, Reviews and More
As riders and as Moto Guzzi enthusiasts, I think I speak for most of us by saying that we are excited about the new California 1400. Well, some writers for the major motorcycle magazines were lucky enough to get the first test rides on the all new 2013 Moto Guzzi California Touring at an event held at Cote d’Azur in France. This article attempts to sum up the impressions gathered from each of those test rides that have been published so far.
One of the largest magazines, Cycle World, published a brief article on November 27, 2012 titled “2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring – First Ride” written by Bruno dePrato. I looked up Bruno to get a little insight into his background so I could gain a little extra perspective about his test ride article. He’s and engineer with a background in motorcycle engine design, and has been involved with Cycle World since 1980.
Some of Bruno’s comments that stood out to me in his test ride article included his first sentence “The California is back, and Moto Guzzi with it.” About the comfort and ergonomics, Mr. dePrato said “Comfort is superb” and “windshield does a great job protecting the rider”. He also commented about the 1400 engine’s “solid torque and good throttle response” below 2000 rpm. That one really got my attention since I can not say that about my 2007 California Vintage’s engine. I think the engine in my 1064 California is fantastic, but running at 2000 rpm is not something I would recommend. If you did, it would become obvious very quickly that the 1064 needs more rpm before it runs right. Perhaps that is due to the cam and the mapping of the prior generation California, but still, it almost seems hard to believe we are discussing the California behaving well at or below 2000 rpm!
One of the other really surprising things to read is that he scraped the floorboards on this motorcycle a few times during his test ride. Now that is something I would think would be just about impossible to do on the previous generation bike. It proves Moto Guzzi listened when some riders complained about the previously high floorboards. Maybe I am unusual since I actually prefer higher floor boards over bits scraping the road.
Cycle News published an article by Alan Cathcart titled “California Dreamin'”. They said the Touring version Cali 1400 has a “Plexiglas Highway Patrol Screen”. I don’t know yet if it is Plexiglas brand (anyone know?), or if Mr. Cathcart used that brand name as a generic term for a clear motorcycle windshield. If it truly is Plexiglas acrylic material, that would actually be a step down in durability and cost from the Lexan brand polycarbonate windshield that came on the previous generation Moto Guzzi California Vintage which the new Touring model has replaced. A small point, but since I sometimes work with polycarbonate window materials, I felt the need to mention that here.
Some of the things I found interesting in the Cycle News article were that they called the California 1400 “the two-wheeled gran turismo equivalent of today’s Maseratti Quattroporte”. They mentioned the similarity in history and how they both retained the period look while having modern performance that “more than lives up to the looks”. The article said the price in Italy is 19,300 Euro (about $24,700 US) including 21% tax. No US list price has been announced yet as I write this. Mr. Carthart, in describing the ergonomics and comfort, said “for the first time I can ever recall on a Moto Guzzi street-bike, my knees did not try to make friends with the cylinders”. That may seem trivial to some, but as a 6′ tall owner of a California, my left shin does contact the knee guard quite often, and that is with the now “small” 1064 cc engine. Again, comfort is one of the key characteristics of the California 1400, as is written “it’s a really comfortable riding stance”.
On the down-side, Mr. Carthart noted that he is an average height rider (no height mentioned) and that the the stock windshield height was wrong for him because the top edge “bisected” his vision. He suggested that the optional lower height windshield should be supplied standard. I found that interesting because several folks have complained that the windshield on the California Vintage was too short and caused too much turbulence for them. I still have the original windshield on my California Vintage, and at the faster highway speeds the turbulence does become an issue unless I duck my head down slightly (proving it is a little too short for my 6′ height).
Another potential issue mentioned in the Cycle News test is about heat coming from chrome side panels behind the cylinders. Apparently some test riders wearing jeans had complained about that. Maybe those guys are a little delicate, who knows. From the pictures, the chromed side panels covers the induction system, so this seems a little odd. I’ll look for this when I test ride one for myself and will let you know what I find. For the record, Mr. Cathart said he wore leather pants and did not have any issues with heat there.
Scraping the floorboards is mentioned also in Cycle News. They point out that there are plastic wear strips under the floorboards for this reason and that it it relatively easy to scrape them. As I mentioned before, this floorboard scraping business is not something I want in a motorcycle, so this is a little disappointing to read about.
The anti-theft mechanism on the 2013 California 1400 sounds like a real nuisance when reading the Cycle News article. They described it as “crude” and “old-fashioned” and called for Moto Guzzi to “ditch this pronto” in favor of a keyless system like some other big brands use. I could see this gadget feature being a problem, but fortunately is seems easily resolved.
One of my favorite lines in the Cycle News article is when they said the 1400 “speaks Italian with a Brooklyn accent” at wide open throttle. They describe the engine was eager to climb in rpm without rattles, pings, detonation or hiccups. On the very rare occasion when I quickly snap open the throttle fully while passing at faster highway speeds on my California Vintage, I actually do get the bad engine behavior as they say existed on previous Guzzis. It is nice to know the Cycle News test ride of the new big Cali did not find that same issue.
Ultimate Motorcycling published two articles so far about the California 1400 Touring. The first one was a brief “first ride” summary dated November 18th, and the second was a full review published 3 days later, both by Tor Sagen. He described the bike as “the most comfortable beast ever to leave the Mandello del Lario factory gates”. Comfort is a repeating theme with all the reviews so far. He goes on to call the previous model California Vintage “cramped” and described the California 1400’s leg room as a “big comfort upgrade”.
In describing the new Moto Guzzi engine, Mr. Sagen referred to the engine heat as “excessive”, although he later says that the heat was “honestly wasn’t uncomfortable” perhaps due to the approximate 55-60 F riding weather. It is good he points it out though and we’ll keep an eye on this to see how much of an issue it becomes or not. Interestingly, he mentioned that riding below 2000 rpm was his preference. Again, as a Guzzi rider, riding a Moto Guzzi motorcycle at that low of an rpm as a preference is hard to imagine, but this new 1380 cc engine appears to really like it. A big complement to Piaggio’s engine development team same when he said “I can’t imagine any other manufacturer with such a satisfying punch from an air-cooled 1.4 liter engine”.
Another repeating theme has been the good handling characteristic of the new Cali. While the weight is listed at 742 pounds, and the rear tire is a 200 size, Mr. Sagen said it “really handles well”, even though he too scraped the foot boards. The windscreen was described as “very sufficient”, but as a 6 foot tall person, Mr. Sagen said that leaning forward provided a little better protection. Of course, that’s probably true for any bike, but I get what he is saying since on my California Vintage, just a little lean forward, or slightly ducking my head, makes a big difference in wind protection and I am also 6 foot tall.
An integral part of handling is the suspension. In describing the new suspension Mr. Sagen said “the suspension is near perfection in terms of execution and comfort”. That must be music to the ears of the Moto Guzzi project team too. I can’t say that I’ve seen very many bikes have their suspension described quite like that; however, he does mention that is it not quite as good at slow speed though. The only bad points in the Ultimate Motorcycling test were (1) heat from the engine and (2) noise coming from the cardan shaft drive. I can only guess this noise from the shaft drive is coming from the rear drive ring and pinion gears, if not from the transmission gears. I don’t imagine noise coming from the u-joints. I’ll certainly report my impressions of this when I test ride one in the US in the upcoming months.
Just in case it is becoming annoying to anyone reading this, I keep comparing to the California Vintage since the California 1400 Touring is the replacement for it, and I have been riding a California Vintage since 2008. I realize a lot of folks in the US might be more interested to read how it compares to the Road King or maybe one of the big Japanese cruisers, but I’ve never owned either of those.
Here I compare some of the physical differences between the 2013 California 1400 Touring vs. the 2006-2012 California Vintage. These values come from Moto Guzzi’s published specifications for each (listed new vs. old):
Even though the new California is bigger and heavier than the older model, the power-to-weight ratio is still practically the same. Time will tell if bigger is really better, but according to the magazine tests so far, it seems it may generally be. From my experience with the California Vintage, the new bike is the better choice for two-up riding and long hauls on the interstate. The question I have is whether the new bike will actually be as real practical for everyday commute riding as the previous model.
I am really interested to test ride the new California in the US this spring if the launch occurs over here as planned. Prices on Moto Guzzi USA web site as of March 2013 are listed at $17,990 for the Touring, and $14,990 for the Custom. Hopefully any potential real-world bugs are found in Europe and corrected before the US inventory arrives. Obviously the engineers at Piaggio/Aprilia/Moto Guzzi have done a lot of homework and testing before they launched this new beauty, but still, it is good to have the first customers relatively close to their home base for quick response. We’ll keep an eye open for any reports of technical issues.