Moto Guzzi California Motorcycle Owners News, Reviews and More
Shifting gears on my 2007 Moto Guzzi California Vintage had not been going very well for me at around 17000 miles on the odometer. It has been a while since I wrote my long term review, and also a long while since I had any problem with my bike. Here I explain the problem I found and how I resolved it.
I’ve been missing shifts and have somehow stopped a few times in second gear when I thought I was in first. I also have noticed when I tried to downshift, it did not seem to want to shift right away. The only clue, besides me getting older, is that my heel-toe shift linkage seems to have more play in it than I remember it having, but this was not an overnight change.
I briefly inspected the heel-toe shift lever linkage a few times. I looked at the adjustable linkage rods and found all the original paint marks still lined up at the adjustment nuts. Surprisingly, there was no sign that anything had become loose. A long time ago, a nut at the main pivot for the shifter had loosened and caused a similar symptom, but I checked that first, and that nut is still tight from when I addressed that issue a few years ago. Seemed as if all looked ok, but upon closer inspection, I finally saw the problem!
It was a little difficult to see in there, but I followed the foot shifter linkage to where it connects to the the actual transmission shaft. Seems obvious to do that, but it is a somewhat hidden behind the frame down near where the 12 VDC power outlet is on the left side of this bike. Once I found it, I saw the transmission has a short splined shaft actually pointing towards the rear tire. On that shaft, there is a stubby cast or forged (I think forged) steel arm that the linkage is connected to. This arm is item 21 on the parts diagram. The arm has a female splined inside diameter and has a M6 screw to clamp it onto the male splined shaft of the transmission. That screw is item 5 on the diagram. When you move the foot shifter, it causes that short arm to rotate the shaft clockwise or counterclockwise just a small amount to change the gear selection.
On a simple or more conventional motorcycle, this splined shaft would usually point directly out the left side of the transmission and would have a foot shift lever directly fastened to in this same way, but often without any additional linkage. On my Moto Guzzi California, this shaft points to the rear, so therefore, it has to have some linkage mechanism to reach and connect to the foot shifter whether it is heel-toe or not.
Finally getting to the cause of my shifting woes, that stubby arm was so loose it was almost falling off the splined shaft. There is a groove on the shaft that the more or less traps the clamping screw so that the arm won’t be able to fall off, but it was mighty close to doing so. While the parts diagram shows a washer (item 8) on that screw, it is simply a plain thin washer, not a lock washer.
No wonder I had so much play in the heel and toe shifter! The problem was a little tricky for me to see until I got a flashlight and looked directly at that arm (not much room to actually see it in there) while I moved the foot lever up and down. It was wobbly and not able to stay firmly engaged onto the splines for the complete amount of rotation to select the next gear. After seeing that, I wondered how in the world I was able to actually shift at all! I thanked my lucky stars that the arm did not fall off the shaft since I would have been stranded for a while for sure.
First task was to disconnect that short steel arm from the rest of the shift linkage. Second task was to remove the short arm from the transmission shift shaft to clean and inspect the splines on that shaft and the inside splines on the arm. Third task was to re-install the arm onto the shaft with proper alignment for the foot shifter travel to be correct again. If you are off a spline in one direction or the other, the foot shifter will be pointing too far up or down. Since all the factory adjustments were still intact, I knew pretty easily what spline position was right when I reinstalled the arm and reconnected the rest of the foot lever linkage to it.
I changed the plain washer to a lock washer on the clamp screw for the shift arm to help avoid a repeat of this problem in the future. It would have been great to change the clamp screw to a grade 8 hex head so that I could get on it with an open end wrench. By doing so, I wouldn’t have to remove the seat and battery next time to get a tool on it.
I learned a few things in taking on this little maintenance task myself. Aside from learning that I need to keep an eye on that in the future (and so should you if you have a Moto Guzzi California or California Vintage like mine), I learned how to get good access to that shift arm clap screw. Moto Guzzi uses a hex socket head cap screw to clamp that arm to the shaft (also known as an Allen screw). The problem is that it is almost impossible to service that screw without taking things apart to get access to it. If it was a hex head bolt, you could probably get a wrench on it without taking stuff off, but it is not.
I tried like crazy to use a few different length hex keys (Allen wrenches) to get onto the screw from between the rear tire and just above the swingarm pivot. I could just get the hex key on it and could turn it just a little at a time. Someone with larger hands and arm might not be able to do that. After spending way too much time trying to do it that way I gave up and decided to take a different approach the next day. I now realized I will absolutely have to get to it from directly above, not from the rear tire or from the sides.
On my second attempt, which I am referring to as my top-down approach, I removed the seat first. As you may know if you have a similar era Moto Guzzi California motorcycle, you unlock the seat with your ignition key in the seat lock switch located on the left side of the bike below the triangular side cover. I then removed the black plastic tool tray that rests on the frame directly above the battery. Next, I removed the battery hold-down clamp, disconnected the battery terminals, and lifted out the battery. Under the battery, there is a black rubber tray that it sits on. I pulled out that rubber tray to find a metal plate that has some large holes. Looking down through those holes, I could see the head of the clamp screw that I needed to get to. Holding the short end of the hex key, I could now insert it into the screw head without any problem. Finally.
I hope this write up helps my fellow Moto Guzzi owners out there to keep and maintain their bikes. Small things like that loose shift lever screw could really mess up someone’s ride if they didn’t know what to look out for.