Moto Guzzi California Vintage Day 3 — Cool vs. "Checkbook Cool"

This is the third in a series of articles about living with and riding a California Vintage from Moto Guzzi.  The previous one is here.

Looking for a Cool Cruiser or Big Bagger?  The California Vintage is “Seriously Cool”

Moto Guzzi California Vintage under the Hollywood sign.
Moto Guzzi California Vintage under the Hollywood sign.

Cool is Fonzi before the Shark Tank.  Cool is James Bond before Roger Lazenby.  Ford before the Pinto.  The Blues Brothers before Belushi died.

While it is most definitely true that some people that ride motorcycles from “The Motorcycle Company” are cool, it’s not because they own Harleys.  They are cool AND they chose to ride Harleys.  But there are people that are cool and they choose to ride Vespas.  The issue here is the great number of people that buy Harleys and other “lifestyle” motorcycles because it will make them cool.  This is “checkbook cool”. No work needed, just add money and you’re cool. Continue reading Moto Guzzi California Vintage Day 3 — Cool vs. "Checkbook Cool"

Moto Guzzi California Vintage – Commuting and First Impressions

Initial Impressions

 I Got up at 5 o’clock that Friday morning, knowing that I was going to ride the California Vintage to work. As stated in the last posting, I had to take the Breva in, but then it woujld be three hundred miles of riding on a real, honest-to-goodness sumbitchin made-for-the-long-road cruiser.

My Eldorado probably qualifies as a cruiser, but I think of it more as a “standard” because of the seating position and the usual lack of bags and windscreen.  My usual commuter is a Ducati ST2 Sport tourer since it’s all bagged up and will hold my 17″ Mac laptop. I had been riding around all last week on a Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport and having a blast.  But now it was time to cruise.

While the previous post put the California in context, this one is the “feel” post.  300 miles on the first day gave me a feel for the bike.  What I liked, didn’t like, etc.  Getting to ride through some diverse commuter roads gave me an impression of what the bike would be like when sitting on it day-to-day. Continue reading Moto Guzzi California Vintage – Commuting and First Impressions

Moto Guzzi California Vintage Review – Day 1 – Can't get off the bike!

Street Cred without the “wannabe”.

The Moto Guzzi California Vintage -- quintessential.
The Moto Guzzi California Vintage -- quintessential.

Moto Guzzi has more “cruiser street cred” than most people give it credit for. They’ve been around continuously since 1921; longer than anyone but Harley Davidson. But for Harley Davidson, Guzzi’s been building cruisers longer than anyone els — their first cruiser in the incarnation you see above coming out in 1967 with the V700.

Guzzi has always liked building “big” bikes, but we must adjust scale.  Italy, which was Guzzi’s biggest market for most of it’s life, had production street bikes with less than 100cc for decades — a bike above 300cc was considered “big”.  Guzzi was at the top of the heap early on, with production 500cc bikes that were reliable and sporting.  The 500cc Falcone of the 50s is an excellent example of this, a bike with incredible reliability, to the point where an American Guzzi Club member is an original owner of two, both ridden on close to a daily basis for more than 50 years!

The current “cruiser” platform is built around the laterally-mounted V-twin motor (originally 700cc, now 1100), running through an in-line, automobile-type transmission straight through to a drive shaft and bevel-drive final.  After more than 40 years, it’s a highly refined system.  The motor could best be described as a “two cylinder small-block, American V-8”.  This really isn’t a stretch.  The cam is in the vee, there is a conventional sump, it has a hemi-head with pushrods and rockers.  It also makes gobs and gobs of torque, is insanely easy to work on, and is dead-nuts reliable. Continue reading Moto Guzzi California Vintage Review – Day 1 – Can't get off the bike!

Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport — 1000 plus miles, back to the factory!

This is the ninth in a series of posts about the Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport. The previous posting is here.

Nine Days, 1080 miles

After nine days and more than 1000 miles, I possess a really good idea of what it’s like to live with the Breva 1200 Sport.  I’ve previously given reasons for why someone might want to purchase it, but I’d also like to give my observations with respect to what worked for me and how my riding style altered as I reeled in the miles.

1000 miles in less than 10 days, you're going to get some bugs!
1000 miles in less than 10 days, you

Not a “lean off” bike

On my Ducati ST2, I practice “lean off” turns from time to time as I ride it through some of the more aggressive stretches of roads in my area.  I know these roads well and remember their eccentricities to the point that I can work on my technique.  The big ST2 seat allows for movement of the rider around the bike. 

The Breva’s seat locked me in place.  Lean-offs were complex, and I found that I didn’t like the way that I upset the bike’s stance as I employed this technique.  For me, I made much quicker time by adopting a more “Hailwood” approach, keeping my body smooth and silent through the twisties.

The Breva “wants” to be ridden in it’s own way.  It’s good to know “how” a bike rides to decide if your “personalities” fit. I enjoy the diversity and investigation of different riding styles, so I don’t really have a dog in this hunt — but if you enjoy more focused techniques, I hope this helps you decide if the Breva 1200 Sport is for you.

Brakes and suspension tweaks really make it better

It makes a difference to adjust the brake/clutch levers to your style and hand size. Tweaking the suspension to your style/weight and road conditions makes the Breva a joy to ride.  Spending time reading the manual will make your ride happier.   Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport — 1000 plus miles, back to the factory!

Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport – Day 8 – Why should I buy a Guzzi?

This is the eighth in a series of posts about the Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport.  The previous posting is here

1000 Miles, 8 days riding:  Do I still like the Breva 1200?

The Breva 1200 Sport, just north of Ventura off the 101, Sunset.
The Breva 1200 Sport, just north of Ventura off the 101, Sunset.

Yes.  Yes I do.  I lost a full day of riding when it rained, and two more when my wife told me to paint the house.  Still managed to get a few miles in though.  The average day of riding put me at about 200 miles each, and I felt like I really got a good idea about what it would be like to live with a Breva over the long-term.

So often one sees a bike advertised or reviewed by a magazine, then goes to their nearest dealer for a trip around the block.  The papers are out on the salesman’s desk at that point, and if you liked what you felt and the deal is right, then you buy.  But what influences really get you to “pull the trigger”?

Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport – Day 8 – Why should I buy a Guzzi?

Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport – Day 7 – Time with the Suspension.

This is the seventh in a series of posts about life with the Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport.  The previous post is here.

Rattle, Rattle, Rattle…

When I received the Breva, it was obvious that a previous rider had really clamped down the suspension and then proceeded to wring it out.  The bike takes a big lean and really digs into turns much deeper than you think possible.  Just keep on pushing on the bars, and the bike comes down — add throttle, lean, and you can really go deep and fast, much further than my limits.

Rear Shock adjustment
Rear Shock adjustment

I do a lot of riding on Los Angeles’ freeways, and as such, the concrete slabs and joints had my teeth rattling to a point that I finally started to dig in and see what I could do about softening up the ride, and making the big, irregular surfaced sweepers much more manageable.

 The first thing I went after was the rear suspension; it has a big dial that says SOFTER/HARDER and shows a direction to turn for such.  I turned it one click softer and rode, but it didn’t help much.  Finally dialed in two clicks and it became much more manageable.   Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport – Day 7 – Time with the Suspension.

Moto Guzzi Breva – Day 6 – I Get Knocked down, but I get up Again…

This is the sixth in a series of posts about life with the Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport.  The previous post is here.

On Day 1 I wrote about my ride up from the Moto Guzzi Press Bike Parking area to my work in Santa Barbara and back home.  The posting covered the characteristics of the bike and my first encounters with heavy traffic.  What I didn’t write about was the BMW 5-series that changed lanes in front of me, causing a low-speed high-side onto the pavement.

There I was, on Los Angeles Avenue in Moorpark, inching between lanes at a red light.  I saw a BMW jerk like he was going to change lanes or cut me off, so I grabbed a handful of brake and began to slow to a crawl, taking advantage of the Guzzi’s incredible low-speed characteristics.  At that very moment a half-space opened up for the Beemer and he just jerked into it, causing me to panic stop. I was over on the paint stripe with less-than optimal tires — I stopped the bike — the rear wheel skidded and I went high-side over to the right.  A guy in a pickup stopped to help me get up.  The BMW was gone by the time I had my wits about me. I don’t know if he had done it on purpose or not, and nobody got a license number.

Just in case anyone is curious, a cager purposely turning into someone on a bike that is splitting lanes in California wil be charged with Attempted Murder/Assault with a Deadly Weapon. If you do this and get caught, you can probably plead it down, but you’re going to be out thousands of dollars in the process.  

I walked over to the bike, Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva – Day 6 – I Get Knocked down, but I get up Again…

Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 – Day 5 – Notes, Details and Nits to Pick

This is the fifth in a series of posts about life with the Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 Sport.  The previous post is here.

A buncha miles down.  What details of the Breva Sport do you like or hate?

 

Rincon Beach Sunset
Rincon Beach Sunset

 

 

Transmission

Having lived with a 36-year-old Eldorado Transmission for nearly a year and enough miles to really say that I know it, I had high expectations for the 6 speed on the Breva.  I’m not disappointed. It is very smooth.  It shifts like it’s supposed to.  I don’t miss-shift except when I forget it’s a UJM pattern and not the reverse, GP-style shift that my personal bikes have.  Neutral is accurate and easy to find, and I haven’t felt any false neutrals between gears.  

The only “nit” that I would pick would be what seems to be some of lash in the transmission and drive train.  When I’m moving from acceleration to deceleration and back, there’s a little “take up” as the throttle is applied that takes a little getting used to; i.e. if you’re decelerating into an apex and then just dump the throttle, you’ll get a little “wobble” when the motor catches up with the rear wheel.  I adjusted my technique and this became less apparent.

Not having to deal with chain maintenance just makes me happy. Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 – Day 5 – Notes, Details and Nits to Pick

Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 – Day 4 – Monday Morning Commute

This is the fourth installment in the series.  The previous article is here.

I woke up late Monday Morning, nursing the remnants of a chest cold.  After drowning it with a couple of cups of coffee, I showered and threw my gear on for the 90-mile ride to work.  Bopping out the door and into the garage, the Breva 1200 waited, and I was ready to put my regular commute to the test, comparing this ride to my Ducati ST2, and other days when I take the ’72 Eldorado.  

The cavernous tank of the Breva had served me well, but after 200 miles of weekend jaunts it was on fumes. I hopped over to the Mobile station across the street and stuck some gas in it, cursing that I had forgotten the mileage so I wasn’t able to get an exact MPG value — I’ll do this later I promise.

Off to do battle with the cagers on my Northridge-to-Santa Barbara-run.  First leg of the journey is up Reseda Boulevard to the 118 freeway.  The traffic is backed up and I split lanes between the parked cars for a ways, but the wide stance of the bar/mirrors combined with not-quite-completely-caffienated drivers not paying attention got me thinking that taking it easy might be wise until I’m more at home with this bike.  After a few weeks with it, I estimate that the width of the Breva would be in lockstep with my “space”, and this would no longer be an issue.  Funny how the pulled back bars of my Duc give me a sense of “narrowness” even though I’ve got a full set of Nonfangos on the back. Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 – Day 4 – Monday Morning Commute

Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 – Day 3 Tweaks and Tech Specs

This is the third installment in the series.  The previous installment is here.

After two weeks of solid riding every day, one rain storm and a possible job offer that would require a move to Chicago, I capitulated to my wife, Sheila, and stormed our house, cleaning out all the junk and stuff that I would not want to take on a move.  Benefits include a garage with enough room to park the bikes, a happy wife, and some time at the end of the day to tweak the bike’s suspension settings, go through the technical specifications, and jot down some thoughts with respect to what I would want in another bike (and who doesn’t want more bikes!) if it were to be my “go-to daily rider”.
Continue reading Moto Guzzi Breva 1200 – Day 3 Tweaks and Tech Specs