2007 Moto Guzzi California Vintage full review

15 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2007 Moto Guzzi California Vintage full review
Moto Guzzi California Vintage

2007 Moto Guzzi California Vintage full review

December 6, 2007 Posted in 2007 Bike Tests | Comments: 0

Just like your momma used to tell you, the Moto Guzzi re-taught me an old favorite lesson; never judge a book by its cover. After all, this bike looks old, a bit too classy for real fun, and far too akin to something my dad would like. Surely it would be a burden running around the mountains of North Georgia, and Editor Kenn was going to owe me one for doing this write up…

The California Vintage takes much of its styling cues from a bike Moto Guzzi provided for the California Highway Patrol nearly three decades ago. However, further inspection, and one quick ride, shows that this is clearly a modern motorcycle. Although no one ever pulled over for me, the chrome fenders, front spot lights, rich gloss black paint, and broad white pin stripes all pay homage to the bike’s pedigree as a one time tool for law enforcement.

The nostalgic styling is carried throughout the entire motorcycle, from the chromed luggage rack to the Metzeler bias ply tires with an old style tread pattern. Moto Guzzi even opted for a 140 series rear tire snubbing the current trend among cruiser manufacturers to fit over-sized rear tires that dominate a bike’s profile.

The bike certainly looked full of Italian charm, as it sat rocking side-to-side thumping the unique beat of its dual exhaust. Blipping the throttle exhibits the relatively quick revving nature of the engine, and causes the whole bike to lean to the right, a sensation that disappears once under way. First gear seems a bit too tall, but a slip of the dry clutch and you’re off.

Even though engagement is smooth and predictable, smaller hands may object as they reach for a non-adjustable lever that engages in the latter part of its travel.

Once motoring, the fuel injected 1064cc 90 degree twin is a willing accomplice. While it is functional and fun, it is not totally refined. Character is the word…and the Guzzi has it in excess. The valves tick away audibly just below the rider’s legs and the exhaust and intake growl when asked to work.

Shifts are positive and easy, but are met with a reaffirming clunk. There was very little lash from the shaft driven drive line as well as very little “jacking” of the bike when rolling on the throttle.

The Vintage seems to be happiest and smoothest spinning between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM’s, but speedy get-aways are best accomplished using a bit more sweep of the Guzzi’s tachometer which comes as standard equipment. The engine lacks some of the raw low end grunt of larger displacement twins in this category, but stretch the throttle cable, and shift somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 RPM’s and the Guzzi will reward it’s rider with a soulful exhaust note and speedy forward progress.

Shifting is easy thanks to the heel toe shifter, but I found myself not shifting at all on tighter, mountain roads as both the Guzzi and I seemed happiest staying in 2nd or 3rd gear (depending on pace). Instead of constantly having to find the “perfect” gear, I chose to use the broad power band and willingness to rev of the transverse mounted twin. The tach offers plenty of headroom for this riding style as red line is not until 7,500 RPM; but be careful, there is a hard rev limiter up there that ends the fun rather abruptly.

The chassis easily handles any pace the engine, and your right wrist, are willing to provide, and the high and tight floorboard mounting pays huge dividends when cornering clearance is considered. When other cruisers are throwing sparks and scratching various chrome bits on the apex of unforgiving corners, the Guzzi simply asks for a bit of counter steer, and rewards smooth bike lean by going right where the rider points with no drama, sparks, or chrome damage.

The centerstand drags first…but much later than you’d expect. The California Vintage is graced with a fork brace and a steering dampener that aids the stability, and makes this bike at home on sweeping corners. Roll on the throttle, press a little more to get that last bit of lean, and start planning for the next corner.

This bike will have you going faster than you realize so it is comforting to know that the twin floating 320 mm rotors, that are squeezed by four piston Brembo calipers, on the front easily slow the California Vintage down. Braided steel lines make braking effort consistent and firm while enabling the front brake to offer good feel and progressive power.

Similarly, the linked rear brake has exceptional power, but has a firm initial grab that is difficult to modulate precisely from the large, adjustable pedal. Using the rear brake requires the rider to lift his foot off of the floorboard to find the brake pedal and the footrest for their heel; this was easier for some testers than others, but I found it awkward and it remained a maneuver I never quite mastered.

As well as this bike handles its claimed 580 pounds in the twisties, it is sure to embarrass a few other well-known air-cooled push rod cruisers in that arena. However, cruising is the name of the game, and the Guzzi is loaded with character, curb appeal and comfort that makes stress free cruises to the local bike night a welcoming proposition.

The rev happy engine that was at home in the mountains seems to have a split personality, and does not object to loping about as long as revs stay above 2,500 RPM’s or so. The tach and speedo were easy to read, and the usual warning and information lights were nicely displayed on the front console. There is no fuel gauge, but instead a low fuel light illuminates when there is 1-1.5 gallons of dino juice left.

It is also equipped with standard front spotlights easily operated by a sliding switch on the right switchgear. These offer plenty of light for night time ventures, and the hi-beam even has a handy ‘flash to pass’ rocker switch so you can warn those ahead that you’re coming. As an added modern touch, there is also a 12 volt accessory plug on the left side of the bike; a nice touch when GPS or cell phone batteries need refreshing on the road!

The rubber mounted floor boards keep all objectionable vibes away from the rider’s feet, and just a bit of vibration reaches the rider through the seat and bars; but it’s never bothersome. The smallish mirrors are set wide, and offer a good view of what is behind you, which will be plenty as rolling on the throttle becomes somewhat addictive, and will surely have you leaving soccer moms, and civilization in your wake.

The suspension never got in the way of the rider’s enjoyment, and allowed for a bit of tinkering to fine tune it with easy to use compression and rebound knobs on top of the fork caps. The twin Sachs rear shocks are adjustable as well, as compression tweaks are a simple turn of a knob around the top of the shaft. Adjusting the rear pre-load however requires removal of the saddlebags and the use of a spanner to turn the ramp-style adjusting collar.

After just under 2,000 miles of use, there were a few noticeable quirks with our test bike. There was considerable drama in deploying the side stand on our test unit. It seems the retaining clip developed the habit of coming off of its springs as it was put down.

It won’t ever accidentally deploy while riding, thankfully, but replacing the springs every time it was put down became tiresome. (Note: The side stand was like this when Dean picked the bike up. It looked like a retaining clip had either fallen off or had been “appropriated” for a repair to another bike – Ed) Fortunately, it comes with a standard center stand that is easy to use, and left the frustration over the side stand as a distant memory.

Also, the standard top opening hard bags had finicky locks that took some key wiggling to get to open. One lock broke entirely, and the other took to popping off as the bike was in motion. The front-hinged lids never went airborne, but the saddlebags could not be secured when it was time to park the bike.

Moto Guzzi California Vintage

On the highway the California Vintage’s 5th gear serves as a suitable overdrive, and the Guzzi sets a relaxed pace as it only turns 3,000 RPM’s at an indicated 70 mph and cruises 80+ smoothly. It is certainly no superbike, but has plenty of revs in reserve for any necessary passing, and as I discovered while running through Atlanta’s highways, enough power to stay out in front when needed.

The standard windscreen gave my 5’8” frame plenty of protection with minimal buffeting, and made passing the miles enjoyable. The hard bags are deceptively large, and have enough room to accommodate most things you’ll need for that much-deserved weekend away or a trip into the office.

As a light/occasional tourer the Guzzi performs very well, and will impress all but those that have been spoiled by full on touring rigs. One of my trips was through strong crosswinds that did blow the Guzzi around at interstate speeds. It was a bit disconcerting, but then I remembered that the steering stabilizer was adjustable. A few easy turns to tighten it down and the bike steadied right out and tracked like a frat boy to a keg.


In all fairness, it as a very windy day and never before or after that day did the Guzzi feel unstable at speed.

While not the most comfortable seat I have ever smothered under my cheeks, its broad, flat profile combined with the wide floorboards allow the rider to adjust position and shift their weight on longer trips. Riding out the 5 gallon tank while running from the urban jungle is not too much to ask. Longer trips, however, may require a rider to look at seating options depending on how tough their bodonkadonk is.

For both of my 500 mile days I did on the Vintage I put a sheep skin pad over the Italian saddle and survived well enough.

Guzzi has constructed the California Vintage to be as versatile as it is attractive, and modern in performance despite styling that suggests otherwise. It is just as at home on a winding country road as it is soaking up the stares at the local coffee shop. And while it won’t surprise any competent rider on a sports bike, let it rev and it will run circles around most cruisers when the road gets kinky.

At a few bills under $15,000 it is not inexpensive, but comes well equipped, full of Italian charm, and pleasing overall build quality. Our test bike averaged 46 MPG, never missed a beat (for me anyhow…Editor Kenn had a time when it would not restart for him. He denies it, but I think he just left the key on the “Park or Accessory” position and discharged the battery.

He got a quick jump and was on his way. (Note: In my defense I really don’t remember doing that, although it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something that silly. I still think she didn’t like stopping at such a low class place. – Ed) The problem never repeated in the additional 800 miles I did on the bike.) All of the reasons listed in this review, as well as a suggested 6,250 miles between recommended services should make this an easy bike to live with for a long time.

If you are fortunate enough to be close to a Moto Guzzi dealer, it is worth your time to stop by and size up the California Vintage for yourself. In a cruiser culture where everyone wants to be different, just like everyone else…the Vintage gives you an opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd on a well-executed motorcycle.

If cruisers aren’t necessarily your thing, a look at the rest of the Italian firm’s lineup may be in order as they have introduced several new models over the past 2 years. If they can make a cruiser this solid and enjoyable…I’d really like to see what they can do with their other platforms.

Visit Moto Guzzi at their Moto Guzzi USA website

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Moto Guzzi California Vintage

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