Checking out more Italians: Ducati HM821, Moto Guzzi CA 1400, Ducati 1199…

29 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Checking out more Italians: Ducati HM821, Moto Guzzi CA 1400, Ducati 1199…
Moto Guzzi 500 Sahara

Checking out more Italians: Ducati HM821, Moto Guzzi CA 1400, Ducati 1199 Panigale

Ducati HyperMotard 821

The old HyperMotard (HM) had been at the top of my short list if I ever needed a new bike, so I was quite interested in trying out the new-and-improved version, which uses a liquid-cooled 4V engine based on the 848, instead of the big old air-cooled 2V lump.

Bottom line: I missed the big old air-cooled 2V lump.

The new bike is a better all-around bike. It’s got more power, it’s more civilized in its delivery. The ergonomics are more relaxed and more sensible. The whole bike has been dialed back a couple notches in attitude from the raw, crazy-ass, hooligan original.

Which, as I said, makes for a better and more useful machine. But just not as much damn fun. The original excelled at one main task – being the most fun bike I’d ever ridden.

This one, not quite so much.

Engine – very good and smooth. Ducati’s modern main range of 4V engines are a good lot these days. They work great, have good power and reliability, and long service intervals.

Compared to the old 1100, the new 821 has about 15% more power. But it also has about 15% less torque, and it’s that mountain of torque that made the HM1100 such a hooligan. Fueling on the new bike was a bit glitchy (a problem that’s been noted on a few models), but not terribly so.

It’s still got a great hooligan sound; that part they kept well.

Transmission – works well and smoothly as long as you are smooth yourself and keep on top of it. But if you get out of shape, it doesn’t respond well to trying to snap several shifts in arrow to get where you wanted to be. My regular bike now has a GP-pattern (upside-down) shift, so when I try out a normal bike it’s not uncommon for me to shift the wrong way at least once and have to recover.

This bike particularly didn’t like having to do that.

Drivetrain – no special notes. The clutch worked great. Chain and sprockets out back.

Brakes – the brakes were noticeably excellent. Smooth, well modulated, strong. Good job there.

Handling – sharp, although not as immediate as the previous model. The new one has more relaxed steering geometry, plus the rider isn’t right up on the bars as much, so it’s (again) more civilized and less nuts. Probably a better compromise for real people in real life, but lost some of that big dirtbike feel.

Ergonomics – less edgy, and again for me, lost something in the translation. On the 1100, you felt very up and forward, practically straddling the tank with your center of mass not far from the steering head. It gave a very immediate feeling to the whole experience; too much so for a lot of people.

So they dialed it back a notch.

Overall – a great bike, but not the attitude and character it used to have. I use my bike every day for everything, and this version I’m sure would be more practical for that than the previous. But if I go out shopping, what I’ll be looking for would be a leftover HM1100S.


Moto Guzzi California 1400

Another interpretation of the Big Ol’ Cruiser. But a very good one. The main impression is “easy to ride”.

Engine – not just a mountain of torque, a whole mountain range of it. It’s remarkably quick. Even though it’s a similarly heavy machine, it feels much more responsive than the Triumph Rocket III, which just felt ponderous at all times.

The CA 1400 does retain that signature Guzzi torque reaction; when you hit the throttle, the heavy crank and flywheel spin up, and the whole bike leans the other way a bit in counter-reaction. Harmless and amusing.

Transmission – It’s got that cruiser setup, with floorboards and a big heel-toe rocker shifter. It’s still got a bit of “clonk”, but a lot less than Guzzis used to. Much improved.

Drivetrain – the clutch is light and easy to handle. Shaft drive is well controlled without any noticeable shaft effect (jacking or dropping in response to throttle changes). Most modern shaft drive bikes control this well these days, but I’m old enough to remember when they didn’t, and to notice how much better it is now.

Brakes – the brakes work well, but do require a heavy squeeze if you really need to haul it down. I had a “lady” who was on the phone instead of driving pull right out in front of me on my little test loop, and had to make an emergency stop. It stopped hard and smooth and straight, well controlled, once I stepped/squeezed hard enough.

Handling – this is a high point. Guzzi generally has done a good job with the handling on their bikes, and this one follows that tradition. I wouldn’t call it “nimble” necessarily, but it is smooth and responsive and does what you ask of it.

Lots of stability of course, in a long heavy cruiser, but feels like it would be more fun to hustle down a winding road than most other cruisers.

Ergonomics – comfortable. It’s got your pretty normal relaxed cruiser riding position, but it’s not a feet-forward stirrup table setup like some are. Your feet are somewhat forward, on floorboards, but not so far that you can’t use your legs for control and bump absorption.

The handlebars have a pretty long pullback, but again not so as to get in the way of riding well.

Moto Guzzi 500 Sahara

Overall – very impressive. It seems to be well built, of solid materials and good workmanship. Detail work is good; the turn signals and other controls are pleasant to use.

In its category, I’d say it should be considered a top choice.


Ducati 1199 Panigale

Just plain flat-out delightfully irrational.

A scalpel in a world full of butterknives.

This was just a short ride, on public streets, so I can’t really comment on its ultimate performance. And since bikes of this nature are all about their ultimate performance, and not much else at all, that doesn’t leave me with a whole lot to say.

The engine was fine, and seemed to fuel smoothly at all revs. It’s peakier than most big twins, but still clearly a twin, not a four. The shifting, clutch, braking, all came across as top notch. Handling was sharp.

Ergonomics were surprisingly easygoing.

It warms your ass up just fine, even after only a few miles.

It was very impressive, even in the short exposure. If I was looking at a bike in this category, I’d have to put some real time on this one to see if it knocks the Aprilia RSV4 off the top perch of desirability for seriously irrationally fast bikes.



If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other. — Carl Schurz, (1829-1906) German born U.S. Senator and Union Army general during the US Civil War

A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. — Ludwig von Mises

’93 Ducati Ferrari of Motorcycles Monster 900; 220,000 miles so far

Moto Guzzi 500 Sahara
Moto Guzzi 500 Sahara
Moto Guzzi 500 Sahara

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