Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 vs. Buell Lughtning XB12Ss vs. Ducati S2R 800…

2 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 vs. Buell Lughtning XB12Ss vs. Ducati S2R 800…
Moto Guzzi Breva 1100

Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 vs. Buell Lughtning XB12Ss vs. Ducati S2R 800

Whether you got into bikes by watching Barry Sheene flicking a ‘V’ at King Kenny, by looping-the-loop on your granny’s Honda C90 or re-living the cafe racer culture of your rocker dad’s long lost youth, bikes like these three V-twins we have here make you eternally grateful that you made the leap from pedalling to twisting a throttle. And make you pity those who didn’t. They’re bikes meant to be ridden simply for the fun of it.

So simply for the crack, fortified for an Autumn day’s riding by a stack of the Old School café’s bacon sarnies and centrally heated by mugs of tea, we head south to Hampshire on this trio of V-twins.

First, however, the introductions. The Moto Guzzi Breva V1100 is, according to Moto Guzzi, the first in a new generation of bikes from the Italian outfit that marks the beginning of a new era. We’ve heard this one before, so we shall see.

From across the Atlantic we have the Buell XB12Ss Lightning. The extra ‘s’ denotes that it’s the new long wheelbase version of the Lightning XB12S that’s intended to be more comfortable for its rider and less of a balancing act for pillions. Why the ‘s’ is in lower case is a mystery.

Lastly we have Ducati’s Monster S2R. The air-cooled 800cc S2R has all the style (but not the ugly radiator) of the liquid cooled S4R but costs several thousand pounds less and fits into the Monster range between the little 620s and the bigger 1000s.

Within yards of riding the Breva V1100 it’s obvious that Moto Guzzi is at last on the right road. The motor looks like Guzzi’s classic twin but is totally new; the crankcases have been redesigned and the alternator moved from the front of the engine to behind the

cylinders, so the lump is now shorter. Inside, the 77bhp twin has new con rods and lighter pistons, together with numerous detail changes. The result is an engine that’s smoother and less clattery than any previous Guzzi twin yet still has plenty of character.

Both the Buell and the Ducati’s twins encourage plenty of revs, but although the Guzzi motor is far more sophisticated than it used to be, it’s still an engine that’s at its most pleasant when you use the low-down grunt. All three bikes have the same quoted top speed of 135mph, but the Guzzi is the bike whose performance you can use the longest thanks to its touring bias and the optional screen.

The Breva’s overall quality is a huge improvement. I remember looking at what I thought was a second-hand California, only to discover that it was a brand new one with factory-fitted rust. The Breva’s a stylish looking bike, too. Some of the plastic chrome around the instruments is a bit tacky and the screen not pretty, but the rest is sharp and tasteful. Red stitching on the seat is a nice touch and the finish on the swingarm and subrame very smart.

Compare its looks to the BMW R1200ST – another logical rival both in concept and in the showroom – and it’s an obvious victory to Italy.

We spent several minutes trying to guess what the CARC acronym on the final drive unit stands for but soon gave up. Silly us. It’s simply ‘Cardano Reattivo Compatto’ or compact reactive drive shaft if you want it in English. The driveshaft runs inside the swingarm casting and the shaft and bevel gear are allowed to float, which kills the rising and squatting effect you get with a traditional shaft drive when accelerating and shutting off the throttle.

The gearbox is also totally new but, while a big improvement over the old gearbox, is still clunky and slow compared with Japanese boxes and more agricultural than a BMW Boxer’s. It’s the one part of the Breva that’s holding it back in the past. But cheer up, Moto Guzzi, for we’ll be coming to the Buell’s gearbox soon.

Within only a few miles it’s obvious that the Breva V1100 is a very different bike to the other two. The Ducati and Buell are perfect for today’s bash along the A272 in Hampshire, followed by afternoon tea and the ride home; any journey much longer would have backs and arms starting to suffer. But the Breva is more tourer than fun bike.

A comfortable seat and handlebars that look like sawn-off Pan European bars give a cross between a custom and touring riding position. In town the Breva feels slightly ponderous but on country roads the suspension is supple enough for comfort yet not so soft that the bike wallows in faster corners. Traditional Guzzists might bemoan the absence of the firm’s linked braking system but the conventional arrangement is more than adequate, especially the rear stopper, which is a lesson to those manufacturers who think a rear brake is lever is just an alternative foot rest.

We also gave up trying to fathom out the Breva’s on board computer – and Urry really is quite clever at this sort of thing. No doubt if we did ‘RTFM’ would become clear. Once sussed, the computer is a useful touring tool.

A couple of buttons on the left handlebar allow you to flick between two trip counters, average and instant fuel consumption and maximum and average speed. The horn button is where your left thumb thinks the indiators should be, so each time you indicate you first toot the horn by accident.

Moto Guzzi Breva 1100

Moto Guzzi offers a complete set of panniers which up the touring potential still further. They attach to subtle brackets that if you look closely you’ll spot on the test bike. Even more useful is a five-gallon tank that gives the Breva a near 200-mile range.

All this gives the Moto Guzzi a completely different set of skills to the Buell. What the Buell does best is make you laugh and feel good about life. Right back to the birth of the Buell, it seemed that here was a perfect bike for those who wanted something very different from a race replica, who had the occasional American dream but who would not normally set foot in a Harley-Davidson dealer.

Perfect: the Harley XR750 flat-track experience in a short, stubby package. Trouble was, the quality was rather suspect, drive belts snapped and the riding experience took a bit of getting used to. The basic appeal, however, never dulled.

Buell hasn’t ignored criticism and the bikes get better and better.

An increase in rake from 21 to 22 degrees and a lengthened swingarm has stretched the Lightning’s wheelbase by 40mm. Enough to make a difference, but not to spoil the character – and by character we mean the Buell’s incredibly quick reactions. The Lightning still feels like an incredibly compact bike; an old Honda 250 Super Dream would feel no bulkier. The standard Lightning is a bike that you must ride with some vim to get the most out of it.

The more positive you are, the better it reacts. The Stretch retains the accurate and quick steering and is even more stable, but the big advantage is in comfort. While it’d still be way down the list of ‘World’s best places for a pillion’ the seat is both wider and longer thanks to the longer rear subframe.

The best bit about the XB12Ss is its engine. Which is good because the thumping great 1203cc V-twin is one of the main reasons for buying a Buell in the first place. A lot of thought has gone both into the bits inside the engine and into the way the lump’s mounted in the frame. Bags of torque you’d expect, but just how smooth and free revving the engine is comes as a surprise.

Instead of using the low-down torque to blast out of corners and overtake cars, you find yourself winding up the motor just for the pleasure of it and the magic noise it makes.

Click here to read the final page of the Monster vs. XB12 vs. Breva test

Moto Guzzi Breva 1100


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