4000 miles in...

and new-to-me Guzzi (a 1994 Moto Guzzi California 1100i, for those not regular), while not perfect, is still a great bike. Remarks concerning this follow:
The good:

  • TORQUE: I have no doubt that this engine would make a great stump puller in the proper vehicle. The curve seems to come on early (my tach is broken, so I don't have a real number yet) and I haven't found the stopping point yet.
  • Saddle comfort: Works for me. I know that some people find the factory Guzzi saddle a bit hard on the backside, but the one on this bike doesn't fatigue me for the distances I've ridden. Mrs. Slaq has said the same thing. Other comments from her was that the backrest, while short, was very nice, and she has a lot of room on the pillon.
  • Control: I occasionally find myself in situations that I deem unacceptably unsafe due to other drivers. I have found that the bike is very polite at speeds in 3 digit land. It just seems to squat a bit and keep accelerating. Cornering is very stable, despite the fact that the engine is mounted cylinders transverse the frame.
  • Braking: Brembo. 3 disks. I'd like to upgrade to the latest versions that are put on the new bikes (Gold series), but these are still great. For those of you in the know, you can skip the rest of this bullet.
    For those of you not in the know, Brembo supplies many major race series (FIA, WRC to name 2), and sports car manufacturers (Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, to name a few) with their brake systems. They've kind of got the entire "stopping" thing down. Blindfolded. With both hands and 1 foot tied behind them. They're that good.
    To give an example, I grabbed the brake handle and hammered the foot pedal one day from about 40 mph. When the bike came to a stop, I wondered if my eyeballs were stuck to the helmet visor. I'm only partially kidding.
  • Parts acquisition (emergency repair): Replacement parts on the road are scarce to say the least. The upside is that many people have probably had the same problem, and have worked out domestic replacements that are often better quality and/or cheaper. The throttle bodies from newer fuel injected Harley Davidson units can be swapped in for the factory units with little impact, and the fuel pump can be replaced by a unit for a 1993 BMW 318ci, just to name 2.
  • Subjectively, this bike has very nice lines. Objectively, the bike is just different from what anyone else is riding on the road. I know that there are a few Guzzi in Gainesville and Ocala, but I have yet to see another on the road. I'm a big fan of different, as anyone who knows me will tell you. Especially if it's reliable to boot, which is supposed to be a hallmark of a properly broken in Guzzi.

The bad:

  • Gearbox is CLUNKY. I think I've had more false neutrals in the past 4000 miles than I ever had with my Honda. Finding neutral when you actually want it is more art than science. There is documentation online on how to fix this, but it involves disassembling the transmission to shim it up a bit. Recent reports and personal test rides on newer Guzzi point to the problem being resolved on them. The speculation among other Guzzi owners/mechanics is that in the early 90's the transmission QC process was essentially "does it hit all 5 gears?".
  • LOOOOONG Legs, as the industry calls it. 5th gear is basically only to save fuel on this motorcycle. I imagine this is probably from the location of Moto Guzzi, and that their primary market (Europe, mostly) typically has a much higher cruise speed on their version of the US interstate. Trying to accelerate in 5th gear is either a very slow process, or gets some very not nice rattles from the engine. There have been people who have replaced the final drive with great success on these motorcycles, however. They have been very pleased with the lower gearing that they've replaced the factory gearing with.
  • Read the last post. It absolutely sucks that a 2 wheel dealer wouldn't even touch the motorcycle. This is no fault of the bike itself, but of the dealer. The reason I list it here is that this is likely to be a problem elsewhere.
  • Parts acquisition (factory): This usually takes time. My dealer is good to me (if you're ever in the area and need BMW/Guzzi work, look up Stan's BMW/Moto Guzzi. Hell if he's not busy, he'll sit and chat. He's a nice guy, but don't tell him I told you that.), but often Moto Guzzi North America (MGNA) is just slow to turn around some stuff, is my understanding.
  • The instrument panel dummy lights are far too dim to read reliably under full sun. I've been thinking about a hack to fix this, but haven't taken the time to pull the front end apart to look at it yet.

Things that I'm still undecided on:

  • It appears that the handlebars were replaced by the previous owner with bars that are wider and flatter. This forces a more lean-forward position. While the first couple of weeks my back was a bit fatigued from the position, I don't seem to be having that problem any more. I'm trying to decide if I want to go back to the factory handle bars or not.
  • The footrest position for two-up riding is kind of awkward. There is no position where my legs are completely relaxed. This may be a function of the aftermarket handlebars mentioned above. The problem is alleviated solo riding by putting my feet on the back pegs.
  • The engine doesn't spin very freely. This is a function of the rotational forces in the motor, and the big, heavy flywheel that is on the back of the motor. The upside to this is that all of the power transitions are very smooth. The down side of this is that the bike is not very "blipy".

This isn't everyone's bike, for shure. If it was, I don't know that I'd be so inclined to ride one, for the simple reason that it wouldn't be different. That being said, I'm a cheap bastard, and pragmatic to boot, so I probably would, if I couldn't find anything else that fit the bill.
For those few who are looking for something different and reliable, look for a local Guzzi dealer. I don't think you'd be disappointed.

--edit-- It's been 4000 miles, not 2000. I'm a dork. Also reworded a few things for clarification.

1 comment:

Z said...

WIth respect to your gearbox..be firm. Honda boxes are like switches...click click click. Guzzis are big straight cut gears. Picture driving a farm truck with a 4 on the floor. On my standard shift guzzis I preload the lever a hair so that when I pull in the clutch, it "releases" the lever. On my heel-toe shifters I'm just firm and deliberate in the shifting.

Try it :)