Moto Guzzi, a marque steeped in heritage, but perhaps one largely ignored, overlooked, or arguably overshadowed, by the larger and more sophistocated machines hailing from the Land of the Rising Sun. Why buy an idiosyncratic Italian machine when you can buy a reliable Japanese one which not only costs less, but which will run for years with minimal servicing and without breaking down. I guess the answer is that its the same reason people buy Harleys, to be different, and because they want to stand out from the crowd, and that alternative bikes, and especially Guzzi, have that extra something special called CHARACTER.
I first noticed Guzzis back in the late 70s when a work colleague had an 850 T3 California. This was at a time when there were still some Triumphs around, and the Japanese were really starting in their ascendency. The T3 was a real oddball, looked different, had shaft drive and a screen, and represented a real alternative riding experience.
Many many years later, a good friend had an 1100S, which he sent to Dynotech in Germany and had it completely updated, with new wheels, brakes and a lot of engine work.
All of this cost a fortune, and having ridden it, I would have to say it had a character of its own, and certainly wasnt even close to what you might call refined or mainstream. let alone easy to ride, especially for someone used to riding 4 strokes.Having already logged the Guzzi range as offbeat and certainly oddball, this thought was reinforced yet again, after the experiences of another friend.
Ian used to ride with me for several years, but after writing off two R6s, he took an enforced leave from riding, which also coincided with the birth of his first child. Biking runs in the blood though, and he soon wanted to get back into biking, but mindful of the fact his wife was less than impressed with the idea of visting him in hospital again, he decided to buy a Guzzi, with the idea that it was a bike, had two wheels, and would provide a safer and slower return to biking, whilst at the same time appeasing the demands of his better half. The experiment didnt last long however, as he was unable to get used to the constant vibrations, the movement to one side when blipping the throttle, the famous shaft drive effect, and handling he was never able to get fully used to, the Guzzzi was sold and a BMW 1200S replaced it.
So why are Guzzis suddenly of interest to me? Their range has been updated, improved, and restyled, and since their purchase by Piaggio, over the course of the past few years, their range has improved massively, and now looks to be really interesting.
The Stelvio looks a real competitor for the BMW GS.
The MGS Corse looks a wickedly styled sports bike, yes I did use the word sports.
The machine that really holds my interest though is the Griso. In white this machine is big, imposing, has a great presence, and I really want to ride one.
This renaissance in my opinion has been coming over the past year. After riding a GS loan bike, I started looking at alternatives, and found the Stelvio. Whilst riding the Julier pass in Switzerland last year, we saw a whole group of Guzzis, in fact most of the range was amongst this group, all ridden by Italians. One particularly noticeable bike was a custom painted Breva, in a fetching shade of pink, and ridden by a woman. The sound this group made was awesome, and my interest was piqued further still.
Last week my friend bought a Piggio MP3 LT400, and the dealer there also sells Guzzis. I took the opportunity to sit on the Griso and assess it for real, rather than just through magazine pictures, and guess what, its a really cool bike. Low, comfortable to sit on, VERY stylish, and I could really imagine myself aboard one of these, just chilling on local rides, although without a screen or luggage its not very practical, but for shorter day rides during the summer months it would be very cool. Of course youd need an open face helmet and goggles for the authentic cool Italian look, but at 11990 euros, its not that expensive compared to the BMW K1300GT I own, and with the Blackbird now sold there is a litle more room in the garage, although with those big cylinders sticking out, Im not sure it would fit in. The proof however is in the eating, and this means a test ride. I may hate it, as Ive yet to really gel with twins, but at least Ive been tempted, and who knows, if they can get others interested through great ranges, styling and design, we may start to see even more Guzzis on the roads, and with their big thumping Vtwin sound tracks, that would be worth hearing.