by Gus Breiland
While slaving away at my 9 to 5, I received a phone call from the omnipresent Senior Editor of MMM, Mr. Victor Wanchena. He proceeded to tell me that there was a bike in his possession that only I could test ride. When he took delivery of this fine piece of Italian engineering, a Moto Guzzi V11 Sport Rosso Mandello, he knew I was his man. Of course he could have left it at that, but no, being a man of words he continued by telling me that I was basically his 5th or 6th choice and he reluctantly decided to call me.
After hemming and hawing, I sighed and told him I would do it, but only if he bought me breakfast. You know the feeling, a friend calls you up and says, “I bought a new bike! Want to ride it?”. Your mind races for a way to get out of the living hell that is a new motorcycle, folding socks, painting the house, etc. You reluctantly race over and grab the keys out of their hands. In one fluid motion you shrug your shoulders, exhale as the bike roars to life and give them that look of “If I must”. That following Saturday Victor was leading me to Papa’s Café for some “Freedom” Toast and other edible delights. Oh, yeah, I rode the Moto Guzzi there too.
Ok, now that I have lulled you to sleep with too many commas, broken sentences and very few words about this month’s bike, let me continue by saying what a beautiful machine. With only 300 of these bikes made in honor of Moto Guzzi’s 80th anniversary in 2001, the bike jumps out at you and says Ciao! Rosso for red and Mandello is the location of Moto Guzzi’s factory in Mandello del Lario located off of LakeComo in Italy.
At first glance your eyes are drawn to the big and beautiful candied apple red 5.4 gallon fuel tank. As you follow the curves of the tank they lead you to the anodized red valve covers of the 1064 cc V-Twin engine. Following the cylinders down you will notice something’s missing. The stressed member engine takes the place of a true frame leaving the exhaust system to simply outline and highlight a solid black motor and transmission. The rear sets are mounted on anodized plates matching the valve covers and tank. As you follow the exhaust back to the pipes, you will notice the carbon fiber cans that give off a very pleasant rumble as you accelerate down the road. I can only imagine what a nice set of race cans would sound like.
The transmission is a 6-speed shaftie with exposed u-joint. The only reason I mention the u-joint is it is an anomaly in today’s enclosed and sealed drive systems. As the wing nut on my ’77 Ford F-100’s air cleaner reminds me of a world where average folk could maintain their vehicles, the V11’s exposed shaft with grease zerks makes me long for the day of simple mechanics….oh, wait, that means more maintenance and less riding. Screw it, bring on the fuel injection and 90 horses for a riding experience that brings a smile to anyone’s face. No petcocks on this ride, only a low fuel light.
For the most part this is a standard V11 Sport painted red with a carbon fiber café racer screen and front fender. The seat is very comfortable for this class of motor bike with a removable cowling that covers a functional rear seat for your sweetie. The passenger’s legs are somewhat cramped, but ice cream should be a good bribe for them to share a nice afternoon ride.
A clean cockpit sits behind the windscreen with the idiot lights cleanly spaced between the speedometer and tachometer. A trip and odometer sit in the face of the speedo. Access to the trip-reset knob is not very good but if that is my only gripe about the controls, than so be it. The mirrors are difficult to dial in and even after you have accomplished some visibility, you will spend a great deal of time staring at your shoulders rather than the traffic patterns behind you as you sew your way through traffic
The suspension consists of adjustable 40mm front forks from Marzocchi with a rear mono shock. If I had the slightest clue on how to set up a bike’s suspension, I would have taken the time to fiddle with the faddles while tightening the whozerwhatzits. The front end seemed a bit soft for my liking.
I thought the riding position was very nice for a 70-100 mile jaunt. After that your legs start to feel a bit cramped. Since the engine is a stressed member, I was surprised that the designers did not isolate your feet and hands with rubber mounts or at least rubber pads on the pegs. At the same mileage, 70-100, your feet start to feel the effects of the subtle vibration that is projected from the engine through the bike. While not detrimental to the riding experience, it does affect the rider over the course of the day.
The seat height is 31 inches and accommodates most folks nicely. The knee detail on the tank did not interfere with my coworkers who had longer legs while my shorter coworkers could mount and dismount with relative ease.
The first night that I had the bike, I decided to show it off at a party. Yeah it was raining, but I was sure it would clear up by 1 am or 2 am. Right? Wrong! This is not an all weather bike. As you can tell by the pictures, it does not have all the protection in the world. Then again, I am sure the designers didn’t expect some idiot from the states to ride through some of the worst rain so far this season. It is also apparent that the bike was not meant to be ridden much after sundown. While the headlight was sufficient to illuminate the road in front of you, the taillight is pretty much decoration. I was concerned for my rear end, both bike and body, while merging onto the freeway in the middle of the night.
Acceleration is spot on with a clean transition from gear to gear. It was only after I got out in the middle of nowhere that I realized there was 6th gear. In normal traffic you will be hard pressed to get out of 4th gear, while 5th gear is for a fairly aggressive clip while in town and more likely to be used out on the open road. 6th gear, you may be having a chat with “the man” and receiving a performance award or two. With acceleration and speed comes the need for a good braking system. The dual 320 mm discs in front and single 282mm read disc do a wonderful job of shaving speed and setting up corners. Stainless steel brake lines are a touch of refinement to a well thought out and clean bike.
Currently my garage consists of 1980 technology or older so if this sounds foolish, then it is. There is absolutely no flywheel / shaft / cylinder shimmy in the corners or in hard acceleration. The bike is well balanced and it just wants to go. Take off is silky smooth as you accelerate and pop from one gear to the next. Um, hello, look at the speedo racer boy, you might want to ease off a bit…or not.
Is this a long distance hauler? Most likely no, but it would be a very nice 2nd or 3rd ride in the stable. Commuting on this Guzzi would make me long for a 50-70 mile one way ride along a river or just out in the open. It was a great bike to throw my gear on and ride just for the sake of riding and it was difficult to give up. If I remember, I was supposed to return the bike on a Monday afternoon, it just so happened to stay with me until Tuesday morning. One final commute before I went back to a vintage steed. This was a bike that was difficult to give back.
Special thanks to Judson Cycle Sales in Lake Crystal Minnesota for the use of beautiful motorcycle.
by Victor Wanchena
It’s always nice to run into an old friend. Someone you’ve known and admired for a long while but haven’t connected with in ages. After introductions and updates on what’s new, there is always a flood of old memories from years ago and reminiscing about good times. That was how I felt as I swung a leg across this month’s test ride, the Moto Guzzi V11 Sport. It has been quite a while since I had ridden a bike with such sporting intentions and I was not prepared for how good it would feel or how much fun I would have.
The V11 Sport is the reintroduction of Moto Guzzi’s legendary V7 Sport, first seen in 1971. Not meant as a merely warmed over redo of the old V7, the V11 is instead the natural progression of Guzzi’s sporting tradition.
For those a little short on their Guzzi lore, here are some of the basics. Moto Guzzi was founded in 1921 by Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi in Lake Como, Italy. The first machines had 500cc single cylinder motors with cutting edge for the time 4 valves per cylinder and an overhead cam. They were known as G.P. (Guzzi-Parodi) but that was quickly changed to Moto Guzzi to avoid confusion with Giorgio Parodi’s initials. The eagle logo was added later as a tribute to a friend who had died in an air accident. From the very beginning, Moto Guzzi believed in racing to promote their machines. They began by entering the only two bikes thus built in the Milan to Naples race. They finished 20th and 21st, but that was only the start. Guzzis went to win over 3000 races, 11 Tourist Trophies and 14 World Championship Titles between 1921 and 1957. Arguably their greatest victory came in 1935 when they became the first non-English bike to win the Isle of Mann TT etching Guzzi in the history books. After WWII, Italy was left in rough condition and Guzzi answered the need for low cost transportation in the form of several lightweight motorcycles well suited for the post-war economy. The 60’s saw the birth of the modern Guzzi with the introduction of the 700cc transverse v-twin of the V7 in 1967. This formed the basis for all Guzzis to come. Followed by the V7 Sport, the first production bike to exceed 200 kph (125 mph), and later the Ambassador, Eldorado and the Lemans. With such a thoroughbred past, the V11 Sport had to live up to the traditions established 80 years prior.
The most striking feature on the V11 is the transversely mounted v-twin, which dominates the look of the bike. Used as a stressed member of the steel box section frame, this is the tried and true 2-valve Guzzi motor known all to well to fans throughout the world. With the benefit of fuel injection the V11’s motor now enjoys a broader powerband that is more user-friendly. It pulls strongly from the bottom of the rev range through to the rather low 8000 rpm redline. The mapping for the computer controlled injection and ignition seemed spot on and I found no flat spots or weaknesses. Despite being heavily “classic” in its design i.e. air-cooled and 2-valves per cylinder actuated by pushrods and rocker arms, the V11 motor feels right at home on today’s streets putting out a respectable 91 hp and 63 ft-lbs. of torque.
The folks at Guzzi really did their homework on the transmission. Often an afterthought in the design process, a bad transmission can turn a good bike sour. Not the case with the V11, it’s an all new design featuring 6-speeds running on 4 separate shafts within the unit making it several inches shorter than previous designs. This has led to a smoother shifting and quieter transmission. It is no small thing for me to say that this is by far the absolute best transmission I have ever tested. Gear changes are almost done by thought alone. You begin to pull in the clutch and apply slight pressure to the gear change lever and the transmission responds by sucking it into the next gear. The clutch is a twin dry disc setup with hydraulic actuation. The feel at the lever was a bit heavy for my taste and the clutch does have a tendency to grab a bit right off the line but I got used to this quirk after only a short time.
The suspension and brakes are high quality pieces. The inverted Marzocchi forks are fully adjustable and were plenty beefy for the V11. The shock is a piggyback unit that is also adjustable. The suspension felt fairly dialed-in for me so I never fiddled with the adjustments. (What’s that about leaving well enough alone?) Always feeling firm and planted the V11’s suspension seemed up to the duty of even the most sporting ride. This only adds to your confidence level in corners knowing that ripples in the pavement won’t send the V11 reeling. The firmness of the suspension does let a few wrinkles in the road surface seep through to the rider but it seemed a fair price for the cornering stability. The twin Brembo discs up front and single in the rear give the V11 all the stopping power you’ll ever need. Now I didn’t try any stoppies, but given their strong linear feel I don’t think anyone will find fault with them.
The chassis was revised slightly with the rake angle being decreased 1 degree to 25û and the shaft for the final drive was lengthened to reduce the amount of lift caused by mid-corner throttle corrections. I didn’t find the V11 to have much lift at all despite me being intentionally ham-fisted with the throttle in mid-lean. The combination of the high quality suspension as well as the revised chassis make V11 stable and smooth, for a shaft driven sportbike. I found a bit too much driveline lash (lash is the play in between the gears in the driveline) that made transitions from closed throttle to open a bit jerky. A certain amount is expected with any shaft driven bike but given the absolutely perfect transmission it was a little surprising that it was present at all.
The styling of the V11 Sport is simply classic. There are definite ties to the past in its appearance, yet Guzzi has done a good job of setting it apart from any other bike on the market, including other offerings from the land of Chianti. Some of the fun features of the V11 include the adjustable clip-on handlebars and the removable solo cowl on the rear seat. The bars can be adjusted for both width and height. Available in several color combos and levels of trim, the V11 pictured here was a limited edition model called the Rosso Mondello. Current models are available with or without the small fly screen. The new V11 Café Sport and V11 Ballabio feature tubular bars for a more relaxed riding position. The colors are varied and really should be seen to be appreciated.
On the road the V11 is a muscular gentleman. Smooth and refined on the outside, but lurking beneath lies the muscle to back up whatever he’s saying. Now the V11 won’t win any horsepower shootouts, but the combination of smooth power and stable suspension make the V11 hard to beat anywhere but on a racetrack. Easy to ride and certainly a bike to just get on and ride. No destination needed.
Not too well suited for commuting duties, the lack of weather protection and limited luggage options (semi-soft saddle bags are available although smallish) the V11 is much better suited to a life of spirited rides on twisty roads.
The V11 was a surprise to me ergonomically. Despite being way above average height I was comfortable for a couple of tankfuls before my knees were asking for a brake. The reach forward to the bars was a bit much for my taste but many will enjoy the aggressive posture. My only complaint in this department is the vibration, which seems only to appear at highway cruising speeds. At 60 mph they disappear and at 80 mph they leave, but in between they are a little excessive. The fine folks at Judson say the addition of heavier barend weights eliminates the vibration almost completely.
The V11 is a fine motorcycle in the Guzzi tradition. It would make a fine sporting addition to anyone’s garage. Thanks to Judson Cycle of Lake Crystal, MN (near Mankato) for the generous use of their V11.
•Comfortable, even for the big boys
•What’s behind my mirrors?
Selected Competition: Ducati Monster, Suzuki Bandit 1200, Yamaha FZ1, Kawaski Z1000.