The best competitor for the police Harley, this Italian custom is a filled-with-heritage piece of machinery especially designed for the wistful rider in every one of us. It is the first European bike to have ever said a word about its maker on other continents and it did it first with the V7 Special and the legendary 90-degree 757 V-twin engine. Today, a modern-day replica cheers nostalgics and leaves the impression of a restored classic two-wheeler.
The recently resurrected Moto Guzzi is definitely among the best known models of the Italian maker (if not THE most famous) and it is all due to the fact that its roots are drawn back in the past when the Los Angeles Police Department would have adopted this bike. That was simply free commercial for a maker in need of such thing and this reflects on the model’s recognition around the world today. And the fact that, aesthetically, things haven’t changed at all is even greater because you can have the early look for the nostalgics and the performance to back it up.
First introduced in 1971, the California Vintage was the bike that defined the thin line between the U.S. models and their European competitors. What practically set it on a pedestal was the new symbol of the rebel attitude. It brought comfort out where the back screamed for help with a thick seat and pullback handlebars, not to mention the distinctive windshield. Everything was fitted on the previously mentioned V7 Special frame and powered by the 90-degree V-twin engine displacing 757cc. I guess that it was a matter of “if it is good enough for the force, it is good enough for me” and let me say that I didn’t hear anyone complain.
A good long haul companion, the Guzzi entered the scene again after the company’s revamp in the new millennium. In 2006 when it was reintroduced it seemed that the clock was turned back, but the engine was now a 1064cc air-cooled 90 degree V-Twin unit fitted with technical goodies such as the Magneti Marelli fuel injection and ignition systems.
Also, the suspensions are made by Marzocchi and Brembo supplies the brakes, so even though antique looking, this is one modern motorcycle competing with modern contenders. Let’s see which those are.
Ever since it was introduced, the Moto Guzzi California Vintage was THE European bike that had the guts to measure its muscles with the fiercest maker ever in matter of classic bikes, Harley Davidson.
A comparable old model that is still in Harley’s today lineup is the Heritage Softail Classic . The name says pretty much everything and this model is also a representative of its time (which is the same as Guzzi’s) and it is easily distinguishable in the crowd due to the unique paintjob, tooled leather and lots and lots of chrome.
Also following the technological evolution, the Harley rigid-mounted V-twin pulls smoothly as it is being fitted with counterbalancers while the suspensions will set you down in the machine and make you feel like an integrated part of it.
The windshield couldn’t have missed this scenario as well as the custom saddlebags and we should all thank Harley for that.
Our bike is also a big hit when it comes to its design and after reading the next section I bet you’ll know what it is when it rumbles smoothly pass you.
Best characterized by the old school look, this is the oldest newest Moto Guzzi on the scene today. Three headlights dominate the front end next to a chromed fender featuring classic lines and supports as well as the wind protective screen also with ancient fitting system. It is dominated by chrome, exactly how you would expect from a bike that once mobilized officers in L.A. and the double disc brakes for extra reliability.
But what follows next isn’t disappointing either. The chromed handlebars are pulled back and the mirrors are round and, you guessed it, covered in chrome. For a low center of gravity and implicit good handling, the gas tank hugs the frame and it is unusually low positioned right above the across-the-frame V-twin motor, which sends its exhaust pipes under the coolest sidebags I’ve ever seen in a while. Also impressive at the California is low one-piece seat covered in black and white, the color of Police bikes. Also, on the black gas tank there are also stylish white lines above and under the Moto Guzzi emblem.
The sidebags follow the same coloring recipe and there is also a top case support for any eventual extra luggage that you may be needed to carry. This last unit is also chromed.
Stylish and easy noticeable are the spoked steel wheels that complete this classic’s overall design as they shine beautifully down the freeway.
Having the opportunity to swing a leg over such a bike resulted in one of the most adventurous cruiser rides I’ve ever had in a while. As soon as you get a feel of it, the Guzzi California proves being your best friend in crowded cities despite its category. That is when I again remembered of the fact that although massive and apparently big trouble, police bikes are your dearest friend when it comes to switching lanes at high speed between cars. Also, at parking lot speed, it is very easy to maneuver the new California Vintage and this quality of it will have you amazed in an instant (it had me!).
When it comes to European cruisers, there is simply nothing to compare with the strong-pulling 1064cc V-Twin that rumbles its way from stop sign to stop sign in what appears to be a chase for a getaway car. But maybe that’s just the test rider trying to impress and sometimes succeeding. Great amounts of torque are being delivered just above idle (around 2,500-3,000 rpm) and this will become your greatest advantage when riding a mechanical horse in the urban jungle.
But when willing to really make a point and stand out from the rebel crowd, there’s nothing like the compact frame and low center of gravity. These features get along perfectly with the comfortable riding position which also becomes an advantage and contribute at the fast incursions involving fast cornering and great stability.
Although it was designed to be your best friend in the city, the Moto Guzzi California Vintage remains a cruiser and the highway is the space in which it unveils yet another round of goodies. We are here talking about the even more relaxing riding position and of the fact that the handling becomes even easier once the speedometer’s needle raises higher and higher.
Wind protection is good for the rider’s upper body and at high speed it becomes even better. The wind is directed just above the head and even for taller riders it will prove very efficient. You won’t find a fairing like on those touring Harley models, but the present windshield will do the trick nicely.
Also at high speed, you surely won’t be willing to experience vibrations and the good thing is that you actually won’t. Even though the massive motor won’t be loosing its energy as the revs grow higher, vibrations will only intervene above 110 mph in top gear. This is where you will be feeling the need for a sixth gear, but considering the fact that it is the bike expected to be ridden by police man in L.A. (or at least it was at a given time in the past) we can easily forgive it.
But we could never forgive it if the brakes don’t work effectively or the suspensions don’t offer good bump absorption. Thankfully, they do! Stopping is no problem for the massive ride as the 320 mm disc with 4 Brembo piston calipers up front will provide you with all of the stopping power needed in order to reduce speed fast before a speed limitation or a tight corner approached a little bit to fast. Also, the 282 mm rear disc with two calipers will significantly contribute to that and complete the safety feel.
The bike will remain stable under strong braking or tight cornering due to the fact that it is equipped with an adjustable 45mm Marzocchi hydraulic fork and a swingarm with two hydraulic shock absorbers, only preload adjustable. Bumps are easily sorted out and the lower back will keep on going for ever, just like this model will.
And if your are thinking at a long time journey companion that will never stop amazing, you are by now probably thinking at purchasing the model you’ve just been reading about, but not before knowing that its MSRP doesn’t go higher than $14,990. Great bike for the buck!
Not only that, but also a piece of history in your garage. It is known that Moto Guzzi puts a little bit of history in everything and the California Vintage is the greatest example. There are great owners clubs for this model all through America and buying one also offers you the privilege to be a nostalgic member.
Engine and Transmission
Type: 90° V-twin, 4 strokes
Cooling system: Air cooled
Displacement: 1.064 cc
Bore and stroke: 3.6” x 3.15” (92 x 80 mm)
Compression ratio: 9,8 : 1
Timing system: 2 overhead valves, moved by light alloy push-rods and rocker arm with mechanical tappets
intake open 96° B.T.D.C.
intake close 128° A.B.D.C.
exhaust open 120° B.B.D.C.
exhaust closes 92° A.T.D.C.
Maximum power: 54 kW at 6.400 rpm
Maximum torque: 94 Nm at 5.000 rpm
Fuel system: Magneti Marelli IAW alfa-n system Multipoint phased sequential fuel; 2 nozzle holders of Ø 40 mm, with injectors Weber IW 031
Starting system: Electric
Ignition: Magneti Marelli IAW 15RC electronic digital ignition with inductive spark
Exhaust system: steel, 2 tubes connected to an expansion room, that is connected to 2 steel mufflers; three-way catalyzer with Lambda sensor (Euro 3)
Homologation: Euro 3 / EPA
Gearbox: 5 speed, constant mesh gears with built-in cush drive
1° 14/28 = 1 : 2
2° 18/25 = 1 : 1,389
3° 21/22 = 1 : 1,048
4° 23/20 = 1 : 0,870
5° 28/21 = 1 : 0,750
Lubrication: Forced lobes, with geared pump and pressure regulator
Primary drive: By helical gears, ratio: 17/21=1 : 1,235
Secondary drive: Shaft drive
Ratio: 8/33=1 : 4,125
Clutch: dual disc dry with mechanical control
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Detachable tubular duplex cradle in special high-strength steel
Wheelbase: 61.4” (1,560 mm)
Trail: 4.5” (116 mm)
Rake: 29 °
Front suspension: Marzocchi hydraulic telescopic fork, Ø 45 mm, adjustable separately
Front wheel travel: 5.5” (140 mm)
Rear suspension: swing arm with 2 hydraulic shock absorbers, preload adjustable
Rear wheel travel: 3.8” (96 mm)
Breaking system: Integral breaking system, with proportioning and delay valve
Front brake: double Brembo Serie Oro stainless steel floating disc, Ø 320 mm, 4 piston calipers
Rear brake: single Brembo stainless steel floating disc, Ø 282 mm, 2 piston calipers
Wheels: Behr spoked steel rims
Front rim: 2.50” x 18”
Rear rim: 3.50” x 17”
Front tyre: 110/90 VB18"
Rear tyre: 140/70 VB17"
Length: 93.7” (2,380 mm)
Width: 32.1” (815 mm)
Height: 54.7” (1,390 mm)
Seat height: 30.7” (780 mm)
Ground clearance: 7.5” (190 mm)
Handlebar height: 41.3” (1,050 mm)
Front footboard height: 12.8” (326 mm)
Rear footboard height: 15.1” (385 mm)
Dry weight: 580 lbs (263 kg)
Fuel tank capacity: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Reserve: 1 gallon (4 liters)
Voltage: 12 V
Battery: 12 V - 30 Amp/h
Alternator: 12 V - 350 Watt