’Guzzi’s Flagship Tourer

Moto Guzzi presents its California 1400 Touring model as one of its ambassadors to the motorcycle world. This is not a statement to be taken lightly given the long-standing history — since 1921 — and unmistakable passion of the designers at the factory in Como, Italy. The handcrafted California possesses the same classic style and grace of previous California models, with modern, cutting-edge technology that would make the previous models positively die from envy. The factory touts this bike as the flagship of Gran Turismo, and backs it up with plenty of innovations and features that place it squarely in the luxury tour-bike category.

Continue reading for my review of the Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring.

  • 2015 - 2018 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    90° V-twin engine, 4-stroke, 4 valves, double ignition
  • Displacement:
    1380 cc
  • Price:
    18490
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
- image 758031
Moto Guzzi manages to maintain a sense of continuity with previous California models, albeit with contemporary lines and engineering.

Moto Guzzi manages to maintain a sense of continuity with previous California models, albeit with contemporary lines and engineering. The seat with its chromed passenger grab rail, and the side panels were inspired by the T3, and the engine and fuel tank sizes emulate the ratios present on its V7 and V850 forebears.

A transverse-mount V-twin engine completes the classic look, and the visible heads speak to the size and power of the 1,400 cc engine. While I like visible engine components, having them stick out proud of the rest of the bike makes me nervous. Yeah, I know that there are plenty of manufacturers that do this — Ural and BMW to name a couple — I am not comfortable knowing that if I go down for a slide and the heads contact the road, or anything else for that matter, I can cause serious (read: expensive) damage to the engine. Not something that you want to contemplate on what is already shaping up to be a bad day!

The 5.4-gallon fuel tank tucked down between the cylinders was designed to give the bike a slimmer profile and lower center of gravity than previous models, and the lines of the exhaust system helps to bolster this optical effect. This low center of gravity will be particularly important to shorter riders, and may even mitigate some of the problems caused for them by the lofty 29.1-inch seat height.

Forward lighting is provided by a unique-to-the-class, poly-elliptical headlight and dual daytime running lights. This headlight shape instantly identifies the bike to riders familiar with Moto Guzzi products, and the modern design hints at the technology elsewhere in the bike that you cannot readily see. A high-visibility LED taillight assembly also houses the rear turn signals, and does a marvelous job of keeping the lines of the rear-end clean while not detracting from the flow described by the saddlebags and rear fender.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
- image 758028
The California has a tremendous amount of braking power where you need it the most; just be careful grabbing a fistful of these front brakes or you're begging to break the front wheel loose from the road.

The frame is comprised of steel tubing in a closed double-cradle, which is nothing special, but what is special is the elastic engine-mounting system. This system utilizes a series of rockers and elastic-kinematic supports designed to allow the engine to shake around its own center of gravity while isolating the numbing, high-frequency vibrations from the rider and passenger. The 66.3-inch wheelbase provides steering stability at interstate speeds, and together these factors reduce rider fatigue significantly over long hauls.

Front-wheel braking power is provided by dual 320 mm stainless steel floating discs working with four-piston, horizontally opposed Brembo calipers. This is a tremendous amount of braking power where you need it the most, and I am here to tell you that opposed-piston calipers are much more powerful than piston-and-anvil calipers. You had better be careful when you grab a fistful of these front brakes, or you are begging to break the front wheel loose from the road.

Moto Guzzi handles front suspension with new 46 mm hydraulic front forks with 4.7 inches of travel, and in the rear by a large-diameter swingarm and shocks with 4.3 inches of travel. This is plenty for smooth surfaces, but riders may find the ride a bit harsh on rough or poorly maintained roads.

Frame: Steel Tubing, Closed Double Cradle With Elastic-Kinematic Engine Mounting System To Isolate Vibrations.
Trail: 6.1 Inches
Headstock Angle: 32 Degrees
Steering Angle: 38 Degrees
Front Suspension/Travel: 46 Mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork, With Radial Caliper Mounting Brackets/4.7 Inches
Rear Suspension/Travel: Swingarm With Double Shock Absorber With Adjustable Spring Preload. No Rebound Adjustment On Rear Shock/ 4.3 Inches
Front Brake: Dual 320 Mm Stainless Steel Floating Discs, Brembo Radial Calipers With Four Horizontally Opposed Pistons
Rear Brake: 282 Mm Stainless Steel Fixed Disc, Brembo Floating Caliper With Two Parallel Pistons
Wheels: Aluminum Alloy
Front Tire: 130/70 R 18
Rear Tire: 200/60 R 16

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
- image 758027
Though the engine doesn't come close to the displacement of some of the larger American V-twins, what it lacks in size, it makes up in sophistication.

Looking at the new-in-2013 engine the factory built for this bike is where things get very interesting for me. Essentially, it is an evolution of the “Quatrovalvole” engine that has been punched out to 1,380 cc, and was the largest V-twin being produced anywhere in Europe at the time. Though it doesn’t come close to the displacement of some of the larger American V-twins, what it lacks in size it makes up in sophistication.

This is a true ride-by-wire engine that is controlled by an adjustable electronic engine-management system with three preset mappings: Turismo (Touring), Veloce (Fast) and Pioggia (Rain). Sure, there are plenty of aftermarket devices that allow you to dial in specific engine maps, but this is a factory-built system on a stock bike that I think is really neat (read: cooler than the other side of the pillow), and provides a whole new level of convenience and flexibility to the rider. Yeah, it’s an air-cooled engine, but a thermostat-controlled fan over an oil cooler assists the cooling, which should go a long way toward minimizing the risks of overheating while you travel hither and yon.

The transmission was redesigned to accommodate a single-disc dry clutch and add a sixth gear, which definitely plays into the touring aspect as it will reduce rpm at highway speeds with a concurrent reduction in fuel consumption.

Engine: 90 degrees V-Twin Engine, Four-Stroke, Four Valves, Double Ignition
Cooling: Air And Oil With An Independent Cooling Pump. Oil Radiator With Thermostat Controlled Fan.
Engine Capacity: 1380 cc
Bore And Stroke: 104 x 81.2 Mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5 to 1
Maximum Power: 96 Horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 87 pound-feet @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel Supply / Ignition Phased Electronic: Multipoint Sequential Injection, Magneti Marelli IAW7SM; “Ride By Wire” 52 Mm Throttle Body, IWP 243 Magneti Marelli Injectors, Double Oxygen Sensor, Integrated Management Of Three Engine Mappings, Traction Control, Cruise Control
Starter: Electric
Exhaust System: Stainless Steel, Two-In-Two Type, Three-Way Catalytic Converter With Double Lambda Probe
Gearbox: Six Speeds With Final Overdrive
Final Drive: Double Cardan Joint And Fixed Bevel Gear Seat

Pricing

2015 - 2018 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
- image 758023
You can pad the base price significantly, since Moto Guzzi offers the most extensive accessories line they had ever produced for any of their bikes.

At $18,490, the California falls between U.S. domestic tour bikes and its Japanese counterparts, though none of its competitors offer a hand-made bike. You can pad this base price significantly, though, as Moto Guzzi offers the most extensive accessories line they had ever produced for any of their bikes.

Colors:
2017: Rosso Amaranto (red), Nero Ambassador (black), Bianco Eldorado (white)
2018: Nero Gentleman. Rosso Charme
Price: $18,490

Competitor

2015 - 2018 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
- image 758032
2016 - 2018 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 762500
Indian brings a certain authenticity to the table with its own deep roots in American motorcycle history, so it's a testament to the 'Guzzi designers that they were able to hit so close to the mark.

No doubt, the California is a classic-looking rolling slice of Americana, so I feel like I need a proper homegrown competitor. As tempting as it may be to go straight to Harley-Davidson, we have another viable alternative from the resurgent Indian Motorcycle company in the form of its Chief Vintage. The Vintage brings a certain authenticity to the table with its own deep roots in American motorcycle history, so it’s a testament to the ’Guzzi designers that they were able to hit so close to the mark.

Indian maintains its own flavor; the valenced-and-swept front fender is a signature feature, as is the chrome headdress ornament. Both rides sport fat front ends made all the fatter by the forks skirts, but instead of reaching for the custom look afforded by the blackout treatment on the California, Indian keeps it all chrome. Pimp lights and windshields abound for that extra bit of comfort and visibility/safety they provide.

MG runs with monochrome panniers while Indian opts for a natural tan leather finish on its saddle, p-pad and fringed saddlebags so both are old-school tour-ready though the California’s J.C. handles and passenger backrest will certainly endear themselves to your human cargo. Yeah, I know, a trip through accessory-land will set the Indian up the same, but we’re looking at the stock rides here.

Suspension is pure-D vanilla all around, and Indian alone manages to see clear to throw on some ABS protection for the masses, all of which is pretty simplistic, but sadly, it’s rather typical for U.S. cruisers. Indian’s Thunder Stroke really brings the inches (giggety!) with its 111 cubic-inch (1,811 cc) displacement and 119 pounds of grunt that is quite beyond the little 1,380 cc MG plant in terms of raw power. However, in terms of technology, MG carries the day with RbW throttle control and rider modes for which Indian has no counter, so respect where it’s due, folks.

’Guzzi also gets credit for a slightly lower price than the lofty $19,999 tag on the Chief Vintage, but the power difference and Indian name power will likely overcome that difference, at least on our shores.

He Said

“Definitely a good-looking bike, but to be honest, I like bikes that I can work on myself and this thing would worry my nerves a bit. I don’t entirely trust fly-by-wire technology on anything yet, especially on something that I may have to tinker with on the side of the road.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I love the passion put into a hand-built bike. It says the manufacturer is proud to put their name on it and loves what they do enough to want the best for their customers. It is on the tallish side for an American-styled cruiser, but not prohibitively so, and the engine falls into the mid-range displacement. It’s a comfortable bike to ride, though. Very little vibration, but with the jugs so close to your legs, you feel a bit of heat, which is nice in winter, but not to welcome in summer."

Specs

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 90 degrees V-Twin Engine, Four-Stroke, Four Valves, Double Ignition
Cooling: Air And Oil With An Independent Cooling Pump. Oil Radiator With Thermostat Controlled Fan.
Engine Capacity: 1380 cc
Bore And Stroke: 104 X 81.2 Mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5 to 1
Maximum Power: 96 Horsepower At 6,500 Rpm
Maximum Torque: 87 pound-feet at 2,750 Rpm
Fuel Supply / Ignition Phased Electronic: Multipoint Sequential Injection, Magneti Marelli IAW7SM; “Ride By Wire” 52 Mm Throttle Body, IWP 243 Magneti Marelli Injectors, Double Oxygen Sensor, Integrated Management Of Three Engine Mappings, Traction Control, Cruise Control
Starter: Electric
Spark Plugs: NGK LMAR8F, 2 Per Cylinder
Exhaust System: Stainless Steel, Two-In-Two Type, Three-Way Catalytic Converter With Double Lambda Probe
Type Approval: EPA And CARB
Gearbox: Six Speeds With Final Overdrive
Final Drive: Double Cardan Joint And Fixed Bevel Gear Seat
Clutch: Single-Disc With Integrated Anti-Vibration Buffer
Chassis:
Frame: Steel Tubing, Closed Double Cradle With Elastic-Kinematic Engine Mounting System To Isolate Vibrations.
Trail: 6.1 Inches
Headstock Angle: 32 Degrees
Steering Angle: 38 Degrees
Front Suspension: 46 Mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork, With Radial Caliper Mounting Brackets
Front Wheel Travel: 4.7 Inches
Rear Suspension: Swingarm With Double Shock Absorber With Adjustable Spring Preload. No Rebound Adjustment On Rear Shock.
Rear Wheel Travel: 4.3 Inches
Front Brake: Dual 320 Mm Stainless Steel Floating Discs, Brembo Radial Calipers With Four Horizontally Opposed Pistons
Rear Brake: 282 Mm Stainless Steel Fixed Disc, Brembo Floating Caliper With Two Parallel Pistons
Wheels: Aluminum Alloy
Front Tire: 130/70 R 18
Rear Tire: 200/60 R 16
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 96.2 Inches
Width: 40.5 Inches
Height: 57.4 Inches
Wheelbase: 66.3 Inches
Saddle Height: 29.1 Inches
Minimum Ground Clearance: 6.4 Inches
Dry Weight: 709.8 pounds
Curb Weight: 742.9 pounds
Fuel Tank Capacity: 5.4 Gallons
Reserve: 1.3 Gallons
Details:
Colors:
2017: Rosso Amaranto (red), Nero Ambassador (black), Bianco Eldorado (white)
2018: Nero Gentleman. Rosso Charme
Price: $18,490

References

2016 - 2018 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 641060

See our review of the Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: indianmotorcycle.com, motoguzzi-us.com

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