A Week with the Moto Guzzi California Vintage Street Cred without the “wannabe” Moto Guzzi has more “cruiser street cred” than most people give it credit for. They’ve been around continuously since 1921; longer than anyone but Harley Davidson. But for Harley Davidson, Guzzi’s been building cruisers longer than anyone els – their first cruiser in the incarnation you see above coming out in 1967 with the V700. Guzzi has always liked building “big” bikes, but we must adjust scale. Italy, which was Guzzi’s biggest market for most of it’s life, had production street bikes with less than 100cc for decades a bike above 300cc was considered “big”.
Guzzi was at the top of the heap early on, with production 500cc bikes that were reliable and sporting. The 500cc Falcone of the 50s is an excellent example of this, a bike with incredible reliability, to the point where an American Guzzi Club member is an original owner of two, both ridden on close to a daily basis for more than 50 years! Guzzi builds cruisers, and they have built them for a long, long time. This is no late-comer, me-too, bandwagon cruiser, built to exploit a market niche that came about from Harley-Davidson’s renaissance. Moto Guzzi toughed it out for years when companies with better resources and larger dealer networks walked all over them.
The thing is, they never gave up, they never stopped building the platform, and they stayed true to their mission. The current “cruiser” platform is built around the laterally-mounted V-twin motor (originally 700cc, now 1100), running through an in-line, automobile-type transmission straight through to a drive shaft and bevel-drive final. After more than 40 years, it’s a highly refined system. The motor could best be described as a “two cylinder small-block, American V-8?. This really isn’t a stretch. The cam is in the vee, there is a conventional sump, it has a hemi-head with pushrods and rockers. It also makes gobs and gobs of torque, is insanely easy to work on, and is dead-nuts reliable. The California Vintage is a celebration of this linage, from the first V-twins, through the Police Bike era and up through today. The first California appeared on the Eldorado platform, all white-pin-striped black with a white-trimmed “buddy seat”. So what did Moto Guzzi do with this most popular platform cruiser bike ever to come from Europe? The second-oldest continuously built cruiser platform in existence? They continuously refined it
The refinements are many. Brakes are sport-bike-standard Double Brembos in the front and a single in the rear. The 1094cc engine has a smooth, stumble-free injection system. The exhaust meets the tough Euro-3 standards, and the standard bags are best-of-breed huge and integrated perfectly into the design. The seat is just plain sweet. The windscreen has been tested to assure smooth flow around the rider. The suspension comes with a Marzocchi hydraulic telescopic fork with rebound and compression adjustability. The rear suspension is ubiquitous twin shock, with preload and compression adjustability.