Moto Guzzi California 1400
When our Guzzi-loving staffers started cooing about the latest machine from Mandello del Lario, no one was surprised. It's what these guys do: defend old-tech machines by bridging the conversation from clanky machinery to unique engine architecture, significant historical precedent, the serenity of Lake Como, or some other specious attribute meant to make us look past obvious flaws.
Imagine our surprise when those not infected with Guzzi delirium returned to the office and issued forth unprompted praise for the new California. "The electronics work. The brakes work. It shifts like a modern engine. It's even—am I really saying this?—fast…" The skeptic's voice trails off, realizing that he might have a rare form of glossolalia.
But he doesn't. The California is really that good, that competent, that unexpected from a company that has struggled to break free of its own history. Say what you want of the styling—some of us were lukewarm but most feel that the Galluzzi-penned form is a welcome break from the cruiser norm—it's what you find under the skin that most pleases. Modern performance, slightly outlandish style, and uncannily good integration of high technology into classical forms highlight Moto Guzzi's best effort to date.
Go ahead. Call the Bolt a “Sportster knockoff.” We’re calling BS. In person, the Bolt is handsome and it works well. The 942cc, air-cooled engine spins out a rainbow-scented river of torque; it starts, stops, and steers like a thoroughly modern motorcycle. It’ll probably never break, spit hardware into the curb, or leak. Think of it as a $7,990 ticket to freedom.