1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans | Me & My Bike

Photography by Buff Harsh

Name: Rolf Janssen
Age: 43
Home: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: Engineer

“I love my Moto Guzzi. What makes the bike so special to me is the story of how I got it—and the fact that I got it at all! When the European Union was created in 1993 it opened up huge tax breaks on foreign goods, which was just the incentive I needed to buy a classic motorcycle. I was living in Germany so a friend and I figured we’d go to Italy to buy our bikes. When we got there the only person we could find who spoke German or English was a waiter. He taught us to say, ‘Voglio comprare una Moto Guzzi’—‘I want to buy a Moto Guzzi.' We drove all over Milan and Genoa reciting the line to anyone we encountered.

“We finally met someone who said he had a friend with a bike for sale. He arranged for us to meet his friend that afternoon, but when we showed up the only people around were two Mafia-types in black jackets. They seemed friendly enough, so we agreed to follow them. They drove out of town and down toward the port area, and then into a parking structure. At that point we were fairly certain we were going to be robbed, but then we rounded a corner and saw a garage full of bikes.

“It was one of the guy’s shops, and it was full of Guzzis. He showed me one bike he called his bambino—his baby—that I fell in love with. It was a Le Mans with a Stucchi fairing. I told him I wanted it, and we set to work negotiating a price. What an ordeal! His friends were yelling the whole time, pointing to parts on the bike and hollering. We had no idea what was going on, but I kept scratching through numbers and writing down something else. We agreed on a price, but I only had Deutsche Marks. The banks were closed, so we piled into cars to go to the airport to exchange the money for Italian Lira. We got the money, found a stewardess to translate the bill of sale for the guy so he’d sign it, and then went back to load the bike. Then this big guy, this Mafia type, starts crying. As it turns out, he’d bought the bike new and was the original owner.

“I rode the Guzzi all over Germany, through the Alps and once to the Moto Guzzi Museum in Mandello del Lario, where the employees came out to look at it! Whenever I went touring, I took the valuable Stucchi fairing off. I moved to the U.S. in 1998 and brought the bike with me. In America I’ve ridden it to Deal’s Gap and all over the Smoky Mountains. It has 40,000 kilometers on it now, and for the most part stays in my living room. I’ll never sell it, and I hope that one day my young sons will want to ride it.”

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