Moto Guzzi V11 Sport - Road Test

Another Guzzi First: Mandello Moto Mavens Create A "Retro" By Updating A Current Model

Photography by Kevin Wing

Shocking, anyway, until you hop on it and hit the starter. There's nothing else like it is there? Come to think of it, the usual sideways twitch as the engine turns over feels far less pronounced in this Guzzi, and it picks up revs easier in neutral.... Could it be the new, lighter flywheel? Perhaps the revised intake ports or the reshaped pistons and combustion chambers? Or maybe the modifications to the injection and ignition curves? Feels almost, ah, sprightly in the way it revs-an adjective never previously applied to a Moto Guzzi far as we know-and pulling in the clutch and dropping into first gear is a gnashless, painless, nearly Japanese event. Sweet.

Like all recent Guzzis, carbureted and injected, this one doesn't respond to throttle too smoothly until around 3000 rpm, which is only a problem of course for those who insist on plodding around down there. Slip the two-plate dry clutch a tad and you're right past there and blasting off with the same torquey swagger as an old muscle car. Yes, It's true, the next gear snaps in with a simple flick of the toe...can this be?

The ergos are fine, thanks, with adjustable clip-ons riding on risers that lift them a good two inches higher than the ones on the 1100i. The seat's nicely shaped; skinnyish where it meets the fuel tank, and thick, and there's enough legroom. The usual 40mm Marzocchi fork adjusts for rebound atop one fork tube, compression damping on the other, and you can reach down on the fly to adjust the WP shock's compression damping (getting to its preload collar is a major tank-removal exercise, unfortunately). Both ends, springs and dampers, combined with the bikes substantial heft, give up a nicely compliant, never harsh ride as you burble along, sighting above the classic white-faced Veglia tach and speedo.

We bitched about the Dell Orto carbs' way-too-heavy return springs and Guzzi gave us good fuel injection. Now they give us a good gearbox, what's left to complain about?

Only vibration. From about 3500 to nearly 5000 rpm-which equates to 65 to 90-ish mph in top gear-this Guzzi sends some pretty heavy vibes coursing through those new clip-on bars. The risers must be the culprit, since other Guzzis that use nearly the same engine and frame are fine, smooth cruisers. This Guzzi's bars just seem to come into some sort of resonance with the 90-degree engine's secondary imbalance at that speed, and an hour of cruising along is about all most hands can take. It's particularly tough limping home all shagged out after a few hours wrestling the bike around in the twisties.

In Europe it wouldn't be a problem; crank the bike up to 95 or so and everything gets smooth again, but you wouldn't last long in the home of the brave and the land of the free riding that way unless you're a policeman. (Or cruise along below 65-not an option for us.) Shorter final-drive gearing would help, but of course the shaft makes that a bit of a project.

Guzzi's already shoved some pretty hefty weights inside the bar ends, and we were going to strap on more weight to experiment, but couldn't find any bolts the right diameter and thread pitch. Guzzi says the vibes get better as the engine breaks in, and with 1300 miles showing it does seem to have subsided slightly-that or our nerve endings have died. In any case, that's our main complaint and it seems like a fixable flaw.

And speaking of wrestling mountains, the Sport works just all right in full curvy-road sport mode. Again, it's still a heavy motorcycle, slightly heavier than its 1100i sibling, and in fact the i works better as a sportbike.

For one thing, all Guzzis start out with a rearward weight bias thanks mostly to the shaft drive, we suppose, and the Sport's higher bars means there's even less rider weight pressing down on the front wheel. Given those things, we don't know that shortening the bike's trail to a supersporty 92mm was necessarily the way to go. Just cruising along in a straight line over bumps, the Sport's front end sort of waggles to and fro like the tongue of a dog sticking his head out a car window-never alarmingly, but just like the front tire's not exactly what you'd call planted.

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