Moto Guzzi V11 Sport - Road Test

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

Photography by Kevin Wing

Ridden sportily on a tight, curvaceous road, then, the Sport has little of the i-bike's defining stability. It turns quick, yes, and in fact the higher clip-ons give enough leverage that it feels like if you weren't careful you could steer the front wheel right out from under the heavier part of the bike that follows.

Faster, smooth corners give the Sport more confidence, but faster bumpy ones verge on hairball, and you're glad Guzzi saw fit to stick on the Bitubo steering damper under the triple clamps. Jacking up the rear end with more spring preload doesn't help much (because the fork springs are too soft to begin with), and on tighter roads, neither does the fact that a little more driveline lash than usual remains. Throw in that most bikes with 92mm trail also sport bank-vault-stiff frames, and well, this Guzzi just doesn't encourage its rider to aggressively attack corners in the way a Ducati Monster does. Or Guzzi's own 1100i, for that matter.

On the positive side, the new freer-revving engine and truly functional gearbox provide a huge gulp of fresh air. It's easy enough to keep the engine spinning along with the new gearbox, and there's a big burst of delicious twin-cylinder power once the needle clears 5000 rpm; from there, it revs surprisingly hard up to where the limiter cuts in at 8250. Nope, 80 horsepower's not a lot, but on a bike like the Guzzi it feels like more. And this being an Italian Harley, you know there are a few aftermarket items out there to make more power. Heck, adding a tad more racket is nearly mandatory in the case of any 90-degree twin, particularly one complemented by just the right amount of tappet noise. Those are pushrods, son, and none of them half-ass hydraulic lifters either. (The V11's solid lifters want adjustment every 6000 miles, according to the manual. Do it yourself; it's easy. Scratch that. It looks easy. And now you can even change your Guzzi's oil filter without dropping the whole oil pan.)

If the Sport's not as good a sportbike as the 1100i, it turns around and kicks its brother's behind when it comes to the sort of prowling around-town duty it's more focused upon. If your early morning sojourns are more casual amble for coffee than they are frantic adrenaline rush to the top of the mountain, then this Guzzi is a nearly ideal machine. Bikes like this one are as enjoyable to burble along on as they are at ten-tenths-unlike a 996 Ducati or R1 Yamaha, for Instance-and it's a nice bike to park in front of your local pub and contemplate.

Is it really ugly or really cool? Who knows? But people do notice it, and most of the nouveau gauche Harley crowd don't know what the hell it is. Their women seem envious. Then you get to drop that it's a lot cheaper than their Harley. It's a bike that makes you feel almost mature, for God's sake, and seems to give you a little historical perspective on the world of motorcycles.

Progress is sometimes a while in coming at Moto Guzzi, and sometimes Guzzi progress has a slightly regressive quality to it-but overall this is a fine piece of work in need of a little owner involvement or maybe just tolerance. Expect to hear more from Mandello in the next few years: As of 30 August, if all goes well, Moto Guzzi will be owned by Aprilia, there will be a large cash infusion, and Moto Guzzi will be back in a big way. This V11 Sport, though, wants you to know Guzzi's never really been away.

Cheers & Jeers
Moto Guzzi V11 Sport
Engine 8 Sweet Italian pushrod twin, dodgy at low rpm
Drivetrain 8 Amazingly good; slight driveline lash
Handling 6 OK if you're not in a big hurry
Braking 9 Big Brembos need 111/42 fingers
Ride 9 Nice and compliant; almost an old guy's bike
Ergonomics 9 Better the older we get
Features 7 Veglia gauges, hydraulic clutch, real gearbox!
Refinement 7 Still a little rough after all these years
Value 8 Seems reasonable by H-D standards
Fun Factor 7 Entirely dependent on the length of the ride

Verdict: A huge step forward for Guzzi, followed by a couple of large minces rearward in the form of handlebar vibration and (a slight dearth of) sporting prowess.

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