Moto Guzzi Breva 1100

Mandello del Lario supersizes its Breva, with excellent results

The day's itinerary read like a list of traditional Italian attractions: From our grand old hotel in historic Siena we'd ride through Tuscany to a medieval castle filled with magnificent works of art, where we'd be treated to a lunch of local delicacies.

And then there was the motorcycle--a big, red V-twin, naturally.

Moto Guzzi has had its share of problems in recent years, culminating in the 2004 takeover of parent group Aprilia by scooter giant Piaggio. But with the new Breva V1100, Italy's oldest motorcycle-maker finally has a big-inch V-twin for the 21st century.

Guzzi's age-old, 1064cc 90-degree air-cooled engine format is retained in the big Breva, complete with pushrods and two valves per cylinder. A long list of updates includes twin-plug heads, a redesigned lubrication system and an alternator repositioned between the cylinders. There's a new six-speed gearbox routing power to a drive-shaft that runs inside the single-sided aluminum swingarm in a new drive system designed to increase rigidity and eliminate shaft-induced suspension movement.

The Breva's styling echoes the 750cc version's, though the bigger bike has twin discs up front and a single rear shock instead of two. It's an attractive--if slightly heavy--machine, with some eye-catching details, including the oval front and LED rear lights. Bodywork panels combine with the front fender to route cooling air to the engine.

The big V-twin emphasizes its unique layout when it fires up with a mild version of Guzzi's traditional rock-right torque reaction. Its cylinder heads are well clear of my knees, out of sight below my legs and the wide-topped gas tank, which narrows to provide plenty of legroom. Instead, my view is of the moderately raised handlebar and instrument console, which incorporates dials for the speedo, tach and fuel gauge, plus a multifunction digital display.

My ride begins with a blat through beautiful but busy Siena, where the Breva feels immediately at home. At a claimed 509 pounds dry it's not particularly light, but the wide handlebar provides effortless steering, and the generous steering lock and low seat aid maneuverability in rush-hour traffic. The glitch-free Marelli fuel injection and flexible engine help the Guzzi keep ahead of the horn-tooting Fiats and screaming scooters.

Best of all is the new gearbox. The short, quiet and positive-shifting change is impressive, and I was pleasantly surprise when I stopped at a light and selected neutral with one silent and effortless flick of my left boot. That's one old Guzzi weakness finally sorted.

Out on the open road taking in the picture-perfect Tuscan scenery, the big V-twin proves grunty in a lazy, long-legged and traditional Moto Guzzi way. Its low-rev juddering smooths at about 2000 rpm, from which point a tweak of the light-action throttle sends the bike surging forward at a satisfying rate, with a familiar hollow honk from the 2-into-1 exhaust.

With a claimed maximum output of 86 horsepower at 7500 rpm, the Breva is not intended to challenge the likes of Aprilia's Tuono or Ducati's Monster S4R to a bare-knuckle streetfight. It's far more of a BMW-style naked twin, one designed to cover ground quickly in a relaxed way. Under hard acceleration a bit of vibration comes through the broad seat at about 6000 rpm, but generally the Guzzi is pleasantly smooth.

The tachometer has an adjustable rev-limit light, but I had little need of it and spent most of the time well short of the tacho's 9500-rpm maximum point. Claimed peak torque arrives at 6800 revs, and I often found myself shifting right around that figure. Given enough room the Breva would be good for about 130 mph, and it quickly trundled up to 110 mph on a short stretch of deserted road.

But like any naked bike it soon became uncomfortable above 80 mph, so I slow down and go back to enjoying the view. Most owners will probably be impressed to see the digital display shows excellent fuel mileage in place of a high top speed; at a typical pace the 6.34-gallon tank should be good for well over 150 miles. With the accessory windscreen fitted, the Breva is likely to stay comfortable much farther than that.

This Guzzi is not intended to handle like a naked sportbike; it's too long and heavy for that. But as well as remaining stable in a straight line it corners well enough to be quite fun thanks to neutral steering and a new swingarm/shaft system, which works as advertised. I wasn't aware of any suspension movement when opening or closing the throttle.

Suspension action is good, too, especially after I raise preload--with a nifty remote adjuster--a bit in back to handle my 200 pounds. The easy-to-adjust system will be especially useful when adding a passenger or luggage, as many Breva owners are sure to do. Rebound damping is adjustable with a screwdriver on both the shock and the very compliant fork, but I leave them alone with good results.

That extra preload boosts the Breva's cornering clearance, which is a bit lacking on softer settings; the centerstand touches down before the footrest feelers. On smooth, clean surfaces that prevents me from approaching the limits of the Metzeler Roadtec tires, but the rubber shows its worth later on some dusty roads in the hills.

Braking is excellent, too, thanks to the familiar combination of 320mm front discs and four-piston Brembo calipers. Although it lacks the outright power of some modern systems, the stoppers provide heaps of feel and slow the big bike rapidly. Moto Guzzi is working on an ABS system due next year.

In the meantime, the Breva's accessory list includes the four-way adjustable screen plus heated grips, a lower seat and a luggage system of sidebags, top-box and tank bag. Luggage hooks are standard, along with other well-thought-out details such as span-adjustable levers, widely spaced mirrors and passenger grab handles. The instrument console even has a button on the left bar for toggling through the digital display--unlike rival firms' systems that require taking a hand off the bar.

These features tell me Moto Guzzi has made a huge effort with the Breva, as do the total of 60,000 hours the bike has reportedly spent at maximum revs on a dyno during reliability testing. It's a good thing Guzzi's been so thorough, because this is a vitally important bike, one whose engine will be used as the basis of future models, beginning with the more aggressively styled Griso at the end of this year.

Moto Guzzi's big new Breva is a bike that manages to blend a traditional layout and character with style, comfort and performance to create the factory's best and most advanced roadster yet. Guzzi has suffered many false starts in recent years, but it looks as though this time, backed by Piaggio's cash and commitment, the old firm is on the way back.

Moto Guzzi Breva V1100
PRICE MSRP $11,990
Type a-c V-twin
Valve arrangement sohc, 8v
Displacement 1064cc
Transmission 6-speed
Weight 509 lb. claimed (230.9kg)
Fuel capacity 6.34 gal. (24L)
Wheelbase 58.7 in. (1491mm)
Seat height 31.5 in. (800mm)
Flight of the Wild Goose: Even with all the new hardware and the thoroughly massaged transverse V-twin, Moto Guzzi's latest still retains the flavor of its forbears, with ample low-end punch and super-stable handling.
Elaborate instrument displays have often been a Guzzi signature, and the V1100 Breva is no different, sporting standard gauges accompanied by a multifunction digital screen.
Guzzi's compact reactive shaft drive (CA.R.C.) reduces shaft-induced jacking common to conventional designs.