Motorcycle with Charactor
When the powers-that-be in Tinseltown are presented with a talented, yet unusual thespian who doesn’t fit their idea of a leading man or sex symbol, they are quick to categorize him with the ingratiatingly backhanded label of “character actor.” However, with the fickle history of movies as proof, it is quite often the character actors who leave an indelible performance etched in celluloid, while the stars they supported have long since withered from memory in ephemeral wisps of stardom.
Well, if the roads of the world were the silver screen, and motorcycles the actors that populate them, then the Moto Guzzi V11 Coppa Italia would undoubtedly be the character actor among them. Like their cinematic counterpart, the Coppa Italia is at first hard to classify. It tends to defy most enthusiasts’ idea of what constitutes a sportbike. However, shaking the tree of racing history to see what falls and what remains in the branches reveals Moto Guzzi’s rich legacy of road-racing championships, which stand as testament to the brand’s serious competition roots. (Click image to enlarge)
Guzzis—as they are affectionately referred to by their clan—were at the epicenter of the Italian motorcycling movement in Europe in the ’40s and ’50s. Stateside, the exotic Moto Guzzi, by name and looks, helped propagate romantic notions of quaint Italian villages dotting motorcycle-friendly routes weaving through picturesque mountains. Brand loyalty among the “Guzzi-este” have helped the manufacturer survive where so many have perished.
Moto Guzzis possess a unique persona in both design and performance. The legendary air-cooled V-twin motor, in the famous configuration that brings the massive cylinder heads up on either side of the gas tank and in line with the pilot’s knees, serves to constantly remind the rider—with stimulating awareness—of what’s between the legs: horsepower and torque, delivered with a primal, guttural exhaust note. A Moto Guzzi sounds like what we grew up expecting a motorcycle to sound like: distant thunder of an approaching storm. In our case, the storm was enhanced by the addition of Moto Guzzi’s performance titanium slip-on exhaust cans that allow the engine to breathe a bit better.
The Moto Guzzi company spares no expense in equipping its motorcycles with the finest components: Öhlins forks, shock and steering dampener, Brembo Gold Series brakes and alloy wheels, excellent control levers and a tasteful touch of anodized parts. The Coppa Italia’s massive engine and driveshaft give the illusion of bulk, however, this erroneous assessment is dispelled with great alacrity as soon as some speed and lean angle are entered into the equation. The Coppa Italia purrs through corners as if the wheels were hooked on a rail. The engine is the most responsive just off idle and at lower rpms where the twin’s torque is available in abundance. The 1,064cc engine delivers 91 horses in a smooth, predictable power band, without sudden, unwanted peaks or valleys—just usable, tractable drive. Gear ratios on the Moto Guzzi’s six-speed transmission are spaced evenly and succinctly to get the horses to the pavement.
The Coppa Italia grows on you—fast. The bike’s tricolor silver, red and green paint scheme and bikini fairing are visually alluring, but it’s only after you experience the performance of the V11 that the machine begins to take on the affectionate terms “sexy” and “beautiful.” Another experience unique to the Moto Guzzi is when you ride one, you are automatically, tacitly inducted into the Guzzi family. You will be welcomed into the inner sanctum of this loyal crowd whenever you pull into your local motorcycle meeting place. My time with the Coppa Italia helped me to see why it’s been said, “Once you own a Guzzi, you usually stay with a Guzzi.” (Click image to enlarge)