Moto Guzzi California Vintage | Review
Vintage, as in wine, is the production of one particular year’s grapes into a fine wine. From their 1971 model, Moto Guzzi (maybe because of their Italian heritage) did a fine job with this California Vintage model.
Don’t think old or even out of date; the looks of the motorcycle are exquisite, and the only thing old and out of date on the motorcycle is this 71-year-old rider.
The moment you push the starter and the air-cooled 1064cc engine rumbles to life you feel the anticipation of a wonderful experience. The engine with its Magneti Marelli electronic digital ignition and phased sequential fuel system does not miss a beat. It starts instantly, idles reasonably smoothly for a big V-Twin and provides consistent power all the way to peak rpm.
The exhaust noise is pleasant, but not at all too loud. Power is driven to the rear wheels through a five speed transmission and shaft drive. The gear ratios are excellent and it shifts smoothly, although I did occasionally have a little difficulty finding neutral with the toe and heel shift lever.
Using only four gears on the busy LA freeways worked well for dodging traffic, but once on the open freeway, fifth gear moves you along more than adequately. On the LA freeways where 70mph seems to be the minimum speed, this cruiser is right at home; I guess that’s why the LAPD used this bike for Highway Patrol back in the 70’s. One difficulty I did discover was that it was so comfortable I had to remember to stay alert-or maybe that’s just my age…
The Brembo Gold Series braking system with its double front, and single rear calipers, is one of the best I have ever experienced. The rear brake (foot pedal) is linked to the left front caliper, while the front right handlebar lever operates the right front caliper only. I’m used to more conventional non-linked brakes where if you apply the rear pedal too hard the rear wheel locks up in an instant-this is definitely not the case with these excellent brakes.
This bike stops flat, straight, and short-and that’s just using the rear foot pedal brake on its own! It took me a little while to get used to it, but fairly quickly I found that the foot pedal was all that was needed to stop under any but the most extreme of circumstances; and even then, just a light touch of front brake lever made easy work of even panic stops.
All in all I have to give Moto Guzzi two thumbs up and a gold star too for this wonderful motorcycle. If you could not tell by my jacket, it makes me proud of my heritage.