2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring Test
Back in the late 60s, an LAPD officer was on location in Mandello del Lario to oversee the production of the force’s new Moto Guzzi V7 Police motorcycles. The officer requested bulletproof windscreens and Moto Guzzi happily obliged.
It was the start of Moto Guzzi’s golden era in terms of financial success and numbers quickly rose to more than 40.000 vehicles rolling out of the Mandello factory after the LAPD deal.
Today, more than 40 years later Moto Guzzi is on the rise again after a hefty 42 million Euro investment by Piaggio into a new factory facility and new models. The 2013 California 1400 Touring has been almost five years in the making and can be considered the first big new model as a result of that investment.
I took a seat in the large and instantly comfortable black leather seat with classic white leather sides. Throughout our 125-mile test ride the seat was comfortable with plenty of space.
The footboards finally gave my legs enough space which is a big comfort upgrade form the old California Vintage model. The seat height is 29.1 inches (740mm) but a 28.3 inches (720mm) conversion is available.
Those big cylinder heads still stick out and by the nature of the longitudinal Moto Guzzi design there is some serious heat if you don’t move your legs a bit out sideways on the footboards from time to time. With my 6-foot frame most of the heat dissipates just below my knees and just above my boots. On our ride between Cannes and St Tropez the temperature ranged between around 68 degrees (F) at sea level and 55 degrees in the mountains and it honestly wasn’t uncomfortable that extra heat but I can imagine in temperatures above 85 degrees that the heat dissipation from the big air-cooled cylinder heads could be an issue for some.
The big solid windscreen on the Touring model we tested wasn’t bulletproof, but certainly built in very thick plastic with an aluminum chromed frame that kept the screen sturdy even at high speed.
Placed on each side is one small extra wind deflector. For the higher speed motorway miles that we did the windscreen is very sufficient and only a small part of my upper body was exposed in my comfort riding position. If I leaned a little bit forward I could achieve even more wind protection.
The handlebar is mounted on as standard a bracket as possible so that customers can customise with a different handlebar should they wish to do so. Another first on any Moto Guzzi is the cruise control which is a great comfort feature for long journeys. It works very smooth and it only takes a small tad on the brakes or clutch lever to disengage the Cruise Control.
Right in the middle Moto Guzzi have added a completely new tacho of 5.9 inches (150mm) diameter. The analogue rev counter surrounds the digital speedometer on a black background. Ambient temperature is shown on the top and speed in the middle while a host of other information is shown underneath.
You can choose between three riding modes spelled out in Italian; Turismo (Touring), Veloce (Fast) and Pioggia (Rain). These riding modes control the amount of torque and traction control. Traction control settings can also be adjusted further in the menu. To adjust riding modes on the move you have to shut off the throttle and use the starter button to highlight wanted riding mode and then just leave the selection.
I only tested Turismo and Veloce and most of the time I preferred Turismo for a smooth throttle and torque response. Since the engine is so flexible from the beginning with an inherently ox-like torque response over a large powerband I don’t see that I would use the Veloce mode frequently.
The 2013 California 1400 doesn’t need more than 5,000 revs but it certainly was fun to take it over from time to time. This 1380cc power house has got great potential and I wasn’t the only one that started drooling a bit over the thought of a potential 1400 Café Racer. Turismo mode reduces the engine braking and smooths out the torque response whilst Veloce gives a more beastly character.
Moto Guzzi’s all new 1380cc V90 with its trademark longitudinal mount is without shadow of a doubt the number one reason to look into the new California 1400. Firing it up the cylinder heads beats back and forth suspended in the frame like a heart in a human body. The innovative elasto-kinematic engine mount reduces vibration from the big air-cooled twin to an absolute minimum.
The engine basically shakes a lot but only around its own centre of gravity almost completely separated from the frame. The new Mandello power house produces a claimed 54 ft. lbs. of torque @ 2,750rpm and 96hp @ 6,500rpm.
Because of all that torque available at low rpm it’s a very easy thing to get going from a standstill. From traffic lights I just roll away in the smoothest fashion and both the clutch lever and gear box operates with ease. As quick as I can I kick the gears up either with the tip of my toe or heel of my boot up into fifth or the sixth overdrive gear. I prefer to keep the strong engine at just around 2,000 rpm for the most comfortable cruising pace.
There are hardly any vibrations and the only time you can upset the frame is at standstill revving her up and then it feels almost like a Boxer engine where it wants to shake the bike from side to side. Get moving and the very difficult to balance longitudinal V90 settles into near perfection in the handling area and this continues all the way up to the 7,000rpm rev limiter.
Big new 104mm pistons makes big bang power and torque from the word go. The new V2 sounds fantastic even in muffled standard version but the new cardan doesn’t sound as good and it disturbs the audible impression when riding.
For the pure performance part of the test we’re riding in beautiful open and fast corners in the mountains. Letting the big California 1400 breath freely the power is immense and I can’t imagine any other manufacturer with such a satisfying punch from an air-cooled 1.4 liter engine. The Moto Guzzi California 1400 V90 is at the pinnacle of air-cooled engine technology right now.
When I asked Moto Guzzi Product Manager Gianluca Di Oto about the future of air-cooled engines he replied that in terms of performance there is an absolute limit of 95 horsepower per liter at the moment to satisfy future Euro regulations. Thicker engine walls and clever engineering will keep air-cooled engines going for a long time yet.
Per cubic inch the new California 84c.i. is Moto Guzzi’s best performing engine in terms of fuel consumption. Considering how lovely the engine feels at very low rpm future customers might well be surprised at how cheap the California 1400 can run (5.4 gallon (20.5 liter) fuel tank).
Being a 2013 model you can hardly find anything without ABS brakes and Moto Guzzi is now no exception. It’s the latest most high tech ABS on offer developed also for other Piaggio brands and on the California 1400 Touring with around 337 kilos to stop plus rider the brakes are superbly powerful.
Up front we find a double 320mm disc set-up with radial Brembo callipers and a 282mm disc at the back wheel. The tires Moto Guzzi have chosen for its new California model is the Dunlop D251 tires in dimensions 130/70-R18 front and a large 200/60-R16 on a 6 inch rear wheel.
The handling through the very twisty road sections is surprisingly good to say the least. Certainly better than what you think you need on a big touring cruiser. The wide handlebar gives good control with the weight and pushing the big California from side to side is easier than it looks. I might be stating the obvious here but the new California 1400 is a much bigger motorcycle than previous California models with a long 1685mm wheelbase. Looking good while handling well is not an easy task but in my opinion Moto Guzzi have pulled off this feat just fine.
Suspension is plush and comfortable but more so at speed than at slow cruising. At the slowest speeds in the range between 30 and 50km/h the suspension doesn’t soak up potholes and sharp bumps as well as I’d like for this type of motorcycle. Bring the California up to speed and the suspension is near perfection in terms of execution and comfort. The suspension set-up is a 46mm front fork and double shocks at the rear.
The mirrors give good view of what’s happening at the rear without vibration but I struggled to fix the right mirror into a good position. This can easily be remedied if you have more time than me fiddling around.
Colours available are the black Ambassador as tested and the white Eldorado taking name clues from old California models. In addition to the included panniers you can purchase an extra top box also perfectly integrated into the new California design of 50- or 60-liter capacity.
2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring Test Conclusion
With the new California 1400 Touring Moto Guzzi is providing big bang for your money and all in all it’s a fantastic package. The Touring version is both practical and powerful whilst it handles really well.
Incredibly difficult to engineer but Moto Guzzi have definitely pulled it off. My main minuses are the heat dissipation to my legs and the sound from the cardan. Otherwise the California 1400 is near Touring Cruising perfection. The new California provides an involving ride and it sounds great.
Comfort levels are up there with the best which instantly makes the California 1400 a touring monster. As far as I am concerned the California 1400 now stands as much more than just a quirky Euro cruiser alternative, it’s a real contender and yes maybe even Big Twin touring killer given the time to add the accessories needed. 90% there in one fell swoop.
+ 1380cc Quattrovalvole = Mama Mia!
+ Very high comfort levels
+ Superb handling
+ Great brakes
– Excessive heat dissipation to legs
– Cardan noises
– Slow speed suspension not as comfortable as high speed suspension