Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom Test
If you have never considered a Moto Guzzi because of a perceived stogy image, the 2013 California 1400 Custom is here to change your mind – in a hurry. My first ride on the performance version of the new California 1400 platform was an eye-opener and arm-stretcher.
After a docile introduction to the bike through local suburban streets, the California 1400 Custom felt good. The bike was responsive and the drag-style bars were a large departure from the Touring version of the bike. Without the windshield, I enjoyed the breeze, and the sporty saddle felt good under me.
I wasn’t expecting any sort of blistering acceleration from the Moto Guzzi. The Touring version was peppy, but nothing that was going to seriously turn heads. However, with the bags and windshield removed, and the power mode switched into Veloce, I was about to get the friendliest rude introduction to the 1380cc motor’s power in the Custom trim.
Sitting at a stop light on Coast Highway, there were three wide open lanes ahead of me, and no cross traffic for a bit. It was time to twist the throttle and see what the Guzzi has to say for itself. A couple of shifts and, before I know it, I’m looking down at the cool analog tach/digital speedo combo unit and I see a big 90 looking back at me. Whoa! This thing is fast.
Now, make no mistake – it’s not Diavel or VMax fast, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take a shot at just about any other cruiser. The fact that Moto Guzzi can get so much out of an air-cooled 84 cubic-inch motor is nothing short of astounding. Of course, there is that bleed-over of Piaggio Group technology from Max Biaggi’s World Superbike Championship-winning Aprilia RSV4.
I had been perplexed at the traction control options on the Touring version. However, I can definitely see the advantage of traction control on the 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom. If I wanted to light up the tires, the 89 ft./lbs. of torque at 2750 rpm and 96 horses all the way up at 6500 rpm seem willing to oblige. So, while traction control is superfluous on the Touring, on the Custom it does show itself to be useful.
Without the touring accoutrements, the California 1400 Custom has a lighter feel. It’s still extremely stable and took a set of high speed sweeping switchbacks with an astounding level of confidence. The suspension has nice firm (not plush, not harsh) feel, with the Custom getting remote reservoirs for its twin shocks—looks cool, works well. When cornering hard, the big Moto Guzzi Custom does not wallow at all.
The floorboards are fairly high, and you really have to push to get them to touch down. The standard issue Dunlop tires stick as far as you can go, adding even more bravado to your riding. Around town, the option of the milder Turismo engine mapping is welcome. It cuts the edge off the Moto Guzzi’s power delivery, without cutting power. Even in the Pioggia (rain) mode, it still feels pretty strong. There must be some real magic in that Magneti Marelli fuel and ignition system, because this motor, which is fairly oversquare and high-compression, really puts out the beans.
Braking is strong at both ends. Gone is the linked system from the old California (which worked well), and the new ABS is quite effective. Up front, you get radial Brembos and 320mm floating discs, so you know Moto Guzzi means business. The 282mm rear disc benefits from the weight on the back Dunlop and the 200 tire.
The Touring version of this bike was a great positive surprise. Moto Guzzi has gotten the weirdness out of the California, while keeping its unique character–win/win. This bike is nothing short of a revelation. If you want to establish your credibility at the stop light, have something truly unique to profile with, and gather a crowd on bike night, the 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom is a bike that will accomplish your goals.
Photography by Marco Magoga and others