2016 Moto Guzzi Audace Review
When we tested the Moto Guzzi California Custom, with its hot rod motor and retro styling, we couldn’t help but wish for a pro-street version with footpegs replacing floorboards, and powered by the same impressively muscular 1380cc air-cooled 90-degree V-twin. Still, as Harlem-born author James A. Baldwin observed, “Be careful what you set your heart upon, for it will surely be yours.”
It didn’t take long for Moto Guzzi to indulge our desires, with 2016 bringing us the audacious new Audace — a blacked-out tire-burner with that big thumping longitudinally mounted motor that puts out 90 ft/lbs of torque at just 3000 rpm, yet is willing to spin its way up to 96 horsepower and 7000 rpm before the soft rev limiter kicks in.
As requested, the Audace has footpegs in a forward/mid position, and a flattish bar bend that puts the rider in a classically aggressive stance with his fists forward, daring competitors and the rider to test its mettle. While this is certainly a provocative posture, it is not one designed for either comfort or performance; instead, the seating position is one of style over substance.
This isn’t to say you can’t ride the Audace around town long enough to run five gallons through its tank without taking a break — you can — though by the time the low-fuel light illuminates, you will be glad to dismount and refill it with high test. The seat is comfortable enough, though at 5′ 10″, I couldn’t quite settle all the way back in the saddle without having to bend too far forward to reach the normal-diameter grips. Fortunately, despite the less than ideal seating position, a backache did not develop.
The solution is for Moto Guzzi to offer a different set of bars with longer pullback risers (the risers from the triple-tree are integrated into the bars) or, my preference, to bring the Audace footpegs back a bit to rotate my entire body forward and put me in a more comfortable position without overly compromising the desired body styling posture.
A bonus of moving the pegs back would be that the left cylinder — the more rearward of the two— would create a bit more clearance for my knee, which always threatened to hit the intake track guard from the 52mm Magneti Marelli throttle body.
Okay, that’s enough talk about the ergonomics. You get the idea, and you may like the Audace just the way it is— seating position is a highly personal experience. Ultimately, I was able to settle into the big cruiser and have a great time put- ting on the miles, both in-town and in the canyons.
Although Moto Guzzi has a long, storied history at the racetrack, these days it is not known as a performance company. Its line of retro, touring, and adventure bikes are hardly high-horsepower, though in the case of the Audace, the motorcycle is seriously about performance, as well as its Dark Rider (Moto Guzzi’s description) style.
Make no mistake, when in the fastest of the three engine modes — Veloce — the Audace is a beast around town. The powerplant’s high-torque output at low rpm means that a twist of the wrist in any gear results in instant and fully satisfying acceleration. Traction control will help keep you out of trouble, as it did with me when I was too assertive with the throttle on some slippery street paint.
Feel free to thumb the starter but- ton with the Audace rumbling at idle to select a mode. Performance in the mid-power mode — Turismo — is clearly impressive. In many ways, the midrange feels stronger than Veloce, though there is no doubt that once the motor gets some revs, the Veloce mode walks away from Turismo. Still, when riding around town, there’s a good argument that Turismo is the preferred mode.
With a torque-drenched powerband that runs from 2000 rpm to 7000 rpm, there is quite a bit of flexibility in the air- and oil-cooled motor, and that means shifting the slick six-speed transmission is a rare activity. Second or third gears are all you need on city streets to put on a show whenever you sense law enforcement isn’t nearby. Put some slightly more boisterous pipes on the Audace, and the display of power and style will be truly complete— the V-twin sounds as sweet as any made, even with EPA-approved muffling.
Tipping the scales at just less than 700 pounds fully gassed up, you might think the Audace is a bit ponderous around town. While its heft never fully disappears — partly due to the wide tank area— at no time does the bike feel unwieldy due to weight.
The biggest weakness in the Audace’s urban ride comes from the engine configuration. When making turns from a stop, left or right, the whole bike wobbles from side-to-side as the clutch engages. You can feel it in neutral as you blip the throttle, which is not a problem, but when the bike is leaned over and you’re getting underway, it is reliably disconcerting. Eventually, of course, you’ll know it’s coming and prepare accordingly.
In Los Angeles, where lane-splitting is a birthright, the Audace slides between cars with ease; the handlebars set a nice balance between width and leverage, and the rearview mirrors are effective with- out getting into conflicts with the ever-present SUVs, minivans, and sport sedans. When the light turns green, you are gone without a second thought.
Certainly an eye-catcher in matte black with a few touches of metallic silver, the positive attention the Audace generates is enjoyable. Riding it, you certainly feel cool, as you have a distinctive ride and you are highly unlikely to pull up alongside someone else astride the same machine. At rest, the rumble of the motor, the dancing bars courtesy of rubber engine mounting, and the 200mm rear Dunlop all conspire to impress observers.
Even if all you do is ride the Audace through urban areas and enjoy the attention of gawkers, the bike is a success. However, if you don’t take it up into the canyons, you are missing an essential part of the Moto Guzzi package.
While Dunlop D251 radial tires are better known for comfort and fitment to big customs, they work surprisingly well on the Audace. There is an especially generous amount of cornering clearance, and you have to put in some serious effort to touch down the brief feelers on the folding pegs, or your boot heel. Even when hustling around the tightest of smooth corners, there seems to always be some daylight and nothing touches down.
Whipping a 700-pound bike back and forth through some slalom turns might not sound like fun, but the Audace is a willing co-conspirator with nothing more than some body English. With a 200mm 16-inch rear tire, you wouldn’t expect cornering to be the Audace’s strong suit, yet the beefy 18-inch 130mm front is more than up to the task.
It is hard to believe that a bike with a 32-degree headstock angle, and an additional 6-degree offset for the forks, would have any interest in turning, yet it does so with enthusiasm. Although corner stability is its specialty, the Audace will change lines with some muscle applied.
If the turn is bumpy, the taut suspension works impressively. This bike does not wallow or wander in turns. I thought that I would be missing the stability of inverted forks, but the 46mm traditional units are not lacking, except perhaps in the styling department.
Capable of moving through the corners hard, Moto Guzzi wisely gave the Audace superior braking. You get a pair of 320mm discs with radially mounted Brembo four-piston calipers chomping down. Don’t worry—the initial bite is as soft as butter, with braking power getting serious as more pressure is applied.
Adding a bit of braking from the rear Brembo caliper and 282mm disc is always welcome and keeps the bike a bit more stable. I was only able to engage the ABS intentionally, as the feel of the binders is excel- lent, front and rear.
According to Miguel Galluzzi, who is the Designer In Charge at the Piaggio Group Advanced Design Center, “Sitting astride this imposing bike, starting the powerful V-twin and riding down the road is all you need to understand what Moto Guzzi represents today.” That is a bold statement about a motorcycle with an eponymous name, and the 2016 Moto Guzzi Audace is a tantalizingly intriguing look into the future of a marque with an already enviable 95-year track record.
- Helmet: Arai Defiant Chronus Yello
- Jacket: AGV Sport Canyon
- Gloves: Held Air Stream II
- Jeans: Alphyn Delta 415
- Boots: Sidi Traffic 2 Air
Action Photography by Kelly Callan