Holiday schedules and cold weather were the only reasons the new 2016 Moto Guzzi Eldorado was sitting in the company garage and not with UMC Editor Don Williams who will be writing our comprehensive review of this new model. I suspect he will like it as much as I did, but until it’s written let me share my experience on a 150-mile afternoon ride to eat, arguably, the best burger in Southern California.New for 2016 from Moto Guzzi, anyone who has ever even glanced at an early-1970s Eldorado will recognize the similarities from every angle. Sure, it’s the current 1400 platform, transmission and running gear of the California we’ve been riding since 2013, and no one will mistake it for a 850 of yesteryear, yet the black paint, white pinstripes, and bit of chrome are unmistakable, especially those patches on the fuel tank.
What’s more important to me is that it is one of the best-handling, even-tempered, 700-pound motorcycles one can ride. Put on your cruiser attitude and let out the clutch on the 96-horsepower longitudinal V-twin and it will rocket away with authority. Actually, it pulls hard right off idle and that distinctive twin architecture will spin willingly to its 7000 rpm redline challenging the rider’s grip all the way. It does 80 mph at 4000 rpm and feels like it’s just loafing along. Thank the torque peak of 87 ft/lbs at 2750 rpm.Five of our gang headed north out of Ojai, Calif. on what has been called “the best road that nobody knows about”—California State Route 33 (aka Maricopa Highway). Whether you ride sedately, cruiser-like, or like your hair’s on fire, 33 is a gem on which a rider can sample just about every kind of corner, elevation, and scenery change imaginable (views of the San Joaquin Valley and Pacific Ocean). I let the four sportbikes go by and put on my cruiser attitude to take in the scenery, for a change and, well, cruise.Mind you, the Moto Guzzi Eldorado acquits itself nicely in the tight stuff to the limits of clearance, which are the floorboards and their hinges. Steering is neutral, and it just follows the rider’s lead. The suspension is firm yet supple. Large bumps and very uneven pavement can jar a bit, but I see that coming and try, with forward controls, to unweight slightly.The true nature of this beast is revealed in the fast sweepers that it just gobbles up. Fast and smooth with lots of power on tap is the way, and when it’s time to back it down the full-floating, radially mounted Brembos make two-finger work of it.Not everyone will agree, but the Moto Guzzi Eldorado is simply drop-dead gorgeous. Over the weekend it drew many admirers at the Rock Store, albeit mostly those with gray hair. But so what? There is an elegant look to the lines of the machine and the retro paint job certainly adds to the panache.Our test Eldorado has the optional leather panniers with two buckle straps. I like that they are real buckles and not faux with plastic snaps to make opening easier. As always, having bags makes a bike much more utilitarian, but I happen to like the look even more without bags. One can remove them easily but the mounting racks remain to clutter up what is, otherwise, a lovely line from the rider to the taillight. The racks would take some doing to be removed.Throughout the entire afternoon the Moto Guzzi Eldorado makes an excellent companion. Even though I can’t keep up with the pace the riders on the Gixxer, Tuono, Multistrada, and RT have set, but I’m not terribly far behind and don’t really care. I get into a rhythm with the road and the bike and wick up the speed a bit. I have found the exact sweet spot when leaning in the fast sweepers to float the floorboards over the tarmac with only the slightest whisper of them grinding.I don’t worry or complain about the limited clearance, as this is a normal part of riding a cruiser. That’s okay because the Guzzi Eldo is making excellent headway and it has the juice to power off the apexes without trying too hard. Our pace is perfect and I get to enjoy more scenery than the racer boys.We traverse mostly clean, smooth, dry and warm roads, but we do experience some rock-strewn sections and a bit of dirt and potholes as we descend into Camp Scheideck, our halfway point and lunch stop. The Eldorado loves this stuff.Camp Scheideck is about 3.5 miles east of 33 on Lockwood Valley Road. There’s a sign for Reyes Creek Bar and Grill. Turn south and go about two miles, all mostly paved, to the establishment. It’s open every day, except Christmas, and they only accept cash, although there is an ATM machine.UMC President Arthur Coldwells was introduced to Camp Scheideck a year or two ago and his eyes light up whenever it is suggested we stop there to eat. He really likes it and so will you, although they were out of his favorite chili this trip. Park your bikes under the vast canopy of ancient oak trees and set your watch back 50 years–just about the time the Eldorado was introduced. Unless you have a satellite phone, you will be completely off the grid here.The owners are super friendly, service is fast and good, and the food is excellent bar food, with burgers that are sky-high. The place is relatively empty this winter day, compared to the much-larger summer crowds. We take our time knowing we are heading about 75 miles straight home and the coffee, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers keep coming until we float away.Back in the saddle as the sun begins its fast decent this time of year, I realize that we have seen only a handful of any kind of motor vehicles this day. The sun continues to warm us until about halfway home. I switch on my electric jacket liner when I see 50 degrees F on the dash thermometer as we crest the mountain range that extends from Reyes Peak. All along the Eldo is delighting me with its exhaust note. Its power and muffled roar add to my fading energy and it makes the ride home easy and smooth.Back in the garage the 2016 Moto Guzzi Eldorado is gleaming and ready for another run. There were other new bikes I could have ridden today, but I am content and happy that I took this new cruiser. It is very impressive. Rock Store photo by Jonathan Handler
2016 Moto Guzzi Eldorado Specs:
Type: Air-cooled, 90-degree twin, four valves per cylinder
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.