2016 Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber & Roamer Test
Unique, strategic, cult, pioneer, innovator, independent, lifestyle, truth, strength, pride, belonging and passion are just some of the adjectives used to describe Moto Guzzi’s motivational thrust. These words were ashed on screen at the world press launch of its new V9 Bobber and Roamer, coinciding with this legendary manufacturer’s 95th birthday celebration at its Mandello del Lario headquarters and factory.
This was heady stuff, as being at the epicenter of a brand that, love it or not, simply shouts history. While exuding its own unique, legendary style and location along the splendor of the Northern Italian shores of Lake Como, Moto Guzzi’s presentation was quite overwhelming.
To walk through the Moto Guzzi property is akin to visiting almost any of Italy’s cathedrals. As when entering a duomo, one begins to speak more quietly, as though in reverence and reflection of the history that is so pervasive in every building. Aged and peeling paint, a bit of crumbling masonry, and even war have contributed to the patina.
Visiting the old wind tunnel at the back of the property and staring at the huge intake and giant propeller blades is awe-inspiring. This was the industry’s first wind tunnel, and it is now past antique. It might still work, but I didn’t think to ask.
When approached, one conjures up thoughts of a mad scientist’s laboratory, with its 1930s-style controls and old-style gauges, and what this might have seemed like when new. On the way back to the main entrance, I see the now-gated, and once oft-used, air raid tunnels carved into the side of the hill that serve as just another reminder of the span of time seen by this company in this location.
With all this as a backdrop, the new V9 models do not disappoint. They are firmly rooted in Guzzi history and are original, authentic, and minimal—more supplied adjectives but true, nonetheless. There is nothing fake about them and you will find precious little plastic in the build—a strongly stressed point. Moto Guzzi proudly says it is made of iron and aluminum.
Moto Guzzi, like so many other lifestyle brands, targets and markets this new machine less to their stalwart old clients than to the young, new, female, and urban riders who make up the fabric of today’s emerging worldwide motorcyclist community. Even to these newcomers Guzzi wants to retain the connection to 1921, and from this the look, feel, design, and materials of the V9 are drawn.
The V9 is the logical and awaited upgrade from the V7. It is also the culmination of the factory’s refreshing of its line in the past two years, especially with the new 1400 cruisers. Sales are not only focused on the above-mentioned groups, but also on the customizing crowd. As is the strategy lately, Moto Guzzi will offer a complete catalog of apparel, accessories, custom parts and personalization kits, including leather panniers, racks, fork braces, tanks, levers, shocks and almost everything in between.
Moto Guzzi has developed the V9 line around the newly designed Euro 4 compliant oil/air cooled SOHC V-twin motor that, naturally, incorporates its signature 90-degree, transverse mounted architecture and shaft drive. It wasn’t always like that for Moto Guzzi, and in its museum are examples of the many engine configurations the firm has built over the decades, including singles, inline V-twin, inline-4, and the epic eight-carb, liquid-cooled, DOHC V8 racer of the 1950s.
The three floors containing 95 years of motorcycle designers’, engineers’, and managers’ dreams fulfilled are sitting within reach. This creates a personal, almost electrical, connection to the marque and its history. The venue is in perfect harmony with the factory and its location.
Long, intimate, narrow halls are neatly crammed with bikes, mini service carts, rototillers, a three-wheeled car, two- and three-wheeled scooters, but mostly bikes. I actually had some time alone in one hall and felt an indescribable link in the room to an energy that was unique in all my experience. If you are ever in the neighborhood, even if you are not a Guzzisti, I suggest you make arrangements to visit.
There is no surprise, then, that the feel of the V9 motor is so akin to that of the 1974 Eldorado 850 I rode last year. Naturally, much has changed since the early days, yet even compared to the two-year old V7, the advances are stark and start with the new motor.
Moto Guzzi was able to achieve Euro 4 certification without having to resort to water-cooling, as other manufacturers have ultimately done to their classic air-cooled designs. The clean radiator-free look lives on.
The flywheel weight has been increased by 30-percent for greater engine inertia. It is easy to feel the effect of this, and it helps smooth out engine ring impulses and the slightly abrupt throttle response I felt coming off idle. Moto Guzzi claims 55 horsepower and 45 ft/pounds of torque, 95-percent of which is available from 2500 to 6500 rpm. It does this in a package that weighs about 440 pounds.
Few details have been overlooked. MG claims 90-percent of the bike’s composition is new. They have re-geared the 6-speed overdrive transmission with higher ratios on low and top gears, added a new aluminum swingarm and double-joint final drive design as well as an all new single-plate dry clutch that has a light pull, easy action and feels like a slipper even though it is not. V7 owners will like this.
From this new motor, Moto Guzzi has created a V9 Bobber and a V9 Roamer with the same basic structure. They share everything, save the front wheel size, handlebars, seat, and finish. The Moto Guzzi adspeak tells us, “Two souls – different bikes.” As similar as these two are on paper, they have decidedly different personalities and the manufacturer has anointed them with the correct paint and colors to match what might be the two faces of the ancient Roman deity Janus.
The Roamer’s personality stresses tradition, shiny chrome and paint, and a comfortable ride. The Bobber angles toward sporty graphics, matte finishes, and a less-traditional appearance.
Aside from the paint and chrome, or lack thereof, the biggest differentiator between models is the Roamer’s 100/90-19 front tire, and the chubby 130/90-16 on the Bobber. Although they share a 150/80-16 rear tire, the effect of changing the front is marked in looks, and there is a slight difference in the feel of the two models over the road.
The old school part of me likes the Roamer for the chrome accents, glossy paint, and a look that is more connected to vintage models. While I like this look best, I am drawn toward the matte black, dark grays, subtle shades, and nearly color-free looks of the Bobber. I’ll go on record here as personally preferring the Bobber because I like the look, and the heftier front bun seemed to work better for my riding style.
The Roamer gets slightly pulled-back chrome handlebars, while the Bobber utilizes a flatter drag-style bend. At first glance, I thought the riding position would change due to this different shape, but the Bobber has a taller set of bar risers yielding about the same riding position for both models. I’m your average six-footer and the cockpit on both bikes felt similarly comfortable and roomy.
Both bikes have seats under 31 inches high, making either V9 accessible to almost any sized rider. I found the thin seats well shaped and comfortable, but only for about 30 minutes, after which I felt as though I was sitting on a plank. This might be the first item buyers will customize.
The dashboard and controls hearken back to earlier days, yet the single, round speedometer hides a full-function trip computer, with all the usual data, displayed on an LED rectangle screen within the dial. If you opt for the Moto Guzzi Media Platform, the rider’s smartphone may be mounted on the bike and connected to the system, allowing the rider to monitor up to five different data streams simultaneously.
Changing values is as easy as touching any of the fields and repeatedly pressing until the data you want to see is visible. The pilot may monitor fueling, power, revs, speed, lean angle, and more. This system even records the position of the bike on your phone to reference if you forget to note its location in a large parking lot.
The geometry is a compromise between handling and stability. Both models were eager to turn and happy to bend to full lean, at which time the footpegs will make contact and remind riders to back off slightly.
The chassis is a steel twin-tube cradle matched to traditional non-adjustable 40mm forks, and twin shocks adjustable only for spring preload. The suspension action was stiffer than I had anticipated, though the handling is crisp and willing, and the suspension is without any harshness.
To match the sporty ride, a single Brembo four-pot caliper is mounted up front, with a two-piston clamp in the rear. They do a good job overall, but a hard or stabbing pull of the front lever will make the bike steer slightly to the right, though this reaction was absent in normal use.
Around Lake Como, I rode every kind of road imaginable— from an easy putt on the level lakeside roads to multiple linked hairpins, and then onto the Autostrade at speeds over 85 mph. The V9s gobbled this up with nary a complaint.
At a quick pace, you won’t shift into sixth gear until around 65 mph or so. This is a result of the gearing changes versus the V7, as well as the need to make good power. I appreciate that higher ratio, and there is power enough to pull well in top gear.
Adequate torque translates to a strong feeling of the engine ring impulses, even with the heavier flywheel, and this is a pleasant vibration. The motor has that nice, at torque curve, yet it wants to be revved; the tachometer will charge right to the 7000 rpm redline without any stress. Any feelings of buzziness don’t start until over 75 mph in sixth, and then it is only moderate and not distracting.
Cruising on these machines is fun. The transmission and clutch combination are as smooth as olio d’oliva, and it is just so easy to ride yet rewarding even for jaded riders who have ridden everything on the road. Moto Guzzi allowed us a free riding day, and a group of four old friends took off north following the lake. Our pace was sedate at first, then increased to a nice cruising speed as the morning drizzle abated. We rode partially in rain, and the V9 was happy in its every move with the TC set to 2 (Rain).
Our route was dotted by charming coastal towns and villages colored in the faded and subtle rust, yellow, green, and gray that is common around this area. Our lunch stop was in Colico Piano, a dot on the map near the northernmost point of Lago di Como, not more than a 30-mile ride from the Swiss border. This close proximity was reflected in the menu, which offered more cold cuts and Tyrolean-influenced foods than traditional Italian.
When you ride the Alps you best have your switchback skills honed to their highest levels. In Italy, hairpin bends are called tornanti, and they often appear out of nowhere, although you will sometimes see the signs. They are most often located when traversing a pass, or simply rising away from the lake and into the mountains. They are frequently just wider than one lane, and unstriped.
The routine is the same—down into first gear (sometimes second if there is room), start as wide as you dare and crane your neck around the curve looking for oncoming traffic and the notorious Audis that always seem to take the racing line through the turns.
The Moto Guzzi V9s executed these masterfully as they are easy to steer at low speeds and can carve through all but the most severe. In those cases, I simply idled through, always prepared to hit the throttle or the brakes dependent upon what was coming the other way.
One sign said “9 Tornanti.” Being forewarned and counting them down is helpful, but visiting riders should bring their A games, along with a willing Italian motorcycle such as one of the new Moto Guzzi V9s.
- Helmet: Shoei GT-Air
- Sunglasses: Persol
- Bluetooth Communicator: Sena 10U
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Classic ’92 Leather
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Burner Heated Cold Weather Glove
- Pants: Joe Rocket Accelerator Jean
- Boots: Chippewa Rally
Photos by Milagro