Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress Review
For the first time in its 95-year history – one rich in racing – Moto Guzzi brought its Italian brand to the 76th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Could there possibly be a better crowd that can truly critique a bagger?
The machine is the new MGX-21 “Flying Fortress,” which was created by the iconic Miguel Galluzzi, the 59-year-old Argentinian who also designed the Ducati Monster, Aprilia Dorsoduro, plus the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer and California 1400. Galluzzi – along with Ducati 916 designer Massimo Tamburini – is one of my all-time favorite motorcycle designers. His current position is head of PADC (Piaggio Advanced Design Center), located in Pasadena, Calif.
Pictures of every bike Galluzzi has designed hangs on my son Enzo’s wall for inspiration – what else can a toddler need? My passion for Galluzzi’s energy on moto paper made this launch special – but would the MGX-21 live up to the icon’s name? I quickly found out…
Besides nearly 400 miles of testing the MGX-21 in the never-ending Black Hills surrounding Sturgis, I also piloted the same machine I tested, home to Pennsylvania. Home is about 2000 miles from the hotel I also called home for three days, the SpringHill Suites Deadwood, which is in the same town where Wild Bill Hickok was killed in 1876 while holding the Dead Man’s Hand of Aces and Eights.
But more on those travels soon. A full review based on the three-day tour will follow. For now, here are the Ultimate Motorcycling fast facts you need to know.
1. The Name: Galuzzi and the folks from Piaggio – owners of Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, and Vespa, which creates the gateway machine for many future motorcyclists – simplified the name. MG stands for the obvious, Moto Guzzi, and X for “something unique and against the standards of typical baggers.” The 21 represents the front rim and tire with its carbon-fiber inner cover.
As for Flying Fortress – that comes from the bike’s design appearing like the Boeing B17 Flying Fortress. The B17 long-range bomber dropped more bombs during World War II than any other US fighter plane. And yes, there’s also the obvious Hammerhead Shark look – this was noted as a design intent.
2. The Platform: The MGX-21 is based on the shaft-driven California 1400. The engine, which produces 97 horsepower @ 6500 rpm and 89 ft/lbs of torque @ 3000 rpm, and frame are exactly the same, but the suspension is upgraded to accommodate better handling. The MGX-21 has a 45mm fork with a comfy but superior handling 4.2 inches of travel, and a dual shock setup that allows spring-preload adjustment just above the right foot peg; for those who want handling, start with five clicks from full turn.
The front rim is 21” x 3.50”, and the rear 5.50” x 16”, shod in Dunlop E3 rubber. And yes – that’s a true 2” inch exhaust pipe coming off those beautiful red air-cooled heads. This is also the first Euro-4 compliant Moto Guzzi.
3. Weight and Seat Height: Though those opposed 90-degree cylinder heads add girth, the MGX-21 weighs just 751 pounds wet. Things look top heavy, and they initially feel that way taking the bike off the kickstand, but the balance becomes better and better as speeds increase. As for seat height, the MGX-21’s saddle is just over 29 inches off the ground.
4. Ground Clearance: This was one of my initial worries, considering I destroy floorboards, pegs, and exhaust pipes on every bagger I ride. Let’s just say it took some effort to find the absolute bottom, but even after a wicked top-speed ride with proper body position, I only scraped maybe twice. And not one stateside bagger remained in sight. Besides not scraping, there are no worries about smashing the exhaust into the standard eight-inch tall curbs when backing into a spot; the exhaust is higher.
5. Brake Power: Owning three Ducatis, I have a passion for Brembos. And the MGX-21 arrives with them – dual 320mm discs are squeezed by Brembo radial calipers up front, with four horizontally opposed pistons, and a single 282mm disc out back squeezed by a Brembo with two-parallel pistons.
6. Electronics: The MGX-21 arrives with Ride-by-Wire that manages three riding modes – Veloce (Sport); Turismo (Touring) and Pioggia (Rain). The bike works best in Veloce due to the quick throttle response, especially in the sweet zone of 4500 rpm and up. The bike also arrives with traction control that has three levels of intervention, plus and the ability to shut it off. ABS, unfortunately, can’t be shut off. Unlike the TC that intervenes well, the ABS has some flaws when slamming the brakes in emergency situations.
It also arrives with an entertainment system that allows AM/FM radio, Bluetooth ability, and two 25W amps hooked to a speaker sound system. It works well, but the speakers could definitely be louder–much louder.
7. Comfort: For my nearly six-foot frame, the riding position works well. The reach to the bars doesn’t lock the arms, and the standard riding pegs (floorboards are available) are in a position a bit forward than the standard mid-controls found on many baggers. The footpegs and roomy seat provide loads of room to position your feet and behind where needed. There is a bit of vibration felt at low rpm, but when cruising all is smooth; note, though, you do feel a sort of mechanical bump in the left footpeg when riding over bumps at speed, especially when the preload is cranked for faster handling. This definitely is a result of the shaft drive.
8. Side Bag Functionality/Capacity: The bags have a three-hinge closing system that works flawlessly when empty, but if cramming stuff in them it can get tricky to close. They will hold 29 liters on each side, but are not tall enough to hold my 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro. I had to attach a typical dry bag to carry my MacBook, and the only way to strap it down was in two upper frame points under the seat, and two points behind the license plate.
9. Cruise Control: Yes, it has it, and it’s simple to function from the left-side control. But the toggle switch to increase and decrease speeds definitely needs some refinement. If trying to increase or decrease speeds in a hurry, the bike gets jumpy, quickly upsetting the chassis.
10. Finally – The Looks & Price: While at Sturgis, and every stop heading back to Pennsy, the response was overwhelming, and nearly every one was positive. This was great, even though sometimes you had to hold your bladder for 20 minutes discussing the MGX-21. From Harley-Davidson to Indian to Victory riders, everyone complimented the design, which by consensus, was “bold” and “unique.” The blacked-out carbon-fiber (real carbon fiber) and red accents, such as the cylinder heads and Brembo brakes, were mentioned in nearly every conversation. Galluzzi nailed it in those respects; I admit I wasn’t too happy with the first look on the screen, but in person it quickly consumed me. What’s even cooler is that this bike is nearly the same as the prototype that was released at EICMA Milan Motorcycle Show back in 2013–this usually never happens. And the price is $21,990–lower than expected.
So the question remains: Did the Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress design live up to the Galluzzi name? Hell, yeah, it did. More importantly, it can take corners like no other, even nearing triple digits at extreme lean angle. More on that in my full review…
Photography by Kevin Wing
- Helmet: Arai RX-Q with Pro Shade
- Jacket: RSD Ronin
- Pant: SPIDI Furious Text Jeans
- Shoes: Fly Racing M16 Waterproof Riding Shoe
- Gloves: Speed and Strength Rage with the Machine
Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress Specs:
- Engine: 90 degree transverse V-Twin
- Displacement: 1,380 cc
- Bore/Stroke: 104 x 81.2 mm
- Max Power: 95 horsepower (71 kW) @ 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 89 ft/lbs (121 Nm) of torque @ 3,000 rpm
- Engine Modes: Ride by wire with three maps
- Traction Control: 3 level traction control plus off with calibration mode for different sized rear tires
- Cruise Control: Electronic cruise control with dedicated toggle switches
- ABS: Dual channel front and rear
- Gearbox 6 speed transmission with over-driven 6th gear
- Front Suspension: 45 mm diameter
- Rear Suspension: Twin shock with adjustable hydraulic preload
- Front Brake: Dual 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo 4 opposed piston caliper
- Rear Brake: 280 mm stainless steel disk with 2 piston Brembo caliper
- Front Wheel / Front Tire: 3.5” x 21” / 120/70-R21 62V
- Rear Wheel / Rear Tire: 5.5” x 16” / 180/60-R16 80H
- Length / Width: 100.8 in / 36.2 in (2,516 mm / 920 mm)
- Saddle Height: 29.1 in (740 mm)
- Curb Weight: 752 lbs. (341 kg)
- Maximum Gross Weight: 1,215 lbs. (551 kg)
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 5.4 gallons / 1.3 gallon reserve (20.5 liters / 5 liter reserve)
- Sidebags Capacity: 58 liters (29 liters per bag) comes with removable nylon inner bags
- Audio System: 50 watt stereo with MP3 compatibility and smartphone input
- Audio Source: AM/FM world band radio, smart phone, MP3 from local storage
- Local Storage: Smart phone, SD card, flash drive
- Controls: Dedicated controls on left hand switch group (Volume, track, mute, answer/reject and SIRI)
2017 Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress Fast Facts Review – Photo Gallery