The history of Moto Guzzi’s California is very important to the company. Decades ago, the California gathered a large and loyal customer base with its style and touring capabilities. It was even picked up by police departments here in the United States for use in law enforcement . . . providing comfort and dependability prized by officers. Its march through the years included several changes in displacement, including 750cc, 850cc, 1000cc and the most recent 1100.
The purchase of Moto Guzzi by Piaggio presented the opportunity to thoroughly redesign, and re-engineer the California. The Piaggio Group has invested 42 millon Euros (approximately $54 million U.S.) in the development of new models and modernized production facilities for Moto Guzzi. One result of this investment is the new California 1400. We provided all of the detailed specifications in an earlier article. Now, we have had the pleasure of sampling this new flagship Moto Guzzi model along the sunny and glamorous French Riviera.
With the same traditional panache sampled by riders decades ago with their open-face helmets and Ray Ban sunglasses, the new California 1400 storms forward with technology, refinement and sophistication that would be totally unrecognizable to those same riders. With the new, stiff double-cradle steel frame and “elastic” engine mounts, this new California is a smooth and friendly ride despite its huge wheelbase and roughly 710 pounds (fully fueled). Confirming Moto Guzzi’s claims, the California 1400 proved relatively agile and very comfortable.
The styling is distinctive, and highlights the trademark v-twin engine with its unique, wrap-around gas tank. The huge LED headlamp, heel-and-toe shifter and other functional-design elements, including the handlebars, large instrument panel, and fender designs, are at once a modern, high tech expression as well as a clear bow to tradition. It is not a bike that leaves the observer indifferent.
The 1380cc twin is the largest v-twin manufactured in Europe. Still 90 degrees and cooled traditionally with a combination of ambient air and an oil pump system, everything else about the engine has been modernized. The electronic fuel injection system by Magneti Marelli is controlled through a ride-by-wire throttle. Three different engine maps, traction control and cruise control are also provided. Power is delivered through a six-speed transmission and a dry clutch.
Given the massive displacement of this v-twin (by European standards, at least), outputting nearly 90 foot pounds of torque at just 2750 rpm, the vibration level is surprisingly low. Credit the unique engine mounting system described in detail in our earlier article. Adding to the refined feel are well tuned suspension components, adjustable only in the rear for spring preload. Moto Guzzi also incorporates a well-designed shaft drive system that avoids the handling quirks of older designs.
The brakes are impressive. The 320mm front discs are squeezed by premium four-piston, radial mount Brembo calipers. In back is a single 282mm disc. Incorporating the latest ABS technology, the bike comes to quick and controlled stops. The choice of the spectacular 200mm wide rear tire has had no negative impact on handling.
We were certainly impressed when we saw the new California 1400 in the flesh. On starting the bike, at idle, the vibration from the engine reminded us of the older model. As soon as we released the clutch and pulled away from a stop, everything changed. This is still a soulful motor, but the vibration level is so low once underway, it is unlike any previous Moto Guzzi.
We were grateful for the relatively low seat height when picking this big bike off its side stand. The handlebar places the grips in a comfortable position, and the windshield offers good protection unless you are a taller rider, in which case an optional tall windshield is available. The rest of the ergonomics, including the huge platforms for your feet, are well placed and comfortable.
The large instrument panel is very legible and informative (indicating fuel consumption, fuel level, gear position and just about everything else you would like to know).
The three engine maps available are designated Touring, Sport and Rain. The first two offer full power, but a slightly softer delivery in Touring mode. The Rain position, understandably, reduces and significantly softens the power delivery. These options, together with traction control and ABS, provide for safe passage through challenging weather.
On twisty roads, the new California 1400 was surprisingly capable. For this category of bike, it was swift and sure. Ground clearance was also better than most “cruisers” offer.
Our conclusion is that the new Moto Guzzi California 1400 offers the power, comfort, style and handling to be a serious competitor in the traditional cruiser category, while reaching beyond that category to tempt motorcyclists who simply want a comfortable, inspired ride on a classically styled machine. The black and white versions pictured represent the available color options for both the Touring model (tested) and the naked Custom model. Details regarding U.S. pricing and availability are not yet available. For additional information, visit the Moto Guzzi web site.