MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

MD First Ride: 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400

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.

64 Comments

  1. Donwindon says:

    Seems to be a lot of discussion about torque, peak HP, tire stance etc. etc. on the new 1400cc I have ridden many bikes in my 62 years with my most recent and current being an 1100 California Titanium. I am heavy at 260 lbs and have found my Guzzi to be the best all round mc I have ever owned. Power and speed has never come close to being an issue in the hills and mountains of British Columbia. I can’t wait to hear |US) prices and availability as it might be worth a trip to Seattle…

    Report this comment

  2. paul says:

    Judging by the angulation of the rider’s legs it looks like most of his weight will be centered on his tailbone. The knees seem to be unusually high. I can’t see how the angle can be changed too much with those jugs hanging out, either.

    Report this comment

  3. casatomasa says:

    Had a Guzzi back in the early “80s, picked up from the Tucson Police auction. Of all the bikes i’ve owned before and since none has been such a conversation starter and a joy to ride. It’s really a different kind of power moving you, indescribeable, not the fastest or smoothest or most powerful, I call it the flat head Ford v8 of bikes…:) I like what MG has done to this machine the perfect blend of old and new!

    Report this comment

    • ManiacalMac says:

      I think that you are correct. Moreover – before a person thinks he is qualified to comment on a Moto Guzzi, they need to take it for a trip first. I tried one (the Califonia 1100) and liked it so much that I bought it for Country touring as well as the Classic V7 for town riding. Now I wait for the 1400 pricing because you just know this baby is coming home with me.

      Report this comment

  4. Ozzie says:

    The perfect bike to ride when you plan to stop for lunch and eat 2 lbs of pasta!

    Report this comment

  5. todd says:

    Dang, 90ft-lb at 2750 rpm, that only equates to 47hp and the thing weighs a full 300 plus pounds more than Guzzi’s own V7 which has the same power.

    “The choice of the spectacular 200mm wide rear tire has had no negative impact on handling.” This is at least impossible to claim. Have you been able to compare this to the same bike with a 140 section tire? A wider tire will have a negative affect on handling, period. I imagine the width is for bragging rights only and with so little power available the risk of breaking traction is hardly an issue.

    Still, the bike looks good and gives people more choices. I’m glad MG is still around even if they do have to make bikes like this to remain so.

    -todd

    Report this comment

    • MGNorge says:

      Just like those that fixate on advertised or measured power figures, you are taking only a snapshot of the bigger picture. Saying that it only has 47 horsepower at one rpm level and then implying it basically won’t be able to get out of its way doesn’t tell the whole story. Measure torque and calculate horsepower of other bikes at that rpm level and you’d be surprised. While a V7 develops about this same horsepower level it is also its peak and it does so at higher rpm and lower torque output. Having 90 ft-lb of torque at 2750 rpm is a good chunk of grunt!

      Report this comment

      • todd says:

        The V7 is geared lower and will be running at a higher RPM nearly all the time without care. Yes, this is peak power on the V7. I just read that the 1400 has 96hp @ 6500rpm so that means it has 77 ft-lbs of torque at that RPM. That is much more impressive than “nearly 90″ at 2750 since 96hp is more powerful than 47hp isn’t it? This way you can keep it in a lower gear longer to get better acceleration than if you change up early. another way to look at it, without considering the rider, the 1400 has 7.3 lbs per hp and the V7 has 8 so they’re still fairly close performance wise regardless of the extra power. Torque means different things at different RPM.

        -todd

        Report this comment

        • MGNorge says:

          I won’t go into the relationship between torque and horsepower here but I know they are often misunderstood. Torque is directly measurable while horsepower is a calculated indicator of how much work can get done over time. Suffice to say that having that much torque at that low of rpm means it should have plenty of punch right off the bottom unlike some bikes which will need to spin up faster before they get into the meat of their power. A big, heavy bike like this needs lots of torque which is relative to engine displacement.

          Report this comment

          • todd says:

            I know all there is about torque and horsepower, I work as an automotive engineer. Just think about gear ratios (leverage / advantage…) and RPM. If you’re happy with your peak torque on the 1400, at 30mph you’ll be in 4th gear. 4th’s overall ratio is 5.403:1 so torque at the rear wheel (roughly equivalent to “thrust” depending on tire diameter) is 486ft-lb not including drive line loss. At 30mph, you’ll be at peak torque on the V7 in 2nd gear (with half the tach still to go). 2nd has an overall ratio of 10.39:1 so its 44ft-lb at the crank is 457ft-lb at the rear wheel.

            A motorcycle rear wheel is roughly a 12″ rolling radius so 1 ft-lb of torque is pretty much 1 lbf of thrust. The 1400 has a 486:710 or a 0.68 thrust ratio. the V7 has a 457:395 or a 1.16 thrust ratio. What this means is that at 30 mph the Guzzi V7 will accelerate 1.7 times harder than the 1400.

            -todd

            Report this comment

          • Fred M. says:

            Todd,

            You are working very hard to concoct a weird scenario in which your original comment seems less silly. But you can’t expect us to take you seriously when you’ve got the 1400 in 4th gear while you’ve got the V7 in second gear at the same speed.

            Now let’s get to the errors and omissions in your calculations.

            Moto Guzzi claims that the peak torque for the 2013 V7 is 44.3 lb.-ft. (60Nm) @ 2800 rpm. (The peak torque occurring at 5000 rpm on their U.S. sites is an error, as downward-sloping dyno torque graphs prove.) See:

            http://www.motoguzziv7.com/_en/downloads/special_technical_en.pdf

            That works out to 23.6 hp for the V7 at peak torque vs. 47.1 hp for the 1400. Figuring 200 pounds for rider, fuel, and gear, that takes us to rolling weights of 595 for the V7 and 910 for the 1400. That’s 25.2 pounds per horsepower for the V7 and 19.3 for the California 1400.

            For an automotive engineer who claims to “know all there is about torque and horsepower,” I am surprised you would omit the weight of the rider, gear, and fuel when calculating motorcycle acceleration rates. That adds about 50% to the weight of the V7. Similarly surprising is your decision to substitute peak torque for peak horsepower when comparing the acceleration potential of the two bikes.

            All of this is rather silly, of course, since the California 1400 is intended to be a touring cruiser class of motorcycle, where the high-revving, low-torque, unfaired V7 would have riders gritting their teeth and swearing in short order. That it is still faster than the V7 is more amusing than important.

            Regarding the somewhat snarky comment “I’m glad MG is still around even if they do have to make bikes like this to remain so,” Moto Guzzi has made bikes like this for decades. In fact, it hearkens back to the Moto Guzzi Eldorado 850s of the 1970s that were used by the California Highway Patrol and other police departments.

        • fast2win says:

          At a claimed 437 fueled and 710 fueled (by Guzzis wet weight)I get 7.3 lbs vs. 9.2. which is a huge difference. And having 90ft lbs @ 2750 is a big deal, and and a lot more important than 77 @ 6500rpm. You will spen a whole lot more time at 3000rpm than you will 6500. A quick look at an et calculator of 1/4 mile times I gave the 1400 a total weight with rider of 880 and the v7 of 600. You get a solid ass kicking of an estimated 12.6 vs 14.1 for the v7. No matter how you look at the 1400 will easily out run the little bro.

          Report this comment

          • todd says:

            yes because in the 1/4 mile you are running nowhere near 2750 RPM. You are using the power of the motor to go as fast as you can, that means using the 96 odd ponies it has at 6500 RPM . People talk “torque” in one sentence then talk “power” in another. Those are two different things represented by two different metrics. BTW, I’ve read 743lb curb weight without accessories.

            I would agree that the 1400 is more powerful than the V7, 96hp vs 50hp. That’s obvious. If you want to ride along at peak torque you will not be using the potential power the bike has and you will get beat by the V7. That was my argument. Get it?

            Report this comment

          • MGNorge says:

            Todd, I just want to point out that I never spoke that I wanted to ride around, never revving past the torque peak. Not sure where that came from? My point was that this engine produces its torque peak at a very low rpm which allows easy take off’s and a good punch when you want to wick it up some. Those traits allow an easy ride around town and allow the rider to shift less often compared to some other bikes.

            Report this comment

          • fast2win says:

            Your argument would be rediculus. Why don’t you just put the 1400 in 5th gear and start the v7 in 1st. Thats an absurd comparison. If you put them both in 2nd gear at 30, it’s bye bye v7.

            Report this comment

          • todd says:

            because the argument was about using peak torque. If you want your 1400 engine to be using its peak torque at 30 mph you will need to be in 4th gear. You would be spinning the motor much higher in lower gears and would be relying on the greater horsepower the engine makes even if it is producing less torque. The argument shows that power is power, torque is a number that cannot be felt and is not synonymous with power.

            -todd

            Report this comment

          • Fred M. says:

            Todd,

            Your entire scenario is based on flawed assumptions (wrong RPM for peak torque on V7, exclusion of rider, gear, and fuel from weight, etc.). See my response above.

            As to your claim that torque is not related to power, you are wrong. The area under the torque curve is more important to most street riders than the height of the horsepower peak. That’s because most street riders do not ride on the street at the high RPM necessary to be anywhere near the peak horsepower. That’s something that Erik Buell understood and why he aimed for a very smooth, flat torque curve rather than a peaky torque curve better suited to racing than street riding.

            Report this comment

    • Provalogna says:

      For years I drove a firetruck with aluminum 100′ extension ladder and almost endless firefighting and forcible entry tools. The truck weighed, well frankly, I forgot how many tons. The Detroit diesel motor made only about 400hp, but tons of torque. It wasn’t exactly quick off the line, but it got up the steepest hills in San Francisco.

      Report this comment

    • mr_dirtrider says:

      So what is typical HP at 2750 RPM? I don’t know if 47 is low or not. I drove an 18 wheeler while waiting for another job and I was struck that they were only putting out 300-450HP. The thing is, they put out that horsepower at 1700RPM. Try pulling 40 tons with a 400HP pickup truck engine.

      Report this comment

      • MGNorge says:

        Torque is a measured twisting force taken either at the crankshaft or from the drive wheels which is how most publications will advertise measured torque. Horsepower is a calculated figure to indicate the amount of work an engine, or motor, can produce over time. But taking “a” figure of either is only to state a maximum figure or at a specific rpm, it does not tell the whole story. Mixed with that are transmission gear ratios and a final drive ratio that combine with engine output to get you down the road.

        Diesel engines are generally not high revving engines and are known for their big torque output at low rpm numbers. Because rpm is relatively low the calculated horsepower will be less than say another engine which produces the same torque but at higher rpm. The second engine is then capable of getting more work done over time than the first, everything else being the same.

        While torque and horsepower are related it is torque that provides the initial punch when you whack open the throttle. The ability of the engine to maintain that torque, or at least not taper off too quickly, as rpm rises is where horsepower builds and provides acceleration beyond the initial opening of the throttle.

        High torque, low rpm engines hauling heavy loads may be able to drag themselves up and over a mountain but may not do it quickly. Lower torque producing engines that are able to produce higher rpm can produce much more horsepower which will aid acceleration with lighter loads but may be incapable of hauling the heavier load as above unless gearing allows enough torque multiplication at the drive wheels to do so and it may be slow going also. The pickup truck with 400 hp compared to semi-truck with greater torque but with same 400 hp.

        The above is a simplified explanation to aid visualization of torque and horsepower. I think there is a tendency for many to over simplify things by comparing advertised or measured power figures. There are a number of variables.

        Report this comment

        • Jake says:

          MGNorge says: “Horsepower is a calculated figure to indicate the amount of work an engine…can produce over time.
          Diesel engines…big torque output at low rpm. Because rpm is relatively low the calculated horsepower will be less than say another engine which produces the same torque but at higher rpm. The second engine is then capable of getting more work done over time than the first, everything else being the same.”

          Mr. Soichiro Honda (winner of many Grands Prix) said: “Revs are free.”

          Report this comment

        • todd says:

          the pickup truck with 400 hp will pull the same load at the same speed and acceleration as the big rig it will just be doing it at a much higher RPM. You said it yourself, horsepower represents how much work it can do. Both engines have the same HP, both can do the same work. Look at it this way; torque is how much effort you put into a task to complete it (work). Some people put in more effort than others to accomplish the same task. If an engine has more torque but at a lower RPM you will have to gear it up higher to go the same speed as another engine running at a higher RPM. If you raise the gear ratio you reduce the amount of leverage the motor has. You riding your bicycle are cranking out 120 – 150ft-lb of torque but it’s at such a low RPM that you have to gear your bicycle way up just so you can go 15 mph. Even though you can crank out twice as much torque as a Harley you’ll never out accelerate it. It’s all about power, not torque.

          -todd

          Report this comment

  6. Carl Allison says:

    Previous MG big block engines have gotten their best MPG when cruising at around 4200 RPM. If you get some schmuck that insists on low-revving it like a Harley, you get crappy gas mileage. Hopefully, the C14 will perform more economically than in the review in the hands of a real owner.

    Report this comment

  7. Murray says:

    @ Duncan
    “Triumph 1700cc in the Thunderbird Storm?”

    If you talk to the average UK resident they don’t consider themselves part of Europe they are just located near there and if you talk to the average European they don’t consider the UK part of Europe.

    @ CMC
    ” Were journalists riding the snot out of the new California to attain such low mpg, or is that the norm and consequence of its high power?”

    let me see journalists with w free motorcycle and free fuel on some very nice roads, lets take a wild stab in the dark how they rode them? I know what I’d be doing! The other thing is if you have had anything to do with electro plated bores they take a very long time to bed in and give their best ie around 20 000kms I doubt any of the press fleet had anything like those kind of kms. This will affect your l/100km MPG. I wouldn’t exactly describe 90hp as high hp Guzzi were extracting that out of their two valve push rod motor back in the 90′s this was their “sporting” models none of which have anywhere near the civility of anything they currently offered and I’d suggest the new calli is a step forward again in that department.

    Report this comment

  8. JimC says:

    I think I would rather have the MG Bellagio in the U.S. Bigger is not necessarily better. For my purposes, certainly.

    Report this comment

  9. 25 to 30 MPG? Geez my Ural Retro, dubbed OPEC’s favorite bike gets better than that! Shoot my HD E-Glide Sport and BMW R90/6 (both with sidecars) even better that. (yeah, I’m a geezer, but still riding pushiung 60, will you youngins still be riding by then?) One would think that with this quote “All together, Moto Guzzi claims the new engine improves fuel economy by 15-20% over the engine found in the Norge, despite the big jump in displacement.” that some one was riding the ever living crap out of the bike. Typical moto-journalist behavior, take a bike out, flog it, ride it as it was not intended to be ridden, then write about it… Kinda like it, hope it does well…

    Report this comment

  10. John says:

    I have to say, if i wanted to buy a cruiser for some bizarre reason, it would probably be that one.

    Report this comment

  11. carolinarider says:

    I’ve loved the California models since I rode one 15 years ago…Have owned a number of bikes over the years but never a Goose. This may be the first, but I’ll try to be patient over the next year and see how this bike pans out..I’ve never been one to buy a first year model.

    Report this comment

  12. Micheal Newcastle says:

    With the cylinders that close to your knees you can surely expect a lot of heat on most days. Guzzi California 1400 riders will be easily recognized as the riders with the charred kneecaps on their jeans.

    Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Guzzi California 1400 riders will be easily recognized as the riders with the charred kneecaps on their jeans”

      any bike with undertail pipes (ducati, honda, yamaha, triumph, etc) =’s “roasted kiwis”. charred knees then sounds like a holiday…!? LOL :)

      Report this comment

    • Craig Jackman says:

      Not anymore than you can recognize Harley riders by the charring on the inside of their calves

      Report this comment

  13. Patrick D says:

    Does the (several desades worth of) development from a 750cc to a 1400cc suggest progress? Or laziness?

    ‘sure it’s improved over the previous one; feel that extra power, sir’

    BMW take mpg as a serious issue with their bikes of late, such as their 800cc twin cylinder engine, and Honda with their 700cc engine. for the most part, though, motorcycling seems to be in denial about fuel prices.

    Report this comment

    • MGNorge says:

      Here in the US we have generally lower fuel prices than elsewhere in the world and motorcycles tend to be “toys”. In other words, motorcycles aren’t usually our primary vehicle. In comparison to many of our cars, our bikes get very good mileage with unmatched performance and fun as a plus. If a bike with better mileage is wanted or needed then we buy a smaller displacement bike. Bikes like this are not bought with economy in mind as much as for the enjoyment they bring to their owner.

      Report this comment

  14. Kent says:

    It’s so sad to see Europe join the “how large of an engine can I squeeze into a bike frame” race to the bottom.

    Is there some sort of contest with cruiser riders about who has the biggest engine? WHat’s the damn point?

    Report this comment

  15. bad Chad says:

    HD Road king, RIP…

    Report this comment

  16. bmidd says:

    They should have put cup holders or ashtrays on the top of the cylinders.

    Report this comment

  17. cmc says:

    1&2) How was heat off the cylinders on the legs and fuel economy? Other early reviews have noted (in their opinion) excessive heat in even cool ambient air temperatures, and US mpg in the 25-30 range on the gage display. Were journalists riding the snot out of the new California to attain such low mpg, or is that the norm and consequence of its high power? 3) Does the engine require regular or premium octane? 4) I understand the DRL trim lights to either side of the main lo/hi lights are LED, and that the hi beam reflector uses a halogen bulb, but what is the main projector headlight? By color in images, it looks like a halogen projector, but everyone keeps calling it an LED headlight. Is it truly an LED powered lo beam projector, similar to the two LED projectors Harley uses for lo/hi on their “daymaker” head lights? Overall, I like the modern interpretation of the traditional look. A foot in the past and the future. And nice to see Moto Guzzi attempt to lead with such a nice electronics package and design detailing. I don’t understand why more manufacturers don’t try harder to add ‘surprise and delight” features like switchable power maps, TC, cruise control, better lighting, tire pressure monitoring, etc to more bikes. Its just a little extra development and the cost of a button or two and a display. Without such new features, most new bikes really are not much different than the piles of used bikes on the market. The new Ninja 650R ABS for example is a nice middleweight bike. But is it really that different from a 3 year old 650R ABS? A little more power, different headlight shape (but not really more effective), maybe slightly different suspension tuning… but that’s it besides it being new and having a warranty. But if you add things like TC, power maps, HID or LED lighting to a 650R… those are things the used bikes don’t have. Those features at a reasonable cost are one means to really entice buyers back into new bike showrooms. For buyers that don’t like the complexity, there are piles of simple used bikes to fill that need.

    Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Those features at a reasonable cost are one means to really entice buyers back into new bike showrooms.”

      who then try and offer a price even LOWER than the price from 3 years ago for the bike when it DIDN’T have these improvements…?!

      Report this comment

    • todd says:

      …”or is that the norm and consequence of its high power?” High power? 90ft-lbs at 2750 is 47HP. Through a shaft drive’s 20% loss let’s call it 37HP and the bike still weighs over 300 pounds more than the Guzzi V7 with the same power…

      -todd

      Report this comment

  18. ross livingston says:

    very nice, seems very comparable to Road King (although a bit lighter)
    It’s a shame Paiggio/MG has not developed a better dealer network. I would consider purchaseif I could find a convienet dealer.

    Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “It’s a shame Paiggio/MG has not developed a better dealer network.”

      again, this is not a manufacturer problem, but a problem with the “fan-sumers”.

      Report this comment

      • Scotty says:

        Take a Guzzi for a long ride Ross- I did in 2004 and that was it for me. Guzzi since then all the way… :-) I’m more a 750 solo touring kind of guy, but the white 1400 Cali looks wonderful to me.

        Report this comment

        • Jake says:

          An alternative view: I (at dlr’s request) took a big Guzzi for a test ride. I, right away, brought it back saying, “I think there’s something wrong with it — something wrong with the way it runs?”
          The dlr. took it down the road and came back and said, “No, nothing wrong — that’s the way they are.” :o)

          Report this comment

  19. Duncan says:

    “The 1380cc twin is the largest manufactured in Europe”

    Triumph 1700cc in the Thunderbird Storm?

    Report this comment

  20. Denny says:

    Well fed Goose, indeed.

    Report this comment

  21. Jamo says:

    Nice Guzzi. Very nice. Maybe they can interest a few more dealers.

    Some clue as to the MSRP would be appreciated.

    I hope the Magnetti Morelli fuel injection system has been developed significantly from the MM system once used briefly by Harley-Davidson.

    Report this comment