I’m smiling. I can’t stop smiling. I’ve just had a flawless day on a Moto Guzzi V9, riding on some of the most beautiful roads Australia has to offer, and I don’t want to tell you about it. Let me explain…
Moto Guzzi has always held a special place in my heart. It’s the oldest European manufacturer in continuous motorcycle production, and the bikes that have rolled out of the small factory on Lake Como have been nothing short of iconic. That distinctive air-cooled V-twin you can warm your hands on and the beautifully simple lines of the Tonti frame has created a cult army of “Guzzistas” the world over.
But due to a combination of factors, such as value, reliability and a calf-defining gearbox, Moto Guzzi has remained just that – a cult. Mainstream motorcyclists simply didn’t ‘get it’, and Guzzistas were happy with that. The V9 has ruined everything…
Since the Piaggio Group took over in 2004, changes to the bikes were subtle and most releases were met with lukewarm responses. Gearboxes were still fairly clunky, upgrades were slow and it always felt like Guzzi were playing catch-up with the rest of the industry.
In 2012, Piaggio established a design centre in California and not long after were set the task of getting together with the factory in Italy and creating a mid-size Guzzi for the world to love. They got together, all right – and the V9 is that love child.
You get two different flavours, Bobber and Roamer. The Bobber packs a more aggressive stance via a 16-inch front wheel and flat bars up top, while the Roamer sits modestly on 19 inches and a more traditional bar setup. Both bikes get their power from a tasty 853cc air-cooled V-Twin, which purrs nicely with 62Nm at a very usable 3000rpm. You get gears – six, in fact – and some ABS assisted Brembos front and back.
All these main components are well and good, but it’s the details – the exquisite, well-finished, considered, un-Guzzi-like details – that impress you. Whether it’s the streamlined tank, welded cable guides, brushed headlight mounts or stainless fixtures, you can see the industrial designers in California have had more influence than the bean counters.
Not that you notice much of this once you’re on that low profile saddle. First – click. Second – click. Wait, what? I just shifted between first and second gears on a Moto Guzzi almost effortlessly. Not with my entire leg, or even my lower leg muscles; just a slight movement you’d associate with a Japanese sport bike. But unlike a Japanese sport bike, the V9 rumbles oh so sweetly. So sweetly you don’t even care about the lack of tacho.
Weaving through Kangaroo Valley, the V-twin pulls effortlessly in any gear while still maintaining that distinctive rumble. Cornering is what you’d expect from a mid-size Guzzi, and it doesn’t take much before you’re grinding a foot peg here and there, but it’s still more than capable of widening your grin to Cheshire Cat levels. Braking is strong without being too aggressive and the ABS is a nice safety net when required. Transaction control is adjustable via the V9’s digital dashboard, but with a 150 rear tyre and 55 horses between your legs, you would be working hard to engage that light. Glancing behind your feet, you can’t help but notice the beautifully integrated pillion pegs and think how perfectly suited this bike would be for a weekend getaway with your partner in crime.
Riding home with that familiar south coast chilly sun on my neck, I can’t help but feel torn about this bike. One part of me wants to underrate the V9 and keep this Guzzi to the Guzzistas. Another part wants to see this often overlooked motorcycle company flourish with what is probably their most impressive motorcycle in a long time.
Moto Guzzi could have easily flooded this bike with technology, changed to a more “sensible” engine, even created an entirely new frame. To its credit, it didn’t. What it’s done is brought Moto Guzzi into 2016 with a bang. Yes, the V9 is packed full of modern touches, but not at the expense of Guzzi’s soul.
Looking down at those ridiculous V-twin heads poking out either side of the bike, I’m reminded of the wise words of Captain Jack Sparrow: “It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is – what the Black Pearl really is – is freedom”.
Give this bike a ride and go find your freedom. Just don’t tell anyone I told you.
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Written by: Justin Jackie