Moto Guzzi California 1400 Review

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by mach1mustang351, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    My wife and I had the pleasure of being able to take a two week motorcycle trip in Italy. After looking at the options available, we decided on the Guzzi California as our ride. We felt like it would be more comfortable for her, and... Lets be honest, I am a Guzzi guy, so I wanted my favorite bike for my Italy trip. After spending 11 days with the bike, and I enjoy writing, it is time for a review.

    I will warn everyone. I LOVE almost all motorcycles, so this will be mainly positive, but honest. I feel like many people that write about bikes that arent theirs, try to justify their purchase by not allowing themselves to enjoy a different machine. I also own a 2007 Harley Road King, so I will compare features to that for reference.

    Fit:

    The ergonomics on the bike are quite good. The bars come up to a nice height, but not too tall and they are plenty wide enough to provide good leverage in low speed situations. The seat is taller and flatter than your usual "touring cruiser." Meaning, you aren't sitting like you're riding up hill. In my opinion, helps take that pressure off your tail bone. On my Road king I tend to feel like I'm creating a pressure point on my tail bone, which leads to discomfort, the California had none of that. The foot boards are comfortable and had plenty of room for my size 12 feet. I was worried when I saw the bike equipped with a heel shifter. On my Road King, I had to remove the arm because I couldn't fit my feet on the boards. The Guzzi has it mounted low, and behind the footboard, which keeps it out of the way, and allows you to use the middle and rear part of the footboard as you need to move your feet around. All around, very good neutral riding position for the type of motorcycle.

    Function:

    The bike had nice features. The cruise is easy to use. It is a single button operation. Hold to "arm", light flashes, single press to set. Worked well and maintained the set speed very well, there is no resume, or accelerate option, but I feel like it wasnt needed. Once the cruise is on, another single press sets to your new speed. The bike has lots of features locked away in the computer. I didnt explore, but the menu is very similar to my Stelvio. All switches are easy and intuitive, but as is typical, the housings and switch packs feel a bit cheesy. Some may say the windscreen should be taller. I like being in the wind, so I found its height adequate to keep the wind off my chest but not buffer around my head too bad. In comparison. I have the shortest Harley 16" screen on my Road King and it felt nearly the same. The side bags are smaller than my Road King, but simpler to pack as they are more round and less angular. I found it easier to pack them tight. Passenger seat, I'm told, was just okay. It was a little too flat to be extremely comfortable. My passenger would have preferred something more saddle shaped, to contour the rear. The seat firmness was good.

    Style:

    It's Italian, so it has plenty of style. The V Twin takes center stage and the black and white paint scheme flow beautifully throughout. The two tone seat take it to the next level. It does sit a bit high, but this is a good thing for cornering clearance, so I will pass it. The 18" front wheel gives it a nice "big wheel" look in the front and the 200 rear means business in the back. The part that breaks my heart is some of the fit and finish issues here. The side stand and mount look huge on the left. The mounts for the auxiliary lights look like an afterthought and dont flow well with the rest of the machine. The windshield would be quick detach.... If it didnt have two allens holding it down to an elaborate bracket system on the bottom. The front turn signals are huge, and almost compete for space with the auxiliary lamps. The non-round headlight works well, and I think works with the style of the bike, but I could see it bothering some people. Overall, it is still a sharp bike. It garnered plenty of complements and looks where ever we went. As any Guzzi will. Italians sure can make beautiful things.

    Performance:

    Handling:

    This might be the bikes best feature.... (Although it is a looker).... The high stance allowed plenty of cornering clearance. I was layed over in corners, I knew I would have been footboard down on my Road King. The bike handling was great for the category of machine. The 18" front gave a positive feel in the front end. It turned over very easily with reasonable input from the rider. After a spirited ride in the mountains, I stopped for lunch and noticed a distinct lack of "chicken strips" it is definitely a riders bike. The high speed, highway type riding, was just as good, it eats up the miles. Nice and stable up to my max of 80mph. I'm sure it had more in it. Low speed handling, was fine, but not it's strongest point. It seemed to want to fall off a bit when trying to low speed in parking lots or avoid putting feet down in stop and go conditions. The suspension worked well, no bottoming or bad manners even loaded up with a passenger.

    Braking:

    Braking was firm and predictable. As my wife even said looking at it. "Brembo, I know that name, those are good." They worked well coraling the beast down for an approaching switchback, in town when someone cuts you off, or light pressure for a series of accelerate, decellerate, type rhythm corners. The lever is even adjustable for throw.

    Engine:

    I LOVE this motor. It is torquey, but also likes to rev. It did take a minute to decide how to rev it. My Harley shifts at about 3500-4000 the Guzzi wants more RPM than that. So... I gave it to her. Pulling up stelvio pass switchbacks, it was a pleasure rolling through a first gear turn, grabbing that throttle and pulling hard up the hill to the next one. Perfect motor for that riding. It does have a vibration point from about 2000-2500 rpm. This is better than my stelvio which does the same thing from 3000-3500. It is easier to stay away from the vibration. The motor is otherwise smooth. It does make some noise, but it's a Guzzi, it's supposed to. Valve type clatter, no better or worse than my stelvio or even my 1979 1000SP.

    Some random notes:

    The bike made noise at low rpm. It sounded like the heat shield was rattling on the exhaust. I doubt this is how it always is, probably a maintenance issue on a rental bike that gets turned over very quickly to new riders. It was most noticeable when in that reaonation point between 2000-2500. It was pretty bad then. I also noticed many of the polished parts were pretty faded. Again, probably because it is a rental, and has lived most of its life outside, and has likely never been thoroughly cleaned and polished. I also noticed some odd handling issues in the rain. I attribute this to the brand new Metzler 880 tires I don't want to start a tire debate, but I have ridden a few bikes with these and find they perform well in good conditions, wear well, but are a bit hard when it gets cold and wet.

    So.....

    Would I buy this bike??

    That's a tough question. The short answer is "No." Not because it isn't a good bike, but because I have already made the decision to sell my Road King because the touring cruiser thing isnt for me. I do believe the California to be a better machine than my 2007 Road King. If I were staying in that classification of motorcycle, I would be seriously thinking of upgrading. Now how would the California compare to a new Milwakee 8 powered Road King ?? That's a different article, and opens up a big can of worms.

    Hope this was helpful, useful, or entertaining to someone.

    I'm also working on a 10 hour layover and needed something to do :lol3
    #1
  2. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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  3. 1aretea

    1aretea Been here awhile

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    Man that's a good lookin' bike ! Kinda like the Italian version of Road King. I want a Moto Guzzi but in Florida dealers come and go. I'm content with my RK police, for now.
    #3
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  4. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    That's funny, That's exactly how I had to explain it to people when I told them what I rented.

    Don't get me wrong, I like my Road King, and Harley has many advantages, the biggest one being exactly what you said, dealer network.

    My issue is, I can't avoid those dirt roads. So the Road King limits me. I can see myself ending up back on one someday, but not just yet.
    #4
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  5. davidji

    davidji bike curious

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    :rofl
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  6. Gham

    Gham What's for lunch? Supporter

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    I recall a review a few years back saying passenger seating was poor and his partner complained bitterly after a long journey.I have an Ultra and this will be my last large tourer but nice review anyway!Always liked the looks of the big Guzzi.
    #6
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  7. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    My passenger was not crippled by the seat, but she said she prefers my Road King or even the V Strom. It is hard to beat an Ultra for comfort, that's for sure
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  8. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    Its all relative
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  9. Oilhed

    Oilhed MarkF Supporter

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    I love the Cali. Except for the cheapness of the switchgear, aux light bracket and saddle bags lids. But I also love the Harley Electra Glide Ultra. But I would prefer it without all the fluff & trunk.
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  10. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    I'd agree with that assessment. I worked at a Harley dealer for a few years, and became quite accustomed to their quality, fit and finish. They are a pleasure to ride.

    I agree on the Ultra or the Limited as being big and fluffy. I really wanted to get a base Roadglide Special (before 2018 when they put the stretched bags, blacked out etc). If you get an accessory, detachable tour pack, they arent drilled for speakers etc, so you save some weight and bulk.

    I had a road king, and that was a great bike, but I like the added protection of the fairing bikes,.. I don't work there so no employee discount anymore...maybe someday
    #10
  11. SocalRob

    SocalRob Long timer Supporter

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    Great review. How was the experience in renting a bike in Italy? What other models did they have?
    #11
  12. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    It was a good experience. I rented from Central Italy Motorcycle Tours in Milan.

    http://www.cimt.it

    They have many makes and models available, from scooters to the big California. I booked about 6 weeks out from my arrival and they still had options, my first choice was the new 1200RT BMW. The cost varies my machine. The Califonia was the most expensive base rental, then they charge by mileage. They have an unlimited mileage option too. What's nice is, you dont have to decide before hand. When you drop the bike off, they do the math and whatever is cheaper is what they bill you for. They also stored our luggage and other things we didnt need at their shop.

    My only gripe was I wanted to rent a GPS and I communicated that but when I got there I was told the GPS wasnt available on that model. We ended up using my wife's phone for directions and that was okay, but we had some trouble when we couldn't charge the phone etc. The nice part was, I communicated this by email when they asked about my experience, and they said they would outfit that bike and the rest of their fleet in the winter to all be GPS ready.

    There are many on here that are way more versed in Italy riding than me, but if you want some hints or just an overview so what I did let me know
    #12
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  13. rider33

    rider33 Long timer

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    thanks for the write-up. I too have a Road King and when I went to upgrade from the TC to the M8 I looked at the 1,400’s as well. ‘Very pretty bike but my issue was the ergo’s just felt too tight, like the floor board were an inch or so too high and my knee was right on top of the heads (6’2”). I’ve had that problem with a number of modern Guzzi’s actually but on the latest version of the V7 (iii) the seemed to have fixed it (lower pegs, engine slightly forward in the frame). Perhaps they are starting to size the bikes for taller folks. The M8 buy the way is a very worthwhile upgrade to the King platform, much nicer engine and suspension. There really is something about v-twins, no matter which way you orient them in the frame.
    #13
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  14. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    I worked for a Harley dealer for 3 years and when we found out the M8 was coming out I was excited to possibly buy a 2016 Roadglide Special that was still on the floor, I knew we would be offering some deep discounts in the last of the twin cams. I rode a limited low (first M8 bike we got) and decided right then, I was gonna hold out for a new motor. That Milwakee 8 is amazing.
    #14
  15. Oilhed

    Oilhed MarkF Supporter

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    Hard mounted in the new softail frame with counterbalancers! Now if they would put USD forks and triple discs without feet forward controls.
    #15
  16. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer Supporter

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    Try the new fatbob... Trust me
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  17. Kevm

    Kevm Eternal Optimist

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    I like the Calis, but after riding them and a bunch of other bikes in the segment I went back to an RK.

    Granted I picked up a last year TC Police model at a steep discount, but the M8 is a nice motor too.

    I hope I always have a Guzzi in the garage, but there were a number of things I simply preferred on the RK from the bag designs (shape, lids, detach hardware), to quick detach shield, the lack of valve lash adjustments, the front and rear crash bars, the easily updated rear lighting etc.

    I contemplated bagging up and new Fat Bob for the brakes and USD forks, though the new Heritage and Sport Glide are both not slouches either.

    It's nice having choices....
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  18. Oilhed

    Oilhed MarkF Supporter

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    I could build one hell of streetbike picking and choosing parts from three different Harley models. I'll never understand why they don't put good forks/shocks, three discs & mag wheels one one bike with mid controls or floor boards. .
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  19. Oilhed

    Oilhed MarkF Supporter

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    image.jpeg
    I dig it except the feet forward pegs, weird seat and huge front tire.
    #19
  20. Kevm

    Kevm Eternal Optimist

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    I HATE forward controls but I'm sure with a little work (shimming, custom brackets etc.) one could install floorboards on that.

    On my RK with the police seat when I hang my feet off the back of the floorboards my lower body is almost in the position if rearsets.
    #20