Comparison test of the BMW R 1200 C against Moto Guzzi California Special
With all the urge to present yourself: Euro cruisers like the R 1200 C and the California Special want to be understood primarily as a means of transportation.
While the euro has just left the starting blocks, the euro cruiser is long on its way. A path that can lead to its destination not only on dead straight boulevards, but also on winding paths. With the BMW R 1200 C and the Moto Guzzi California Special, there are two machines that ostensibly convey the cliche of freedom and adventure, but whose technical core is dedicated to the joy of driving.
In Munich, as in Mandello del Lario, it is an open secret that a decent range of services has never hurt in this context. With 61 and their 75 hp, BMW and Guzzi are accordingly good at music by cruiser standards.
Setting the tone for the Bayern-Cruiser are the uniform firing intervals of the boxer, which are interpreted in a powerful baritone, mixed with slightly tinny overtones – a lecture that is more likely to be in the Musikantenstadel than in Bayreuth. The California strikes a higher pitch and articulates itself in the characteristic rhythm given by its 90-degree cylinder angle. Above this lies a carpet of sound made up of mechanical noises that can be traced back to the depths of the engine – to gears, bumpers and rocker arms. A very lively appearance with a nostalgic, rustic note, which perhaps best finds its musical equivalent in early Caruso recordings.
Which does not mean that the Cali engine ignores modern trends. With manifold injection and electronic engine management, the old two-valve V2 manages to keep pace with the much more modern and complex BMW four-valve boxer, at least in the areas of mixture preparation and ignition. In any case, the advantage lies in the driver’s hand: Smooth throttle valves, spontaneous starting and problem-free cold-running properties are offered here as there. And acceptable consumption in practice: Both machines are enough for around five liters of fuel for 100 kilometers of country road travel – and that with courageous handling of the throttle.
What comes out at the back when turning the right hand shows that there is more between the Bavarian and northern Italian reading of relaxed gliding than the Alpine ridge. Euro cruiser equals standard cruiser – no mention of it. While the BMW is on the ox tour and comes to the train almost from a standstill, the Guzzi are clearly cavalli who only really find their creative power in movement. Where the V2 is still wiggling its ears comparatively listlessly, the boxer is already demanding the next higher gear, where the R 1200 C is attacked by reluctance to rev, the California seems to be really at its best.
The livelier character of the Guzzi, which is underpinned by an objective performance advantage of around ten hp, is of course only reflected to a limited extent in their performance. When accelerating with full sails, the BMW only gets into the picture of its rear-view mirror beyond 120 km / h, but after a while it can run away with its top speed, which is eleven km / h higher. Clearer – but with the opposite sign – are the balance of power when pulling through, the supreme discipline of cruising: When it comes to scoring meters in the blink of an eye, the California never sees land against the R 1200 C in any situation.
Land in sight, on the other hand, is what the Guzzi say when winding roads are on the timetable. With hereditary traits that go back to the blissful Le Mans days, the California chassis offers a solid foundation for carefree jets at the pace: a stiff frame with stable fork, a geometry that is not just trimmed for straight-line stability, spring elements that spring and dampen highly effective integral braking system and, last but not least, a laudable degree of freedom from banking. The reward for doing without the excesses that are typical of cruisers beckons literally at every corner: the California turns precisely and without any significant effort, maintains its lane cleanly and only scratches the asphalt with its notches when it is properly sloping. She doesn’t rock back and forth in slow bends any more than nervous rocking in fast corners with bumpy surfaces.
One likes to overlook the Guzzi that superior suspension comfort is not exactly its strong point. Especially since the BMW is certainly not covered with glory in this area. Although its Telelever responds a little more sensitively to small bumps than the conventional fork of the California, its rear strut comes out all the more as a stubborn advocate of flogging. For the 1999 vintage, BMW is promising improvement on this point.
The BMW also behaves a little more stubborn than its Italian competitor in the slalom of successive curves. The R 1200 C falls behind in terms of effort and steering precision, especially when the bars are tightly fitted. When it comes to following the briskly driven Guzzi, the BMW has other limiting factors in its way: it touches down earlier, and on bad ground it is more likely to reach the limits of its rear suspension. It is a good thing that it is equipped with a braking system that is equal to the Guzzi stoppers in terms of effectiveness and controllability.
In order not to be misunderstood: unlike many of its kind, the BMW cruiser is not a sluggish, unwieldy block that needs to be carefully carried around. Only when compared to the Guzzi does it become clear that the R 1200 C is more of a sedative than a stimulant. Which is not least due to the required seating position. Walled up in the deep seat, arms stretched towards the handlebars, the BMW driver tends to become a cargo. The California is different. Here you go with your elbows bent, your feet on pegs far back, with a much more gathered attitude to the matter – an arrangement that almost provokes a conscious, committed driving style.
OWhether this is, of course, the blissful interpretation of the cruiser idea, or whether BMW is in the better lane with the more general directorate approach, remains – as so often – a matter of opinion. In any case, both are motorcycles instead of a mere status symbol – in a familiar carpool.
1st place – Moto Guzzi
You shouldn’t be fooled by the classic outfit of the California Special: Despite the increased show effects, the Guzzi is a driving machine through and through. The easy-revving engine, the handy, directional chassis, the gripping brakes and the assembled seating position enable a level of dynamism that you would not expect in this motorcycle category. Of course, the California can also cruise comfortably – and even with very reasonable suspension comfort.
2nd place – BMW
The strengths of the R 1200 C are an independent design and a motor that can spell the magic word “pulling power” without any errors. In order to be able to compete with the California, of course, the “C” lacks ergonomic polish, if its handling is too sedate, its suspension elements do not offer enough reserves to be able to be comfortably fast.
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