Moto Guzzi California 1400 custom test

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The myth revisited

If for you the Moto Guzzi California only evoked pure tourism, the new 1400 Custom will make you change your mind …..

Tackling a legend is often a perilous exercise and many manufacturers have broken their teeth wanting to do too much…. or not enough. But as successful and popular as a model, it always ends up getting old. A destiny that we unfortunately share, by the way. Born 40 years ago, California is no exception to the rule. It was only half the capacity of today at the time. This is to say if in four decades times and customs have changed! A paradox, in this period of proliferation of speed limits, where we also know how to get much better use of an engine, as the "down sizing" common in automobiles demonstrates. This new California is therefore in the "always more". Oh don’t blame our endearing Italian builder, he’s not involved. In doing so, it just goes with the flow. Our society lives at the rate of rampant inflation and if it were not to react, Moto Guzzi would have been completely overwhelmed. The old 1100 two valves were hardly any illusion compared to the 1700 and a few cm3 Harley Davidson. You had to review your copy anyway, not to mention anti-pollution standards. It is now done !

Moto Guzzi California Custom in town

Presentation

The main novelty of this "custom" version, which shares many points in common with the "Touring", is that it comes to hunt on land hitherto neglected by the manufacturer of Mandello del Lario. The big American custom was hardly of concern to Moto Guzzi, for lack of suitable engine it is true. But even if you have to invest in a new engine, you might as well decline it in two versions to amortize the costs of studies and tools as quickly as possible. The method is essential in the automobile, where we work through "organ banks". And here is our peaceful GT which "motomorphoses" into "muscle bike". It must be said that with its proportions and retro design, the old 1100 would look like a kid, next to the current model. So think the wheelbase has gone from 1560 to 1685mm, a standard for this kind of big modern critters. The huge 200 mm rear tire mounted on a 6 inch rim, the big fork inclined at 32 °, and the superb design of Michele Galluzzi, to whom we owe among other things the Ducati Monster, all combine to make the beautiful a real beast. The stripping of the rear with its superb LED lights integrated into the mudguard is the most beautiful effect! A very successful marriage between Gothic and Romanesque, modern and classical. The great class, the real one! And since we are talking about the rear tire, let us note in passing that Moto Guzzi did not outbid since it is a 200 only compared to the 240 mm of the Diavel !

Moto Guzzi California Custom

Motor !

A beautiful Custom is first and foremost a "big like that" engine. This 1380 cm3 is quite simply the big engine produced by the mark since its birth in 1921 .. With its dimensions very largely super square, (104 X 81.2), this big block should reconcile torque and good extension. Moreover, we note that its relatively low specific power, 69.5 hp / l, is obtained with a single 52 mm diameter throttle body, as is the case with automobile use. There is therefore a Y-shaped intake duct, favorable to low-end torque, which doubles up to join the right and left cylinders. They thus free up space at the level of the pilot’s knees. A technology already seen recently on the big 6 cylinder BMW 1600 which, otherwise, would also have been too wide at the knees. These conduits supply double ignition cylinder heads, 4 valves controlled by 1 ACT. Beneficial effect of its length, the maximum torque is available from 2500 rpm Let’s continue on the mechanical architecture by pointing out that the fundamentals of the brand are respected with a longitudinal crankshaft, air (and oil) cooling, a single-disc clutch dry and a shaft transmission. (see "on your marks). Very automotive technologies again, with the added bonus of a separate excitation belt driven alternator found under all car hoods, unlike the permanent magnet models usually found on our motorcycles.

Moto Guzzi California Custom engine

Embedded electronics

Under its very classic airs, this mechanism still has the best of modern technology to make life easier and above all more pleasant for its pilot. It starts with an electronic accelerator that allows you to modulate the response of the throttle according to the pilot’s mood or traffic conditions (3 maps to choose from.). Its presence makes it extremely easy to set up a cruise control, as they say in California. In our region, we talk about cruise control, it is less reminiscent of windblown trips in large desert spaces. To tame the beast, you can also count on traction control, and ABS. Well enough turned around the pots, we start this big V2 ?

In the saddle !

Low and comfortable, the saddle is welcoming. You easily step over the bike and you just need a good push on the left leg to straighten it, because the pounds are there. The crutch folds up much more easily than on the old one. The boots take place on large steps surmounted by pedals placed relatively high and forward. This Moto Guzzi invites you to drive "feet first". Particularity dear to the brand: the double-branch gear selector which allows gearshifting with the heel. The hands easily reach the wide handlebars, equipped with somewhat large grips with winter gloves, and levers adjustable in spacing.

Composed of a single but enormous dial (150 mm in diameter), the instrument panel is at the same time attractive, legible and very complete. The needle revolution counter surrounds the digital speedometer, with a multitude of information in its center accessible by a control on the handlebars, the same which is used to adjust the level of traction control. Outside temperature, time, battery voltage, gear engaged, average speed and consumption, trip, driving time, remaining range…. in short, something to distract yourself while driving !

Moto Guzzi California Custom Speedometer

On the right, once the engine is running, the starter button allows you to select one of three mapping modes. When starting the engine, the “pendulum” suspension by 3 rods (in red in the drawing) causes large movements of the unit, but as soon as the speed stabilizes, the phenomenon fades. The typical reversing torque of this arrangement, on the other hand, remains very present and the bike swings hips on a gas stroke in a vacuum, even during downshifts..

Moto Guzzi California Custom in town

City

This time it’s gone for good. The engine purrs, it is hardly noisy. In terms of sound, discretion is essential. We are more in the register of Japanese customs, than that of Harleys and other "liberated" Ducatis. The clutch control is a bit firm, while the gearbox is relatively smooth, but you still easily fall into neutral between one and two if you don’t synchronize the gear changes well. On the other hand, the flexibility of the engine is excellent. We move smoothly in fourth at 30/40 km / h, without it bumping. A little lazy? We restart in second. This engine is a cream, it takes it all.

Moto Guzzi California Custom

On the speed bumps, the comfort is very appreciable, which nevertheless constitutes a pitiless test! The retro do their job well. Still, with its dimensions, the 1400 Custom is not the queen to slalom between cars. But it is very stable at low speed and the docility of its engine facilitates changes. The very low center of gravity is also a great help not to feel the 300 kg of the machine. In short, it’s going pretty well. And then the look is very rewarding. In the midst of Ferraris and other Aston Martins, present in large numbers in Monaco, the scene of this presentation, our Moto Guzzi does not mismatch. Moreover, the manufacturer presents it as a “Luxury bike”, more than as a “muscle bike”. So it’s a real pleasure to see your reflection in the windows of luxury boutiques !

Moto Guzzi California Custom

Departmental

We are now going back above the principality on the small roads which meander on the mountainside. Here again, the torque and the elasticity of the engine work wonders. No need to get excited on the box to come out vigorously from the bends. The thrust is in no way brutal, it is rather continuous, from the bottom of the rev counter. Taking advantage of a short straight line, we pull the gears, up to the red zone (7500 rpm) to notice that after the maximum power speed (6500), the thrust gently collapses to break at 7250 rpm, but without cutting frankly. It limits, more than it cuts. It’s gradual, not unpleasant, especially since, apart from curiosity, we do not feel the need to evolve in these areas. Almost flat, the torque curve does not encourage you to go up in the towers, but rather to change gears quickly to "cruiser", as they say in California. An occasion that we unfortunately did not see the brevity of this contact and the nature of the routes traveled. No question of evaluating the effectiveness of cruise control precisely, or even the behavior on the motorway. For that we refer you to the test of the 1400 California touring. On this particularly winding journey, we were faced with a lot of hairpins, sometimes negotiated first, to be ready to set foot on land if necessary. The turning radius is fine, but the length and weight of the bike calls for caution. In these extreme conditions, the ground clearance, usually sufficient, is quickly faulted. Once the steps are raised, if you insist, the motorcycle rises! Yet Moto Guzzi praised us the merits of a rear suspension lengthened by 10 mm compared to the "Touring". This difference aims to raise the rear of the motorcycle to improve both the ability to take an angle and also to modify the attitude in order to reduce the hunting and make the motorcycle more maneuverable, thus compensating for the narrower handlebars than. on the "Touring". A relevant modification since indeed, the conjunction of the two makes the behavior of the two versions very similar. Despite the narrower handlebars, we do not force more on the "Custom" than with the "Touring", a model of which was present to serve as a reference..

Moto Guzzi California Custom on departmental

Handling

Due to the way the engine is mounted, the entire rigidity of the motorcycle is based on that of the frame. A priori, it seems to be up to the situation. The large wheelbase ensures flawless heading. The modest power (96 hp) and the progressive torque allied to the low ground clearance do not undermine the Dunlop D 251 and one can wonder about the real added value that electronic assistance brings on this type. machine, finally quite docile? Anyway, we must always keep in mind the 300 kg of the beast which, together with the long wheelbase, make it difficult to improvise in the event of a surprise on small roads. A suitable safety margin is not in vain.

Moto Guzzi California Custom chassis

Comfort

The twin shock absorber rear suspension does its job perfectly. Comfort is excellent thanks to the stroke of up to 120mm, a rare value on such a low saddle custom. The separate cylinder combinations also offer trigger adjustment. At the front, the conventional fork masked by metal covers also does its job very well. The saddle, a little thinner than on the “Touring” version, is very comfortable. For the passenger, on the other hand, it will probably be less good here, especially since he is deprived of a support hoop and the shape and surface of the saddle are smaller. The footrests are however well placed. It is not the prison, nor a sportswoman, but for long trips in duo, the "Touring" version is obvious. You can also count on a gel comfort saddle available in the extensive catalog of accessories.

Moto Guzzi California Custom seat

Braking

Generously equipped, with 2 discs of 320 mm and radial calipers, the 1400 abandons the integral braking developed by Moto Guzzi in the 70s. The 1100 California was the last to have it. From now on, this device disappears, in favor of an ABS. Braking is good. Largely sized, the rear brake does a good job as a retarder. However, it can be put to the test when going down a pass at a pace the bike is not really designed for. However, in this case, the front ensures whatever the circumstances. Note in passing the beauty and delicacy of the aluminum rims.

Moto Guzzi California Custom brakes

Practical aspects

The mechanical simplicity and the specific modest power should make the Guzzi a reliable machine, if the electronics do not make it theirs. The extensive experience of the Piaggio group in this area (at Aprilia among others) is reassuring in this area. Maintenance should be reasonable, even if the weight (and torque) may eat up the tire. We will also appreciate the secondary transmission by shaft. For the transport of accessories on the other hand, do not plan to put anything under the saddle. If necessary, opt for optional saddlebags. Covered in leather, they will be the most beautiful effect, and will integrate better into the line than a top case. You will not be able to fit a helmet in it, however.

The price is also to be taken into account. Priced at € 17,350, the Custom is trading at € 2,000 less than the “Touring”, which is appreciable, but still not cheap. A luxury motorcycle pays off! For the record, the old California 1100 “Aquila Nera” was displayed at € 13,490, or € 3,860 less. We change register as well as environment.

Moto Guzzi California Custom

Conclusion

Very successful aesthetically, the new California 1400 Custom is both well finished and well equipped. Comfortable, with a pleasant and easy-going engine, it will delight fans of the genre. It sounds the death knell for the old California 1100 “aquila Nera” which was the stripped-down counterpart of the legendary GT version. Thanks to progress, the new wins a little more than 300 cm3 and a good thirty horses. It also takes about fifty kilos in the case. Its rear tire which goes from 150 to 200 mm as well as the wheelbase extended by 12.5 centimeters now make it a large-scale machine, which can be handled with more caution and less spontaneity, but in increased comfort. Those who militate against gentrification, or who are looking for a more lively and less expensive custom, but also less traveler, will now have no other alternative than the excellent Bellagio (75 kg less!), Certainly much less comfortable. , but more playful on small roads. If the pure Guzzists will be able to wonder, the amateurs of big American customs, more fortunate will not hesitate a moment to get on the new 1400 California Custom which will satisfy them. Cut for large spaces, it will match and match their American dream.

Strong points

  • Significant increase in benefits
  • Very smooth motor
  • Superb line, really very successful
  • Luxurious finish
  • Comfort
  • ABS braking as standard

Weak points

  • Rising price
  • Limited ground clearance
  • Weight and template
  • Clutch control firm
  • Pedals a little high

Competitors: Harley Davidson Electra Glide, Kawasaki VN 1600, Victory Vision Tour

Datasheet

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8 thoughts on “Moto Guzzi California 1400 custom test

  1. Looks like I’m not the only one with doubts happy

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  2. In fact I had seen another price, less than 7000 €, hence my remark, but yes indeed, the price is much too high.

  3. In fact it is the Vitpilen 401 which is at 6490 €. We should try it soon to smile

  4. Wow…

    well, what a welcome !

    I find this Calif splendid. Too bad they didn’t keep a decent saddle. And the two-tone paintwork of the Touring.

    A current and dynamic line and a P *** of engine! Modern, efficient … and partly Americanized, of course … Logical, given its name.

    For more "sport" Guzzi: the Bellagio (superb) is there for that.

    The old Calif ‘, it was so outdated that you could insure it in collection with the purchase…

  5. 3000 kilometers on its handlebars and that happiness, you have to like the mono mechanics of course … finally a motorcycle where you can really take pleasure in its handlebars. The engine and the cycle part of this bike and just great, I am also surprised at the negative image it encounters especially on the part of purists but hey that’s how it is …, I have for my Apart from the motorcycle license since 1986 and several motorcycles to my credit, I personally recommend it for A2 licenses but not only …, I also recommend it to purists who like virolos, departmental and small country wheels.

  6. Strongly agree with V-Strom.

    I am lucky to have an RSV4 for the track, and the week is the Svartpilen and I find my account largely there, the mono is brilliant, the handling frankly good, it is lighter than a scooter and it consumes 3 times nothing.

    It does not shine on the other hand …

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