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Moto Guzzi California III put to the test

Competition for Harley & Co.

With the California III, Moto Guzzi presented a classic tourer in 1987 that should stand up to Harley and Co. The machine has the potential to do this.

In 1982, at a time when Harley-Davidson was the epitome of freedom and adventure, Moto Guzzi presented the VS.alifornia II. Originally the model is only intended for the American market, but it can also be bought in Italy. The great success encourages Guzzi to bring the California III onto the European market in 1987. The California, built in Mandello on Lake Como, has everything a touring machine should have: comfortable seats, even with a small backrest for the pillion passenger, a large window, a set of cases, a 26-liter tank and a high-torque motor are among the most important features. With 67 HP, the Guzzi is sufficiently motorized. Fast overtaking maneuvers are possible, and even with two people the Cali runs over 160 km / h – that should be enough. At full throttle on the motorway, the engine sucks more than 8 liters of fuel from the tank, on the country road it is 2 less. At that time, leaded gasoline was still recommended, thanks to today’s high octane ratings, you can fill up with unleaded fuel without worrying.

At about 120 km / h the machine begins to roll slightly. It becomes restless even in long motorway curves. The standard steering damper keeps the oscillation within limits, the driver doesn’t have to worry. On the country road, the California III can be playfully circled through curves, you completely forget that the machine weighs almost six hundredweight. Your low center of gravity and the wide handlebars make it possible. However, if you lean too briskly in the curves, the dragging main stand in left turns and the footboard in right turns remind you to take it slower. The integral brake system defused dangerous situations, which at that time only the technology carrier Honda Gold Wing could show apart from the California. Stepping on the brake pedal simultaneously actuates the rear and front left brake discs. The front right brake disc is activated by the handbrake lever. The system distributes the braking force optimally between the front and rear wheels and is intended to prevent the front wheel from locking in the event of an emergency stop. The Moto Guzzi California III is still a well-equipped touring motorcycle that can give its rider a lot of pleasure with little maintenance and care.

Brief verdict:

  • Relatively handy
  • Good braking system
  • Very comfortable
  • Elastic motor


  • Low payload
  • Turbulence behind the window
  • Short maintenance intervals

Technical specifications


Visually, the California III is based on the Heritage Softail from Harley-Davidson.

The data:
Engine two-cylinder four-stroke / V
Displacement 949 cm³
Power transmission five-speed gearbox / cardan
Output 49 kW (67 hp) at 6500 rpm
Max. Torque 79 Nm at 3200 rpm
Front brake double disc (Ø 300 mm)
Rear brake disc (Ø 270 mm)
Front tires 110/90 V 18
Rear tire 120/90 V 18
Suspension travel front / rear 140/75 mm
Tank capacity 26 liters, great
Colors bordeaux / cream, black
Maintenance intervals 5000 km
Price 7258 euros including additional costs

The measured values:
Top speed (factory specification) 164 km / h
Acceleration 0-100 km / h 6.5 sec
Pulling speed 60-140 km / h 14.7 sec
Weight with a full tank 290 kg
Load 170 kg
Consumption on the highway 7.2 l / 100 km



Large slopes are not possible. The running boards touch down early.

In the city:
Despite its almost six hundredweight, the Guzzi can be moved surprisingly easily – the low seat height and the low center of gravity make it possible. Thanks to the main stand, the California III stands securely in front of the ice cream parlor and still looks good today. It’s too wide for you to meander through at the traffic lights.

On the country road:
Cruising at a leisurely pace on country roads, the California III is made for that. The rider can stand it for a long time in the comfortable saddle, and the seating position is relaxed even for a 1.90 meter giant. The standard suitcases hold a lot of luggage for holidays, but a 170 kg payload is too little for a touring bike.

On the highway:
The large disc effectively keeps the wind away from the upper body, but causes turbulence at high speeds. Since fifth gear is a little too short, the engine revs up quite high on the motorway and consumes a lot. The 26-liter tank still enables large ranges.


The reliable V2 always pushes the tourer forward vigorously, even in pairs and with luggage. Points are deducted for excessive consumption.
4 out of 5 stars

Landing gear:
The Guzzi can be maneuvered amazingly through curves. At higher speeds it begins to lurch slightly.
3 out of 5 stars

The integral brake system offers more safety than conventional systems because the risk of the front wheel locking is minimized.
4 out of 5 stars

Large window, comfortable seats, suitcase, luggage rack – the California III has everything you need for touring. There’s even a steering damper.
4 out of 5 stars

Driving for hours, well protected behind the windshield – this is how traveling is fun. The seating position also suits tall drivers.
4 out of 5 stars

Suitable for beginners:
The California III is easy to drive thanks to its low center of gravity. Beginners are well served with the integral brake system.
4 out of 5 stars



The California version of the Moto Guzzi 850 T3 was the first California model for the European market.

In July 1987 the California III appeared with the practically unchanged engine of the California II, but optically fundamentally revised. Some parts, such as the teardrop-shaped tank and the heavily tiered bench with backrest, are reminiscent of the choppers of that time. The side covers have also been changed, the engine is now black. The buyer could choose between cast and wire-spoke wheels, the latter being a better fit for this model. The integral brake system with three brake discs was also used again in the California III.

In November 1987 Guzzi presents the faired version of the California III. This should underline the touring suitability of the California with its large fairing and the standard case set. At the same time, a variant appeared that had an electronic injection system. The engine developed 67 hp at 6700 rpm. Between 1987 and 1994 the California III was available in many versions, either with carburettor or injection, with cast or wire-spoke wheels, with or without fairing – the customer had the choice. Moto Guzzi offered changed chrome parts every year and changed the styling of various equipment elements, such as the case.

In 1991 the California III came in the equipment variant "Old Style" on the market, with wire-spoke wheels, but without panniers and windshield. There was either a carburetor or an injection.

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