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2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Review

October 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Motorcycle Reviews

Moto Guzzi has introduced two new versions of its line-topping California series for 2013, the Touring and Custom, with major revisions. Custom models are basic naked cruisers, while Touring versions come with hard saddlebags, fog lights, a windscreen and passenger grab rail. Both models utilize the same engine, chassis and most other parts. Color choices are black or gray for the Custom and black or white on the touring model. Moto Guzzi increased the displacement of the existing big-block engine to 1380cc, in the process making it the largest two-cylinder production motorcycle engine ever made in Europe. To show off the engine, stylists formed the fuel tank around the cylinders. The air-cooled V-twin, with longitudinal crankshaft and cylinders separated by 90 degrees, has a bore and stroke of 104mm and 81.2mm respectively. Its relatively short stroke lets the engine rev higher than most V twins, four valves per cylinder improve performance, and twin spark plugs are used for better ignition. Magneti Marelli fuel injection, using a 52 mm throttle body, is linked to the rider via throttle-by-wire. Horsepower is rated 96 at 6,500 rpm, with 89 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 rpm. Redline is 7,000 and a rev limiter chops power beyond that. Air cooling is supplemented by an oil cooler with a thermostatically controlled fan. A single-plate dry clutch connects the engine to the redesigned six-speed transmission, power then feeds through a shaft-type final drive. Both California versions have three electronic power settings; Veloce (Sport), Turismo (Touring), and Pioggia (Rain), which can be changed from the left handlebar. Veloce opens the throttle the fastest and lets the engine reach full rated horsepower. Turismo still reaches maximum power, but the rate of throttle opening is slower for smoothness. Pioggia slows throttle response and reduces peak power to reduce the chance of wheelspin on slippery surfaces. A steel double-cradle frame with a rubber-mounted engine is designed to reduce vibrations reaching the rider. Wheelbase is a long 66.3 inches, which promotes high-speed stability at the cost of a wide turning radius. Suspension is provided by a non-adjustable 46mm fork and twin rear shocks. Touring models offer adjustable preload and rebound damping, while the Custom model has shocks with 10mm additional travel, but only adjustable preload. Twin Brembo radial-mounted calipers grab 320mm rotors at the front, while a twin-pot caliper grips a single 282mm rotor in back. Both models have ABS standard. Standard fitment Dunlop D251 tires wrap around alloy wheels, with a 130/70-18 on the front and a 200/60-16 on the rear. The small round instrument cluster has an analog tachometer which wraps around the digital speedometer, plus the usual warning lamps. Touring models feature roomy lockable hard saddlebags which fit enough cargo for multi-day trips, and there’s a small luggage rack to mount a duffle. Touring models also have an alarm controlled by a key fob remote.

2013 MotoGuzzi California

Riding Impressions Press the starter and the engine lights off right away and settles into a lumpy idle. If you’re not in a hurry, you can lug the engine and short shift it, there’s plenty of torque. Gear changes are easy and precise with the much-improved six-speed transmission, and tall overdrive gearing in fifth and sixth helps keep revs low on the highway. When idling, the engine shakes around considerably, but once underway there’s little vibration reaching the rider. The big twin makes fast work of acceleration, hill climbing and passing maneuvers. Just blip it down a gear and twist the throttle. The engine has a wide torque range and pulls strongly in the mid and upper rpm, thanks to the improved breathing of the four-valve combustion chambers. Power settings are useful for changing riding conditions. “Turismo” is good for everyday riding, as it delivers full horsepower, but removes any abruptness upon throttle opening. “Veloce” is fun during sporty rides on roads with good grip, as the bike feels more responsive. When it’s raining or roads are slick, the “Pioggia” setting calms things down and makes it easier to ride safely. Cruise control, standard on Touring models, is easy to operate and maintains speed accurately. We found the transmission to be greatly improved, now it’s one of the best used in a cruiser, and the shaft drive is smooth and quiet. Clutch lever effort is fairly high, and the clutch gave off a whiff of burning smell when in heavy traffic. Both California models have spring rates and damping that are well-matched to their intended use, with a comfortable but controlled ride, yet some sporting competence. On both California models the folding floorboards are mounted quite high, and they can be leaned far over before hard parts start to grind. The front brakes are strong and progressive with low effort, while the rear needs a hard press of the pedal to feel much braking. ABS, which is standard on both models, works effectively and intervenes only when really needed. Once you get moving, the steering feels fairly light and the bike changes directions better than expected. On a twisty road the tires provide good grip and allow steep lean angles. They also track well through turns and are stable at high speeds. Touring models have large windshields that are leaned back and provide decent wind protection without buffeting. The Touring version also has a large saddle with comfy passenger accommodations and a more upright riding posture with a wider pullback handlebar. The Custom has a smaller seat, particularly the passenger portion, and a narrower, lower handlebar which requires a more forward riding position. Comparison to Competitors Due to the unique Moto Guzzi engine layout, there are no exact competitors for this machine. However, if you expand your comparison to include all twin-cylinder cruisers and touring machines in this displacement range, it broadens the number substantially. Some of the nearest competitors for the Touring model include the Harley-Davidson Switchback, Honda Interstate and Customline and the Kawasaki Vulcan Vacquero. The Custom model’s nearest rivals are the Star Stryker and Star Road Star S. Impressions in Terms of Rider Level This is not a beginner’s motorcycle, because of its weight and size and power. Due to California models’ ease of operation and rider-friendly manners, intermediate riders should be able to adapt to the large machine. Experts should have no problem with either model. Summary of review and pricing Both the California 1400 Touring and Custom have torquey powerful engines and helpful electronic rider aids, they shift and handle well and are comfortable. We found this duo to be nicely finished, and they offer exclusivity, but part of the cost of exclusivity is a dearth of Moto Guzzi dealers. If you do much traveling you may have trouble finding a dealer except in large cities. The California Touring model has a suggested retail price of $17,990, while the California Custom has a list price of $14,990.
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Author: Tom Robertson (12 Articles)


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