August 27, 2013
Bob Troxel of Motorsports of Wichita
had long been asking me to take the new Guzzi California for a demo ride, but
I'd never been in a position to do so until today.
There are two versions of the Guzzi California 1400: the Touring and the
Custom. I'd be riding this Custom for about 150 miles on a warm afternoon.
some notes (surrounded by photographs):
- I've ridden many hundreds of thousands of miles with floorboards,
but on those other bikes (Guzzi Eldo and Guzzi Cal2) the floorboards
were below and just a little aft of my knees. If I needed to take
my weight off the seat at a rough railroad crossing (for instance), it
was not a problem. These floorboards, however, are about nine
inches farther forward. They're not nearly the far-forward
controls of many cruisers, but they're still enough forward that once
you're in the seat, you're not going to lift yourself up while riding.
If there's one thing I'd change, it would be to move the floorboards
back a few inches.
- Brake pedal and heel-and-toe shifting? These both were fine.
I found the heel-and-toe position was right where I expected it to be.
I wouldn't change it. I missed the little nub for the brake pedal
pivot that my Cal2 had.
- The seat is a gooey soft thing that feels wonderful on the showroom
floor. It needs to be much stiffer; there's just not enough
support. On the plus side, it did allow me to sit far enough back
that I didn't feel all scrunched up. This bike has room for me (6'
- I thought there might be an issue with my knees hitting the
cylinders (considering the placement of the floorboards). That was
not the case; I had plenty of room.
- Handlebars and controls felt really good. The dash didn't
display either a trip meter or a clock, but perhaps that's hidden in one
of the settings. In certain light, the digital display was
not easy to read--partly because it precisely reflected the image of my
white helmet fully in the round glass of the speedometer.
- The engine? At first I was a bit concerned. When you
start this thing up, the engine shakes horribly, and you think this will
be a horribly vibration-filled ride. But, once you give it even
just a tiny bit of throttle, the vibration goes away and it's a
remarkably smooth engine. This thing has power. Most Guzzis
like to be around the 4,000 rpm range, but it seems that this
engine is happy to be quite a bit lower than that if that's where you
want to be. Give it throttle and it pulls hard from any speed.
Amazing. I kept the computer on "tourismo."
- The ride? Perhaps I'm not heavy enough for the way the shocks
were set, but it was harsher than I'd expect over road imperfections and
small bumps. But then, when pushed, it seemed that it wasn't
damped--kind of springy. I didn't touch any of the shock
adjustments, so none of this may be valid.
- Brakes? Quite good.
- Handling? Quite good (as far as you can really tell by riding
Kansas back-country roads). This is a long-wheel-base motorcycle.
However, the handling on a bit of unpaved road wasn't nearly so nice.
It seems that every rock and rut will push the front wheel to turn left
or right. At a railroad crossing (on a dirt road) I rode over some
loose track ballast (sharp rocks about 1.5" across) and things were more
squirrely than I'd like or expect.
- Weight? It's a big bike, but it didn't feel uncomfortable at
all. Picking it off the side stand wasn't a problem, nor was
paddling it around with my feet.
- Sound? I always wear ear plugs. It's a quiet motorcycle,
but there's still enough engine noise to let you know it's there.
It's quite pleasant. There's a fair amount of whirling noises from
the engine, too, but nothing to be an issue.
last edit: 8/27/2013