Auto Review: The California Italian

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Jul. 25, 2013
- Contributed Photo

As hard as manufacturers of cars have worked at taking traditional styling (found in Mustangs, Camaros, etc.) and mixing it with new technologies, nobody has incorporated the latest advancements in engineering into familiar products as successfully as motorcycle makers. A great example of this is Moto Guzzi, for the Italian manufacturer has maintained its signature air-cooled V-Twin engine (mounted across the frame instead of laterally, like the bulk of V-Twins) while working steadfastly in the internals of the bikes to bring the latest advancements on board.

When you build a big, cruiser-style motorcycle like the 1400 California, you really have the best of both worlds, especially if you sample the Touring variant, as we did. Armed for long-haul adventures, this Moto Guzzi is as handsome as it is comfortable on the highway, and has the unique sound and feel that only this iconic European marque can deliver.

The new California 1400 Touring has an engine that looks familiar to Moto Guzzi fans, but it’s actually quite special. At 1380cc, the engine is the largest production V-Twin in Europe, and features Guzzi’s Quattrovalvole (four valve) heads. This mighty mill has a biplane quality about it as you thunder about with those big cylinders out in the breeze. But while the engine is always telling you what it’s up to, vibration is never an issue, thanks to a sophisticated mounting system. The California also features state-of-the-art engine management with which you can adjust response with three settings: Touring, Fast and Wet. There are also three different rider selectable Traction Control settings as well, to further fine-tune the power to the road conditions. The final drive is a 6-speed transmission that gets the grunt to the ground via shaft final drive. A well-calibrated suspension makes the 750-lb. bike surprisingly light on its feet and very stable, and low-speed handling is especially user-friendly.

Unlike of a lot of touring bikes based on cruiser ergonomics, there’s a decent amount of undercarriage clearance, so you don’t scrape the floorboards during moderate cornering. The bike’s stout ABS triple disc brakes are also up the task of stopping the bike in short order, even in wet conditions.

The California 1400 Touring has an upright riding position with standard floorboards that let you move your feet around a bit and therefore offer more comfort compared with footpegs. An excellent windshield keeps the bulk of the wind blast off your chest to lower fatigue on long trips. A standard set of 35-liter rear panniers give you weatherproof storage, and a rear trunk is available as an option. A 5.4-gallon fuel tank along with mileage in the upper 30s deliver good range, and a very simply one-button Cruise Control system is standard. Other intriguing features include a headlight array with LED Daytime Running lights, a two-tone saddle that is both stylish and comfortable for you and your passenger, and standard engine and pannier guards to protect the bike during minor tip-overs.

The 2014 Moto Guzzi California 1400 is available now and has a base price of $17,990.

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