My brother, Bother Silverback, once declaimed that “Every man must own a Moto Guzzi at least once in his life”.
And this is true. To combat the vagaries of the world, a man must bear the scars of struggle. He must be annealed by strife and forged by conflict.
War was good at this. It either killed you, made you crazy, or you emerged from the other end made anew.
Owning certain motorcycles has had much the same effect on men.
Moto Guzzi was one of these motorcycles.
Certainly there have been others. Harley’s Shovelhead, for example. Anything made by Ducati before 1990 was also right up there. And then, as the British bike industry faded away in the years before Mr Bloor would resurrect the Triumph, there were all them pernickety Pommy jub-jubs.
But Moto Guzzi took a back seat to none of them.
You had to be committed to own one.
For your commitment, you were party to one of the most aesthetically beautiful engines ever built, and one which delivered a note that fired the blood and tingled your gentleman vegetables. It also handled and stopped, but had electrics from the time of Christ and a gearbox made from the offcuts of fascist battleships.
Moto Guzzis certainly challenged you, but have always been wonderful, unique and edgy motorcycles. When they were working properly, they were divine, but since that didn’t happen all that often, they were bundled into the bin marked ‘stuff with character’. They became the province of brand enthusiasts and people with mental illnesses, who were usually the same thing.
In 2004, Moto Guzzi became part of the Piaggio empire, and over the next few years began to churn out bikes that while being utterly true to their rich heritage, were now also viable players on a motorcycle stage that was making vast leaps forward in technology and sophistication.
I still hold the Griso to be one of the finest motorcycles I have ever ridden. I am also enamoured of the stunningly rideable and gorgeous California, and have done lots of miles on one. Hell, it even got me booked on the Snowy Mountains highway a few years back, but because it was a Moto Guzzi and because the policeman had one in his shed, my 52km/h over the posted limit became a 10km/h over ticket and some happy snaps.
But had I been riding a Moto Guzzi Audace, the result may well have been different.
The exquisitely grim-looking Audace is a complete aesthetic departure from Moto Guzzi’s usual offerings.
At its core, it shares nearly all of the Eldorado’s hardware. Same engine, same frame, and same gearbox. But it differs in significant ways.
There are no footboards. It has pegs. The riding position cants you aggressively forward. The front wheel is an 18-incher rather than the 16 found on the Eldorado, and the back tyre is wider. It’s lighter (299kg versus 314), and, most importantly, it is painted matte black. It is one of the most visually captivating motorcycles I have ever seen.
It is no longer a cruiser. People who say it is are ignorant about what constitutes a cruiser, for the Audace is no such thing.
Ask the blokes on fired-up Harleys who tried to drag-race me off a dozen red lights on the way back from an outlaw motorcycle club’s bike show. After losing badly each and every time, one of them pulled up next to me and demanded to know how many cubic centimetres had been handing him his thundering arse for the last four kilometres.
“1400cc,” I grinned.
“Seriously?” he puffed.
“Seriously,” I nodded.
Same thing happened in some twisty bits the following weekend, and I was later questioned by the Dainese-clad scratchers who could not shake me off.
“Is that a Guzzi?” one of them asked.
“That explains it,” he smiled ruefully. “Goes alright, huh?”
“It sure does,” I smiled back.
I was smiling a lot each time I rode it. Of course, I stopped smiling for the photos, but on the inside I was as happy as a box of birds.
The gearbox is wonderful. Seriously.
Once upon a time, Guzzi boxes were like a bad joke. There were lots of gears, lots of neutrals, and you eventually found all of them. It was great fun laughing about it all in the pub after the ride.
Today’s gearbox is brilliant.
There’s still plenty of mojo
And while the bike still retains that magical sideways thrum on start-up and shakes like a cage-dancer in a nightclub at idle (please note that this is not a bad thing at all. If you think it is, then you haven’t seen the cage dancers I have), it is butter-smooth to ride.
It’s all backed up by top-notch electronics, rider aids, engine maps and a quality of build that is world-class.
But it’s still got that special Guzzi mojo going on.
So this brings me to the Audace you see here before you.
You will notice this Audace has red rocker covers, a new set of pipes branded by Agostini, and some sexy-looking silver jewellery that crests the outside of the red covers.
This is all genuine Moto Guzzi bling.
The red heads are a great counterpoint to the unrelenting blackness of the whole bike. I love unrelenting blackness, but I very much like how the red rocker covers now make that hell sexy engine the focal point. The silver bits on the outside of the heads look like jewellery, but are there in case I decide to lie it down and don’t feel like buying new engine parts. No, I shall not be testing their efficacy out.
Then there are the pipes.
Like any standard bike, the Guzzis all come over-muffled. Rare beige Arctic walruses derive some benefit from this over-muffling, but they are a long way from where I am. So I don’t care.
A Guzzi has to sound like a Guzzi or else what’s the point? A Guzzi painted matte black and boasting hot red lingerie with silver highlights on its boobs, does not dare sound like doona being fluffed.
Hence the Agostini pipes.
Marco, from Moto Guzzi, and I had a discussion about the pipes after they were fitted.
“There are baffles in these pipes?” I said, peering into the openings.
“Si,” he said. “Baffles.”
“Do they come out?”
“Si, they come out. But is very loud then. You cannot hear the musica of the engine.”
With the baffles in, the bike sounded great. It popped and banged on over-run and made a deep thrumming noise when I got enthusiastic.
But if it was mine, those baffles would be in the nearest bin.
Because the Godfather would want it that way.
$24.5K ride away
What does the Bling cost?
Red heads: $406
Silver head jewellery: $522
Engine Type: 90° V-Twin engine, 4 stroke, SOHC 4 valves per cylinder
Cooling: Air and oil cooled with independent cooling pump. Oil cooler with thermostat controlled fan
Engine Capacity: 1380cc
Bore & Stroke: 104 x 81.2mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Maximum Power: 71kW (96HP) at 6500rpm
Maximum Torque: 121Nm at 3000rpm
Fuel Supply / Ignition: Electronic Multipoint sequential injection, Magneti Marelli IAW7SM; “ride by wire” Ø 52mm throttle body, IWP 243 Magneti Marelli injectors, twin oxygen sensors, integrated management of 3 engine mappings
- MGCT Moto Guzzi Traction Control (3 levels)
- Cruise control
- Moto Guzzi multimedia platform predisposition
Exhaust System: Stainless steel, 2-in-2 type, three-way catalytic converter with twin lambda probe
Emission Standard: Euro 4
Gearbox: 6 speed
Primary Drive: Helical teeth gear set, ratio 26/35 = 1:1,346
Final drive: Hypoid gear set, ratio 10/36 = 1:3.6
Frame: Steel tubing, closed double cradle with elastic-kinematic engine mounting system to isolate vibrations
Front Suspension: Ø 45mm forks, hydraulic damping
Front Wheel Travel: 120mm
Rear Suspension: Swingarm with twin shocks, adjustable rebound and spring preload with remote reservoir
Rear Wheel Travel: 120mm
Front Brake: Dual Ø 320mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo 4 spot radial mounted callipers
Rear Brake: 282mm stainless steel fixed disc, Brembo floating calliper with 2 parallel pistons
ABS: Continental Two Channel ABS
Wheels: Aluminium Alloy
Wheel Rim: Front: 3.50” x 18”, Rear: 6.00” x 16”
Tyre: Front: 130/70R18, Rear: 200/60R16
Saddle Height: 740mm (720 mm opt.)
Minimum Ground Clearance: 165mm
Weight No Fuel: 299kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 20.5 Litres
Reserve: 5 Litres
Words Boris Mihalovic Photos Manufacturer