Moto Guzzi V11 Sport

Words: Quentin

Photos: Marcus 

Model: Carmen


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Out of all the weird, unique motorcycles that are being produced in this day and age, Moto Guzzi takes the award for the weirdest and most unique. The engines that propel modern day Guzzis are based on tractor engine designs that are over half a century old. The chassis that is used on this particular bike is the latest iteration of a frame designed by an American Dentist for his race-bikes in the mid eighties. This strange mix of modern day chassis componentry and archaic engine design lends itself to both praise and ridicule.

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I love the engine in this motorcycle. It is a pushrod, two-valve-per-cylinder, air cooled, 90 degree V-twin. It makes torque, the kind of torque that could rip limbs off of elephants. It also breathes pretty easily at the top end, making quite a fantastic acceleration curve that never leaves me disappointed. There is a vibration to the engine that is transmitted through the solid-mounted bars that I do not find obtrusive in any way. It will rear its paint-mixing head at high freeway speeds, but that is part of the experience for me. I do not notice it after a few miles, and it does disappear at uh, higher speeds. It is the type of engine that you just do not worry about. There is no radiator to add weight and complexity, and the added simplicity of pushrods is a big plus. If it were mine I would change the oil every 3000 miles, adjust the valves at the same time, and run it. The cylinder heads stick right out there in the breeze out to each side of the motorcycle, which is excellent for cooling, and great for working on the beastie. Guzzis have proven themselves for centuries, sorry, decades, to be dependable, reliable motorcycles.

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The six speed transmission in this bike is new for Guzzi. An ingenious four-shaft design, it just clicks each gear exactly right and there is virtually no whine. Earlier Guzzi sport models, especially the Sport 1100I, would tend to whine quite a bit on deceleration, and every shift was an exercise in the art of clunk. I never minded this either, for it is part of the Guzzis character, and as long as it does not hurt reliability then I could give a rat poop. It is nice though, to get on one of these things, when expecting the worst, and end up with the best. The tranny mates to the engine much like a car, or a BMW motorcycle, with a huge diaphragm style clutch. This makes for expensive clutch replacements. The clutch is now actuated hydraulically, which is a Godsend in and of itself. The slave cylinder looks to be a robust component, the master cylinder is a status-quo Brembo unit. Power travels from the tranny to a shaft final drive. I never notice any ill shaft effect. It will raise the rear under acceleration, but it is not horrible nor does it alter the way I ride.

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The brakes are great. This is a heavy motorcycle by virtue of its Rock of Gibraltar engine (Or should I say, the guns of the Navarrone?) so it needs quite a bit of decelerating ability. Another Brembo staple, the four piston calipers and rotors that are found on various Ducati Streetbikes, bless the front end. Lever feel is excellent, both the clutch and brake levers are adjustable for reach.

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The instruments are white faced with chrome bezels sitting in a brushed aluminum housing. I am not a chrome fan, nor am I a fan of small idiot lights that are impossible to see in the daylight. I do like the white gages. The seat is comfortable, as is the reach to the bars. My skinny 5"10' frame fits a lot of motorcycles well. Overall the cockpit gets my approval, I enjoy being behind the bars of this big V-Twin rock star.

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The steering is quick. There is a steering damper mounted below the bottom triple clamp. It serves no purpose, and in effect, it makes the bike handle worse at speed. The motorcycle will develop a strange oscillation at speeds above 80 when the damper is cranked on. It is not a tank slapper per se, but a full chassis weave that is quite a bit disconcerting. I just back the things off and the bike handles great. The V11 has a substantial weight and girth, so it is pretty solid mid-corner. I tended not to push my entry speed into corners too much because of my unfamiliarity with the front end being under so much pressure. Exits are a cinch though, just pin the bastard and lay into the countersteer to keep from running wide. I tend to like bikes that you can wait until the last minute to turn, then flick the sucker in and late apex. This bike I am sure is capable of such antics, but my limited experience with it and limited time on it did not allow me to explore these limits. This chassis is nothing spectacular or unique, but for the engine it has to hold it does remarkably well.  There is a large rectangular backbone that spans from the steering head to the rear of the engine, where it splits and cradles the engine and transmission at the rear.Telescopic forks, with one side handling the rebound damping and the other the compression damping, are large diameter and work well.  The non-linkage rear shock is adjustable for both compression and rebound damping. 

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Our test bike developed an oil leak that stemmed from some ham-fist over tightening a breather hose. I have never seen this problems before or since, and I work on these bikes for a living. Also, due to the California Air Resources Board, a strange fuel tank venting system was placed on these bikes. A one way check valve in this system failed, causing the tank to suck in. This can cause paint cracking on some bikes, but on mine it caused the throttles to stick open on very hot days. The problem was cured immediately and easily, and I have never seen another one do it. This bike had been thrashed to within an inch of its life before I got my hands on it, and no service was done to it, so many initial teething problems these bikes were having manifested themselves on our test bike. Let me say that even with the valves way out of specification and throttles way out of synchronization, this motorcycle still hauled ass. When the maintenance was finally performed, the bike was like a scalded ape and to this day serves as our demo bike.

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Yes sir, I think I like it. Magni, an Italian Guzzi aftermarket company, makes a rather interesting fairing for this bike. I would factor that into the cost of the bike, because I need wind protection. With said wind protection, I would easily be able to use the V11 as a daily commuter, a canyon carver, and a cross country speed baron. In fact, if I had ~12,000 right now, I would be considering this bike more than any other on the market. Any bike that fills this many roles so well gets my approval, and so I implore you, the reader, to go out and test ride one.