Written by Wes DeBow
In the 70’s Moto Guzzi (pronounced goot-see) was the first foreign manufacturer to achieve a supply contract with a U.S. agency. Both the L.A.P.D. and the California Highway Patrol exclusively ripped Moto Guzzis on the highways and byways of the left coast. If you’re a fan of classic TV, you remember the bike from CHiPs, as It played a starring role and took the spotlight in each and every intro.
Fast forward 40 years to one of the most technologically advanced bikes to date: The Moto Guzzi California 1400. In addition to the largest displacement to ever come out of Europe (1400!), it's also got drive-by-wire throttle, ABS, traction control, multiple transmission settings at the push of a button and LED lighting. The California is a two-wheeled techno dream disguised as a living, breathing Italian sculpture.
We recently had the chance to hang with the Moto crew and ride the latest creation through Santa Monica and the canyons above Malibu. The weekend started with an art show of Italian steel, old and new, on display at R&R Gallery in a dark back alley of LA. The designers, members of the motorcycle media and an eclectic group of Guzzi enthusiasts all showed up to ogle the new California. PBR was flowing and kick-ass food was provided by Guerilla Tacos. The potato and cheese tacos are not to be missed.
The following morning we got the chance to chat with Design Director Miguel Galluzzi and he shared with us some of his thoughts on the bike and the brand. He spoke of the company’s desire to produce “product with a soul inside” and that “like all Italian bikes, the engine is the heart.” If you’re familiar with Guzzi, you know that the motor sits uniquely perpendicular to the frame in a 90º V configuration. Miguel went on to say “other people dream of this motor but don’t have it.”
We got a quick orientation on the bike before the time to ride finally came. The traffic was murder getting out of Santa Monica, heading North on Hwy 1 past the boardwalk. We were getting cooked in bumper to bumper, as the bikes were obviously eager to be opened up. The 700+ lb California was intimidating in size but manageable, due to it’s well-balanced design and ergonomics. The traffic began to dwindle as we headed north, and the California began to reveal it’s true awesomeness as we rolled into Topanga Canyon. Drive-by-wire and all of the other techno goodies on this bike made us feel like we could do no wrong. Canyon carving and a quick photo op on the cliffs above Malibu as the sun set into the Pacific was the quintessential California experience.
This bike satisfies the senses in every way. Sitting at a stop, the signature Guzzi 90º V engine rumbles between your knees and the exhaust note is low and lopey, like a well-built classic hot rod. As the clutch is engaged and you’re propelled forward, the California transforms into a smooth, confidence-inspiring ride. It's a bike with a dual personality like we’ve never experienced before.
The Moto Guzzi designers, engineers and craftsmen knocked this one out of the park. Available in two distinct trims, the California 1400 comes in a bagged, windshielded, touring version and a stripped-down, curve-hugging custom version. Get to your local Guzzi dealer and take one for a spin. You won’t be disappointed.