Road Test: Moto Guzzi Breva V1100

Moto Guzzi come out swinging with their new Breva V11, and they've got BMW's R1150R boxer twin up against the ropes.

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Submitted by dagored99 on Sun, 27/04/2008 - 21:00

Visordown Motorcycle News


Age is a curious thing. You can't hear it, and you can't see it, but one day you wake up and realise all breakfast show DJs are wankers and the country's gone to pot because New Labour are a bunch of low-class liars.

I also came to the staggering conclusion that, at 34, I rather liked Moto Guzzis, a motorcycle that for many years I had derided as heavy, old and agricultural. To be fair, this was because until now most Guzzis have indeed been heavy, old and agricultural. But now they have their new Breva 1100, and it's quite apparent that the factory are keen to drag their marque into the 21st Century.

The Breva 11 is aimed squarely at the European touring market, slashing directly for BMW's jugular. The German's R1150R kept cropping up in the press briefing, and Guzzi personnel make no bones about wanting a slice of the naked tour-bike pie. The engine is 50% revised, the gearbox is entirely new, the styling is modern and chunky, and there's a togetherness and sense of purpose about the finished product that has been lacking in Guzzi's recent past.

Guzzi would probably admit they'd taken the modular design of models like the CafŽ Sport as far as it would go, and selling 'quirky alternatives' to a die-hard but disappearing market of loyal customers is not really sustainable. Along with the forthcoming Griso and the promise of a road-going MGS-01 superbike, Guzzi appear to be getting their skates on.

The first thing you notice about the Breva is the way it looks. Gone is the retro-chic of big beasts like the V11, and in its place are sculpted, handsome slabs of metal and plastic that give the Breva real presence, and the front half of the Breva 11 is packed with stylish muscle.

The 1064cc Guzzi V-twin engine has always looked good and this application is no exception, but everything looks more modern on the Breva and the anodised cylinder heads are dead smart. Wide handlebars, digital clocks, a somewhat over-complicated on-board computer and one of the most comfortable seats ever attached to a motorcycle firmly underline the purpose for which the Breva was made.

The Guzzi people were at pains to explain how smooth the engine was and how torque-free the new CARC shaft-drive system is. I'd begun to fear they'd done a Ducati 999 with the Breva and turned it into a Japanese bike, but fortunately all the Guzzi traits are satisfyingly in place. The Breva still twitches to the right when you rev the engine at a standstill, the gloriously deep-throated woofling from the airbox lets you know the bike is alive and the shaft-drive still lends a particular feel to the handling. However, these isms no longer impede on living with the bike from day-to-day, and Guzzi have struck the right balance between 'Italian character' and 'useful motorbike'.

Hop on the bike, wait for three curious seconds before the digital dash wakes up, hit the starter and stick it in first. Stone me! This gearbox is in a different league from anything Guzzi have ever made before, and their confident claim that it is the best box within the class is not without justification. It is so smooth, so un-tractor like, that there's not even the faintest clonk when going from one gear to the next. I tried everything to confuse it - clutchless shifts, pulling away in third, speedy down-shifts - and not a dicky-bird. The neutral light refused to appear a couple of times, but this was the only blot on an otherwise impeccable landscape. Generally speaking, motorcycle gearboxes don't get me tremendously excited but the Breva box is such a huge leap forward for Guzzi that it does indeed warrant an entire and lengthy paragraph.

The engine donks out just 63lb.ft of torque so the accent is on comfortable riding. But it is at lower speeds - say, up to 100mph - where the Breva excels, with useful lumps of power from 4000rpm and a chassis that loves to cruise but isn't scared of grinding its undercarriage. There's that firm, slightly dead feeling to the handling that is the hallmark of shaft-driven motorcycles, but nothing like the solid rigor-mortis of a BMW, and if you have the urge it is possible to hustle the Breva and enjoy it. Sit back, twist the throttle and watch the world whizz by. Limitations are the centre-stand - which digs in like a good 'un and will do more so two-up - and the needlessly soft forks. I know it's a touring bike and comfort is an issue, but it is possible to have comfort and performance these days, and without paying an extortionate price.

Performance of the Brembo brakes was excellent, hauling the Guzzi up from any speed, and on the motorway I saw 132mph on the clocks, which is plenty enough with no fairing. The Breva was rock-steady and, despite its lack of screen (available in the accessories catalogue, of course), just a dip behind the clocks will give you surprisingly good wind protection up to 90mph. Sadly, there is still a question mark about reliability. During the course of our test my Breva started weeping oil out of a crankcase gasket, which gradually grew to an irregular drip. It was only my bike that did this, but that's still one bike too many, and the chances of a BMW doing it are remote.

So long as Guzzi spend a little longer on quality control, there is no doubt they have succeeded in surpassing the R1150R as a riding and touring tool. The Breva V11 is more involving to ride, has twice the character and looks about 18 times better. Towards the end of the day I enjoyed riding the bike so much that I found a piece of twisting road and spent a happy hour blasting back and forth through the vineyards of Tuscany. If you're in the market for a new European touring tool, there is now a proper contender from the Guzzi camp.

VERDICT

Good-looking, stylish and more than a match for the R1150R in the naked tourer stakes. But will it be as reliable?

SPECS

TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2005

PRICE NEW - £6999

ENGINE CAPACITY - 1064cc

POWER - 86bhp@7500rpm

TORQUE - 63lb.ft@6800rpm

WEIGHT - 231kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 800mm

FUEL CAPACITY - 23L

TOP SPEED - 135mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Age is a curious thing. You can't hear it, and you can't see it, but one day you wake up and realise all breakfast show DJs are wankers and the country's gone to pot because New Labour are a bunch of low-class liars.

I also came to the staggering conclusion that, at 34, I rather liked Moto Guzzis, a motorcycle that for many years I had derided as heavy, old and agricultural. To be fair, this was because until now most Guzzis have indeed been heavy, old and agricultural. But now they have their new Breva 1100, and it's quite apparent that the factory are keen to drag their marque into the 21st Century.

The Breva 11 is aimed squarely at the European touring market, slashing directly for BMW's jugular. The German's R1150R kept cropping up in the press briefing, and Guzzi personnel make no bones about wanting a slice of the naked tour-bike pie. The engine is 50% revised, the gearbox is entirely new, the styling is modern and chunky, and there's a togetherness and sense of purpose about the finished product that has been lacking in Guzzi's recent past.

Guzzi would probably admit they'd taken the modular design of models like the Café Sport as far as it would go, and selling 'quirky alternatives' to a die-hard but disappearing market of loyal customers is not really sustainable. Along with the forthcoming Griso and the promise of a road-going MGS-01 superbike, Guzzi appear to be getting their skates on.

The first thing you notice about the Breva is the way it looks. Gone is the retro-chic of big beasts like the V11, and in its place are sculpted, handsome slabs of metal and plastic that give the Breva real presence, and the front half of the Breva 11 is packed with stylish muscle.

The 1064cc Guzzi V-twin engine has always looked good and this application is no exception, but everything looks more modern on the Breva and the anodised cylinder heads are dead smart. Wide handlebars, digital clocks, a somewhat over-complicated on-board computer and one of the most comfortable seats ever attached to a motorcycle firmly underline the purpose for which the Breva was made.

Continue the Moto Guzzi Breva V1100 2/2

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