Or something. Along with the stability and continuity essential for growth (and with an output of less than 4000 bikes in 2003, boy did Guzzi need to grow), a few useful bits and bobs have been lost along the way. There was Stefania the Very Attractive Press Girl of course (pest - Ed), and also the term Eurocruiser, which might sound like anodyne marketing puff but which in fact accurately defined Guzzi's own offerings in the custom cruiser sector. The California was the only offering when Eurocruiser was coined, but it fitted perfectly the concept of American influenced styling matched to European demands for handling, speed and all-round usability.
But if Guzzi's marketing team have forgotten Eurocruisers its designers haven't, judging by the new Bellagio. While we're told this is pitched at the Harley Sportster 1200, the Italian bike is the one you'd always take if you had miles to cover as well as a profile to enhance. Guzzi's talk of how the Bellagio makes 5bhp more than the Hog and weighs 31kg less is irrelevant - it really should be pretty clear by now that people don't buy a Harley for performance reasons. What might be important, though, is how much more useful a Bellagio is for trips further than the pub.
The configuration is classic Guzzi, but the motor is new and thoroughly modern with its twin plug heads, fuel injection and short stroke dimensions. It shudders and pulses endearingly at low revs, as a cruiser should, and encourages selection of a high ratio in the excellent six-speed box so you can sit back and relax. But spin it harder and the motor comes over all urgent and willing, rather unexpectedly in fact. The sound changes, the acceleration gets interesting and the bike enters its 'go places' mode. There's even a hint of sportiness about it, and at higher revs you notice less the backlash in the transmission which makes low speed traffic trickling difficult.
The handling encourages a wide range of riding too. Like all modern Guzzis it's brilliantly neutral, the suspension works well and ground clearance is sufficient. Comfort is fine too, although maybe it's by accident as much as choice because Guzzi's transverse cylinder layout means they can't set the footrests too far forward. But this means a more sensible riding position with none of the backache woes typical of the feet-forward cruisers. The fuel tank is a handy 19 litres too, which with Guzzi's traditionally good consumption means a decent range. Add a screen and touring is well within the Bellagio's portfolio, while much improved build quality mean Guzzi durability and reliability are perfectly acceptable these days.
It'll be better when they finally sort the dreadful parts distribution though...
A Sportster rival then inasmuch as it's a cruiser. But riders will buy a Bellagio because its unique features, not for those it copies, and they come under the heading of versatility.
A vibe-free Sportster capable of travelling further than Box Hill
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