THE VISORDOWN Marketplace classified section is packed with sweet wheels for every pocket, and every two-wheeled desire! Each week, our man Tony Middlehurst is going to pick out a slightly different bike for sale, and give it the once-over. This week - an almost-new 300-mile ex-demo Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber with ten months' warranty left, for hundreds off the new price...
Bobbers are great until you want to give your significant other a ride. Then they’re not so great.
Trust the amorous Italians to get around this problem by coming up with the brilliant wheeze of a two-seat bobber, a great idea that we think might catch on.
Interesting company, Moto Guzzi. By 2021 they will have been going for 100 years. In all that time, apart from the odd market-driven deviation into small two-strokes and one very spectacular deviation into 500cc V8 GP bikes, they’ve built just two engine types: a four-stroke single and, since the V7 750 of 1967, a 90-degree shaft drive V-twin.
Honda copied the Guzzi vee style for a while with their universally-hated but also universally-loved (by despatch riders anyway) CX500 commuter of the late 1970s and early 1980s. That had an 80-degree vee, a 22-degree twist in the cylinder heads, and a reverse-rotating transmission to cancel out some of the Guzzi lurch.
But that Honda experiment only lasted for five years, a mere blink of an eye next to Guzzi’s 50-year faith in the thudding vee. Sticking with the same basic engine for so long, and especially in the modern era, tells you something about the lasting appeal of Guzzi’s transverse vee, or about the company’s stubborn refusal to keep up with the times.
Thing is, if you wait long enough, even the crappiest bike, hat or pair of trousers will eventually become fashionable again. The Bobber V9 shows how well the simple Guzzi package of old-school chassis and motor lends itself to hipsterisation. If anything, it’s a bit low-key. Where are the hopelessly knobbly tyres, wire wheels and bandaged zorst?
On the move, Guzzi V-twins are quite smooth, especially when they come in smaller capacities like this 853cc one, and are nowhere near as heavy as they look. Their main dynamic characteristic is a lateral lurch when you blip the throttle at a standstill. This quickly becomes a charming attribute, as does the tendency of the undercarriage to ground out during moderate cornering. You can be a low-speed hero as you transit the piazza with the Latin lassies looking on admiringly, you hope. You won't be going fast with 55bhp.
Which is just as well, because Guzzis don’t really handle or go. They never have. To this day a Guzzi is the only bike I’ve ever fallen off while travelling in a straight line. But the imperfections are what give Guzzis their character. Identifying a bike by sitting on it blindfold and giving it a rev isn’t easy these days, unless it’s a Guzzi. Nothing else sounds or feels the same.
The vendor’s failure to mention this Bobber’s year of manufacture means that it’s almost certainly a 2016 debut-year bike, but with just 300 miles on the clock it’s effectively a new bike at a £1,200 saving.
2016 Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber £6,799 (7 out of 10)
55bhp doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough. The seat won’t kill you and it won’t cost a fortune to run. You’ll never need to replace the chain.
Suspension is pretty rudimentary, so is the pushrod engine, the whole thing is stripped back (no tacho) and the switchgear is disappointingly low-rent. Fifty years on, you should still check the shaft drive assembly for leaks.