First ride: Moto Guzzi Audace review

The Audace is proof that even small changes can make a big difference. It’s a bike for those who like to pick their rebel streak straight from a brochure.

IF ever a piece of carbon fibre has its work cut out, it’s the piece Guzzi used to make the front mudguard of the new Audace, a 299kg ‘musclebike’ based on the same platform as the California 1400. But the carbon fibre isn’t there to save weight, it’s the first of a series of tweaks designed to give the Audace a look of purpose and performance.

Think of the Audace as a slightly more customised California 1400 Custom and you’re about there. There are a handful of changes: the chrome has been replaced with matte black paint, the footboards with footpegs, the chunky front forks replaced with thinner RWU versions, fully adjustable rear shocks with remote reservoirs and the custom bars have been swapped for flat, wide bars. 

If a full-on, shed-built custom is a hand stretched Neapolitan pizza, then the Audace is a Pizza Express pizza from the supermarket chiller cabinet. It’s instant custom for those who can’t be bothered to faff around stripping off parts and scouring eBay for a set of forks that fit.

If you’ve ever tried getting up on water-skis from behind a boat, then you’ll know what the riding position of the Audace feels like. Hunched down with your arms stretched out as far as your legs, your feet feel so far forward that all your weight goes through your backside and because of that, you find yourself pulling on the massively wide bars like you’re clinging onto the handle, waiting for the rope to tighten.

In isolation, I wouldn’t think the Audace’s riding position was uncomfortable; the seat is firm and that’s highlighted by the fact the majority of my weight goes through my backside and barely any through the footpegs. The Audace’s bars are so flat they almost bend away from you. However, when you jump off the Audace onto the Eldorado (which we also tested) the Audace feels awkward - it’s up against stiff competition; the Eldorado is luxuriously comfortable.

It’s hard to believe that there aren’t any component changes in the Audace’s engine when compared to the Eldorado. The power figures are near-on identical but the two feel very different. Guzzi have adjusted the maps but the difference is staggering. The Audace feels more responsive, the power delivery more urgent and throttle response less elastic but the big 1380cc v-twin isn’t a ‘performance’ engine and its sharpened state doesn’t suit the chassis as well as the slightly smoother map used in the Eldorado.

The wide, 200-section 16-inch rear tyre and 18” front tyre don’t do a lot for the bike’s handling but this was never intended to be a bike for fast A-road blasts. At sensible speeds it feels slightly slow to turn, even with all the leverage of those wide bars. Between 40 and 60mph the Audace rolls into corners at the speed it wants to and there’s not a great deal you can do to change things. It doesn’t take too kindly to being bossed around.

As you’d expect of a bike with just a headlight between you and the elements, at 70 mph it feels like you’re laundry, pegged to a washing line, flapping in the breeze.

As a package, the Audace is contrary. A ‘power cruiser’ with an engine that’s as fierce as a Labrador. A motorcycle designed to reflect your unique character despite the fact you can walk into a dealership and just buy one. I don’t rate it above the Eldorado, which seemed perfectly pitched: a bike for lazy miles, where soaking up the scenery is the order of the day.

The Audace pushes the engine and chassis in a direction that doesn’t work for a bike of this type. It sits slap-bang in the middle of the scale, where a Yamaha V-Max sits at one extreme and a Harley Rocker C at the other.

I struggle to define who’s going to buy the Audace. Clearly it won’t sell in big numbers - if Guzzi UK shifts 20 this year it will be a success. I’m genuinely interested to meet the people who buy the Audace and ask them one question: who are you?

Model tested: Moto Guzzi Audace

Price: £15,135

Engine: 1380cc V-twin

Power: 95hp

Torque: 88ft/lb

Wet weight: 299kg (no fuel)

Tank capacity: 20.5 litres

Seat height: 740mm (720mm option)

Available: Mid June

Read our Moto Guzzi Eldorado review

Watch our video review of the Moto Guzzi Eldorado and Audace

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