- The Moto Guzzi Tuscany Experience is a unique ride put together for owners and dealers to properly experience the values of the brand.
- A number of Malaysians joined the ride to explore the Italian countryside on various Guzzis.
- Taking place over four days at the historic town of Siena, the ride covered a few hundred kilometers with plenty of stops for great food along the way.
- Participants not only get to experience riding in a foreign country with breathtaking views, but also get to experience different Moto Guzzi models.
Video highlights from the ride.
“You have come to the right place to ride motorcycles. Southern Italy is too influenced by mediterranean culture, and Northern Italy is influenced by the Germans and the Swiss. Central Italy is still uniquely Italian, everything from the culture to the landscape,” said the cab driver at the Siena train station, en route to Hotel Montaperti, located about 20 minutes out of town.
Siena is an old medieval Italian town which can trace its history back for centuries, up until 900BC actually. Typical of old Italian towns with a storied past, Siena boasts old brick buildings, a central square, a tall clock tower and of course a huge intricately designed Catholic Church.
I had just arrived after a grueling 25 hour journey from KL. Though tiring, I had an entire day to recuperate for the ride ahead. Jet lagged, I decide to call it a day at about 7pm Italian time (1am back in Malaysia), but not before scrutinizing the beautiful Guzzis that dominated the hotel carpark.
Lined up neatly, there was every single modern Moto Guzzi you could think of, including the gargantuan MGX-21, the all-dominating Audace, the entire range of the V7 III as well as the V9. I knew happy days lay ahead, but first, I needed to lay my head down. Oh and there were a few Aprilias too, for the marshals to chase down anyone who strays away from the group.
Moto Guzzi has been enjoying a resurgence in Malaysia. The Italian bike maker is one of the oldest in the world, was the first to have a wind tunnel at its factory, was at one point the best selling motorcycle in the world, and is also the first bike maker to use a transversely mounted V-engine, a feature still seen today in all Moto Guzzi motorcycles.
So as the sun rose the next day, warming up the farm lands and gently lifting the fog from the night before to reveal the beautiful Tuscanian country side. I walked among the Guzzis, deciding on my stead for the day.
On my left was the MGX-21 Flying Fortress, a behemoth of a bike with plenty of carbon-fibre that didn’t do much to lighten the bike. I thought it looked cool, but despite being a fan of baggers, it just didn’t appeal to me all that much but I did end up riding it later. On the right were the range of V7s and V9s, which I thought I’d reserve for another day since I had four full days of riding ahead.
And so came the Audace, a bike that had just been launched in Malaysia and I had heard good things about from the many dealers who were also present at the ride. And so I settled on a Audace in Guzzi’s Matte Impetuoso Red. Placing my helmet on it confirmed it as mine for the day, a gentleman’s agreement everyone understood.
The first day was more of a “familiarization” ride for everyone – since the ride brought together riders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and from other parts of the world, day one was a chance to get used to riding on the wrong side of the road, and to acclimatise to the chilly end-of-summer weather. And so we rode about 150km’s on the first day, but it was spectacular no less, we rode along the “Crete Senesi” region, across rolling green hills, through ancient villages, and a stop at the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, which was founded in the year 1313.
Officially called the ‘Moto Guzzi Tuscany Experience’, the ride takes place at different places around Europe at different times of the year. After Tuscany, the organising team headed to Sardinia for a similar ride there but for a different group of owners and distributors. The Moto Guzzi Experience of Tuscany was just one chapter of three separate rides, each designed to give owners the ultimate Moto Guzzi experience, with some of the most stunning landscapes a biker can experience.
Day 2 involved riding about 240km with a stop at the Piaggio Museum for lunch while admiring new and old models from Vespa and Aprilia but very little of Moto Guzzi, which was understandable since the brand is based in Mandello del Lario, which is closer to Milan.
I selfishly stuck to the Audace for a little while longer, it was perfect for the narrow country roads, obviously designed and built for leisurely cruising but with a wild side to it too. It is powered by a 1380cc V-twin engine that puts out 96hp and 121Nm of torque. Fast and comfortable, the Audace was probably the favourite of the lot as everyone seemed to not want to give it up for the next person, yours truly included.
After exploring the countryside, we stopped at the walled town of Volterra, another ancient town that has been continuously inhabited since at least 8th century BC. After some gelato and racking up the step counter, we swapped bikes for the ride back to the hotel. This time I jumped on the V9 Bobber.
I own a Harley-Davidson Sportster 48, and in my opinion, it is the most genuine Bobber in the market despite other brands having their own interpretation of it. The thick 90 section front tyre may give the 48 a clumsy feel up front, but there is just something about big fat tyres that add visual drama. The V9 Bobber however was a revelation of sorts, despite not having the visual appeal of the 48 or even the Triumph Bobber.
It too has a 90 section tyre up front but you sit upright with your feet resting on the mid-placed foot pegs. The sitting position is comfortable and borderline sporty even, which makes this Bobber surprisingly enthusiastic in the twisties. But naturally, handling is let down with that burly front tyre.
The V9 Bobber has the same 853cc V-twin engine as the Roamer with the same 55hp and 62Nm output. Though not terribly quick, the Bobber can be quite fun to ride, and quite comfortable despite the thinly padded seat. In terms of technical features, the V9 Bobber does not offer much, suspension set up consists of telescopic hydraulic forks up front and dual shock absorbers clutching a lightweight alloy swingarm with adjustable preload. The braking system is made up of a 320mm single disk up front with a Brembo four-piston caliper and a 260mm disc with twin piston caliper for the rear. ABS is offered as standard.
The one part where my 48 really sucks at is fuel range because of that tiny 8-litre peanut tank. I get range anxiety every time I ride long distance on the 48 so end up refuelling more often than I need to, and that is also partly why I am thinking of selling it for something more usable. And that is a problem the V9 Bobber does not have with its 15-litre fuel tank. It goes further and has the capability to carve a smile on anyone’s face.
Day 3 – 200km ride. The MGX-21 Flying Fortress is all about visual drama. It turns heads wherever it goes, and fans of sports bikes will appreciate the generous use of carbon-fibre almost everywhere you can think off (check out that carbon-fibre front wheel, below). And yet, despite being loaded with one of the lightest element in the world, the MGX-21 still somehow manages to weigh in at a stonking 336kg! That is seriously heavy, and trust me on this one, the Flying Fortress was not easy to ride, especially at low speed through traffic.
I found the bike to be clumsy, and because of its weight, it wasn’t a lot of fun in corners. It was fine in a straight line, comfortable and relaxing to ride, but not so at low speed. The bike is unlikely to make it to Malaysia, but as far as dramatic presence is concerned, the MGX-21 Flying Fortress looks like something out of a marvel comic.
I hopped on to the Moto Guzzi California next, for the ride to the wine producing town of Montelpulciano.
Like the rest of the towns we visited, Montelpulciano too has been around for millennia, and is surrounded by breathtaking landscape. The town was built on a limestone ridge 2000ft above ground, so you can imagine the views. Despite that, the town is better known for the wine it produces, specifically its ‘Vino Nobile’, which is considered to be the finest Italian wine.
The California is powered by the same 1380cc engine as the MGX-21, and also produces 96hp and 121Nm of torque. It too weighs in at 326kg, but unlike the MGX, the California does not have an inch of carbon-fibre anywhere. It is more of a laid back cruiser with a tall windscreen up front and huge foot boards. Handling was similar to the MGX, but somehow the California was more comfortable, perhaps it was the seat, or that my expectation was lower for a bike that did not come dripping in carbon fibre. Either way, I had a splendid time with the California, letting it soak up everything the road threw at us, gently squeezing the throttle without kicking down a gear, taking in views. It was perfect.
I rode the new V7 III Rough on the final day, which was a 100km ride to the town of Siena. The Rough can be interpreted as Guzzi’s attempt at creating a Scrambler of sorts, complete with knobby tyres, a purpose built handle bar and slim aluminium fenders reminiscent of scramblers of old. Some even see the Rough as a response to Ducati and Triumph, but unlike the models from the competition, the Rough is not a standalone model.
Like all V7 III’s, the base bike is always the same with the same 744cc V-twin engine powering all bikes, the same frame, the same wheel size, the same forks, every technical bit about the bike is the same for all V7 III models. And so the Rough is no different, it is the visual parts that differentiate one bike from another.
The Rough rides similarly to all other V7 models, though the knobby tyres require a little extra attention in and out of corners. But on the cobblestone roads around town, the tyres were perfect, giving the bike a level of confidence unlike any other V7 model, and this is with the traction control turned off. And that is the point here for the Moto Guzzi V7 range of bikes, each V7 III may have the same underpinnings, but ride the lot and the difference is clear as day.
After parking the bike at the cathedral at the centre of town, I ventured off with the rest of the Malaysian team to explore the inner workings of Siena. And that’s when I heard someone say:
“Hey man, nice t-shirt, do you ride a Guzzi?” came a voice from behind with a southern twang typical of southern US states, the type you usually hear in old John Wayne movies. I didn’t even get a chance to turn around when this guy sporting a cowboy hat and a thick ‘stache came up next to me. “Yes I do, we all do,” I said to him, gesturing towards the rest of the riders there, who after four days had become more of a family.
“I am from Texas and I ride a Moto Guzzi, we are rare but people who ride a Guzzi are a special bunch. They know their motorcycles, they simply do not like to be mainstream,” he quickly surmised. I laughed in agreement and after a few quick words and a handshake, he disappeared in the crowd of tourists.
And that got me thinking, there are lots of Moto Guzzi fans out there who appreciate the finer workings of a Guzzi, such as the 90-degree V-twin engine, or the ingenuity of its engineering, or perhaps they love the history of the brand. Either way, the love and passion for the brand is spread far and wide, and it was fantastic to spend a few days talking and learning from like minded people, some a lot older than me with decades more experience with Guzzis.
Back in KL and on my very own Moto Guzzi V7 III Anniversario, I found myself appreciating the bike a lot more than I did previously. Having met the people from the company who build these bikes and those that love the brand, there was a certain sense of pride riding a Moto Guzzi in Malaysia. It may not be the most advanced of motorcycles or the fastest, but it is a Moto Guzzi and everything about a Guzzi has come from nearly 100 years of pain staking engineering and board room meetings to keep the brand alive. And I appreciate that and the fact that it is still proudly built in Italy.