Slick, Sexy and Bold | Guzzi’s California Audace
It’s big, in your face and decidedly Italian. But is the Audace really the backstreet brute it’s trying to be?
So, what is this big beastie laid out in living colour before you anyway? Glad you asked. Here’s the guts… Moto Guzzi has taken its much-lauded California and given it a mean and lean (well, perhaps not so lean) stance to come up with a power cruiser. Think Harley-Davidson V-Rod with a continental-styling twist and you won’t be far off the money.
‘Audace’ is Italian for ‘bold’ or ‘fearless’. Of course ‘audacity’ has a slightly less complimentary meaning here in Angloworld, but let’s not get caught up in who shot who. The bike is indeed bold. Bold as.
The whole thing has been given a blacked-out, sinister look and everything has been pared down. There’s a carbon-fibre front guard, megaphone-styled mufflers and footpegs in place of the Cali’s foot-boards, and the rocker shifter has been given the heave-ho for a normal lever.
The air/oil-cooled 1380cc V-twin makes the same 120Nm as the Custom, and the bike arrives equipped with the same primo features, including ride-by-wire engine management, traction control, and dual-channel ABS on the Brembo brakes (twin rotors up front, single at the stern). This one is also the first Moto Guzzi to comply with Euro 4 emissions regulations.
The three traction control settings (plus off) range from least intrusive (1) to moderately intrusive (2) to rain (3). These are romantically left in Italian on the single central instrument dial and are respectively Turismo (touring), Veloce (sport), and Pioggia (rain). Feel like you are rolling through a Neapolitan village yet?
I’ve ridden lots of Moto Guzzis, over many years. And to a single bike, they all have one thing in common – they grow on me. The Audace has continued that tradition.
At first, they can seem unwieldy. Big, with that physical ‘throw’ to the right at idle as the cylinders pop in sequence. Subtle they ain’t.
But, over time that lovely loping power, the ‘could only be Italian’ styling, the efficiency of the brand’s shaft-drive setup and the fact that, well, you feel just a little special aboard a Guzzi wins your heart. This one did that. Again. Damned clever, those Italians.
The seating position is well thought-out. No bike of this ilk is going to have you head down and bum up Valentino Rossi style, but this thing has a degree of sporting credibility and the designers at Mandello del Lario have unashamedly targeted an experienced and knowing buyer, so you can’t look like Peter Fonda in an outtake from Easy Rider either. After all, we might be old, but we ain’t dead. The footpeg placement allows the rider to get over the tank when pushing on, but there’s that cruiser relaxed deal there too. Pretty good ergos there.
The blacked-out flat ’bars look fantastic, totally in keeping with the whole tough guy ambience. Their placement however worked the hands too hard in my book. The grip angle is such that there is no kink back towards the rider and the hands are splayed widely. This puts pressure on the inside of the thumbs and after one long ride, I was quite sore in the hands. Form over function there.
Did I mention this bike is Italian?
The twin shocks now have more adjustment than the stock Cali, there’s 3mm more ground clearance and the wheels are altered, both in size as well and design.
The Audace gets an 18-inch front and 16-inch rear instead of 16-inchers all round, while a nice fat 200-section rear replaces the standard 180 jobby. The exhaust has been chopped too, not just to give a more aggressive stance but also to add a little noise. It does have a reasonable growl, if you listen hard, but I couldn’t own a Guzzi and not thoroughly exploit one of motorcycling’s most magnificent exhaust tunes. I’d be bunging a raucous pipe in there from the get go, and that should be factored in.
Overall the Audace weighs 15kg less than the Eldorado and that’s a bonus right there. At 299kg dry, this is still a hefty bike. Handling and clearance serve it pretty well considering that weight. Of course, the V-Rod comes in at a porky 307kg, so a few rolls around the tummy is just par for the course for this category. You want a bit of comfort don’t you?
Guzzi has pulled it off – It’s loaded with character, and life is too short not to get involved with a thoroughbred Italian. As a great mate once said to me ‘every man should own a Guzzi at some stage of his life’.
It mostly does what it says on the tin, offering a sportier Cali. It looks tough and breaks the rider out of the mainstream. The tech is real-world sophisticated and useable. Yep, order me a chianti. I’m into it.
– Tough Euro styling
– Budget in better pipes
– Handlebar ergos not for everyone
– Tight pillion accommodation
SPEX | Moto Guzzi California Audace
TYPE: Air/oil cooled 90-degree V-twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder
BORE & STROKE: 104 x 81.2mm
FUEL SYSTEM: Digital fuel injection with ride-by-wire
TYPE: Six-speed, hydraulically actuated dry clutch
FINAL DRIVE: Shaft
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
FRAME: Steel, closed double cradle with elastic-kinematic engine mounting system
FRONT SUSPENSION: 46mm telescopic, 120mm travel
REAR SUSPENSION: Twin shock with adjustable preload, 120mm travel
FRONT BRAKES: Dual 320mm floating discs, Brembo radial calipers with four pistons, ABS
REAR BRAKE: 282mm disc with ABS, Brembo twin-piston caliper
WHEELS & TYRES:
WHEELS: 3.5×18-inch (f), 6.0×18-inch (r) black multi-spoke aluminium alloy
TYRES: 130/70 R18 (f), 200/60 R16 (r), Dunlop D251 tyres
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
WET WEIGHT: 299kg (no fuel)
SEAT HEIGHT: 740mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 20.5L
POWER: 71kW (96hp) at 6500rpm
TORQUE: 121Nm at 2750rpm
PRICE: $23,500 ride away
WARRANTY: 24 months/unlimited km
Bike supplied by: Moto Guzzi Australia
Read more from the Moto Guzzi range in our Eldorado road test.
Words: Greg Leech | Photography: Ben Galli Photography