Black Gold | Moto Guzzi Eldorado
Its name evokes images of America’s Mid West, South America or maybe even a tiny Victorian town. Either way, the Moto Guzzi Eldorado is back and better than ever.
There’s actually a town in north-east Victoria called Eldorado. It has a population of around 280 and is home to the smallest pub in the state., and that’s official. This is a far cry from the legendary golden king and golden city in South America where the Eldorado name originated.
Moto Guzzi’s use of the name for a model released in the US in 1972 was all about selling to the Americans – ‘Eldorado’ sounded much hotter than the European version, the 850GT.
Modesty aside, Guzzi was very successful in the US and its use by California police gave it a worldwide profile thanks to the media domination of American culture. The Moto Guzzi California continues to be an iconic bike and, not surprisingly, is still part of the Guzzi model line-up.
GUZZI IS BACK
The fact that Motorcycle Trader is testing a Moto Guzzi at all in 2015 is a minor miracle. The recent history of Italian motorcycle manufacturing would make an excellent TV drama. The Aprilia Group bought Moto Guzzi in 2000 then went bankrupt three years later. It wasn’t Guzzi’s fault but it did suffer collateral damage. The better cashed-up Piaggio (Vespa scooters) acquired Aprilia (with Moto Guzzi) in late 2004, but it’s first all-Piaggio bikes weren’t released until the Milan Show in 2012 where we were introduced to a new engine, still a transverse V-twin, of course, of 1380cc. This new engine is now available in four models in Australia and the Eldorado is among the newest, alongside its blacked-out sibling, Audace (it’s or-dah-che, mate).
With the untimely demise of Honda’s CX-series bikes, Moto Guzzi now owns the transverse V-twin market. If you want one, Guzzi is the only shop you can call. I spent years thinking the engine was derived from a three-wheeler Guzzi built for military use in WWII but was corrected by our classics god, Ian Falloon, who told me it came from the pen of Giuliano Carcano in 1958 as a possible replacement engine for the parallel twin being used in the Fiat 500 of the time.
The latest engine doesn’t come from Guzzi but from the Aprilia research and development centre. Yes, it still looks like a Guzzi engine but it’s a major development of its much-loved and reliable predecessor.
LIFE ON CRUISE
The first thing that needs to be said about the Eldorado is that it’s an extremely comfortable bike for the rider. A seat height of just 740mm (720mm option) makes it easy to mount and dismount. When you settle in the giant saddle, the handgrips are exactly where you’d expect them to be, as are the footboards. The riding position suits shorter and taller riders alike and the handlebar is thick and strong enough to allow you to press on the footboards when necessary to help absorb road shocks.
The pillion doesn’t fare as well, with less attention to seat shape and positioning. If your riding life is mostly going to be two-up, though, there’s always the California Touring in the range.
“Owning an Eldorado separates you from the cruiser herd without having to sacrifice anything in the way of technology or performance”
The Eldorado weighs in at 314 kilograms without fuel, so it’s no lightweight. The standard suspension needs to be up to the task and it is, with relatively good travel and compliance.
The twin, fully enclosed rear spring/damper units can be adjusted for preload and are more than adequate at supplying a comfortable, controlled ride in city conditions and normal touring. The standard suspension also plays a role in making the Eldorado arguably the best handling of the current crop of cruisers.
MILE OF STYLE
You’ll never get sick of looking at the Eldorado. My favourite angle is standing behind the bike and being reminded of the pin-up girls US pilots used to paint on their WWII planes. The plump rear morphs into a slim waist and then explodes into a massive upper body. Those less focussed on the female form may be reminded more of Arnold Schwarzenegger at his peak.
The fact is it doesn’t matter from what angle you approach the Eldorado – it’s a handsome machine. Some of its design features pay homage to Moto Guzzi’s past without compromising engineering integrity. Its classic black paintwork has white pinstriping and chrome panels on the tank are very reminiscent of the original Eldorado.
The 16-inch wheels run tubeless tyres but are spoked and the tyres have whitewalls. There are a couple of art-deco touches which prompted healthy debate at MT HQ, including the chrome tube over the taillight, but the Eldorado is absolutely dressed to impress. It would have looked good 50 years ago and it’ll look equally as good in 2065.
Beneath the delicious exterior is a heart of gold. Moto Guzzi claims 71kW and 120Nm. Dyno testing the engine revealed Moto Guzzi was being fairly honest with this and you only have to twist the throttle in anger once to be convinced it has the required mumbo.
Maximum torque arrives at around 2800rpm but gobs of it are available just off idle. In fact, you get rolling, change into fourth and the bike will happily idle up to around 30km/h without any sign of protest. Fifth and sixth gears both feel like overdrives and, around the city, the engine likes being in the first four gears.
On the open road in top gear, the Eldorado eats whatever distance you care to throw at it and its effortless, calm performance reminded me of the few occasions where I’ve had the pleasure of riding Vincents.
It sounds completely unfussed but goes like the hammer of Thor.
“My favourite angle is standing behind the bike and being reminded of the pin-up girls American pilots used to paint on their WWII planes”
The other major revelation is the gearbox. You need a sensitive foot but gone is the clunkiness of yore. It’s actually hard to work out if you’ve changed into first from neutral until you release the clutch lever and the bike moves forward.
The brakes are strong and confidence-inspiring in normal use, although the ABS seems to kick in surprisingly early. You expect that of the rear brake but you can feel it intervening in the front brakes during spirited riding before you get any sense you’re approaching the threshold of grip.
At about 9.6 litres per 100km, fuel economy isn’t exactly at the cutting edge, but if you want a bike like this, who cares? Our best figure was 8.8L/100km. The 20.5-litre tank still gives a range of more than 200km by which time you probably need a break anyway.
Inside the classic-looking Eldorado is some very useful, Aprilia-inspired electronics. There are three riding modes: Veloce (performance), Turismo (touring) and Pioggia (rain). The poor cousin of these is likely to be Veloce. In normal use, the difference between the performance and touring modes is difficult to notice. Turismo will be the standard setting but the rain option makes a big difference and provides a great sense of security if the roads are wet.
These modes are tied to a traction control system offering three levels to select from. With its long wheelbase, weight and tyre sizes, it’s unlikely you’d ever accidentally break traction anyway but it’s nice to have a guardian angel.
The Eldorado is also equipped with cruise control which is a little clumsy to engage but will be something owners will end up loving.
None of this is intrusive. The giant dial in front of the rider gives an analogue tacho and digital information for the rest of the functions. To change riding modes, you press the starter switch which is a bit counter-intuitive, but works well once you get used to it. Other information and functions are controlled by a mode switch on the left switchblock.
The Eldorado shakes at idle but this disappears immediately once you get rolling, thanks to what Guzzi calls its ‘elastic-kinematic’ engine-mounting system which isolates the rider from engine vibes. For a bike this size, it has superb low-speed manoeuvrability and its handling improves the faster you ride it.
Yes, it’s a cruiser, but it has better cornering clearance than almost all of its rivals. It has replaceable nylon pads under the running boards to tell you when you’re approaching the limits and the floorboards fold up if necessary for an extra safety margin. Normal riding may never see the footboards touch the road.
It’s a big bike for around-town but if it’s just you and the open road, it’s hard to think of anything better. It’s distinctive, too. Owning an Eldorado separates you from the cruiser herd without having to sacrifice anything in the way of technology or performance. The California Custom is good, the Touring SE is better suited to couples, the Audace is distinctive but, in the generation of ‘me’, the Eldorado is pretty-much unbeatable.
This article by Grant Roff appears in Motorcycle Trader Issue 301
Photography by Mark Dadswell