Buying used: Moto Guzzi G5
I have long had this fantasy: it’s night and I’m out on a lonely country road on a large, lazy motorcycle, just eating up the kilometres, heading for an unimportant destination. The bike in this fantasy is a Moto Guzzi.
Don’t ask me why it’s a Guzzi, as it all started before I actually owned a Guzzi but it ultimately led to me buying a Le Mans ‘Mk I’ B. Perhaps it was the time, as a clumsy youth, that a mate offered me a ride on his new El Dorado. I accidentally knocked it into gear but, rather than stall, it chugged away. Having grown into a clumsy old man, I still appreciate this quality.
I didn’t ride the El Dorado far, but the later Le Mans got a fair caning over a variety of roads. It also had the lovely quality of ticking over at a leisurely 3000rpm at 100km/h. I still kick myself for selling it.
A BARGAIN BEGGING
I’ve since ridden a few Guzzis on long and fast trips. And then the opportunity arose a little while back of acquiring another one. There are a few bikes in the garage, but none of them is a tourer, and the available Guzzi was a 1978 G5 Police. The G5 Police is much like the California except, for the period, it didn’t have the Harley-esque tractor seat, deep guards or footboards. It also had an extra 100cc over the Cali, which is always useful.
This 1978 G5’s price was a modest $6500. For the G5, depending on condition, between $8000 and $10,000 is closer to the mark.
The G5 was based on the relatively unsuccessful two-speed automatic V1000 Convert. The Convert was originally designed for Pope escort duty, with the engine enlarged from the standard 850cc transverse 90-degree V-twin to 949cc, to make up for the power lost through the
As a consumer bike it was a flop, so Guzzi wisely scrapped the auto and dropped in the five-speed (‘Giri Cinque’, hence ‘G5’) ‘box from the T3. What a good idea!
G5s generally came with footpegs and moderate handlebars, but a few were sold in the US with floorboards and pull-back ‘bars. This being an ex-Ohio police bike, this G5 has pegs but pull-backs. It also came with nifty little fibreglass saddlebags, front and rear crash bars (little front aerofoils on civilian models) and an aftermarket luggage rack.
The G5 also originally came with a tall Perspex windshield, but this bike was windshield-less. That was fixed with the application of a generic touring windshield.
As with other ‘big-block’ Guzzis, the G5 has a lazy, loping gait, made all the more pleasant by its relatively small two-valve heads, 30mm Dell’Orto carbs and heavy flywheel. Long distances are effortless at touring speeds and mid-range torque is substantial (6.88kg-m at 3000rpm), with most of its claimed 53kW (71hp) – really 40kW – available over the flat rev range. It will get up to around 190km/h if required.
Some might baulk at turning a 1978 bike into a regular tourer, but with around 75,000km on the clock, this bike is still a spring chicken in Guzzi terms, and should be good for many tens of thousands of kilometres more.
The Guzzi’s touring credentials are based largely around its lovely, lazy motor and its shaft drive. These are enhanced by the bike’s large, generously padded seat, chrome grab rail, good-sized fuel tank (24lt) and good fuel economy (around 17km/lt) given its considerable 245kg bulk.
The real surprise with the G5, however, and indeed with many of the older Guzzis, is the way it goes around corners. Touring bikes were for many years synonymous with sloppy handling, yet the G5, with its Tonti-designed frame – a slightly stretched version of the sweet-handling Le Mans frame – carves up corners in a manner quite out of keeping with its stately presence.
One of the slightly unusual features of Guzzis was the use of linked brakes, with the front and the rear disc operated on a 70/30 basis by the foot brake, with the other front disc being operated by hand. This system works fine, although I prefer to have a de-linked rear brake for wet or slippery conditions, both of which I have experienced on this bike. To its credit, though, the brakes did their job a while back, when – barrelling down the Monaro Highway in driving rain at about, oh, eleventy miles an hour – a kangaroo jumped out. We braked hard and swerved, missing it by centimetres. The bike was unfazed by this hard braking and swerving in the rain, even if my nerves were not.
The G5’s instrumentation is basic ‘old Italian’. The ‘light’ switch is for the large central speedo, while the headlight switch is on the handlebar. Remarkably, more than three decades later, the Italian switches still work fine!
The instrument console on this bike is based on the Convert and hence doesn’t have a tacho, but with this sort of lazy power, a tacho is unnecessary.
The Guzzi has taken my heart. It proves that enjoying a bike need not require massive power, that touring and going around corners can be mutually compatible, and that older bikes often have a charm and character that newer bikes sometimes lack.
This bike has charm and character by the bucket-load and is a huge amount of fun to ride. I can now live out that fantasy; that lonely late night ride on a quiet country road, destination unimportant.
1. Moto Guzzi is Europe’s oldest continuing manufacturer of motorcycles, beginning manufacturing in 1921.
2. The Giulio Carcano-designed 90-degree transverse V-twin engine of the Moto Guzzi V1000 G5 began life in 1963 as the propulsion for an Italian military three-wheeled half-track vehicle known as the Mullo Mechanico (Mechanical Mule). It was known for being able to climb very steep gradients. A year earlier there was also a Moto Guzzi dump truck!
3. The Mechanical Mule engine first appeared in a motorcycle in 1967, developed for the Italian police.
4. The G5 employed the lighter, lower and sportier Lino Tonti designed frame first used on the V7 Sport and then the Le Mans models.
5. The Convert, upon which the G5 was based, was the first production motorcycle with an automatic gearbox. It was originally designed to escort the Pope at both walking pace and highway speeds.
Ned Shaw is an itinerant motorcycle journalist, theoretican and roustabout.