Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber
This Italian factory bobber from Moto Guzzi definitely looks the part, but how does it ride?
IT MAKES A LOT of sense that Moto Guzzi are attempting to borrow some marketing inspiration from Harley-Davidson by creating a simple, strippeddown naked V-twin, called the Bobber. After all, Harley sold more than 2,60,000 bikes last year, while Guzzi production barely topped 10,000 despite a steady increase of late.
Guzzi would love just a fraction of those extra sales, especially in the huge US market where the marque from Mandello del Lario makes little impression, despite its long history of producing V-twin tourers and cruisers. Harley, on the other hand, have long had success with simple models, including the Street Bob and Fat Bob, whose names recognise the bobbers that were originally made by cutting down big American V-twins in the 1930s and ’40s.
Moto Guzzi do not have that same bobber tradition, but they do have a pair of mid-sized V-twins, the V7 Stone and Special, that in recent years have frequently been modified by their owners to give a minimalist image. With the new V9 Bobber, the factory is essentially
doing a similar job itself, while also creating a shinier sidekick, the V9 Roamer, using many of the same components.
One shared component is the engine, a new 853-cc unit that gets its capacity from dimensions of 84 x 77 millimetres, against the 80 x 74 mm of the 744-cc unit that powers the V7s. Like the smaller lump, it’s a 90-degree transverse V-twin with pushrods and two valves per cylinder. Cooling comes mainly from air coming past those sticking-out pots, though it does also have a revised lubrication system that incorporates oil jets to help cool the pistons.
At the bottom end the V9 unit also gets new crankcases, plus an uprated transmission system featuring a beefier drive shaft, single-plate dry clutch, and the six-speed gearbox introduced last year with the V7 II models. There’s a little more power and torque to contend with: a maximum of 55 PS at 6,250 revolutions per minute, up from the V7 unit’s 48 PS or so; and a peak torque figure of 62 Nm that is an increase of a couple of Newtonmetres.
The Bobber’s chassis is also new, although in typical Guzzi style this involves another variation of the twindowntube, tubular steel frame and fairly simple, twin-shock suspension layout that has served the firm for half a century. There’s nothing very new about the non-adjustable telescopic forks, which offer 130 mm of travel, nor about the simple shocks, which are adjustable for pre-load only and allow 97 mm of rear-wheel travel.
What is eye-catching about the Bobber’s chassis is its pair of finely spoked, 16-inch cast aluminium wheels, and especially the fat, almost balloon-like tyres that wrap round them. The big Contis do as much as anything to give the Bobber its eponymous style, in conjunction with a pair of fairly abbreviated aluminium fenders and a thin, almost bench-like dual-seat that add to the visual impact.
The other vital part of the Bobber’s look is its deliberately downbeat finish. The matte black tank and rear fender
have flashes of orange (grey is the colour option) that are almost invisible from the side. And almost everything else is black, including fork sliders, wheels, engine, exhaust, seat, side-panels, and rear shock springs.
So, too, is the one-piece handlebar, which is almost flat but gives a relaxed, upright riding position because it’s bolted to risers. That seat is just 780 mm off the ground, which helped give the Guzzi a manageable feel, as did its respectably low weight of just over 200 kg with fuel. This might be a mean-looking bike with a hint of aggression, and a time-honoured Guzzi shake to the right when you blip the throttle at standstill; but you’ve only got to let out the light clutch and accelerate away, with the V-twin pulling sweetly and fairly smoothly from low revs, to realise that it’s just as docile and riderfriendly as the V7 models.
The bigger engine does have a slightly stronger punch, but straight-line performance is pleasant rather than exciting. The Guzzi rumbled up to a bit more than 100 km/h rapidly enough, heading for a top speed of about 160 km/h, and occasionally setting off a warning light in the speedo when I revved it hard rather than short-shifting through the six-speed ’box, which changed very cleanly.
That sixth cog helped give a nicely long-legged feel but couldn’t prevent the mirrors getting a bit blurry at higher revs. I’m not sure at what revs exactly because the white-faced analogue speedo isn’t matched by a rev-counter, and its digital display can show fuel consumption but not engine speed. (You can, however, adjust the shift light to come on at any revs you choose.)
So the Bobber was quick enough to be fun, and its chassis showed a similar ability to provide enjoyable riding with a fairly laid-back feel. Inevitably, those fat tyres gave a slightly vague steering feel, but the wide handlebar provided plenty of leverage with which to tip the Guzzi into a turn, despite its relatively lazy steering geometry.
The tubular brace linking the fork sliders doubtless helped keep the front end pointing the right way. Those shocks felt pretty crude and under-damped on bumpy roads but never threatened to let things get out of control. The Conti Milestones had a respectable amount of grip, too; enough to get the Bobber
scraping occasionally in turns, though cornering clearance was adequate for a bike like this.
The V9 duo have a simple, wheelspeed controlled traction control similar to the V7 II system, with the addition of a second mode for slippery roads. That might be useful in the rain. The Bobber’s ABS-equipped brakes got the job done, too, though the V7-style front combo of 320-mm disc and four-piston Brembo calliper required a firm squeeze of the lever for serious slowing.
What wasn’t so good was that the forward-set foot-rests and upright riding position put most of my weight through the thinly padded seat, which combined with the short-travel shocks to give a ride that was tough on the spine. Those chubby tyres must add a bit of cushioning
If you fancy a laidback V-twin with an Italian slant, a tough look and a contrastingly riderfriendly character, you won’t go far wrong with the Bobber
V9’s transverse V-twin’s bigger bore and longer stroke take the capacity to 853 cc from 744 cc of the V7
There is hardly anything new about the twin rear suspension which is only adjustable for preload