Moto Guzzi V9 Bob­ber

This Ital­ian fac­tory bob­ber from Moto Guzzi def­i­nitely looks the part, but how does it ride?

Bike India - - Contents - STORY: ROLAND BROWN

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

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: ADAM BOLTON & GUZZI

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

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