Guzzi set their sights on the States with a big, bold carbon-clad bagger…
Bruce Wayne's new Moto Guzzi and first test of Harley's eight-valve tourist.
MOTO GUZZI’S MARKETING people got a shock when they interviewed V-twin riders in the USA – the firm’s biggest potential market – and discovered that not only had most never ridden a Guzzi, they didn’t even realise Italy’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer still existed. Hence the MGX-21 Flying Fortress: a bagger featuring acres of carbonfibre with red highlights plus an über-trendy 21-inch front wheel, also shrouded in carbon. The Fortress is as loud and American as an Italian bike could ever get: shaped in California (at Piaggio’s Pasadena design studio), named after the Boeing B-17 bomber and conceived mainly to boost Guzzi’s profile Stateside. Beneath the carbon – which is also used for the petrol tank and pannier covers, belly-pan and front fender – the MGX is a derivative of the now discontinued California Touring. It uses the same 1380cc, air-cooled engine, which despite the sticky out red cylinder heads is unchanged – the numbers focus on gentle low-rev torque and a max of 96bhp at 6500rpm. All of which means that despite its American format and new-worldly look, the MGX feels every bit a Moto Guzzi, at least in a straight line. As before there are three riding modes, still named in Italian, plus an adjustable traction control system. And as before the transverse lump’s sweet throttle response and abundant midrange torque means you hardly need them, although the slightly sharper pick-up in Veloce (Fast) makes the bike feel a touch more lively. The Fortress is enjoyably smooth and long-legged at main road speeds, when its standard-fit cruise control is handy. As a tourer it has promise: range should be close to 200 miles, comfort is good, the sharply styled half-fairing gives welcome protection, and the
panniers, which come with inner bags, are big enough to be useful. But being tall, I found the low screen generating turbulence that drowned out the Bluetooth-enabled sound system above 50mph. The Fortress also corners with Guzzi’s traditional enthusiasm, helped by a steel frame that is strengthened over the California’s, and by suspension that is well controlled, and incorporates a remote preload adjuster for the twin rear shocks. There’s strong stopping power too, from the red-finished Brembo front calipers. But at town speeds that gigantic carbon-clad front wheel feels like a fashion move too far, because its weight makes the 340kg-plus Fortress about as wieldy as a fully laden bomber. Guzzi have developed a special steering damper that stops the wheel flopping by increasing resistance as the bars are turned. But this results in a slightly awkward slow-speed feel that shorter riders seemed especially wary of, despite the bike’s ultra-low 740mm seat. Most would probably be better off with Guzzi’s glitzier Eldorado or less bold Audace, both of which are more manageable as well as less expensive than the £17,336 MGX. Which is just as well, because only a handful will be available, from just four UK dealers. Guzzi’s carbon-clad creation won’t sell in big numbers in the States, either, but if it raises the old firm’s profile there it will have done its most important job.
‘The Fortress is enjoyably smooth and long-legged at main road speeds… as a tourer it has promise’
Holy carbon bagger...
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