MOTO GUZZI V9 BOBBER
he current trend in the motorcycle market for turned-up jeans, beards and all things retro is playing right into the hands of Moto Guzzi. Celebrating their 95th birthday this month, the Italian manufacturer have the kind of heritage that most companies would chop off a limb for, and as a result they are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
Since 2011, Guzzi’s worldwide sales have grown 8% every year, and in 2015 the UK saw a 40% growth in numbers, mainly driven by the popularity of the revitalised V7 range. However, as impressive as this growth is, the stats are slightly misleading because in the UK Guzzi only sell around 300 units a year (worldwide it is nearer to 10,000) therefore a big percentage increase can be had for a relatively small increase in turnover. That said, any upwards trend is worth having in an increasingly crowded retro market. So, with the V7 leading the charge, for 2016 Guzzi have decided to expand their model range with a pair of larger capacity models – the V9 Bobber and Roamer.
Both bikes use essentially the same basic platform of a tubular steel chassis and aluminium swingarm with an integrated shaft drive powered by the new V9 engine. As its name suggests, the V9 is a larger capacity version of the V7 motor, but – thanks to Euro4 regulations – the unit has had far more than a simple big-bore.
Guzzi have gone to extensive lengths to ensure that the V9 is what purists would call a ‘proper’ motor. And by ‘proper’ we mean a 90-degree transverse V-twin with push rods, and air-cooled rather than shrouded by a water jacket. Oddly enough, Guzzi’s tradition has also played its hand in the firm achieving this tricky goal.
Passing Euro4 requires making the engine cleaner running, something Guzzi have achieved by improving the combustion chamber’s shape and the position of the two valves within it. Without going into too much detail, the V9’s heads are rounder internally, its pistons flatter and its valves steeper angled, the net result of which is a nice clean burn. But a better burn means a
Thotter head and where water-cooling would usually have been required, the fact Guzzi’s heritage demands the transverse arrangement of its cylinders, that also means they are nicely situated directly in the line of a cooling airflow. Traditional cooling fins and a new neat duct that channels cool air around the heads mean Guzzi have done what many thought wasn’t possible – made their V-twin Euro4 compliant. But was it worth the effort?
When it comes to retro bikes there are two schools of thought – make it look old yet feel modern or make it both appear and feel authentic. The new Triumph Bonnie models are set in the refined camp while the Guzzi is most definitely, and deliberately, planted on the side of authenticity.
When you push the starter button on the conspicuously too modern switch- gear, the V9 burbles and vibrates into life. It’s no softly, softly, motor - this is a proper Guzzi engine, and when you blip the throttle it lurches to the right thanks to the torque reaction. Go to engage first gear and the modern refinement of the light clutch action is quickly replaced by a solid clunk as the gears slam home. I quite like this trait, and the way the lever keeps that spongy downwards feeling that you get on old bikes rather than stopping solid, means that everything feels authentically Guzzi on the new V9 – even if it is styled like an American bobber.
Both the Bobber and Roamer (see p16) have their own unique style and the Bobber’s look is defined by its chunky 16-inch ‘balloon’ tyres and strippedback bodywork. But such radical items also play their hand when it comes to the bike’s handling and they certainly do weird things to the way the Bobber rides.
Entering a corner on the Bobber at
‘It’s no softly, softly, motor - this is a proper Guzzi engine, and lurches when you blip it’
The Bobber has two-level traction control as well as ABS as standard and a USB port under the steering head. The traction control uses the ABS system’s sensors and alters the engine’s ignition timing to reduce power to the rear wheel. It can be turned off but reactivates with each
ride. Both new Moto Guzzi V9 models use a tubular steel frame and feature a new die-cast aluminium swingarm with a revised design of the Italian firm’s shaft drive system that is more robust and allows the fitment of a wider 150-section
Although derived from the V7’s 750cc engine, the 853cc motor is heavily revised and features improved oil distribution as well as new pistons, heads and cylinders and tweaked gearbox. It has a transverse 90-degree push rod V-twin layout with a shaft drive. An A2-licence version is
The Bobber style originated in post-war America where riders stripped down bikes by removing heavy metal components such as the mudguards to create a sleek and sporty profile. The term Bobber is believed to be a derived from the
The 40mm conventional fork has no adjustment, while the twin shocks only have adjustable spring preload. Both wheels are 16-inch items and run Continental Milestone ‘balloon’ tyres with a 130/90 at the front,
and a 150/80 at the rear.
The V9 models can be fitted with the Moto Guzzi Media Platform, which allows a smartphone to connect to the bike via a free downloadable app. MG-MP comes with features such as ‘ find my bike’, a navigation
aid and a data log. first it feels like it has a very steep head angle as the 16-inch balloon tyres make the bike drop instantly off the centre of the tyre before requiring you to hold it down in a bend to keep it on line. It’s not natural, and does feel quite disconcerting at first, but in time you kind of get used to it. I’d never describe it as good handling, but it doesn’t ruin the experience either, and is just a quirk of this style of bike. And this is a machine full of character quirks.
I’m a huge fan of authenticity when it enhances a riding experience and the Guzzi’s V9 engine is certainly authentic to the company’s heritage. It’s not the smoothest, and the initial throttle reaction is a bit abrupt, but when you feed it fossil juice the vibration and impression of large pistons thumping up and down in the bores is very evocative. It’s not refined like the Bonnies, but a Guzzi shouldn’t be; this is good old-school Italian engineering. But, importantly, this authenticity doesn’t ruin the ride.
Guzzi have given the V9 models a light crank to ensure there isn’t too much aggressive engine braking, the clutch is light, the vibrations not too intrusive, and there are modern touches such as ABS and traction control. There is even a gear indicator in the dash, although comically it reacts about half a second after each change of cog.
After spending some time on the Bobber I do at least understand why riders are turning towards this historic brand. It’s certainly not a refined bike, but that’s an integral part of its charm. The engine has real spirit and this helps gloss over the odd handling and fairly poor rear shocks, which are unable to cope with anything other than small undulations in the road. But overall there is something very honest about the Bobber. It feels, acts and clunks like a proper authentic Guzzi should.
While I can’t deny the 16-inch wheels and fat tyres do some strange things to the Bobber’s handling, because of the overall feel of the bike I didn’t actually mind this too much. Are they a case of design over function? Yes, of course, but I don’t think buyers will care as it does gives the Bobber such a visually striking look. I just wish Guzzi hadn’t called it ‘Bobber’.
For me the Bobber isn’t a true bobber, it’s simply a fat-rimmed retro. I’d rather it had a name that didn’t make it sound like it was jumping on someone else’s bandwagon –Guzzi should rely on their own heritage, rather than attempting some sort of American pastiche.
WE DON’T LIKE
Handling, suspension, styling