MOTO GUZZI MGX-21 FLYING FORTRESS
WORLD FIRST TEST ‘A bold Italian take on an American dream’
Moto Guzzi has kept us waiting two years for their MGX-21 Flying Fortress – probably so they could get the catchy name just right. The concept was released at EICMA 2014 and the prototype was revealed the following year. And now, finally, we have it: an audacious, bold Italian take on an American dream… and it’s oh so good.
Cruisers are typically an exercise in style – fun in straight lines but reluctant corner-carvers with marginal braking ability. But Guzzi have taken that stereotype and put an Italian twist on it with powerful Brembo bakes, decent ground clearance and a monstrous 1.4 litre V-twin (Guzzi claim it’s the biggest V-twin in Europe). They have covered it in carbon fibre and slapped on a banging sound system for good measure. What we have is an Italian product, gift-wrapped for an America market, like Pizza Hut.
And it really is specifically built for the US of A. Guzzi have put serious effort into getting it right for our friends over the pond. The firm say the American cruiser market is the most profitable segment of the motorcycle industry and they want in. The bike was designed in the Piaggio Advanced Design Centre in California, and Guzzi claim they visited 12 different cities and spoke to 3000 people to perfect the design.
The overall shape is sleek. The integrated saddle bags flow perfectly and follow the lines of the twin exhausts. It’s a mix of black and carbon with a dash of red on the cylinder head covers and Brembo calipers. The finishing touches are sublime, like the Moto Guzzi emblems on the seat, headlamp and tank.
Fire the big V-twin into life and the bike snaps to the right, instantly reminding you that you’re on a Guzzi. It uses the same 1380cc, air-cooled twin from the popular California model, which is essentially the MGX’S donor machine. Yank in the heavy clutch, click into first, pull away and the thing emits a deep rumble.
Vibrations are minimal thanks to Guzzi’s ‘elastic-kinematic engine mounting system’, which basically floats the engine in the frame. The riding position is near perfect. The bars are a comfortable reach, the pegs are forward but not far enough that your body is cupped, and the batwing fairing does a good job of deflecting headwind over the helmet. It makes motorway riding a cinch, especially with the cruise control function.
The powerful twin pumps out 96.6bhp and this bagger’s carrying loads of low-down shove too. It hits peak torque at just 3000rpm, requiring continuous quick shifts for spirited riding, but has shovel-loads of grunt available for normal riding. There are three throttle maps to choose from: Veloce, Turismo and Pioggia, which translated are dynamic, touring and rain. Turismo proved to be the ideal setting for our warm weather riding in Milan, with the smoothest power delivery, while veloce was a little too sharp for the laid-back cornering the MGX promotes (the MGX also comes with three-levels of traction control; sport, normal, and rain, and the option to switch it off completely).
There are two four-piston Brembo calipers up front and a twin-pot cali- per at the rear. The powerful set-up, complemented by ABS, is exceptionally good at bringing this freight train of a bike to an immediate halt with a firm grab of the lever. And the beefy Kayaba suspension does a good enough job of keeping the Fortress airborne and stable over hard bumps. I especially like the way rear preload is adjustable via an easy-to-use turn wheel.
It’s got it all, this Guzzi: power, technology, flair and an excellent chassis set-up. The only let down is the big 21in front wheel, which tarnishes the handling and feels like a case of design over function. Guzzi claim they could get away with using a 21in rim because their Steering Assist mechanism, which simply acts like a steering damper, stops the bars from flopping into corners at low speed. But it still makes the steering heavy and at times remote, requiring some muscle and a lot of trust when performing slow speed manoeuvres. For the first half an hour it felt like the front tyre was filled with cement. Thankfully, as soon as we reached open, flowing roads the feeling disappeared.
Overall, though, the MGX is impressive. It has more electronics and gizmos than a cruiser should, tonnes of power and torque with the brakes and suspension to back it up. And it looks the part too with Italian attitude. If Guzzi had gone for a smaller front wheel, it would have made the MGX-21 the complete package.
‘What we have is a Italian product, gift wrapped for an America market, like Pizza Hut’
It might not be to everyone’s taste but there’s no doubt the Guzzi will stand out form the crowd
Distinctive fairing has an air of Batmobile about it The MGX-21 excels at laidback cornering
5 Brilliant brakes There are two 320mm stainless steel floating discs up front with four-pot Brembo radial calipers. There’s also a twochannel ABS system. 1 Bags of room The MGX-21 Flying Fortress features integrated rigid bags in the tail. They can hold up to 58 litres worth of luggage, but are not big enough to take a full face helmet. 2 A sound investment The Audio system is pretty comprehensive and includes two loudspeakers, radio, MP3 connection, Bluetooth, and is smartphone compatible with USB and ipod connections. 3 High tech spec The MGX comes with rideby-wire and three engine maps; Veloce, Turismo and Pioggia (dynamic, touring and rain). It also comes with Moto Guzzi’s new cruise control. 4 Carbon class Designed by Piaggio Advanced Design Centre in California. It’s covered in carbon, including the front mudguard, fuel tank panels, side pannier covers and engine cover.