Moto Guzzi California Vintage – Day 5 – The Mental Health Day.

This is the fifth in a series of articles about living with and riding a California Vintage from Moto Guzzi.  The previous one is here.

Beautiful day, well-worn leather jacket, full tank of gas.  Buddy, let's ride.

Beautiful day, well-worn leather jacket, full tank of gas.

Some work days are better than others…

I found myself halfway to Santa Barbara from my Northridge home, off Seaward Avenue at the Starbucks where I normally stopped and had a cup of coffee before continuing up the coast.  Some friends that I met in the morning were talking about their day, and I was sitting there thinking that I really didn’t want to go to work, but I knew if I went home, I would be painting, sawing or otherwise saddled with the responsibilities involved in fatherhood, matrimony or the restoration of a mid-century modern home that had already worn out my favorite table saw.

I’m sitting here smelling the ocean breeze, thinking about the ride up north to Santa Barbara and cranky about the fact that I had to turn the California Vintage back to the company in the next day.  This sucks.  I really have come to enjoy this bike and I wanted to take a couple more rides on a favorite stretch…

DUH.  Time for a Mental Health Day.

I said goodbye to my friends and decided to head south and get down to the PCH, and ride until I felt the need to be responsible again.  Would that get me to Ventura?  Who knows, maybe San Diego!  So the journey starts, on the perfect bike for this occasion, the Moto Guzzi California Vintage, with me at home on this wonderful machine and riding down the 101, taking Rice Road South with a full tank of gas, headed to the beach.Winding my way south-west towards the water where the Pacific Coast Highway waits, I felt the Guzzi under my floorboarded feet. The perfect drone of the engine, the torque easily pulling me around slower traffic and the sun obliquely shining on my face.  Perfection.  My arms are perfectly relaxed, and my ride easily flows through the left and right hand turns at intersections, deepening lean angles as I skate under left turn arrows and the reward of salt air, crashing waves and a quiet weekday ride along one beautiful stretch of road.

The Guzzi always gets waves from other riders.  Other riders pull up to me at lights and say that they’ve been following me to see what kind of bike I’m on.  Other’s just give me a thumbs up. The Guzzi puts me in the company of other big cruisers, but the subtle differences in the bike only get noticed by riders that spend time on their bikes and know about bikes.  “Weekend Warriors” don’t really know anything about Guzzis, and I don’t know if they would like them if they did.  People that ride know about Guzzis.  I have yet to come across someone that really qualifies as a Rider, in my subjective mind, that doesn’t respect the brand or have something nice to say about it.  If you get a “what is a Moto Guzzi?” question, it’s going to be from someone that really doesn’t know about motorcycles, even if they own one.

Moto Guzzi California Vintage, Point Dume Beach, 11/22/08, 10am.

Moto Guzzi California Vintage, Zuma Beach, 11/22/08, 10am.

The weather along the ocean was everything I had hoped.  Clear, still cool and just a touch of fog over the water, slowly receding away from the coast.  I hit the coast at Hueneme (pronounced Why – A – Name – EE), and turned south.  The road undulates and curves, and only the occasional Motor Home or tourist impedes my progress, but plenty of passing lanes offer me solace.  The only thing I watch out for are people making U-Turns in front of me as they pull away from the beach.  This is an unfortunate and frequent occurrence along this stretch, and anyone on two wheels should be vigilant.

I’m looking for a place to stop, but I just can’t bear the thought.  I want that perfect picture for my California Vintage.  That shot that says “this bike is in it’s element”.  One that says “California, 1967″. I see beautiful coast, but the light, the framing, etc.  Nothing is right.  After about 30 minutes, I come upon Neptune’s Net, a California Riders’ institution, and decide to get some water, take a break and talk up the Guzzi if anyone asks (after all they’re letting me ride this bike for FREE!!!  I want to tell people what a wonderful sumbitchin’ cruiser it is — hmm.  Maybe they’ll be so grateful that they’ll GIVE me one — just so you know, they didn’t…).

If you don’t know about the Neptune’s Net, it’s located at the PCH end of some of the best canyon carving roads in the United States, just west of Malibu proper.  It’s a road house that caters to the rider.  On weekends it is so jam packed that there are people to help you get your ride parked in a special area just for bikes, which represents about 70% of the parking available.  Today being a weekday, there are only three or four bikes parked out front.  I put the Guzzi in a place of prominence thinking I might take a picture here, and decide to get some water and a frozen custard cone, and check my email to see if anyone had noticed my absence yet.

Good custard, well hydrated and no news.  Bliss.  I walk out to the parking lot and think about taking a shot.  A couple of guys on very nice Harleys have parked close by.  They come up and ask “is that your Guzzi?”.  Riders.  “Yes”.  They proceed to tell me the History of Moto Guzzi V-Twins as they know it — and they’re pretty good!  I tell them about my ’72 Eldorado, and they nod knowingly.  They ask me how it rides.  I let them sit on it.  “Wow, it’s light!”, “I’ll bet this thing handles!”, “Low Center of Gravity”….

And then… “How does it sound?”…

I fire it up.  “Like a small block!”, I tell them.  “Hell Yes!”, they respond as I rev it a little, then shut down.  “Doesn’t sound like other V-Twins!”.  I responded that Guzzi always did things their own way, and they agreed that their “cred” was deeper than other latecomers.  The next bike they buy may not be a Guzzi, but they had a positive experience around seeing one, and I hope that they consider the brand before their next purchase.  I think they will.  Exposure to Guzzi in a real-world, rider-to-rider environment, habitat-specific, is, in my opinion, the way to sell this particular bike.  It’s such a great ride, there should be thousands of them on the road.

Hopping back on, I rode along for another half hour, traffic through Malibu being what it is, and stopped at Duke’s for lunch.  I decided at that point to head back through Topanga Canyon.  One of the more mellow-twisted canyons in the area, it was a relaxed ride back to my Northridge abode.  My wife was there.  She had bought two gallons of paint…

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7 thoughts on “Moto Guzzi California Vintage – Day 5 – The Mental Health Day.

  1. Pingback: Moto Guzzi California Vintage - Day 6 - Time to take ‘er home. « As the dude abides…

  2. I’ve always owned Japanese bikes but have lusted after a Guzzi since a friend bought a ratty T3 years ago. Thank you for a wonderful review that gave insight into what the ownership experience might be on the Vintage or Breva Sport. Most reviews are riding reviews only. Owning a bike and riding a bike aren’t always the same thing. The ONLY suggestion I have would be to describe the finish and fasteners in a little more detail. I keep my bikes for a long time and when a manufacturer uses high quality fasteners, good brightwork and good paint, it makes all the difference 5 years down the road. I’ll take an admittedly biased review from someone who loves bikes and delves into detail on the ownership experience any day over yet another track review of the latest tupperware torpedo(even though I own a couple torpedoes myself). Thanks again.

  3. Oh yeah. The quality is excellent. I have a 36 year-old Guzzi, and many of the items on the Cal Vintage were remarkably similar. Not a lot of plastic or cheapie stuff. Stainless steel fasteners, nice, thick paint, etc.

    I’ve seen so many Guzzis in the last few years that I just take it for granted. I don’t think that they did the best job before Piaggio took over, but they are sticklers now.

    Hope this helps.

  4. I’m putting a lot of miles on my Ducs (’04 M1000S and ’04 ST4S ABS), commuting, “recreational riding”, and touring. I’d like to add either a full-on sportbike or a “cruiser” to the mix. I’m too big for the Japanese liter-bikes and don’t like the SSS on the new Ducati Superbikes. Unless I can either find a nice ’06 R1 LE, or the BMW S1000 RR is a bit bigger (both unlikely), it will probably be a cruiser next.

    I love the look of the Cal Vintage, and I got a chance to ride one at the bike show in Long Beach last week. First time, ever, with floorboards, but it wasn’t any harder to adjust than the forward pegs the first time I tried them on an M109R.

    The CV is more costly than something from, say, Suzuki, or Star, but the real question, to me, is service. I live in the depths of OC, far from both the Long Beach and Oceanside dealers. What are the chances of finding a competent independent technician around here?

    Thanks for the write-up.

  5. First of all, there’s just not a lot to go wrong! The drive-shaft is similar to the initial one delivered in 1967, with continuous improvements for reliability over the years. The engine has about 10 parts in it — We joke about assembling it by putting all the parts in a box and shaking until it stops rattling.

    Seriously though, the first thing you do as a Guzzi owner is join the mailing lists. Guzzi people are your network and lifeline when you’re away from dealers. If you have trouble, you’ll always have a little bit of love from them. Secondly, all new Guzzis come with roadside assistance, so if you’re caught unawares on the road, you’ll have some helping goodness a phone call away. I know there’s an Orange County Dealer, a San Diego Dealer and of course my buddy Mark at Moto Guzzi Classics. I also know that Orange County is littered with Guzzisti, and once you own the bike, join the MGNOC and meet a few, you’ll find that any help you ever need will be close at hand.

    These bikes are super-super reliable. Mine’s 36 years old and it always gets me home. Hope this helps. If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to reply.

  6. Danilo,
    Greetings from Golden Colorado. Thank you so much for your in depth review of the Cal Vintage. I bought my first motorcycle last year a 1967 Honda CL77 305 Scrambler. It took a lot of work (still does) currently it runs great and i ride it quite a bit but after a year and 4000 miles I am ready for an improvement (turn signals what a concept)and something I can ride longer distances at highway speeds. I diligently researched the bikes on the market and really didn’t see anything other than vintage bikes (I want a non tinkerer) that I really liked with the exception of the Triumph Thruxton (cafe style and comfort ruled it out), some of the Beemers and of course the Harley’s with the latter 2 being mostly out of my price range. I was smitten by my first look at a CV vintage I read all the articles including yours and then found a used black ’08 with 3000 miles on it for $9,200. It will be shipped to me in about 3 weeks.
    I never considered a bagger because of their size, but the
    CV’s weight attracted me as well as the reliability, price,
    brakes and fork, sound, great looks, comfort, driving lights, uniqueness, heritage..etc.. and to me having a windscreen and bags for an overnight really makes a lot of sense if you are going to ride any kind of distance. I think you hit the nail on the head about the in the box type of riders and real riders. I find the guys that know bikes love (want) my 305, and I’m sure they will aprreciate the Guzzi.
    I’ve only seen a couple MG Cal’s out here, and not sure why(?) either, This bike seems to have everything I could want (pipes are my only consideration and the extra bag). I understand it has quirks and I never got to test ride one
    (I didn’t test ride my Hona either), for me the MG will be a step up to a “real motorcycle” . I’ll let you know how it goes right now I think I made a great choice.
    Jim S

  7. Hi there, I just purchased a brand new 2007, yes 2007, California vintage …can’t wait to have it delivered!!!
    I currently own a Breva 1100, and I just love it…It feels and rides like a bike is meant to be.

    Loved your write up of the vintage.

    Tks,Stef.

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