Moto Guzzi California Vintage – Day 4 – Vintage vs Harley Heritage Softail — A BARGAIN!

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

Taking a mental health day and cruising the PCH -- Malibu.

Taking a mental health day and cruising the PCH -- Malibu.



A side-by-side comparison…

After riding the California Vintage around, I thought it would be nice to compare it to the “standard” of the group — The Harley Davidson Heritage Softail. I chose the softail because it has similar look and purpose.  It is a luxury touring bike with a clear windscreen, bags, etc.  It’s purpose is “retro”; cop-like, long miles, touch of retro and, as the name suggests, “Heritage”.  I think this is probably an accurate description of the big Guzzi as well.


Price was slightly difficult to figure.   Moto Guzzi has a single price, $14,999.  There are no “ups” involved.  You can buy only three accessories, and they’re all luggage, a trunk bag, tail bag and a cover.  That’s it.  If you want to add 40lbs of leather and logo items, you’re pretty much out of luck here.  Bonus in my opinion, because you’re not going to get sold a whole bunch of stuff you don’t need just so the dealer can load up your out-the-door price.  The Guzzi is unique enough as it stands.


Unmistakeable California Vintage Seat

Unmistakeable California Vintage Seat

The Harley’s base is $17,999.  There’s a “freight” charge of $330, Wire wheels are another $500, Emissions in California are another $200, and a security system is $345.  So now you’re at $19,199.  Oh yeah.  Guzzi has that killer Marzocchi fork.  Harley’s got that too, but that’s another $1400.  Hard bags similar to the Guzzi will be another $800.  So now we’re up to about 21,399.  That’s an extra $6400 to pack it like the Moto Guzzi California Vintage.


So what do you get for the money?  You do get that Harley name plate, so all you’re friends will instantly know that you are part of the crowd and “stayed in the box”.  You get the same warranty (2 years), but I didn’t see roadside assistance, which is what is offered by Guzzi.

How about power?  Do you get more power for your money?  Well, the Guzzi’s 1094cc motor lists it’s horspower as 72hp.  Harley doesn’t list it’s horsepower figures anywhere on their site, but after a Google Search I found the highest output listed as 82hp for their 96 c.i. (1570cc) lump. When you factor weight in, I get 9 lbs per horsepower for the Harley, and 8 lbs per horsepower for the Guzzi.

So the $6400 does give you one more pound per horsepower for the Harley, given that the highest figures I could find are accurate (I found lower, too).  Harley also delivers an extra 11 ft/lbs of torque, which indeed is nothing to sneeze at.  So, dollar-wise, it costs $640 per extra horsepower, and $582 for each extra foot-pound of torque.  Of course, Harley will be most happy to put more ponies under your butt for an extra charge.  You could also just live with the stock leather soft bags on the Harley and save more money…

I fell in love with the Marzocchi forks.  You can take them off the Harley if you want, but the handling will definitely suffer and the Guzzi will just walk away from you in the twisties.  Maybe that’s not you’re thing, but frankly, I believe that if you’re considering a Guzzi, you’re probably very interested in how the bike will handle and move.  Guzzi doesn’t publish it’s lean angles, but from my experience they are extremely sporting.  Harley states their lean angles are 29° or thereabouts, and I’m sure that Guzzi stomps this mercilessly. The big, bad brembos are something else that Guzzi has that Harley doesn’t;  I didn’t couldn’t find this available from Harley — I’m sure they are available aftermarket, just pony up the bucks.

I guess it depends on what you want.

Many people find it extremely important to belong, and I appreciate that very much.  Harley’s community is very strong and definitely has a long and storied lifestyle.  You’re never going to have much of a “bad boy”

Inverted Marzocchi Forks.  $1400 extra if you want them on your Harley.

Inverted Marzocchi Forks. $1400 extra if you want them on your Harley.

image on a California Guzzi, excepting the bad cops from Magnum Force.  The Guzzi is pointed directly at riders that want a great handling, comfortable and reliable bagger to soak up long distances.  After all, once you’re going 80, ride, comfort, handling and braking become very important.

The Harley will definitely hit the road, soak up the miles, and you get to belong to “the club” — and pay the extra $6400 in “dues”.


I’ve never been much of a “joiner”.  I am a Guzzi enthusiast and I will readily admit that I am glad that the Guzzi compares so favorably.  I go to many of the Guzzi meets, and the requirement is to “show up”.  The Moto Guzzi National Owner’s Club is a great organization that I just haven’t gotten around to joining, and yet my friends in the club still invite me on their rides and treat me like a member when I show up.  I think guilt drives membership there.  The club is very family-oriented and friendly as all-get-out.  The meets definitely have nothing “racy” about them, in fact, they are more anarchic than anything else.  I think I’ve met the club’s president, but nobody ever discusses club politics, so I think he got elected by missing a meeting.

I guess it depends on what you want, but I believe that a side-by-side comparison of the Heritage and the California Vintage is a worthy one.  The big Guzzi really packs a tremendous value for the money, and it’s a real delight to own and ride, as I rack up the miles, I know that in three days I’ll be turning it in.  The parting of ways will be the only thing that will be a disappointing.  I need a day to just ride without a care in the world.  I need a Mental Health Day.


8 thoughts on “Moto Guzzi California Vintage – Day 4 – Vintage vs Harley Heritage Softail — A BARGAIN!

  1. Pingback: Moto Guzzi California Vintage Day 3 — Cool vs. “Checkbook Cool” « As the dude abides…

  2. Pingback: Moto Guzzi California Vintage - Day 5 - The Mental Health Day. « As the dude abides…

  3. Interesting.
    If you rode the Harley to compare the bikes directly, you don’t say so, and to truly compare apples/apples you’d have to do that.

    Baggers have never been my style, so I have no experience to share. But I’ve been riding since 1960 on two-wheeled thingies of one sort or another and have noticed this:
    At poker runs, the guys that take home the “most mileage” door prize come from either the Harley or BMW (airhead) camp. But there’s a big difference there…
    The Harley guy with tons of miles on his odometer will probably pull his bike into his living room during cold months and virtually rebuild it. The BMW guy will change his oil and tweak his bike here and there.
    And there’s nothing wrong with either enthusiast is there?
    The Harley guy enjoys his disassembly/reassembly process… accepts it as part of the scenario of owning the Harley. The BMW guy takes pride in the fact that he changes the oil and air filter onn his bike and he’s ready for season of riding.

    But I’ve taken short rides on ’em and Harley HAS changed somewhat… MUCH less vibration (off idle), no more puddles of oil, and better (Japanese!) electrics. I have many friends and relatives that ride big Harleys and love them. The big Harley bagger is no doubt comfortable on long hauls, and if you want that sound and that nameplate, as you say, just get out your checkbook.

    By the time you read this Danilo I may be the proud owner of a ’93 SPIII. I’ve owned Cushman motor scooters, a few under 250cc fun bikes, a Sportster, 3-three-cylinder two stroke Kaws… 2-500’s and a 750… (ungodly fast at a time when that was exactly what I wanted!), an RD400 Yamaha cafe, and a Windjammer-faired ’79 Yamaha XS1100SF that was fast, torquey as hell, comfortable for long cruises, and pleasing to my eye.
    If I’m successful in my purchase of the SPIII I’ll be interested to see how it compares with that big Yamaha.

    One of the commenters at one of your posts left a note that struck a chord with me…
    “Buy it, ride it, and if you don’t like it you can sell it… the experience will be worth the cost.”
    Makes sense to me. I’m lookin’ forward to discovering if I love Guzzis as much as you and your other readers.
    Stay tuned… I’ll let ya know how my auction turns out!

  4. Just for some background I’ll tell you that I currently own two Guzzis and that I work at a Harley shop selling bikes.

    First of all comparing a Heritage to the Cali is a little off. A Road King would have been a better choice. Second, nobody is putting an inverted front end on a Heritage. It’s not even an “option” as you put it. Third, the Heritage comes with laced wheels stock. The upgrade you speak of is for an upgraded version called a profile laced wheel. It’s just a nicer type of wheel.

    It seems to me that you were being a bit disingenuous.

    01 V11 Sport
    89 Cali III

  5. I took the information from the HD website in late 2008, and did the best I could. While an inverted fork is obviously not am option on the HD, I was referencing the Marzocchi Fork that had identical adjust ability that was an extra expense option. I can’t say I was disingenuous, since there was no malice in my thinking.

    I picked the model to compare both from the comparative specs on the website and the the then-recent article on “Baggers” in Motorcycle Magazine, where the CalVin came in second place, not winning only because of the small dealership network.

    Thanks for the clarifications and opinions. I hope that your comments help.

  6. Moto Guzzi is waiting for You in september – Mandello del Lario 90° Anniversary – …would you be there??

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