Moto Guzzi is now officially in India. So Jared saddles up on its lightest and most powerful big block for his first ever ride on the Italian cruiser.
My favourite country in the world is Italy. There’s just something about the Italian way of life that I love. They enjoy their food, they’re relaxed, and they express themselves very passionately – and, of course, the women are beautiful. It’s the little things in life that the Italians pay close attention to, and their ‘no nonsense’ approach to everything just fascinates me. The Moto Guzzi Audace, which I had with me for the weekend in Pune, clearly represents this brilliant Italian attitude. I must admit, though, that I’ve never really been a fan of Moto Guzzi. But now I realise that this was only because I was never given a chance to get up close and personal with these beautiful motorbikes.
American cruisers have dominated the global market, and it’s quite obvious that not many people in India are even aware that the Italians are also into big burly cruisers. Well, that’s all about to change now. Moto Guzzi is officially in India, and they have a nice selection of big cruisers for the Indian customer. The Audace is essentially a stripped down version of the Moto Guzzi California. After doing a bit of research I found out that the 1,400cc engine from the California is a brand new unit developed by the historic marque from Mandello del Lario, and has already gained quite a legendary reputation amongst auto journalists around the globe. The same engine is also found in the Audace, and with 96bhp and 121Nm of torque, its closest competitors in India are the new Triumph Thruxton and Thunderbird, and the Harley Davidson Fat boy and Night Rod Special. I’ve ridden all of these bikes before, and they’re highly impressive in their own right.
So, now it was time for me to take my first ride on a Moto Guzzi. But, before that, let me just talk about the design of the Audace. Just as you would expect, the Italians excel in design, and the Audace is definitely quite a looker! It’s different from the bulky American and British cruisers, and a lot more contemporary. And just like the Italian way of life, it’s the attention to detail that really sets this bike apart. The Audace uses the slogan ‘Born Bad,’ and it has a dark theme throughout the bike. There’s minimal use of chrome, and there’s no excess plastic. It’s mostly matte black metal, with a little use of carbon fibre. Then there’s the alcantara saddle, the underside fairing, the megaphone exhaust and the cast alloy wheels. But, like all the other Guzzis, the most prominent design feature is the massive, transverse V-twin – with its cylinder heads sticking out the sides of the bike. Extra muscle comes in the form of the wide 45mm front forks and that extra large rear tyre. Again, it’s not a flashy or extravagant design. It’s simple and elegant, but audacious.
When you start up the engine, you can feel it vibrate side-to-side quite heavily, and the rumbling sound lets you know that you’re on a beast. But once you click the 6-speed transmission into first gear and twist the throttle, the vibrations seem to magically disappear. I was quite taken aback by this, because when I started the bike I was expecting an old-school mechanical riding feel – but it turned out that the engine was smooth like butter. I asked the Moto Guzzi representative about this after the ride, and I found out that the bike was designed to have a harsh start on the engine as to give the rider an experience of starting a classic big block engine. Once I was on the highway though, the Audace showed that it was a true modern Italian. The engine is very refined, and it’s got superb throttle response. And it really does hurl you forward with the grit of a true sprinter.
But this is a technology packed cruiser as well, and thanks to the ride-by-wire throttle, multi-map management and traction control, the bike keeps a tight leash on the massive torque available from the 90° V-Twin. There are different riding modes that you can set from the digital and analogue single dial instrument cluster. It’s a great mix of old and new, and together with its muscle cruiser appeal, it’s a very well-engineered mastery of machinery – as you would expect from the Italians.
The riding position is also very nice and the long drag-handlebar positioned up high means there’s no weight on your wrists. Your legs are also properly and comfortably positioned up front for a true cruiser riding stance, so you can enjoy long distance touring. In the city, though, the bike is heavy – but, because it is so well balanced and thanks to the engine placement, it’s not too difficult to handle. On sweeping turns, on the highway and on tighter hill roads, it also handles brilliantly.
Overall, the Audace is a phenomenal motorcycle – and it’s certainly won me over. But here’s my problem with the bike. The bike is certainly exotic and unique, but I can’t find a reason to justify its high price tag of `21 lakhs. I could buy the Triumph Rocket III for the same price, which is my favourite cruiser and one that’s way more powerful. I could even save a small fortune, and go for the Triumph Thunderbird – which is just as beautiful, and just as mean and bold. The Harleys may not be as refined, but they do have the same muscle power and they don’t look bad either. And the fact of the matter is that no matter what big cruiser you ride in India, wherever you go everyone always shouts out – “Oh dekho… Harley Davidson!” The only reason that I can see anyone going for the Guzzi is the novelty value of owning an Italian cruiser. And, quite frankly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You just need to be as audacious as the Italian bike maker. And, if you can afford it, then why not?
- Moto Guzzi
Engine: 1,380cc / 90° V-twin Engine / Air and Oil cooled
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Power: 96bhp @ 6,500rpm
Torque: 121Nm @ 3,000rpm
Price: Rs. 21 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Pune)