QUICK FANG: Moto Guzzi Cali 1400 Custom – Brawn And Brains

27 August 2013
Like cops and robbers or good and evil, Moto Guzzi acknowledges the contrasts of life and offers two versions of its California 1400 cruiser. They might be mechanically identical but the Touring and Custom are polar opposites: one enforces the law, the other breaks it. 
Moto Guzzi was once the steed of choice with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Touring version’s ‘Serve and Protect’ demeanour is still there with its riot-shield-size screen, higher ’bars, spotlights and sizeable panniers. 
Then there’s the strippeddown, lesser-chromed Custom – the black, bruiser cruiser for us harder, faster types; the aesthetically purest of the pair. 
It marries technology with tradition with digital/analogue instrumentation, trick LED lighting and cruise control. Unexpected for a cruiser, it also comes with sportsbike-like tech such as switchable engine maps to vary power output to suit conditions (all in Italian, of course) as well as varying levels of traction control.
A keyless start system to match Milwaukee’s finest is a notable omission.
Throw a leg over and the Guzzi greets you with its low, plush seat and those distinctively spread, pulsating heads that meet your loins like a passage from Fifty Shades of Grey.
Thumb the starter button and the engine rumbles to life in a charismatic leftright motion. A twist of the ride-by-wire throttle delivers a mountain of torque from the 90-degree, air-cooled 1380cc V-twin that’s happy in the higher rev range. If only it sounded this good throughout the entire rev range. Job number one: change the pipes and unleash the beast.
The bike’s 300kg heft makes itself known as soon as you lift it from the sidestand but reinstates confidence with its massive Brembo brakes, light clutch and smooth throttle.
On a twisty road the Guzzi is surprisingly agile thanks to neutral handling, responsive steering and a plush but controlled ride that soaks up the worst of our pot-holed roads. Herein lies the only mechanic difference between the Calis: the absence of panniers has allowed engineers to give the Custom a sportier – and more compliant – rear suspension tune.
Like Ducati’s Diavel, Moto Guzzi’s California 1400 Custom is a stylish bruiser cruiser that marches to the beat of its own drum – with pure Italian flair. Add to that an air of exclusivity and you’ve got one head-turning beast that challenges the status quo.
SPEX - Moto Guzzi Cali 1400 Custom
Type: Air/oil-cooled, four-valves-percylinder, 90-degree, transverse V-twin
Capacity: 1380cc
Bore and Stroke: 104 x 81.2mm
Compress Ion Ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel System: EFI
Type: Six-speed, constant mesh
Final Drive: Shaft
Frame Type: Twin-loop steel
Front Suspension: Conventional 46mm fork, non-adjustable
Rear Suspension: Twin shocks, adjustable for preload
Front Brake: Twin 320mm discs with radial-mount four-piston Brembo calipers, ABS
Rear Brake: Single 282mm disc with twin-piston Brembo caliper, ABS
Dry Weight: 300kg
Seat Height: 720mm
Fuel Capacity: 20.5lt
Wheelbase: 1685mm
Front: 3.5 x 18in alloy with 130/70R18 Dunlop D251F
Rear: 6 x 16in alloy with 200/60R16 Dunlop D251F
Max Power: 71kW (95.2hp) at 6500rpm
Max Torque: 120Nm (88.50ft-lb) at 2750rpm
Fuel Use: 7.2L/100km (13.8km/lt)