riding my much loved 1989 Yamaha FJ1200 for a few years, and reaching nearly 80,000
miles on the odometer, it was time to look for something new. The
starting to randomly exhibit a lot of little mechanical
failures. Even its cracked and glued body panels were showing their age.
So, with some degree of reticence… tinged with the excitement for a
new bike, I began to search for its replacement. As the FJ was an air-cooled
bike (with just an oil cooler), it was only semi-faired. I preferred this
look having a bit of weakness for the 70's style bikes.
So I began to look for
bikes that had their engines exposed, but provided reasonable faired
protection from the elements. I wanted a bike that was capable of long distance comfort, with plenty
of power to lope along effortlessly.
not an exact fit aesthetically, a good friend and riding buddy of mine owned
a 1998 Honda VFR800. He was quite satisfied with its performance and
reliability. After a test ride
or two, I also was impressed.
The Search Begins
So I began my search for a new bike with the VFR at the top of my list. After a bit of homework, I settled on the 2000 year model for its stunning yellow color. At the same time, I also considered a new Yamaha FZ-1. I'd been pleased with the quality of Yamaha’s FJ, and liked the FZ-1’s ergonomics and overall look.
However, I had a nagging vision of Moto Guzzi’s new V11 Sport that'd stuck
with me for some time. I'd
seen a prototype awhile back and that impression had been with me ever since.
Back then, it was beyond my budget, and it didn’t fit my needs.
So while considering the Moto Guzzi, I managed to
see quite a few V11 Sports at local bike hangouts. After chatting with various owners and
digesting their positive remarks, it
made me think back fondly of that first impression of the V11. On a whim, I decided to browse around,
learn more about these bikes and what they cost.
my surprise, in the 2002 model year, Moto Guzzi
released a half-faired version of the V11 Sport called the 2002 V11 Le Mans.
Just one look had me hooked! After a couple test rides at my local
dealer, I knew I wanted this bike.
Regarding buying new versus used.... well, sure if I had waited a year and
gotten a 2002 as "last years model" I could have saved a few
thousand, but that's life. I was fortunate to come into some money
when I bought the bike, so was able to pay cash for it. So since it's not a
debt hanging over my head, I just consider it a hobby.
a Moto Guzzi? Well, first and foremost… the V11 is a simple, air-cooled, and
elegant design that I found irresistibly attractive. I've always loved that 70's sportbike look. I have a preference for bikes that
proudly hang their engines out conspicuously, and even to a greater degree, air-cooled bikes.
there is nothing more fundamentally “motorcycle” than an air-cooled
engine. While perhaps
anachronistic and mechanically at a disadvantage to modern liquid-cooled
motorcycles, the simplicity and beauty of finned cylinders has stayed with
me the last few bikes I've owned.
So I rode home on my first ever new
have been smiling ever since. The more I ride it, the more I think I'll be keeping this bike for a long time.
Even as a regular all-purpose and sport touring bike, I really like
it. It's certainly something different! There are quite a few out here
in Northern California, but everywhere else they are quite rare and
distinct, and I like that.
as most Moto Guzzi owners know, a Moto Guzzi as delivered from the factory
is less a complete and perfect bike, and more a foundation upon which the
owner builds his own vision. As
such, my bike has evolved quite a bit in the last year.
Corbin Solo Saddle
One of the first modifications I did was have a Corbin Solo Gunfighter made down in Hollister,
CA. There really isn't any substitute for
having Corbin make a seat "custom" for you if you can make to
their factory showroom. And in my case, it
was the best option.
Corbin doesn't "officially" make a seat for
the 2002+ V11 Sport varieties (i.e. Le Mans, Scura, Naked, etc) at present. But if they
can get a donor bike, hopefully that will be addressed one day. Unfortunately, I've heard various degrees of varying customer satisfaction
when ordering the "generic" fit Corbin for one's bike via mail-order. On the other hand, having it made on-site seems to be an almost guaranteed success.
I can't recall exactly what I paid for the Corbin solo
saddle, but it wasn't any more than
the standard pricing. In fact, if I recall, I actually got a small discount
because they put a tiny scratch on the tank under the seat. All in all, it was about $275
and worth every penny.
Although the OEM seat
wasn’t terrible for long distance riding, I had wanted a custom seat for a
long time to improve comfort. The stock seat was too wide and made reaching the ground flat-footed
difficult. I'm not sure what the stock seat height is, however I am 5'8" and
with the stock seat I was unable to sit flat-footed. The bike itself is a bit
wide. So if you have a short inseam like I do, 30", then it can be hard
to get both feet down. However, with the Corbin, I would say it lowered
my seating position an entire inch.
Mods I've made to the motorcycle over the past year include:
- Mike Rich Motorsports "Stage II" ported heads
- TiN coated valves and new guides
- Dual-plug head conversion
Airbox removed, K&N pod filters with custom made filter side-covers
- Jet-Hot coated exhausts
- Power Commander-III usb
- Leo Vince Ti exhaust
- Stucchi crossover
- Ohlins R&T front forks with proper spring rates installed by Lindemann
25mm hollow axle for increased front-end rigidity
- Wake your neighbors FIAMM horns
Throttlemeister “heavy” model
- Powerlet outlet in fairing
Kisan headlight and taillight modulators
Kisan signalminder with running light conversion
- Formotion clock/thermometer
Rizoma aluminum brake/clutch reservoir
- Various cosmetic modification
You may notice in the first pic that the front rim is polished around the edge, while the
rear is not. That's a result of my ham-fisted removal of the front
wheel and brakes... and knackering up the finish on the rim.
thought, "...hey, I always like the polished rim edges on a Speed Triple I saw one time way back.
In turn, I just stripped off the paint along
the damaged edges, and it looks pretty good.
The engine is coming apart soon for a warranty replacement of the
cases due to the factory "crinkle coat" failing prematurely on
2002 bikes. While we're "in there" I thought I would get some
other work done.
- Higher pressure fuel-pressure regulator (3.5 bar, instead of 3 bar OEM since
I've opened up the intake and exhausts)
- High-comp pistons
- Carillo connecting-rods (significantly lighter than OEM)
- Ti push-rods (yep, you heard it right PUSH RODS, remember this bike is
- New cam and corresponding higher rate valve springs
- And the crank/rotating-bits will need to be rebalanced
Other than the parts
costs and after talking it over with my dealer, most of
the installation of the new components should be "free" since almost
all of these parts are coming apart/out under warranty during the
engine case swap. So I thought this might be the best opportunity to get the
Ultimately, if I can get 90-ish
horsepower at the rear wheel, I'll be satisfied.
have around 84-86 HP now (depending on the phase of the moon) and around
64ft/lbs of pretty flat torque delivery.
the new dual-plugs, a revised PC-III custom map, and the modifications this
Winter, this target should be easily attainable.
And to round out the suspension, I am also getting an Ohlins rear
with the remotely adjustable preload. Then next Spring, some Hepco
bags and I should be "set" for a
long time for any other mods.
Is all of this necessary?
no. The V11 Sport delivers about
78 horsepower to the rear wheel stock. It has more torque at low RPM than many
comparable bikes, and with very little work, 80+ HP is readily achievable.
And in day-to-day riding, this is plenty of power. Not to
mention it's delivered with the gusto only an Italian twin can!
the Moto Guzzi V11
Although the V11 Sport models may be cramped for some
taller riders, aftermarket bar risers and peg kits can make the bike a good
fit for most riders. The Le Mans
model offers the additional benefit of an effective fairing, and the
steel frame offers generous luggage and weight carrying capabilities.
As for what it's like riding a Guzzi, it's by far one
of the most unique
experiences in motorcycling. One I would highly recommend to anyone
interested. Is it the quickest,
fastest, or best handling bike? No, but it’s got a soul that’s hard to
define. There is a character and uniqueness to this bike that separates it
from other motorcycles.
in the spirit of Pashnit.com, is the V11 Le Mans a Sport Tourer?
Well, depending on who you ask, any number of motorcycles that
otherwise might not be considered sport-touring motorcycles might fit the
This is certainly the case for the Le Mans
It’s in the eye of the beholder.
the V11 Sport models certainly can’t be characterized as “track weapons”,
they aren’t tourers either.
They are more in the spirit of the café racers of old. The
bikes are so flexible due to their engine design and relaxed ergonomics,
that they can be employed for everything from spirited weekend canyon
carving, to long distance journeys. And
on the melodious thrum of the Guzzi twin, what a journey it is.
Out and About
The bikes runs quite well stock, especially if left
unmolested. And the 1064cc engine even when choked with OEM mufflers,
intake, etc... still delivers a healthy 77-79 rwhp, and almost 60 ft/lbs of
torque. Although there is some buzzing around 5k rpm, this smoothes
out over time and break-in. Plus generally speaking the 90-degree V
layout has very good vibration canceling effects.
The fuel mileage around town is on the low side, in the
high 20’s, but not surprising for a lot of EFI bikes. However,
for long-distance riding, mileage climbs to the low to mid 40’s.
This gives a 180-200 mile range on average per tank./p>
Around town the mileage isn't too hot, around 30 give
or take a couple mpg depending on how aggressive one rides. But it
supposedly gets better with break-in (which is quite long on a Guzzi
apparently, as the engines are tight). Generally 10k miles is considered
"broken in" on these bikes.
>But on a trip last Summer through
Yosemite, Mono Lake, and back.. highway mileage got up to 45 mpg. So that's
not too awful. If it gets better, that's a good starting point.
If there is one drawback, I do wish it had a bit more
range. I can get around 180 miles of highway riding, so that's not too
terrible. But I would prefer if I could have gotten a good 200.
Gripes & Whines
For some reason the 2002's had some difficulties with Quality Assurance, and
mine was victim to many of those. I attribute this to teething pains during
the Aprilia takeover after they purchased Moto Guzzi in 2000. Bikes prior to 2002,
and after that particular model year are generally assembled better.
Examples of the oversights in
2002 are forgetting to grease bearings, splines, and improper tightening of
mating surfaces, leading to catastrophic oil leaks. The most common of which
is the front timing chain cover. Mine blew out in the first month.
Some riders complain of bar vibrations, especially through the right grip. But Moto Guzzi’s are notoriously tight as delivered from the
factory, and the engines actually take a good 10,000 miles to really loosen
up. This along with heavier bar
ends, or accessories like the Throttlemeister and gel grips smooth out the
vibration to a pleasant reminder of the soul of the bike.
only real sport-touring drawback is a relatively weak charging system.
But if one isn’t supporting lots of extra lighting in combination
with gizmos, and heated garments all at the same time, it’s sufficient for
a subset of them.
No major gripes per se, as I mentioned, the 2002s and V11 Sports have a handful
of issues. Once the handful of known gremlins are addressed, it's
mostly a bullet-proof bike. After all, it's not cutting edge
technology. Being that most are known issues, if targeted up front,
the bikes are really great.
Guzzi's are known to be "tinkerers
bikes" where the owners dive in and get them sorted out and customized
to their own needs. We Guzzi owners look at the bikes as providing a
"foundation" for creating the bike one really wants, versus a
perfect bike as delivered.
As for things like insurance, it's pretty average, nothing shocking.
I use State Farm and they insure
based on displacement, so the reputation of the bike model is
irrelevant to them. I don't think this bike is specifically flagged as a high-risk
bike. Guzzi owners are typically older(35+) so they aren't as often victims
of the average squidly teenager as a Japanese race-replica might be... so
that's good news for us.
I have full coverage, and I think I'm paying about
$300ish every 6 months, in that ballpark. I'm
a clean record. Simple liability would have been peanuts.
I have a custom leather jacket from San Jose Leather, with ballistic
armor. I also have some generic leather pants with armor that I bought from
San Jose Leather as well. For more casual rides, I
have some "Draggin Jeans" with the Kevlar panels. I also have a
Tourmaster textile jacket, and liked it quite well but it never got
I've been using Helimot's new sport touring gloves along
with the Shoei RF900 helmet.
I also have some custom ear-plugs, with built in transducers in case I want
to pipe-in sound, although I've yet to try it. Sidi boots round out
the bike runs great, and the 2003's have really sorted out almost all
of the issues we saw earlier. It always pulls strongly although it doesn't have the top-end rush of a modern
in-line 4 cylinder motor, even in some ways
not as fast as the FJ was. But it puts a smile on my face, and that's what
But details aside, the V11 Sport, and specifically the Le Mans, is an exciting package
that is fairly unique if one wants to stand out from the pack. If one can only own a single motorcycle, the V11 Le Mans is a
can't tell you how many times I've had kids come up and ask me, "Who makes a motohh
San Jose, CA
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