Right, so first thing first. It’s pronounced “Moh-toh Gooh-tzi”, not “Mowda Guhzee”.
Now that’s out of the way, let me state it is common knowledge among motorcyclists that Moto Guzzi (riders are the submariners of the motorcycle world.
Like real submariners, they live a truth denied to others. Brave or crazy, or chunks of both, they’re fun to have a drink with until they’re not. Then you have to use a chair to subdue them.
They are perfectly suited to the marque they have embraced – one-eyed and fanatical, they truly believe they ride the greatest two-wheeled creation ever made. No evidence to the contrary will be accepted. Their cognitive dissonance is complete.
They have mainlined that soaring Italian eagle into their grospy veins, pledged their undying allegiance to the most unique engine configuration in all motorcycledom, and the rest of us can piss off because we just don’t get it. Which is when you should start smashing them with a chair.
With the obvious exception of Harley-Davidson, no other brand instils such devotion into owners. Those latte-breathed Ducatisi aren’t even close. Laverda owners can only admire the Moto Guzzi obsessives from a much lower mountain. No Jap-bike rider would ever be as wedded to a brand as a Guzzi rider is. And every BMW or KTM owner just knows better.
Moto Guzzi owners and riders are in a class the good Reverend Jim Jones would have been proud to share the Kool Aid with.
But I do love me a fanatic. I have my own zealotry to cope with, and I easily identify it in others. And, to be perfectly honest, all men should, at one time in their lives, own a Moto Guzzi. Sometimes you just gotta taste the crazy, right?
But up until now, licking that popsicle was a bridge too far for most people. It might have been a road you couldn’t ever get off. Moto Guzzis have always been hugely idiosyncratic motorcycles – which is known as “character” in some circles. The factory, fot its part, has built some staggeringly beautiful bikes. And it has also built some munted horrors which have scarred human sensibilities. But it’s hardly alone there.
I have ridden a bunch of Guzzis over the years. I spent a fair amount of time with two in particular – an early 90s California and a mid-90s Daytona. The first one had a gearbox with 8.6 gears in it, most of them travelling neutrals, and looked far more like a gibbon’s idea of a US cruiser than anything an Italian craftsman would make. And the second invariably hated any kind of petrol you’d put in it, hunted like a dog, leaked oil, refused to start, and would offer you blue smoke instead of electrical compliance when so moved.
But they both handled. Very, very well. Crazy well, in fact. So well, the idiot parts of my brain would whisper maybe I should buy one. Who knew? it said. Maybe I’d get one that wasn’t so packed with “character” it might actually work properly for more than three days at a time.
I didn’t listen. I had enough existential issues with my Harley around that time. I did not need to add wild Italian despair to my fuming hatred of Milwaukee.
And so there I remained. I did not succumb to the lure of the submariner, but I did manage to ride a whole heap of Guzzis in the following years.
Mandello did things differently. That was obvious. That was the appeal, after all. And to my mind, the factory would remain on a kind of strange motorcycle side-road, cloaked in an amazing history, adored by its adherents, but somehow unable or unwilling to build a bike that appealed to the non-submariners among us.
The V100 Mandello is unmistakably a Moto Guzzi, but a Moto Guzzi unlike all that have gone before. That signature engine-configuration remains, but the heads have been spun through 90-degrees, and it’s now liquid cooled.
I had always though the transverse-twin engine to be a thing of great beauty. And hanging the pipes out the side of the heads rather than arcing out the front is a huge styling departure – even though it makes great engineering sense.
It’s still a good-looking motor. And Guzzi has ensured a few traditional styling cues have been retained, like the sidecover gills, tank profile, and tail-light. You’ll also note the LED running light is Guzzi’s soaring eagle logo – a very cool touch.
And it’s far more than the sum of its numbers. There are 115 horses, 105Nm of torque, and it’s all delivered in a very flat-lined fashion. It weighs 233kg wet, and hauls 17-litres of petrol around, which is good for about 250km-odd, I reckon.
There’s a whole suite of electronic rider-aids, and a bunch of modes, including two programmable ones. Mine basically sat in Sport the whole time, because the only real difference I noticed was between it and Rain. All the horses gallop in all the modes, the difference is in throttle response and suspension settings on the S model.
There are two variants available. The S model, which comes with semi-active Öhlins Smart EC2.0 suspension, sexier forks, a quickshifter, and heated grips. And the Not-The-S model, which doesn’t have those goodies, but offers adjustable suspension to stop you whining. Oh, and both have the electric screen, and integrated pannier mounts.
The S comes in two lovely two-tone colours. There’s a grey-and-green one called the Verde 2121, and the black-and-grey Grigio Avanguardia. The base Mandello you can have in red (Rosso Magma) or white (Bianco Polare).
And both models have what Guzzi calls an “adaptive aerodynamic system”, a world-first from a company that has quite a few such feathers in its cap.
Guzzi claims it reduces air pressure on the rider by 22 per cent. It has a wind tunnel at the factory, so it’s hard to argue with that statement. The aero works like this…
At a set speed – which you can set, or leave at the factory-set 100km/h – two sections of the petrol tank, each about the size of a strangler’s hand – rise up a few centimetres, one in front of each manly thigh. And thus, the brief goes, the air pressure on those manly thighs is reduced. When your speed drops below a hundred (or whatever you program into it), the sections retract.
Pete Vorst, who mostly rode the white one at the press launch because he was late getting his sleepy arse to the garage where I had already claimed the lovely Grigio Avangaurdia, said it reminded him of a sea-clam opening sensuously to the sway of the tides. I almost fell off the lookout laughing. Yes, the white one would certainly look like that.
Happily, you can’t see it happening as you ride. The deployment happens outside your field of vision. Which is good. Bits of your tank acting all clam-like could distract the more fluffy-headed among us. Like me.
To be honest, I did not feel the aero-thingies made much of a difference. It’s true my thighs are like weathered leather, so there’s that. And I did very much try to notice if there was a lessening of wind pressure. But I didn’t.
And I don’t give a shit. It’s such a cool thing to have going on when you’re riding.
As for the whole Mandello V100 riding experience? Hand on my heart, it was great. The Mandello is a wonderful bike. It’s agile, loves twisties, and is as stable and sure-footed as the class-leaders in this niche, and more so than a lot of contenders. It feels solid, planted, and substantial. Guzzis have always handled well. The factory has relentlessly ensured that.
And it goes. I thought it would give some bang away to the R1250RS with which it directly competes, and which has 250 more ccs. And maybe that is the case on a dyno. It sure didn’t feel like it on the road. The V100 Mandello delivers its power smoothly, and doesn’t stop all the way to red-line which is 10,000, if I recall. Speeds in the low 200s are right there, pilgrim, if you’ve a mind to sail that way.
The traditional Guzzi torque-lurch is gone. My brain told me the ghost of it remained, but that’s what angst does to you. It scars you forever. Feel free to lash this thing into corners as hard as you like. It’s not got any “character” there to mess with you.
But it remains unmistakably a Guzzi. Rich torque delivery – so creamy it’s like you’re riding an entire dairy farm – and the ability to brake, lean, and power out of bends with the best of them.
It’s comfortable, as two full days in the saddle followed by my ability to walk unaided through airport security will attest. So it ticks the touring bike box.
Seeing as how this was a Press Launch, I didn’t do big miles, but one does tend to spend most of the day in the saddle. Our well-heated lead-rider, Chris “The Sheepdog” Harris, ensured I was treated to some lovely Victorian roads, some wildly bracing temperatures, and a wee frolic in the snow up past Lake Mountain. It was a pretty good exploration of the Mandello’s integrity.
I rode it on roads strewn with leaf-litter, bark, snow, ice, and a whole heap of those awful “Surprise, dickhead!” potholes which are everywhere these days.
I also rode it on sweet, fast sweepers – how good is that Gembrook road? – and even managed some mindless freeway time for the transport stages.
As always, I’d made an idiot’s attempt to keep Cam Donald in sight for more than a corner-and-a-half, almost died, then went about my business as normal. This taught me the Mandello can be ridden several orders of magnitude faster than I could ride it. And that is valuable information. I don’t always have to do things to know they can be done. This is how aspiration is nurtured.
But it’s not without some peccadillos. Firstly, the heated grips seem better suited to the warmer climes of southern Italy than the it’s-a-bullshit-three-degrees-and-I’m riding-in-snow crap Victoria served up. Even dialled up to three (the max) they seemed half-hearted. BMW has five heated-grip settings. On number five you can boil water and watch your hands burn.
Then there’s the whole accessing the stuff thing. Moto Guzzi, like Aprilia, is owned by Piaggio. And, probably because “Shut-up, it’s Italy!”, access to, and navigation through, the menus and submenus where the heated grips and electronic screen controls are, is more stressful than it needs to be. I’m sure owners can get used it. I’m not sure why they have to.
It’s not hard to put a button that controls the heated grips on the switchblock. Put another button next to it that deals with the screen. When you make me scroll through menus while I’m trying not to spear off a cliff, I’m gonna make a frowny face.
None of that is a deal-breaker, to be honest. I’m not the kind of rider that spends any time at all frigging about with rider modes and buttons. I find one I like, and that’s where it lives forever. I would have enjoyed easier access to the grips and screen, but that just reads a bit like I’m a nit-picking sumbitch.
The V100 Mandello is the bike Moto Guzzi diehards have been waiting for. And it will not disappoint. But it is also the bike that puts Moto Guzzi into the headspace of people who might never have considered buying one.
They’ve heard the talk. They might even have met some submariners. But that’s like deciding not to consider a Harley because you’ve met HOG members.
Moto Guzzi has built a bike for now. For the real world. For the roads we ride and how we ride them.
A round of applause for the ragazzi of Mandello. They’ve done very, very well. The V100 Mandello is the best Moto Guzzi ever built.
THE CATHEDRAL OF MOTO GUZZI
I greatly enjoyed this press launch. The company was good, the bike was great, and I rode parts of Victoria which I have always loved to ride. Yeah, it was cold, and yeah, there was snow, but my mum didn’t raise no bitch, and there’s that whole thing about Jesus hating pussies. I’ve ridden much worse crap on far worse bikes, and still had a great time.
But the highlight of my trip was meeting Teo Lamers, and visiting his Cathedral of Moto Guzzi – the largest privately-owned collection of Moto Guzzis on earth.
It’s on three levels, and you can be forgiven if you spend your time there with your mouth agape, walking quietly and respectfully, as if you were treading on hallowed ground.
Because you are. This is Teo’s monument to Moto Guzzi, and showcases his unswerving commitment to the brand. He is a fanatic – and I love fanatics. They are pure of intent and spirit, which is why so many motorcyclists make great fanatics. We see the world differently.
Teo has collected nigh-on three hundred of Mandello’s creations. Many of the models are in sequential model-year order. Some are so rare, you’re seeing the only one in existence. Some are insanely hideous. Some are staggeringly beautiful. It is a collection that encompasses the entire vast and storied history of one of the world’s greatest marques.
None are “restored”, because Teo is correctly of the view that each bike has a story to tell, and to restore it to concourse condition would be to kill that story.
But this is no dusty barn full of cobwebbed wreckage. Teo loves the marque with a passion a dedication that is evident in every word he speaks when you ask him about this bike or that bike. The place is spotless, and the bikes, while unrestored, are kept in an ordered and spotless condition.
It’s out near Yea, and you while it’s open to the public, you must contact Teo before you rock up. This is his private collection, and this is his home, and the right thing to do if you want to see this truly stunning collection, and meet the amazing man who has amassed it, is to contact him first.
Trust me, it’s worth it.
You can email Teo at: email@example.com
I was given gifts by Peter Stevens Imports. I received a Moto Guzzi T-shirt, a pen, a key-ring, a water bottle, a Wolverine comic book, and a tin cup. Obviously, I would dwell among the cheaper whores if anyone thinks that’s gonna buy my love. Flying me First Class for two weeks of riding in the south of Italy…well, that’s a whole other thing.
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Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.