First Ride Review
Moto Guzzi’s California line will expand to four models in 2016 with the addition of the Eldorado and Audace (pronounced ah-dach-eh), which I recently had the chance to spirit around Lake Como and through the hills near Moto Guzzi’s factory in Mandello del Lario in Italy. The first bike resurrects the name of one of Guzzi’s famous California models from the early 1970s to adorn a comfortable Italian-style touring cruiser, and the second is an audace (bold) stripped-down, blacked-out muscle cruiser for the boulevard. The Eldorado and Audace join the California Touring and Custom in Guzzi’s lineup, all of which are based upon its air-cooled “big block” longitudinal V-twin which, at 1,380cc, Moto Guzzi says is the largest V-twin ever manufactured in Europe.
The Eldorado’s styling draws from its own history, with a decidedly retro yet modern look highlighted by classic black paint with white pinstriping, a chrome teardrop motif on the gas tank, 16-inch spoked tubeless wheels and whitewall tires, oversized seat, fully covered shocks and a gem-shaped headlight equipped with an LED daytime running light.
Settle into the Eldorado’s 29.1-inch-high seat, hit the starter button and it unleashes a steady rumbling idle, with mechanical waves that rock it from left to right when you blip the throttle. Once you get rolling, the waves turn to glassy water at 10-plus mph. The 90-degree V-twin is suspended in a tubular-steel, closed double-cradle frame with an elasto-kinematic mounting system that isolates vibration. When we put a 2014 California Touring on the Jett Tuning dyno, the engine produced 87.7 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 78.5 lb-ft of torque at 2,900 through the shaft drive at the rear wheel, healthy numbers for just about any kind of riding.
And the Eldorado is incredibly easy to ride. While this heavyweight cruiser can be a handful in a parking lot, it becomes very manageable at city speeds. Its bullhorn handlebars and 16-inch wheels help it steer very predictably around sharp corners and roundabouts, the floorboards are roomy and the heel-toe shifter doesn’t trap your boot. The nylon sliders under the floorboards place an early curfew on the lean angle party, but the 46mm fork and preload-adjustable dual rear shocks work well and I never bottomed out. This bike handles city riding and touring without a hiccup; gear ratios seem to be spot on for crawling around on city streets or drowning in a deep reservoir of torque in third or fourth gear on scenic roads. Or put it in sixth, set the cruise control with your right thumb and devour long, high-speed stretches of the Italian autostrada. The comfortable relationship among the handlebars, seat and floorboards allowed me to adjust my riding position on the oversized saddle for a nice stretch on the move.
Despite its cruiser orientation, the Eldorado has a ride-by-wire throttle and offers more electronic rider intervention than some current supersport bikes. Riding modes comprise veloce (performance), turismo (touring) and pioggia (rain). Most of my riding time was spent in the veloce mode for more spirited riding. Turismo has smoother initial response, which is better suited for taking in the sights or cruising urban streets, and rain cuts the power dramatically for slippery conditions. Changing modes automatically adjusts the three traction control levels, and the dual-channel Brembo ABS braking system is stellar. Mode and TC status is displayed on a very readable and comprehensive instrument cluster, and there’s an optional multimedia platform system that connects the bike to your smartphone and Guzzi’s MG-MP app, with trip computer and other customizable data feeds. Loads of accessories are available as well.
At its core, the Audace is very similar to the Eldorado, with the same electronics and long list of accessories, but it has footpegs vs. floorboards, a drag handlebar, cast 18-inch front wheel and throatier exhaust. Compared to the classic styling of the Eldorado, the Audace is styled to be a “take no prisoners” muscle cruiser, so it weighs less and has more attitude. The front end is stripped down, with a circular headlight and small carbon fender, and it wears fully adjustable reservoir rear shocks. All-black cast alloy wheels match the monochromatic flat black paint.
Right out of the parking lot the Audace encourages you to grab it by the horns and rev it as opposed to short shifting it. It feels and sounds dramatically faster than the Eldorado, thanks in part to the shorter megaphone exhaust. The torque peak is slightly higher and has been moved up in the rev range; that and its lighter weight help it feel quicker. Footpegs are higher and the drag bar is low and forward for a more committed riding position, and the steering is less responsive at slow speeds and in tight corners. This is largely due to the 18-inch front wheel, wider 200-series rear tire and slightly longer front-end trail. While it doesn’t shine in switchback corners, it revs briskly and stirs up your riding experience nearly everywhere else.
Surely the pleasure of riding the Eldorado and Audace in Italy will translate onto American roads. The Eldorado is an incredibly versatile, user-friendly cruiser that is easy to ride all day long. The Audace is a hoot, but its short-fused nature lends itself to shorter rides. If I had five days to kill in Italy, I would definitely pick the Eldorado—I could ride it all day or all week.