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‘79 Moto Guzzi LeMans – Moto Borgotaro

Posted on February 5, 2015 by Andrew in Café Racer, Classic. 22 comments


What’s the most common item to be modded first on a custom bike, would you say? The seat? The rubber? Maybe the ‘bars? Now consider what the most unlikely first thing to sink your teeth into might be. Actually, don’t bother, because Peter Boggia and the crew at Brooklyn’s Moto Borgotaro already have it figured out. It’s the tacho. And while the rest of us would be wrestling with greasy engines and skinned knuckles, Peter got all Swiss watchmaker on this Guzzi LeMans and followed the look right on through to the rest of this rather sweet-looking bike.


“And then we said, let’s start with the dash,” notes Pete. “It may seem strange, but when you think about it, a tacho really says a lot about a bike. The custom faceplate on this single Motogadget gauge echoes industrial designers like Dieter Rams, who believed in concentrating only on essential aspects of an object, and not overburdening it with anything more.”

Take a look and you’ll see a mark at 4000RPM denoting the start of the power band, and another marking the end. It’s all that’s needed, and it’s punctuated with the only glimpse of color on the entire bike.


And just as the typeface on the dash has been stripped of any superfluous serifs, the bike itself has been freed of clutter. “Most of what makes this motorcycle special is hard to see straightaway. The essential lines and knuckle-like motor shape have the same distinctive and striking look as the original LeMans. And that’s exactly the point.”


“The bike’s look is all about how the LeMans tank runs into the seat and into that particular tail light,” he says. “That’s what the original designer spent so much care in creating. This isn’t a reinvention. There’s no chopping and rear-ranging, because the lines were so right on these bikes to start out with. Period.”

But underneath that silhouette, this bike is anything but a stock restoration. Th more keen-of-eye amongst you will have noticed that the lower rails of the frame have been eliminated entirely. “It’s believed that these were redundant members of the famously rigid Tonti frames. Even still, the headstock was reinforced extra trusses were added to the frame for good measure” says Boggia.


Plate denotes Borgotaro’s relationship with Union Garage, their fashionable sister shop

Pushing this speedy Italian towards the horizon is a 1,000cc motor that’s been tweaked, ported and primed. Even its timing chain has been upgraded; it’s now been replaced by precision aluminum gears. Like Swiss watch-making… again.

Add it all up and this bike exudes a kind of visual power, even while at rest. Give it some gas and its custom reproduction factory race exhaust respond with an angry, unholy roar.


“This bike has received many nicknames around the shop. Notably, Hellsgate, for how it sounds. And Black Silk, for how it rides. But now we mostly call it Apollonia.”

High performance ceramic bearings have been installed in the powder-coated original LeMans wheels, as well as in the driveshaft. Another little secret in this bike’s performance lies is its transmission—a critical ingredient in the overall recipe, says Boggia.


Upgraded suspension helps keep all that power glued to the road with YSS rear shocks and a period-correct (and progressive) Ducati M1R front end. And it stops as good as it goes, thanks to twin 300-millimeter floating rotors, four-piston calipers and a massive radial master cylinder by Brembo.


The bike’s custom wiring harness originates from a state-of-the-art German-made Motogadget M-Unit; a widget about the size of a pack of cigarettes that uses micro-processors and self-resetting fuses to streamline design and eliminate traditional relays.


And those cheesy red dice valve caps? “That’s a reminder that with all this high-minded design talk, we can’t take ourselves too seriously,” says Boggia.

Like all Moto Borgotaro builds, this Guzzi was torn down to the crank, media blasted and hand-polished to a slick finish with oil, steel wool, and endless hours of elbow grease. Everything was rebuilt with new seals and hardware by a shop that’s successfully rebuilt so many Moto Guzzi motors, by rights they should be getting overtime cheques from Italy.


And it wasn’t declared done until after one very long weekend of test riding. This particular recipe has apparently been refined by Boggia over 15 years of living and breathing Moto Guzzis, and will be repeated for five more bikes to be made to the exact same spec as a limited production run. Call us crazy, but we’re pretty sure you’ll have to act quickly to get your hands on one. Real quick.

[Photography by Ryan Handt]

  • whytaylorwhy

    Beautiful, clean bike. Love it.

  • Fantome_NR

    I don’t like how high that fender sits over the front wheel. Other than than, very nice. Although I must say, the fascination with Dieter Rams’ Braun designs also escapes me. Those products were mostly crap, and were part of very forgettable 80’s design in general. Reminds me of those god awful Drakkar Noir commercials. Oh well, to each their own I suppose.

    • Dave Coetzee

      I agree re fender and would also have preferred the headlight to be lowered to improve the line with the tank and seat.

  • handtius

    can you add photo credit to this article? Ryan Handt Photography

    • Done. Lovely work, Ryan.

      • handtius

        thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

    • Lemmy

      Photos look fantastic.

  • thumpthump

    this reads like such a cut-n-paste from the builder’s press release, so much breathless gushing. it’s particularly irritating to read about, for example, about how the bike in question’s suspension mods “keep the bike glued to the ground”, from someone who, dollars to donuts, hasn’t even sat upon the bike.

  • Kuiper Max

    A good rebuild of a stock bike.

    I can’t see why it’s lumbered with cheap shocks and ceramic bearings. Why is the rear Brembo brake mounted upside down at an odd angle? The open, unfiltered, carbs are basically nonsense.

    Pushing the ‘exotic’ nature of big Guzzis is a bit rich, its an old Army tractor motor, after all.

    I think they might have fallen into the trap of building a bike here to cater for recent cafe racer ‘fans’, who basically don’t know a good bike from a spanner from their ass. The customer is always wrong in the bike game. Build a bike better to go faster along your favorite road, and they will come.

    From what I’ve seen on the web, and read written by guys who know them personally, they seem like a good focused mob, with a pretty good rep.Good luck fellas.

    • Steve C

      Age old myth about the Guzzi motor being a tractor motor, yes they did have design V twin for the Mule I think it was called, but the motorcycle engine was designed for the V700.

      • Kuiper Max

        Quote Mr Robert Smith: ‘Three becomes two

        Moto Guzzi’s 700cc V-twin (actually 704cc) traces its roots to the Mulo Meccanico, a three-wheeled, three-wheel-drive military vehicle designed to go just about anywhere. The rear wheels could be fitted with short tank tracks for extra grip, and the powered front wheel could literally almost climb walls. Guzzi’s Giulio Cesare Carcano designed the Mulo and its engine — an air-cooled 90-degree V-twin with overhead valves.In spite of its rather industrial appearance, the engine found a ready home in Carcano’s next project. A touring motorcycle, it would be the largest capacity motorcycle Guzzi had ever built, all its previous road machines having been singles.

        • arnold

          Thanks, you gootzie critters, for the info about the marque.
          I remain the most ignorant person you are ever going to reach, because I know exactly how much I don’t know.

      • Don Arnold

        The mule had an AO42 flat twin, probably by Continental.

        • Steve C
        • Lemmy

          I am definitely NOT a Guzzi expert, but I took a picture of one of those Mechanical Mules when I saw one in person one time. If you zoom in on my photo, you can actually see where it says Moto Guzzi on the rocker box/valve cover.

          • Don Arnold

            the US also had a Mule, M274. It was all about low profile, so it had a flat twin under the load surface. I’ll read closer next time.

  • prefer the original

  • Astounded

    Couldn’t mount the tail light level huh?

    The builder seems like a colossal blow hard……

  • Bowds

    So nice. Love the colour schme as well. Question: what did you print the custom speedo face on? Thinking of doing something similar with my bonne and would appreciate any tips. Cheers