There’s precious few motorcycles that manage to make it all the way to the top. And I’m not talking about the top of sales, races or popular culture. I’m talking about bikes that obtain something altogether more legendary. Bikes that are spoken about in hushed tones. Bikes that they build museums to house. The bikes that changed motorcycling. Burt Munroe’s Indian was one. The Brough Superior is another. And without a shadow of a doubt, Giulio Cesare Carcano’s 1955 Moto Guzzi, aka ‘The Otto’ can take its seat at the table, too. Ahead of its time and earning a reputation as a widow-maker, the bike’s moment in the limelight was to be short-lived. But with this injustice squarely in their sights Amsterdam’s Numbnut Motorcycles, in conjunction with Gannet Design in Switzerland and Vanguard Clothing decided it was time for the legend to make a comeback.
With the world’s motorcycle manufacturers feeling the enormous weight of progress and the ever-increasing pressure of emission regulations pushing down on their leather jacketed shoulders, it’s no surprise that many of the bikes we’ve been reviewing of late have bitten the Euro 4 bullet and made some fairly big changes to their powerplants in order to woo Mother Nature and please those pesky EU bureaucrats in Brussels. But Moto Guzzi are amongst a handful of the big makers who have buttoned down the hatches of their little air-cooled castles and dug in for the long haul to 2020 when Euro 5 rules will kill off the genre for good. Which brings us to this, Moto Guzzi’s latest release, their ‘youth-orientated’ V9s, the ‘Bobber’ and the ‘Roamer’. But are they just dinosaurs teetering on an ever-decreasing piece of sea ice, or buy-them-now-before-its-too-late motorcycling classics in the making?
Growing up in the ’80s with a two-wheeled obsessed neighbour I’d often sit on his living room floor flipping through a giant book, the Encyclopaedia of Motorcycles. He’d encourage me to read up on BMW, ignore the “Jap Crap” and when I got to the Moto Guzzi section he’d wax lyrical as if talking about the most amazing thing on the planet. It’s easy to understand why, up until that point Guzzi had been the big daddy of the Italian Motorcycle world with production peaking in 1973 at some 50,000 units. But by the ’90s it was as low as 3,000, the mystique had been lost and most had never even heard of the marque. Now with Guzzi back in full flight many are taking the opportunity to restore the bikes of the dark days to the full glory they deserve and very few have done as good a job as Michael with this creamy smooth 1984 Moto Guzzi SPII.
For a custom motorcycle workshop, to be selected to compete in a bike build off on National Television with backing from a major manufacturer sounds like a dream come true. A free motorcycle, cash to spend and instant fame for your business; unless of course you make a hash of it all and that dream turns into a horrible nightmare with an unfinished wreck of a machine. Thankfully, the ten teams selected to compete on Italian TV’s ‘Lord of the Bikes’ show all knocked it out of the park, but there could only be one winner and the king has just been crowned, step forward “Silver Knight”. Built by OMT Garage from Origgio, just North of Milan, it is a stunning take on the all new Moto Guzzi V9, a bike for the Aristocrat in us all but customised on a working man’s budget.
Ever noticed how great musicians or bands are able to write songs in their own unique style, yet each of their tracks is completely different from the others? How separate tracks on an album can work as individuals, yet still make up an overall narrative that ties together the whole work? How they can be so damn perfect, yet so damn unique all at the same time? Well if you wanted a custom bike shop equivalent, you need look no further than Miami’s legendary Moto Studio and their frontman, Maximiliano Medina. And here they are with yet another hit; this time it’s a Guzzi with looks that’ll be sure to give it some time in the limelight – especially with those headlights.
Installment three of Italy’s TV series “Lord of the Bikes” is here. Once again, the producers at Sky Uno have chosen more old friends of Pipeburn; this time it’s the turn of the bad boys from Rome’s Emporio Elaborazioni Meccaniche, the creators of many a stunning ride. But a bike build-off, where impressing the judges to advance to the next round is all that counts, is a much different exercise than designing a bike for a customer. Understated looks, single colours and law-abiding functionality all go out the window with every trick in the book used to fit the theme that has to wow the judges and earn the win. Just as in previous episodes, Emporio was given a 2016 Moto Guzzi V7 as their canvas, but the budget was upped to €4000 and the chance given to Rome’s finest to pick their opponent.
When Sky Uno, the Italian TV Channel, was looking for the 10 best custom bike workshops in the country for their TV show “Lord of the Bikes”, it came as no surprise that our friends at Anvil Motociclette were selected to compete. Each week, two workshops are pitched head to head in a themed build-off. They are given a new bike, a few Euros for accessories and then battle it out to impress the judges. When it came time to throw down, Anvil was pitted against their fellow Milanese builders South Garage, both given a brand new Moto Guzzi V7 II, €3000 for parts and the theme – ‘Quentin Tarantino’. Okay, so that’s a little out of left field Mr TV Producer. So how long do you give the teams to build their machines while your cameras scrutinise every move, 6 months? 3 months? No. Try 15 days.
Growing up in the 1980’s with a classic bike rider for a neighbour, I was thumbing through his old brochures that I first set eyes on a Moto Guzzi. I was captivated. When it comes to the old Italian marque and their unique engines and designs, you either get it or you don’t. And one man who gets the Guzzi like no other is builder Filippo Barbacane from Officine Rossopuro in Abruzzo on the exquisite Adriatic coastline of Italy. From his workshop he has built a range of Guzzi’s in every style imaginable and just like this SP1000 they’re all picture perfect and built to standards so high, they’ll take your breath away.
Kaffeemaschine (pronounced, erm… ‘Kaffeemaschine’) is a Hamburg-based shop that specialises in some of the most beautiful, understated Moto Guzzi builds we’ve seen. All their bikes are lean, stripped back and gorgeous but none more so than their latest build, ‘15’. As pretty as it looks on the outside, the real beauty of Kaffeemaschine 15 is within, much like a jam doughnut or a submarine full of supermodels – cradled in that SP1000 frame is a worked Le Mans MkIII powerplant. It’s stunning, immaculately finished, quick and reliable. What’s not to like?
While every brand has its share of fanatics, it’s the Italian marques that seem to inspire the most passion. Some people fawn over their race-bred Ducatis, some battle mercurial Laverdas while the remainder squirrel away in their sheds, tinkering at old Moto Guzzis. While not strictly a Guzzi fanatic, Johannesburg-based professional photographer Kevin Rudham will no doubt have Italian fans nodding in appreciation at his re-born 1980 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk II. Impressively, he completed nearly all the work himself. ‘It took two years,’ Kevin says, ‘and I outsourced only the powder coating and electroplating, but the rest I did myself, including the paint job with a borrowed compressor and a cheap Chinese touch up gun.’