Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress review
Words: Jock McLauchlan Photos: Geoff Osborne
The Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress is an audacious beast. The design is daring and few machines have the visual impact of Guzzi’s MGX-21. It’s not just the stunning and unique styling – this bike is immensely long too.
It’s a good half foot (15cm) longer than a Rocket III, and the last time I looked the Rocket III was a fully fledged man’s motorcycle. Yes, this is a serious (and heavy) motorcycle, not a soft option and I’m picking, due to the bike’s sheer vastness, most prospective owners will be male.
But, honestly that’s not what this ultra Guzzi is all about – it is truly a thing of beauty – to ride, to behold and simply bask in its reflected glory while having a coffee. While stopped at a cafe I was told by a professional-looking dude that the MGX-21 was the most beautiful motorcycle he had ever seen… turns out he was a German optometrist… so I’m sure his vision was excellent.
Is it the bright red cylinder heads and Brembo brake calipers, the bat-wing double-bubble front or the acres of carbon fibre that has the greatest impact? For me it’s the red heads that first grab my attention… but everywhere you look the MGX21 impresses.Out on the road, the handling feel is as unique as the stunning looks are different.
It has a big 21-inch front wheel and 32-degree steering head angle, but with more trail than the shorter wheelbase California, to help accommodate it. This all creates a turn-in feel that I’ve never experienced before. Initially the turn from centre is light and free.
Then the steering seems to slow up drastically and in tight turns it almost needs to be steered like a car. However, after some adjustment time getting used to it, I learned the Flying Fortress is truly capable and enjoyable. Get this bad boy on our less ‘observed’ open back roads and it can hustle.
It’s fair and important to reinforce the obvious here though… open flowing roads are its forte and it is least happy manoeuvring at low speed. Moto Guzzi has a patent pending on the steering head damper which progressively stiffens as lock is applied. This is very effective and much reduces the tendency for the handle bars to ‘flop’ on to full lock when turning at low speed.
After all, this is a 341kg kerb weight machine (23kg more than the California), with a lot of weight on the nose and that damper surely does ease the muscle load at low speed while also keeping things relaxed and steady at pace.
In strong cross winds the 21-inch wheel is affected and makes the bars move around. I put this down to the cool-looking solid carbon fibre insert that allows little air to pass through the wheel. While unnerving at first, I soon became used to the feel, relaxed and then forgot about it.
In sixth gear at speeds in excess of the old ton mark (done on closed roads of course) the MGX will weave a little, but then this is a full-on bagger and high speed is not what it’s about. The 96 peak horse power at 6500rpm from the manly sized 1380cc V-twin won’t impress the Superbike set, however, the 121Nm of torque at 3000rpm paints a far more imposing picture of what this engine is all about.
3000rpm is effectively idling engine speed; this is John Deer tractor stump-pulling grunt at its best and it propels the Flying Fortress along with an effortless surge akin to a locomotive with brake issues. This surging thrust is accompanied by the unmistakable charisma that only a Moto Guzzi engine has, but with a new found smoothness and exemplary fuelling that is a delight to experience.
Yes the motor is a gem, with the traditional Guzzi feel and character at low revs… which is a sacred thing and not to be messed with. And then a linear, low vibration power delivery which is enviable for such a big twin.
The engine is well over square with a 104mm bore and 81.2mm stroke, two valves per cylinder and a modest 10.5:1 compression ratio shows that Moto Guzzi is sticking with their traditional old school formula. Good on them too, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’d not expected it, but the Guzzi’s suspension action is impressive. Few, if any machines this size and weight come close to the comfortable and controlled behaviour the MGX21 exhibits on all types of road surface. The suspension is by no means particularly hi-tech either.
Twin rear shocks with 120mm wheel travel, adjustable only for preload genuinely do a great job out back – even with a pillion. Up front non-adjustable 45mm forks with only 108mm wheel travel complete an excellent package for this type of machine. This just goes to show that decent performing suspension action is more about quality setup (from the factory) than hi-tech design.
Speakers for the 50 Watt stereo are placed out in the bat wings on either side of the headlight. While at speed there is generally too much wind noise to enjoy your favourite tunes, this is not a problem around town and cruising, and it has a handy mute button if you don’t want the world to know you’re actually listening to talk-back radio. It’s all MP3 and Smartphone compatible too.
Up at the hand controls there is a choice of three power levels, cruise control and adjustable traction control. So, while the engine may be very traditional in design the MGX certainly isn’t lacking in the hi-tech safety or creature comfort department.
The dash is a very stylish twin analogue setup where the indicator needles for rpm and speed float around LCD central displays. A mass of warning lights are arrayed in a semi circle at the bottom of each dial and finish off the glamorous dash.
Brembo with ABS controls the stopping and does an excellent job hauling the heavy MGX to a stop. Big twin 320mm floating disc rotors and four-pot calipers slow the Guzzi with ease. At the rear a decent sized 282mm disc adds its strength to the braking package. Combine the two and confidence-inspiring stopping is the result, but it’s wise to not forget the kerb weight of this machine.
Of course, where the rubber meets the road plays its part in the stopping equation and the handling as a whole. A decently-sized 180/60-16 provides rear traction and a ‘normal’ width – if not diameter – 120/70-21 covers duties up front.
Of course the Flying Fortress is a bagger, so no test can be complete without mention of said appendages. While stylish, large and blessed with multiple locking points, the carbon-fibre fixed panniers are not particularly deep, so cannot take a helmet. I even struggled to get my laptop in, but if you’re only taking clothes and smaller items they hold plenty.
I liked the twin, very long LED tail lights that ran down each side of the rear guard from the reasonable pillion seat to the base of the guard. The driver’s seat is well shaped with excellent foam depth and very comfortable while being a modest height from the deck.
Short and tall riders alike should be comfortable because the leg and arm accommodation strikes a happy balance that seems to suit most body sizes. The fuel tank holds 20.5 litres (including a five litre reserve).
Overall the Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress is as cool and capable to ride as it is unique, stylish and impressive to look at. The MGX-21 definitely ‘seduces the night’ (Guzzi’s tag line for the MGX) but I think it’s better than that, it’s most likely to seduce all those looking for this style of machine – it is one big, sexy bagger.
Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress Highlights
- Strong points – Great engine, suspension and brakes; beyond cool to look at.
- Weak point – Steering requires rider adjustment time; it’s huge.
Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress Specifications
- Engine – 1380cc, air/oil-cooled, 4-valve, 90° transverse V-twin, four-stroke
- Bore and Stroke – 104 x 81.2mm
- Compression ratio – 10.5:1
- Claimed power – 71kW(96hp)@6500rpm
- Claimed torque – 121Nm@3000rpm
- Fuel system – Fuel injection, two x ø52mm thottle bodies
- Lubrication – Forced lubrication, wet sump
- Clutch – Single-disc, hydraulic actuation
- Transmission – Six-speed, Cardan-shaft drive
- Electronics – Traction control, cruise control
- Frame – Steel tube double cradle
- Rake/trail – 32°/187mm
- Suspension – Telescopic 5mm fork, 108mm travel front; twin shocks, spring preload adjustable, 120mm travel rear
- Brakes – Twin floating 320mm discs, radial mount four-piston Brembo calipers front; 282mm disc, two-piston Brembo caliper rear. ABS
- Wheels – 3.5 x 21in cast aluminium tubeless front; 5.5 x 16in cast aluminium tubeless rear
- Tyres – 120/70R21 62V front; 180/60R16 80H rear
- Seat height – 740mm
- Wheelbase – 1700mm
- Ground clearance – 165mm
- Weight (claimed) – 341 (kerb – no fuel)
- Fuel capacity – 20.5 litres
- Price – $35,000 +ORC
- Contact – Moto Guzzi Australia Link