I’ve probably spent almost as much time staring at the Eldorado as I have riding it. There is a small herd of empty beer bottles in my garage as testament to my admiration of its beauty. It’s just so damn pretty from every angle.
It looks classic, yet comes armed with the latest modern whizz-bangery, kind of like an old Winchester .30-30 that fires laser beams.
You’ve got spokes and whitewalls, pin-striping, chrome inserts on the tank, a cylindrical tail-light, and a certain and total ‘rightness’ in its stance. It looks classy, elegant and stylish, yet honks along quite spiritedly – and quite a bit harder than you would initially think, smitten as you are by its good-looks. After all, tradition has always dictated that bikes that look like this don’t actually go very well.
Well, they do now.
The 1400cc donk is lively and willing, and produces 96 horses and 129Nm of torque (at 3000rpm), which it delivers in a way that will see Harleys off at the lights right sharpish.
Moto Guzzi is the second oldest motorcycle manufacturer on earth, and has been continuously producing motorcycles since 1921. But it is only in the last few years that it started to produce motorcycles which you didn’t need to be weird, obsessed, kinda smelly and a bit mad to own.
For starters, the gearbox is astonishing. Which was never the case in the past. I’m sure you believe it’s just not possible to build a smooth-changing cog-container for a V-twin. The Americans have given up even trying. But not the ragazzi from Mandello. They have absolutely nailed it. The entire 1400cc cruiser range, from the California to the Eldorado and its blacked-out iteration the Audace shift gears with precision and in relative silence.
Of course, this helps a lot when you’re drag-racing Harleys off the lights. Which is something you should do at every opportunity. Trust me on this. Most satisfying.
The Eldorado is a wonderful paradox. At idle it shakes and throbs just like Moto Guzzis should and must in order to be Moto Guzzis. It’s a great part of their charm. At speed, it’s smooth and poised. Which is not like the old ones at all.
Then there’s the whole suite of electronic helpfulness – fly-by-wire throttle, ABS, three engine maps (Tourismo, Veloce (fast stuff) and Bastardo (rain mode and yes, I’m making that last one up), cruise control and traction control. And if you’re really into your computational wizardry, you can access MG-MP which links your Smartphone to the bike and the Internet. Dowload the app, mount your phone to the bike, and you can examine and bask in a vast range of info, including an owner’s manual, trip info, fuel consumption and how to order beer and loose women in Italian (I made that last bit up too).
The rider assists all work well, though you will notice the ABS doing its thing when you’re up against the wall, and the fly-by-wire could be crisper. Brembos front and rear provide great feel for a cruiser, and are head and shoulders better than the American offerings.
Is this the same bike as the Audace? Yes and no. It shares pretty much everything crucial like steering geometry and engine, but the Audace has a bigger back tyre, and a very different riding position and rear shocks. As a result, the Eldorado steers a little quicker, but conversely, it’s not as well suspended up the back as the Audace is.
In fact, the rear shocks, which are adjustable for preload and damping, were the one thing that let the bike down. Not much, and not in a way that many owners would even notice, but enough for me to give it the squint-eye after a while. If I was engaged in spirited riding, it would thud over bumps in a most undignified manner and my chakras would drift out of alignment. I turned the dampening up as far as it would go and backed the preload off a click and it was better, but I kept wishing it had the Audace’s rear bouncers.
Yes, I’m being picky. The Eldorado is not the kind of bike you want if you’re regularly engaged in bend-carving ecstasy, or smashing out big touring miles (the seat on the California is much better suited for serious touring). And I’m thinking you know that. Sure, it handles better than its American competition, and on par with the big Japanese cruisers, but I’m thinking a rigorous discussion about cruisers and handling is altogether pointless. The people who buy them don’t give a shit and will never seek to find the outer limits of their bikes. The bottom of the Eldorado’s footboards are lined with what looks like a fat plastic comb, but is actually a buffer that will save you buying new footboards each month.
The Eldorado is at its happiest when your living la dolce vita with elegance and grace. It’s the kind of bike you go styling on. It turns heads, it elicits compliments and it doesn’t scare girls in flirty summer dresses away. But it will certainly provide you with a relatively eye-opening turn of acceleration if you need to assert male dominance.
It comes in red or black, but I don’t know which one I’d pick out of the two. The red is quite striking and redolent with panache, but the black has an elegance all its own.
I keep coming back to the Eldorado’s looks, because that’s really what it’s all about. It was, in the grim old days, one of Moto Guzzi’s most iconic models. This new one is a most worthy successor for a lot of reasons. From a practical viewpoint, it’s a good motorcycle you don’t need counselling and a degree in engineering to own and ride. From an aesthetic perspective, it’s simply stunning.
That’s a damn fine combination.
How much? $24,500 ride away.
2016 Moto Guzzi Eldorado Technical Specifications
Engine – 1380cc, 90-degree, v-twin, SOHC, four-valves per cylinder
Cooling – Air and oil cooled
Bore x Stroke 104 x 81.2mm
Compression Ratio – 10.5:1
Power – 96hp at 6500rpm
Torque 120Nm at 3000rpm
Induction – Multipoint sequential EFI, Magnetti-Marelli ride-by-wire, 52mm throttle body
Transmission – Six-speed
Frame – Steel tube, elastic-kinematic engine mounts to reduce vibrations
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.
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