Moto Guzzi V1000G5 - the rottweiler of the motorcycle world

Published: 01 April 2009

Rottweilers. They burp, fart, and snarl like no-one's business. To some they inspire dread, no doubt by association with satanic shennanigans in The Omen, while to others they are the best pets you could ever hope for; loyal, dependable, while being suitably scary enough to deter the would-be miscreant from any thought of mischief.

Squadra Guzzista member Keith's 1983 V1000G5 is a bit like a Rottweiler in this respect and shares some of the above traits, with the possible exception that it won't shit on your patio!

I'm not a dog lover. In fact, I can't stand the buggers. Man's best friend?...give over! Apart from one or two breeds that work for an honest living...Police dogs, guide dogs, those big sons-of-the proverbial that carry whisky to skiers that have fallen over, for example...what do they bring to the table in terms of contribution to life? Nothing...unless you consider tons of crap on our pavements a worthy achievement. This inherent dislike I have of all things canine means I will never experience the apparent joys of Rottweiler ownership so I shall have to content myself with the metaphorical...ie, Keith's G5.

I have always loved this Guzzi model. It was my first introduction to Moto Guzzi. My old pal Charlie had one, it looked like a heap of junk...battered, rusty...but it went like snot off a stick! It was his daily transport through London and I thought it was the meanest looking and sounding bike on the streets. Charlie's G5 led me to me buying my very first Guzzi, a 350 Nevada, and was the start of a 15 year fascination with the bikes from Mandello.

Brought out in 1978, the G5 was introduced into the line up as an attempt to recover some of the losses resulting from the showroom failure of the De Tomasso inspired V1000 i-Convert of three years earlier. It is now widely acknowledged that there is not much wrong with the Convert. Although few in number around the world, it's owners are a loyal bunch and swear by it.

Today, it seems to be growing in admirers and is now quite desirable...if you can locate one. At the time, however, even though the press reviewed it favourably, it was not appreciated by the buying public and was eventually discontinued in 1984.

In '78 the factory released what was essentially the same bike, fitted with a conventional 5-speed manual gearbox and re-badged it as the G5. This denomination merely stands for "cingue giri", five gears. Outwardly, the bike was the same as it's torque converter equipped semi auto buddy.

The G5 was similarly equipped for touring with a large screen, hard cases, crash bars front and rear, even down to the distinctive "aerofoils" mounted on the foreward crash bars. The manual model, however, was fitted with standard footpegs and not the footboards of the Convert and, whilst the instrumentation console was similar the new model carried a small rev counter mounted under the large central speedo encased in the same moulded plastic console.

For the final year of its production run this was replaced with a more conventional set of clocks sitting side by side. The main advantage enjoyed by the G5 over the Convert was an increase in power output, and therefore top speed. Contemporary testers found the G5 returned approx 118mph, which represents an approximate 10% increase from the semi auto with its power sapping torque converter.

One look at Keith's example shows that in many ways it is remarkably original. Sadly, this model doesn't have the status of either the T3, Spada, or other Guzzis such as the California but it is still a cracking motorcycle. As a result many around today have been used as the base for many a cafe racer project or even to create "large capacity" 850T3s. Some have even seen a career change to become a "Le Mans" project. Many G5s around today, because of the above owner induced chops and changes are rarely seen with many of the bike's original features and one of the principle items to go is the instrument panel.

On Keith's however, this is still very much in place. In fact, the only pieces that seem to be missing from his G5 is the screen (he hated it) and the boxes, which he swapped for a multi-tool some years ago! The other principal alteration on the present bike is the exhaust system. This has a replacement set of pipes that sound like the first day of The Somme offensive...see/hear the video added to this page.

As my own Jackal is unwell at the moment, I was kindly loaned this remarkable piece of Moto Guzzi history and I couldn't wait to jump on board! Now, looking at the photos, there may well be one or two of you who are thinking this bike is in need of TLC...and you'd be right...kinda. I accept that some may consider it cosmetically challenged. The seat, for instance, is coroded through the undertray and is held together by use of a bungee cargo net. If you take a closer look, however, you begin to uncover some real gems.

The paint is the original "salmon red" as the factory termed it. It has the wonderful patina of age and is the same that was applied at Mandello almost thirty years ago. It still has the original stickers on the tank and even carries the original dealer's sticker on the front stainless steel mudguard. The switchgear is original too and is of a design that dates back to around 1979, when the G5 received this type as an upgrade, which also included the lockable cover over the fuel filler cap, which on Keith's bike is operated by using a stubby screwdriver.

Recently one of the side panel metal badges fell off as Keith was riding one day. I spied a set on e-bay a couple of weeks ago and managed to obtain a replacement set for him...a very small gesture bearing in mind the kindness of allowing me to ride his bikes while mine is buggered! 

The G5 just loves country lanes. Perhaps one of the most surprising find on this particular example is that the brakes are still linked. This came as a wonderful surprise and I'm delighted they haven't been altered. Why do so many Guzzi owners de-link the brakes? It is one of the true, famous, Guzzi characteristics and an integral part of the bikes being produced by Mandello at that time. That's aside from the fact that it really is a terrific system which I have found so effective.

By operating the brake pedal on the right hand side, the system applies braking to the rear disc and the front left disc. The common accepted ratio is of approximately 70% : 30% front-rear bias. The brake lever on the right handlebar operates the right front disc if you need it. I get put off when I see bikes for sale accompanied by the words "brakes de-linked".

I had never had the opportunity of trying the system for myself and I find it terrific. At the time this braking method must have been awesome, and so superior over any other manufacturer's efforts. Respect to the engineers at Guzzi that came up with such a novel, simple solution...it is interesting to note that, at a time when Guzzi is moving away from linked brakes, manufacturers such as Honda are embracing it! I delight in reminding the staff at my local Honda dealer that Guzzi were there with this in the early 70s!

The tested bike is steady as a rock when you apply the brake pedal and you can slow nicely down from 120kph to a standstill, in a perfectly stable manner, while relieving yourself of that irritating itch in your right bollock...in case you ever needed to...don't ask me how I know this! Jumping aboard I am immediately taken with the riding position and the sheer comfort of the saddle which is wide, soft yet supportive. It doesn't matter that iot is corroded through...it's like your favourite armchair...may be a bit tatty, but oh so comfy! It also gives you a nice amount of room to move around in on a long ride.

Interestingly, the riding position is a lot more forward leaning than I thought it would be. The bars are at a nice height and for my size (6 foot) are a comfortable reach and spread. They make for a very relaxed riding position and all the controls fall easily to hand. This is equally so both in town as on the open road and I can very easily imagine munching the miles on a long tour without a worry in the world or an ache or merest pain.

Some time ago I had the misfortune of riding one of the G5's contemporary rivals, a BMW R100, and I found it agonising. Having ridden the G5 I can honestly say the Guzzi is far superior in every way to the Bavarian tourer and it could only have been a more effective marketing arm that convinced thousands of punters to opt for the Bavarian and not the Italian.

I have to say, in terms of comfort, I'd be more happy to contemplate a tour on the G5 rather than my own Jackal! Moto Guzzi V1000G5 Squadra Guzzista A very enjoyable day spent in that saddle The handlebar controls do take some getting used to though. The speedo surround houses a vast array of lights and switches and i have no idea what most of them do, so I tend to ignore them...I generally ignore what idiot lights tell me anyway, even on modern bikes. The large "Vague-lia" speedo is amusing. It seems to just nonchalantly point at an approximate speed reading...this and the fact that it is in kph only makes for an interesting time on the approach to a speed camera site.

The revcounter, like seemingly most Guzzis, gave up the ghost long ago. The odo does work and displays more than 80,000 miles. I have no idea on economy as the trip meter doesn't work but I must have covered more than 200 miles by now and have filled up once. I have completed 60 miles since filling up and am keeping an approximated mental note... The period switchgear is not intuitive as today we are so used to the standard Japanese-type conventional uniots fitted to most bikes these days.

You do get used to them after a while but operating the slider switch for the indicators is tricky and it is not easy to find the central, cancelling, position with a gloved thumb with the result that you can be riding along confusing the hell out of traffic behind you as you frantically flash right to left and back again until by chance you find the central position.

As I write these words, the indicators have stopped working altogether so I don't need to worry about it any more. The lights seem to have an infinite number of permutations as there is a toggle switch on the speedo and a three position switch on the left handlebar, as well as a flasher button (which is also the horn). I have no idea how all the different permutations work and, as long as there is light front and rear, I will leave it there as long as I'm riding.

So, if one night you hapen to come across an old Guzzi riding along, with full beam blinding everyone in sight, flashing maniacally in all directions whilst beeping the horn...that'll be me!

I was very surprised at how easily the clutch and throttle operate...so light, and completely unlike anything I have ever read about Guzzis in the past 15 years. Keith did complain that he had to replace the cable the other week as the original, factory fitted one only lasted 25 years! You can't trust Italian parts can you!

The throttle, considering the age of the bike operates freely and smoothly, snapping back easily when closed. Selecting gear is easy and simple enough to find the correct gear, even neutral position. Modern bike journos would probably dislike it intensely as you have to be positive in engaging the pedal but I have experienced no problems at all in this, in all types of riding conditions. I have certainly not experienced the profusion of "false-neutrals" commonly associated with Mandello gearboxes.

Thunder...glorious thunder! To set off, you open fuel taps, the choke levers, one on each of the Dell'Orto VFB 30s, hold the clutch lever in, press the starter and...the sound of Armageddon rewards you...thunder, beautiful thunder! As soon as it has started, the chokes are closed off and the bike settles into a steady idle, rocking and rolling rhythm, punctuated by an almost VW Beetle-esque chirp. Those readers used to the CARC assisted torque reaction eliminated modern Guzzis would love it on this bike...if you don't get on quick it'll jump clean off the sidestand as you blip the throttle! Engage gear however and it pulls away smootly and with purpose.

It wants to be released from the confines of its gears so snicking the box into second allows you to begin to explore the flexibility of the motor. In town you really only need this gear. You can pull away in second and can quite happily cruise around without ever needing to go into third at all...what was that about an auto? Whether you are filtering through stationary traffic or flowing at town speeds second is all you need. Out of urban areas I spent a fantastic morning last week cruising the country lanes in Kent.

I chose twisty, unfrequented roads and found the G5 to be completely at home in this environment, where the stomp available to you in third allows you to swing happily thought the twisty bits while applying the throttle sees you rocketing up the range to fourth on the straights, all accompanied by a wonderful resonance from the pipes, especially on the overrun. They also give you the security of knowing that you will be heard ages before you are seen...handy on those concealed rural junctions.

The handling characteristics of the Tonti frame are well known and this bike is no exception. You really can corner on the G5! "Riding the G5" I felt no need to venture into fifth gear at all until I found myself on the dual carriegeway on the way home. At an indicated 125-130kph the bike was solid, stable, and completely at ease. The engine has a sweet spot here that would make this a very enjoyable mount for a spot of touring.

What is evident is that it has lost a deal of top-end power. This is unsurprising considering its age, mileage, and condition but a minor tune of the carbs and some minor attention to the engine would sort that I'm sure. As it stands, it is a perfectly useable classic, an everyday, unspoilt, original Guzzi with many years of fun left in it yet. On the day of the road test in the lanes I was aboard for approximately four and a half hours.

The only stops I made were for the odd photo opportunity and on my return home I felt completely comfortable and experienced no aches or pains, although it took a while to rid myself of the maniacal grin. I would have no hesitation in owning a G5 and am delighted that it has turned out to be as much fun as I had hoped. Equally, I would have no hesitation in recommending one to anyone considering the purchase of a classic Tonti framed Moto Guzzi...but only once I had reserved my very own Rottweiler!

I write for Squadra Guzzista, the online community for Moto Guzzi fans!