MOTO-GUZZI CALIFORNIA (1997 - 2012) Review
- An Italian cruiser that handles
- A great all-rounder bike
- Seriously comfortable ride
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£140|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
An Italian with real history – the Moto Guzzi California 1100EV hasn’t changed hugely since the 850cc version of 1972. But it’s still a machine well worth considering. The California 1100EV is a cruiser / tourer that actually handles.
The transverse Moto Guzzi V-twin engine has a chunky, chuggy character and while the California 1100EV's not superb at anything, it’s a great all rounder.
At the time, other options included the retro-style Moto Guzzi Vintage, unfaired Moto Guzzi California Classic and Moto Guzzi California Touring.
For those who want to join a community once you've read this review and our owners' reviews, why not head to an online forum such as the Moto Guzzi Club GB? This bike was replaced in 2013 by the Moto-Guzzi California 1400.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
How can an Italian antique outperform Japanese computer design in their high-tech factories? Well, the Moto Guzzi California 1100EV handles amazingly well with much less wobble and wallow than most Japanese cruisers of the time.
Moto Guzzi have been making bikes since 1921 and manage to make the simple steel cradle and modest twin-shock suspension work extremely well in the California 1100EV.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Moto Guzzi California 1100EV is equiped with a 1064cc engine with Magneti Marelli fuel injection bringing an old power plant reasonably up to date.
With almost 70bhp at the rear wheel of the Califonria 1100EV and much less weight than the big Harley-Davidsons of the day, the Moto Guzzi is nippy for a large custom/tourer.
More importantly the Moto Guzzi California 1100EV has oodles of easy low rev torque and a merry, doughty character.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Finish can be poor on some Moto Guzzis. Reliability is generally good but some niggles can occur.
Beware if the reset knob on the California 1100EV falls off the trip-meter – you have to buy the whole new clock.
Noisy tappets may mean cams and followers need replacing which is a pricy job. Moto Guzzi California 1100EV exhaust down pipes should be yellowy not blue if the engine is running correctly.
Our Moto Guzzi California owners' reviews are relatively positive. There have been a few issues with reliability but in the main owners seem happy with their bikes.
In November 2001 the firm issued a safety recall on all California Specials and EVs produced after 1997 with alloy rims.
An inner safety rim needs to be fitted to the hub as there is a possibility that spoke nipples could break free and damage the transmission.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Moto Guzzi California 1100EV is not cheap new but there’s plenty of rivals that are much, much pricier.
The California 1100EV is well priced on the used market, especially when compared to Harleys which hardly depreciate. Japanese cruisers can look cheaper but few handle as well and none have the heritage or charisma of the Moto Guzzi California 1100EV.
- Related: Best cruiser motorbikes
Alongside the Italian Guzzi, other cruisers of this vintage to consider include the Harley-Davidson Road King, which mixes iconic American 50s style with bags of comfort.
If that isn't your cup of tea, you could also consider the Triumph Rocket III Touring, which arrived in 2007. This is a much more powerful option, though, but features plenty of comfort and a wide screen.
For those fancying something a little more quirky, you might also look toward the BMW R1200C. Producing a gentle 61bhp from its boxer twin, there was also a full-dress CL version available, complete with fairing, luggage and more.
See the rival Triumph Rocket III Touring in action here:
The Moto Guzzi California 1100EV's shaft drive is convenient, linked front and rear brakes are novel but effective.
The California 1100EV's seat is comfy and the riding position suits most. For covering distance you’ll probably want to add a screen and panniers to this Moto Guzzi. Footboards don’t suit everyone and heel/toe gear change takes a little getting used to.
In March 2001 Moto Guzzi unveiled two new cruisers which gave us a taste of the direction the firm was going in under new owner Aprilia.
Both were based on the long-time favourite California cruiser and were to be produced in strictly limited numbers.
The new California Stone was a stripped-to-the-bone version of the venerable V-twin. Even the chrome was restrained. It was available in black, grey white or orange, each in a matt finish.
The most significant changes were under the skin. The engine was still the basic 74bhp, 1064cc twin, but to increase reliability, many of the electronics were changed.
This revamp caried through to parts like the controls and switches on the bars, which were replaced with new, Aprilia-derived versions. Altogether, there were around 200 new parts on the bike.
The same improvements appeared on the firm’s other new limited-edition machine the California Special Sport. On this you got two-tone paint, extra chrome, twin front discs and high-rise bars.
|Engine type||4v V-twin, 5 gears|
|Frame type||Steel cradle|
|Fuel capacity||19 litres|
|Rear suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Front brake||Twin 320mm discs|
|Rear brake||285mm disc|
|Front tyre size||110/90 x 18|
|Rear tyre size||140/80 x 18|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||44 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£140|
11 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||75 bhp|
|Max torque||73 ft-lb|
|Top speed||115 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||13.2 secs|
|Tank range||180 miles|
Model history & versions
- 1997: Original Moto Guzzi California 1100EV model launched.
- 2001: Moto Guzzi California 1100EV updated. Power down 1bhp due to emissions regulations but otherwise improved.
- Moto Guzzi California 1100: 1994-1997, Updated version of the California III with larger engine. Replaced by the Moto Guzzi California 1100EV
- Moto Guzzi California Jackal: 1999-2001, wide pull back handlebars, two piece matt grey seat
- Moto Guzzi California Stone: 2001-, base model, 246kg, 74bhp
- Moto Guzzi California Stone Chrome: 2001-2003, as Stone but with special paint and chrome finish.
- Moto Guzzi California Special: 1998-2001, low rider custom style with deeper mudguards, swept back bars and two piece seat
- Moto Guzzi California Special Sport: 2001-2002, updated version of the ‘Special’
- Moto Guzzi California Special Aluminium: 2002-2003, all aluminium finish, larger tyres
- Moto Guzzi California EV Touring: 2002-2006 wire spoke wheels, large screen, leg guards, pillion back rest.
- Moto Guzzi California EV80: 2002-2003, red seat, chrome tank inserts, screen, leg guards, leather panniers
Other Moto Guzzi California reviews on MCN
MCN Long term test reports
First ride! New Moto Guzzi California
Moto Guzzi's new California 1400 is proving every bit as good to ride as it is to look at. MCN Senior Road Tester Adam Child is currently putting the all-new heavyweight cruiser through its paces in the south of France and is impressed. He says: "I've been riding it along the coast road between Cann…
Owners' reviews for the MOTO-GUZZI CALIFORNIA (1997 - 2012)
10 owners have reviewed their MOTO-GUZZI CALIFORNIA (1997 - 2012) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£140|
Annual servicing cost: £200
Perfect retro bike for retro rider!
Good all-rounder. Reminds me of proper British bike without oil leaks. As cool as a HD Sportster and more reliable ( I’ve owned a Sportie too).
Perfect. Quick and torquey while being laid back and thumpy.
My 20 year old bike has zero corrosion and would pass for nearly new. Excellent Aprilia build quality.
Simple, easy to maintain yourself. Some jobs fiddly (fork oil change) so left to local service technician when changing and balancing tyres.
Zero provided but in my case zero required. Perfect as it is.
Buying experience: Private purchase from fellow ancient enthusiast
Annual servicing cost: £100
wonderful touring bike, beautiful and rare.
very comfortable, but still good control- which means the signora can lift her skirts, if called upon. Brembo Series dOro integral brakes very good.
easily the best engine in my collection. not as smooth as a BMW R100S, but much more torquey. most driving done below 3000rpm, can trundle around in 4th or 5th at 1300rpm, which is just above idle
no problems. polished aluminum parts needs taking care of, but looks great.
easy bike to work on. parts readily available via Stein-Dinse/Braunschweig, Germany.
rubber mounted foot boards very nice. normally, a Calif has black saddle bags- I've managed to locate the correct "rosso vintage" coloured inserts, very rare... with the big windscreen (standard with the Vintage) very good protection from wind & flies ;)
Buying experience: bought privately.
Version: EV80 (80th Anniversary Special)
Annual servicing cost: £150
This is my second time around!! - I wrote the review below about the Cali Stone (smmudd83_1999). Well, since then I put 38k miles on that bike, sold it to emigrate from the UK to New Zealand, bought three other bikes and I find myself on ANOTHER California again. This one is old: 2001 (18 years old at time of writing). It's the EV80 so it has extra bits on it - twin front brakes and funky linked brake wotsit, sissy bar, expensive saddlebags, touring fairing and screen, footboards, leg shields, adjustable forks...Whatever. The bike is basically the same as my 2002 California Stone. The screen is nice and the panniers make it a good touring bike. Linked rear/front brake is really odd but you learn to trust it. I really missed that old Cali and this one makes me grin. If you don't like it after riding one it's probably because you are 12 and don't know what bikes before ABS, TC, Cruise Control, ESA, Lap Timer, CanBus, quick shifters are all about. Enough of that. Slow down. Enjoy it. Be rattled happy.
Get lost Harley. MMMbwahahaha!
Nowt like it. It doesn't go "potato, potato". It goes "Bumble fwum bum". (clatter clatter clatter)
Nothing to note yet. My last Cali was awesome sauce in this respect too (a starter motor went pffft after 30k miles but all the forums say that's expected).
Service myself, mostly. Could be a tad more economical? (50mpg).
Errr. I'm taking stuff OFF the bike (like the leg shields. Who needs leg shields?)
Buying experience: I just bought it off a classified. Fresh Japanese import into NZ. No known history. Sounds dodgy as, but you know what? Eff it.
Annual servicing cost: £100
Ok. Ive only given my Jackal 3 out of 5 rating, but thats not what i think it,s worth, i absolutely love my california! I,d rather have my jackal than a free harley. If i won a harley i,d sell it and buy a Guzzi! I have owned around 100 bikes, mostly Jap UJMs. I bought the jackal after my BMW was murdered by an idiot who ran me off the road. I loved the Beemer. It was a great bike, but just another bike. My criteria for a replacement was, must be Cool, must be Big, must be impressive. Th Guzzi ticked all the boxes. I made a few cosmetic changes, chromed this and that, gave it a paint job and,...... i loved my BMW, but I am In Love with my Californoa Jackal! It aint fast, but has pleenty of torque, rumbles like an old V8 muscle car, turns heads all day, every day and has the muscle and street prescence that makes me feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger on wheels! I love it! The California has converted me 100% into a Guzziholic. I bought another Guzzi 11 months later and my next bike is going to be a Guzzi and evèry one after that. I won,t sell any, just get one of every model and love, polish and ride them till I die!
It doesnt handle great because it has cheap crap chinese shock absorbers on, but that isnt Guzzis fault, it,s mine. I will put good shocks on one day, but for now it,s quite exciting wobbling through bumps in corners. It,s what i,m used to having owned 100 half çlapped out jap bikes from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I did have to replace the single front disc, which i suspect was overheated and warped due to worn out pads. I put an extra (optional) caliper, new braided hoses and twin discs on it and the result is amazing. Brembos are great. It stops scary fast!
Strong. Bullet proof. Ive heard of Californias that have done 300,000 Miles witjout having rebuilds! Mi e now nas 70,000 kms and is barely broken in. I put K&Ñ pod filters on, which are ok, but without a dyno tune, i wouldnt do it again. It has moved the torque and power up in the rev range. The original air box is more user friendly.
There is nothing wrong with my -17 year old bike that you wouldnt expect to go wrong. I replaced the fuel pump, rectifier, fork seals, steering head bearings (that i damaged) engine temp sonsor and tps. Not unexpected in a bike of 17 years of age. I,ve had more problems with jap bikes. To be fair, Guzziss do not deserve the reputationof being unreliable that so many reviewers give them. I think they are just repeating things they have heard. Nothing has gone wrong with my Cali that was unexpected, unreasonable or terribly expensive to fix on a nearly 20 year old machine that was very poorly cared for by previous owners. Mine was left out in the weather for 17 years in a tropical country and as you,d thonk, suffererd rust and corrosion on nuts and bolts and the frame. The paint work was great despite this. I did repaint it, to my regret. I wish i hadnt. It was almost as good as new, but i did it cos i wanted a red bike. Wish i,d left it original. The finish was perfect, the paint job was not.
Ive spent more on it than that, but because i can afford Preventative Maintenence, not because it.s a high maintainance machine. I like to change all fluids when i get a new (old) bike, replace hoses and stuff before they fail. If i had a garage, id do my own maintainance and spend very little. Valve adjustments are easy and good to check, but, every time my mechanic has checked, no adjustment has been necessary.
The Jackal comes with only 1 disc up front. Adequate, but get another caliper and disc and you will not regret it. There is no tacho, but it isnt necessary. Th dash is very clean and uncluttered with only the speedo and a few idiot lights.
Buying experience: Got mine used and abused, cheap and the best buy ever! I love it!
I have had several bikes in my time. I say that the 1997 1100 California is not for a beginner or someone that does not have a little upper and lower body strength. This is a top heavy bike that takes a little strength in day to day use. A person under 5'7 can not get both legs down at the same time. The bike is like a large dirt bike with the high profile. Better not lay it down. Sorry ladies but it takes a man to upright this buffalo. I like the punch the engine got, It has good passing ability and a nice rumble that make these HD guys turn a head. When, I got the bike, I asked for something with a little weight. I was shown the Cali 1100. It was like an ugly pet you wanted to give away but feel in love with it.
I dig these unabrakes. It is fantastic having brakes that grab front and rear at the same time.
Like, I said. Put together like a TANK.
These bikes seem to only wear out hoses and cables. The engines are put together like tanks.
It's got loads of what is usually referred to as 'character', mostly the good sort. The engine shudders and shakes at low revs and the big V-twin pulls the bike over to the left when you rev it. It will say it's in neutral but it's actually still in first gear (so be careful when you let the clutch out at a standstill). The tacho on mine has bust (but you don't really need it anyway). Unfortunately the paint is somewhat thin and some of the chrome is of absolutely appalling quality. Also, Moto Guzzi seem to have gone out of their way to make this weigh almost as much as the Isle of Wight ferry. Aside from this quirky 'character' the Cali's a wonderful bike. The seat is all day comfy, it takes all your luggage with ease, the handling is truly exceptional for a bike of this sort, all the switchgear is laid out perfectly, and it's also surprisingly quick - breezing past 100 even two up with luggage. If you have a good sense of humour and like a bit of 'character' you'll love this bike.
This is undoubtedly the most comfortable bike I have ridden. Having travelled 600 miles in one day, with pillion with no aches or pains. Brakes are powerful and the overall feel is one of safe. That said, could do with a few more HP at the rear wheel for ultimate sense of security. Finish is fine at the moment but I have taken the time to wax/polish all the shiny bits but am not sure if I would ride it through the winter. Sounds fantastic and you can pack a surprising amount of kit into the panniers. Lighter than many of its rivals but the wide seat etc means sub 5'8" riders struggle while at standstill (like me). I usually achieve 50mpg while touring fully loaded & 2 up. My only gripe is the gear change and have only just mastered it. What would set it off would be a back rest but cannot find one for love not money.
I bought this bike 3 years ago with just 1554 miles on the clock for £2950!!Granted, it was just the Stone basic model with no equipment at all but it was an absolute steal.Maintennace is easy peasy and it's dead easy to work on. Design is antiquated, but that's because they got it right first time 26 years ago! Tuning is easy - although claiming 70bhp, actual power at the wheel is about 61bhp - aftermarket silencers,junked catalyst,air box mod and k&n installed saw 67bhp and more midrange grunt than you could shake a shitty stick at!Then came a power commander and a custom map with an output of 72bhp and an addictive grunty delivery.Economy is 50mpg round town and 60mpg cruising at 60mph.Blasts upto the ton with ease but from there its bit of a struggle. PROBLEMS? Did an 8000 mile trip round europe last summer taking in 17 countries and never missed a beat.Engine and gearbox will last you forever so long as you change the oil and check valve clearances regularly (dead easy job despite oil filter located inside the oil sump). Odd gearchange not for everybody. Quality of paintwork is appalling. Every 1500 miles you need to do a walk around and tighten ALL the bolts or replace with nylocs.Wheels and steel fenders rust easily. Basic models - Stone and Jackal - came with a single disc upfront,which when the bike weighs 1/4 of a metric ton and you're doing a magic ton can seem rather disconcerting.Oh yeah, if you get a pre-2004 the fuel caps have a plastic seal that can warp and get stuck.Quality of aftermarket screens,pannier racks,rear luggage carriers and centre stands are crap yet hideously expensive! PLUS POINTS-indestructible!Will outlast your dads volvo!CHARACTER!love the transverse vibes.Handling.sound!go.stop(ish).Rarity.A brilliant enthusiast following and club support.Aftermarket tuning and customisation is rife despite the rarity.Comfortable.Economical.Rode a Harley and this put a much bigger grin on my face (and I bought this bike when I was 21, definately not over the hill yet!)
I have had this bike for just over three years. When I had just under 3000 KMS on the clock (staying within all break in procedures) I headed out with my wife for a ride from the west coast to the east coast of Canada. Two weeks into the ride I was in Barrie Ontario in the fast lane of a four lane highway doing 110 KPH when the engine sputtered and died! Miraculously I was able to navigate the bike to the shoulder without being hit by the surrounding rush hour traffic. I called my mechanic in BC and he knew right away the issue was the feed line had blown off the fuel pump in the tank (known issue)! I pulled the pump and found the line was crimped on and replaced with a proper clamp, one issue resolved. Another issue I had was a catastrophic clutch failure on the return leg about 200 KMS west of Ottawa (in the middle of nowhere)! I had been adjusting the clutch for slipping problems every 4-5000 KMS throughout the trip, something I had never encountered in 40 years of riding. To my amazement once I was towed 500 KMS to the closest dealer in Montreal I found out there was a recall on the clutch! The factory clutch is a single plate that cannot handle the torque of the engine (poor plate material choice?). After a week of me/dealer/factory discussion, they agreed to replace the clutch under warranty. It took another week to get the recall replacement parts from Italy and four days to have the clutch installed. Fortunately I have a fried in Almonte Ontario so I had a place to sleep (and wait). Unfortunately my wife ran out of time and had to fly back to BC to return to work (school break). In the end I had to leave my bike in Almonte Ontario and fly home to wait out the winter (you don't ride the Rockies in the winter). In the spring my wife and I flew back and finished our ride of a lifetime. I have since put another 15,000 KMS on the bike without a hiccup.
A fantastic cruiser with Italian style and loads of character. Great value for money, handles and performs well for a cruiser and looks great too.