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Best of the Best 2013: Motorcycles: Cruiser: Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom

Don Williams

From Italy, a country renowned for producing scooters and high-performance sporting motorcycles, comes the year’s top cruiser, the 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom. It is the latest iteration in a line dating to 1970, when Moto Guzzi introduced the original California, a cruiser based on a model that the motorcycle manufacturer had sold first to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The $14,990 California is equipped with some of the same electronics that helped Moto Guzzi’s corporate cousin Aprilia (both brands are owned by Piaggio) win two of the last three World Superbike Championships, and it is powered by the largest-ever European-built production V-twin. The horizontally mounted Quattrovalvole motor reaches its 96 hp peak at 6,500 rpm. Yet nearly 90 ft lbs of torque are available at only 2,750 rpm, giving the bike impressive roll-on power around town and on the open highway. Rubber mounting keeps the ride smooth at all speeds.

The rider can select from three different power-delivery options and from three traction-control options. Twin radial-mounted Brembo calipers grasp lightly on the front discs but will aggressively slow the bike when prompted to do so.

The bike’s suspension is taut, and its ergonomics are superb. The drag handlebars center the rider on the motorcycle, and the floorboards are mounted high to provide generous cornering clearance. The 200 mm Dunlop rear tire gives the California the “fat” look common among cruisers, but the tire’s profile is such that, despite its size, it does not hinder steering.

Moto Guzzi, www.motoguzzi-us.com