Moto Guzzi return to SA

I’m no fan of motorbikes. If I’m honest it’s probably because I’m scared to death by the idea of riding along the tarmac on my face when I inevitably fall off the silly thing. I’ve had tar burn before and it really isn’t fun – and that was from one of those kiddie’s scooters. Now just imagine the difference when you’re tearing along as motorbikes tend to do.

None-the-less I can appreciate their appeal. For starters there isn’t much that will match the sheer speed, especially for the price. Or if speed isn’t necessarily your thing, choppers are great to look at and incredibly cool – provided you don’t subscribe to a leather-clad biker gang.

Then there’s the history, which is what I want to talk about today. The Moto Guzzi motorcycle company was established in 1921 in Mandello del Lario, Italy, by two aircraft pilots and their mechanic serving in the Italian Air Corp during World War I; Carlo Guzzi, Giovanni Ravelli and Giorgio Parodi.  

Assigned to the same squadron that was based outside Venice, the trio became close while serving and it was there on the airfields that they envisioned creating a motorcycle company. Guzzi would be the engineer, Parodi the money, as his parents were wealthy Genovese ship-owners and Ravelli, already a racing hero, was tasked with promoting the bikes.

Sadly Ravelli died just days after the war’s end in an aircraft crash. Yet despite the tragedy his compatriots fulfilled their dream, commemorating their friend by the eagle’s wings that form the Moto Guzzi logo.

Since its inception, the company was recognised as a trend setter the Italian motorcycle industry, noted for its central historic role in Italy’s motorcycling manufacture, its reputation in motorcycle racing and a series of industry innovations; including inventing the centre stand, being the first motorcycle manufacturer to use a wind tunnel. However most notable of which was the Moto Guzzi Grand Prix V8 – introduced in 1955, it was a 500cc racing bike fitted with a DOHC V8 engine.

After an absence of more than five years, this iconic Italian manufacturer will once again grace South African shores after a relaunch at the AMiD Motorcycle Lifestyle Show.

Nowadays Moto Guzzi concentrates on road and adventure machines. One of each was on display, namely the 750cc V7 Café Racer and the 1 200cc V-Twin Stelvio NTX Adventure bike.

My personal choice would be the retro styled Café Racer, which pays homage to the 1970s Italian café racers. Its leather strapped chrome tank, beautifully crafted red frame – inspired by the earlier V7 Classic models – and matching red hubs and swingarm remain faithful to the original classic V7 Sport race bike.

Perhaps I will reconsider this whole motorbike malarkey.

Miles Downard
First published in Autodealer KZN

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