2014 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring – Road Test Review

Flashback to 1970. Richard Nixon is in the White House, American troops are in Vietnam and the AMC Gremlin is in dealerships. Little known in the U.S. at the time, Moto Guzzi captures a slice of the lucrative police market with a full-dress version of the Eldorado 850, which was more powerful, more maneuverable, lighter and less expensive than the dominant police bike at the time, the Harley-Davidson FLH (Retrospective, October 2012). A civilian version, the 850 GT California, was introduced in 1971 and some version of the California has been in Moto Guzzi’s lineup ever since.

Like many Californians, Moto Guzzi’s stalwart cruiser—now in its eighth model generation—has been cosmetically altered and technologically enhanced. New styling balances the past and present. Classic details like a buckhorn handlebar, police-style windshield, floorboards, driving lamps and plenty of chrome are complemented by modern touches, such as digital instrumentation and LED taillights and daytime running lights. The California’s trademark longitudinal 90-degree V-twin now displaces 1,380cc, up from 1,064cc, making it the largest engine ever built by Moto Guzzi. And in the notoriously analog cruiser segment, the California stands apart with a full slate of digital goodies: throttle-by-wire, riding modes, traction control, electronic cruise control, dual trip computers and an anti-theft alarm.

The Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring.
Long and low, steering the
California requires effort, but it stays on course and has ample cornering clearance.

Thumb the start button and the big V-twin rumbles to life, rattling the mirrors and sending seismic vibrations through the grips and seat. Blip the throttle and the longitudinal crank twists the bike to the right. Sounds and feels just like a cruiser should. That is, until you ease out the clutch and roll on the throttle. Beyond a walking pace, the California’s shudder-n-shake melts away and the engine relaxes into a smooth, quiet cadence. At cruising speeds, barely a tingle creeps into the grips and floorboards, hardly a bellow emanates from the twin howitzer-size pipes. Grab a handful of throttle and the Goose will honk loudly, but otherwise it purrs like a kitten.

To reduce felt vibration, the California’s V-twin is not a stressed member of the tubular-steel double-cradle frame, as it was on the previous model. It’s isolated from the chassis by a kinematic support system that uses automotive-type elastic mounts. The system works well, almost too well. As much as I appreciate a silky smooth engine, on a big cruiser, especially one made by an Italian manufacturer revered for its throbbing V-twins, I want to feel something. And I want to hear something, too. But the California is no more menacing than a Vespa. At least your fussy neighbors won’t complain.

California 1400 V-twin engine.
The new, torquey 1,380cc V-twin is a major styling element.

Sound and fury may be muted, but the California’s 1,380cc powerplant kicks some serious asiago. Throttle response is immediate, torque is generous, bursts of acceleration are a guilty pleasure. This is the first Moto Guzzi with throttle-by-wire, and the Marelli 7SM ECU does a superb job of managing engine modes, traction control and cruise control. In Veloce (Fast) mode, the California’s air/oil-cooled, four-valve, twin-spark V-twin spun its 200mm rear tire up to 87.7 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 78.5 lb-ft of torque at 2,900 rpm on Jett Tuning’s dyno. Turismo (Touring) mode softens throttle response without changing output, but Pioggia (Rain) mode dials it back to 67.2 horsepower and 70.4 lb-ft. Selecting a particular mode also sets the degree of traction control intervention (levels 1-3), or it can be turned off. Power reaches the rear wheel by way of a hydraulically actuated, single-plate dry clutch, 6-speed transmission with overdriven top gear and a double cardan-joint drive shaft. Clutching and shifting is a clean, quiet affair, with little of the low-gear clunk common among cruisers.

Comfort and style peacefully coexist on the California 1400 Touring. A broad, flat seat, set just 29.1 inches above the deck (an optional 28.3-inch seat is available), provides a comfortable perch, and the pulled-back handlebar allows for straight-back posture—the perfect combination for long, contemplative rides. Because the cylinder heads jut out sideways at tank level, the floorboards are located more amidships than on most cruisers, which is a good thing since the result is a more neutral, less stretched-out seating position. Rubber-insulated footrests dull what little engine vibration reaches the frame, and the heel-toe shifter and brake pedal don’t crowd the rider’s feet. The police-style windshield diverts most of the windblast around the rider, with smooth airflow and minimal noise up to about 70 mph. On warm days, plenty of engine heat wafts back over the rider’s legs, and because the windshield is short, wind enters the cockpit underneath—welcome on warm afternoons, less so on cold mornings.

California 1400 Touring instrument panel.
The single instrument cluster is elegant and brimming with useful information.

With a long 66.3-inch wheelbase, lazy-daze steering geometry and a wide rear tire, the California’s steering requires effort. But, thanks to its wide handlebar and low center of gravity, not as much as you might expect. It glides elegantly through turns, has plenty of cornering clearance (replaceable plastic sliders under the floorboards prevent loud scraping when you reach the limits) and feels rock solid. Its 46mm fork and dual shocks, both made by Sachs, soak up bumps well and provide a smooth, well-controlled ride, with 4.7/4.3 inches of front/rear travel. The fork is not adjustable, but spring preload and rebound damping can be tweaked on the shocks. And the California’s Brembo triple disc brakes, with radial-mount front calipers and standard ABS, are some of the best in all of cruiserdom, with the sort of stopping power and feel you’d expect from a sport tourer.

In stock form, the California 1400 Touring is ready for the long haul, with 35-liter, top-loading hard saddlebags that can be left unlocked, protection bars for the engine and saddlebags, and feature-rich instrumentation. Set within a chrome bezel, a single large, round instrument cluster has an analog tachometer with an array of indicator lights around the perimeter and an LCD display in the middle that’s packed with info: speed, ambient temperature, gear position, fuel level, engine mode and numerous dual-trip functions. Use the Mode button on the left switchgear to change trip functions and navigate menus; press the starter button to change riding modes on the fly. The California’s fenders may be plastic, but its 5.4-gallon gas tank is steel and easily accommodates a magnetic tankbag. Admittedly, the 34.5 mpg and 186-mile range averaged during this test are rather meager, but we rode this smooth, torquey beast pretty hard. And although we received the bike with 2,500 miles on it, after 4,000 miles the rear tire was pretty much toast.

California 1400 Touring - These elegant lines were penned by Miguel Galluzzi.
California 1400 Touring – These elegant lines were penned by Miguel Galluzzi.

Even though it has always been a niche player, the Moto Guzzi California’s unique combination of character, style, comfort and performance has endured for four decades. With its gracefully reworked Italian lines, larger air/oil-cooled V-twin and modern electronics, the new California is better than ever. Honoring the early V7 models that gave rise to the California, the Touring model ($17,990) is available in Eldorado White with black pinstripes or Ambassador Black with white pinstripes. And if you prefer a more stripped-down look, the Custom model ($14,990) foregoes the windshield, saddlebags, protection bars, driving lamps and touring saddle. Either way, the California really is one of a kind.

Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring

Base Price: $17,990
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: motoguzzi-us.com

Engine
Type: Air/oil-cooled, longitudinal 90-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,380cc
Bore x Stroke: 104.0 x 81.2mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 600 miles, then every 6,250 miles
Fuel Delivery: Magneti Marelli multipoint sequential EFI w/ 52mm throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 4.3-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated dry clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 1:3.6

Brembo 4-piston radial calipers with ABS.
Brembo 4-piston radial calipers with ABS are primo anchors.

Electrical
Ignition: Digital electronic
Charging Output: 550 watts max.
Battery: 12V 18AH

Chassis
Frame: Tubular-steel double cradle
Wheelbase: 66.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 38 degrees/6.1 in.
Seat Height: 29.1 in. (optional low seat, 28.3 in.)
Suspension, Front: Sachs 46mm fork, 4.7-in. travel
Rear: Sachs dual shocks w/ adj. rebound damping & spring preload, 4.3-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm floating discs w/ opposed radial-mount 4-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 282mm disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast alloy, 3.50 x 18 in.
Rear: Cast alloy, 6.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 130/70-R18
Rear: 200/60-R17
Wet Weight: 761 lbs.
Load Capacity: 445 lbs.
GVWR: 1,206 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 5.4 gals., warning light on last 1.3 gals.
MPG: 90 PON min. (high/avg/low) 39.9/34.5/32.1
Estimated Range: 186 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,000

(This article League of its Own was published in the September 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

California 1400 headline.
Unique headlight includes LED daytime running lights, a polyellipsoidal low beam and a separate
high beam. Separate driving lamps are also standard.

Moto Guzzi California 1400 trunk
Each locking, hard saddlebag holds 35 liters. They aren’t keyed to the ignition but they can be left unlocked, and the chrome protection rails are standard.
web-_MG_0292
With its powerful, rubber-mounted engine, state-of-the-art electronics, stout chassis and top-notch suspension
and brakes, the California 1400 Touring is eager to burn up back roads or cruise smoothly and quietly
down the boulevard.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Do you have a brochure request area for motorcycle manufacturers? Have tried going to Moto Guzzi’s site, having trouble with it. Your article on the Eldorado, MGX 21 and the Audauce are my primary interests. No dealer in New Mexico so don’t know which dealer to contact nearest me (Rio Rancho,NM).

  2. Ok… the Moto Guzzi’s saddlebags hold 35 Liters, nice to know if I was planning on filling them with whiskey, but will they hold a helmet?

    • No, they won’t hold a full-face helmet. They are long and narrow, with a rather small opening. Usually we’ll let you know (and provided a photo if possible) if you can fit a full-face helmet in the saddlebags of motorcycles we test.

    • Steve,
      Ride Now in AZ has them……go to mgnoc and get with Matt F perhaps he can help I know he has few here in Albq.
      Larry G.
      2002 MG V11 Lemans
      In Rio Rancho, NM

    • We suggest taking your helmet to a Moto Guzzi dealership and giving it a try. Helmets come in all shapes and sizes, and some might fit and others might not.

  3. Ah…. that’s the rub. The closest dealer is 150+ miles away. Oh well.. maybe I will stumble across another California & check it out then. Thanks.

  4. On the weight of the Moto Guzzi California 1400 Tourer, you list it as 761 lbs. wet, did you actually weight the bike, if so, was it with a full tank of gas? I wish you would do a larger test or long term test of the 2015 model, I bought a Red 2015 Tourer, I just love the bike, my mileage is running from 39 to 42.5, this is all back roads, no freeways. I have 1050 miles on it, I’m 5′ 7″ and the bike fits me great, floorboards are positioned just right, not too far forward, thanks for the good reporting.

  5. The Moto Guzzi bikes are beautiful. Thanks for the pics and the great report. I just came off a 2013 Triumph Rocket III Tourer and that bike was very top heavy and clumsy at low speeds. Is the Guzzi top heavy? Looks like it could be but I have not tried one yet. Does the Guzzi have a history of bearing up to a lot of miles put on it like the BMW bikes? What was one really good thing and one negative thing that really jumped out at you regarding this bike? Thank you very, very much for such an in depth article. You are the cycle community’s link to everything bike relate and we appreciate what you do. Michael

  6. I now have 6,000+ miles on my California 1400 Custom and so can speak from some experience with the bike. First, I do not find the bike top heavy. Second, Moto Guzzi’s engines are noted for their longevity and are relatively easy to maintain. It took me about 5K’s worth of riding before I was truly at ease throwing it into corners with gusto, but now… Oh Yeah! The thing I like most about it, is the huge torque which translates into strong acceleration. Two things I find negative are 1) the Dunlop tires that came on it. The rear was worn out in the middle after only 5,000 miles. The front has a grove in the center of the tread which grabs expanded metal and road imperfections. I have since switched to Avon Cobra’s which greatly improve the handling. The second thing is the Maintenance Icon pops up but can not be reset except by a dealer with a PEDS system. This is silly as the closest dealer is 180 miles away and as I do my own maintenance. So, essentially the only recourse is to just ignore it. Other than that, the bike is a real head turner and you can expect plenty of attention every where you go. The accessories I have added are OEM, flyshield, saddlebags with liners, heated handgrips & a set of PIAA horns. I also switched out the stock seat for a OEM Touring seat with grab rail. Bottom line is that I really love this machine.

      • Both the Bags & the Sadelebag Inserts were sourced from Newport Italian (newportitalina.com). As I have never rode the bike in the rain, I can’t comment on the bags or the inserts waterproofing. I can say the inserts certainly have tamed the storage problem as now I can lay my hands on what I want without digging endlessly into the bags. I have since put the mapping into Veloce, which I find to be much more responsive & with better low speed control. Others, say it’s too abrupt, while I find it to be just the opposite. Worth giving it a try.

        • John, I own a 2015 California Tourer and just recently tried the Veloce and I agree with you, I like it better. The Goot-See sure does handle great. I live alone and not young, so on checking your oil level, for me, holding the bike upright is impossible, what method or how do you check your oil to get an accurate reading (Cold or Hot Motor?) Does your Guzzi use any oil? I , I just love the motor’s response from 3000 to 5500, wow, what a great motor. I am getting 42-43 MPG riding on backroads. The more I ride the Goot-See, the more I love it!

        • Thanks, found it (California Inner Bags for Side Cases – B064250
          $ 229.99) do they come as a set of two for that price (left and right)

    • As of October 19th Guzitech states they are working on a solution, but for now…. the only way to reset the service code is through a dealer with the PEDS system. If I am wrong, someone please correct me.

  7. Ok… first the saddlebag inserts. They do indeed come as a set of two. Each side had 3 seperate zipper closed compartments which are bound together with quick release buckles, giving you the option of removing them as a unit or individually.
    As to the oil checking question, I measure it when cold as after the warm up, it’s the devils own time getting the oil stick to unscrew. So far, my Guzzi hasn’t used any oil. As for the bikes stability, I have two recommendations. First, I found a Venom Adjustble Pivot Center Stand Lift on eBay that works well. Expect to pay around $40. The second alternative is a black Widow Mororcycle Jack I use it to do heavier tasks like removing the rear wheel. This is a scissor jack with sliding arms and adjustable ” u ” shape brackets which can be moved to firmly grip the frame. This was sourced from Discount Rams for $80.99.
    Another great additon to the bike was the OEM Moto Guzzi Flyshield. Although very small, it displaces the wind off your chest and allows cruising at Super Slab speeds in a nice calm no buffeting zone while still delivering fresh air to your helmet.

  8. I have a 2014 MG California Tourer I bought new, 2 yrs in March ’16, just turned over 9000mi. Bike is a dream, I’m 72 yoa, handles beautifully. Usually in the 39-42 mpg range, got 8900 out of back tire, front still good. When checking oil I let it warm up, usually short ride or after ride, the plastic dip stick and metal engine do not expand at same rate and dipstick seems fused. I loosen with pliers until loose enough by hand, put a clean rag under it, with stand down I level bike and slide a 4×4 wood block under stand, turn bars to left, hold on, squat down pull stick, wipe off, put back in , check , put back in hand tight, all it needs, stand up, lean bike over enough to kick block out set bike down on stand. You can also check oil by loosening stick sitting on bike, leveling it, reach down, pull stick, wipe off, put back in, check, put back in , set bike down, tighten stick, done. Bike has used no oil, a dream to ride, no problems. You want some growl, change tie pipes for the De Lario’s. May you be blessed with many miles! Do not forget to tighten dipstick!

  9. I have a 2014 Cali Custom purchased new in June 2014. It now has 18,000 miles and still rides like a dream! Added the flyscreen to reduce windblast and added many accessories (blacked out all chrome, including added accessories, wrapped exhaust, Agostini pipes w/o baffles, etc…)along the way, including a custom made golf bag carrier attached similar to a saddlebag. Have also added the solo seat and shroud / screen for oil cooler from Audace model to add carbon fiber fender. Bike still turns heads and starts conversations wherever parked. Had a problem with an oil sensor but was replaced immediately by dealer (Newport Italian) with no additional issues. Many say they have never seen one! Eyes Up and Wheels Down!

    • David, I have a 2015 California Tourer with Agostini Slip-on mufflers with the DB Killers in. Since you have removed the baffles, what have you done for the fuel mixture as I would think it would be running lean? I love my Guzzi, it is a great motorcycle!

  10. I believe I re-flashed the ECU to adjust the EFI through the dealer to account for the removed baffles (it was a couple of years back). She runs and sounds great and accelerates hard! Lots of Fun! Glad to hear You are enjoying yours as well!

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