Modern life is complicated enough. TV remote controls have too many buttons, mobile phones have features we never use, and does anyone really scroll through the menus on their bike’s clocks to select the optimum engine map for every ride? Or is life too short? Bikes like Moto Guzzi’s new V9 Bobber are designed as an antidote to unnecessary, time-consuming faffing.
With styling inspired by the custom craze for simplified, stripped-back, retro designs (the so-called Bike Shed culture), Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber uses an all-new but also resolutely simple, air-cooled, push-rod 853cc across-the-frame V-twin making a modest 55BHP @ 6250 RPM. It’s got a horizontal torque curve, it’s housed in a plain steel tube, twin shock frame and runs on cast 16in rims with balloon tyres. The bike isn’t entirely free of modern toss – European regulations insist on ABS, and rudimentary traction control is present – but the Bobber is about as basic (and, in some ways, as crude) as a brand new bike can be in 2016. It’s also stylish, easy to ride and, provided you aren’t too demanding, a lot of fun.
Black, air-cooled cylinder heads and deeply-finned barrels poke out beneath the tapered, matt-painted steel fuel tank, giving enough room to tuck knees tight against intake heat shields and welcome a few degrees of warmth from the motor. Lift a foot off the left peg to reach the gear lever, flick the light clutch, and drop a couple of ratios in the leisurely box to raise engine revs and go from a low-frequency throb to a mid-range grumbling rumble. It’s as much for something to do as to smooth out chunkier vibes – the Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber’s torque delivery is so flat it really doesn’t matter what gear it’s in.
The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber’s flat black bars are a comfortable reach from the flat seat, and they pull my body forward to balance the breeze. It’s a classic sporty roadster riding position but there’s no protection from wind chill, other than cuddling the engine. Shivering, I grip the 853cc motor tighter still, and rest a hand on a cam cover. Looking this cool comes at a cost.
Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber – Under Stressed
|Around town and on twisty county roads the Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber has plenty of poke.|
The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber is literally bobbing keenly along the road skirting a chilly Lake Como in Lombardy, northern Italy. Charging about between 40 and70 mph has the engine happily gurgling to itself, freely revving up with a characteristic pulsing tilt to the right against its crank spinning to the left, often bumping into its rev limiter by accident (there’s no tacho), and with deep mechanical vibes chuntering through the chassis.
It’s not a powerful unit and won’t trouble a new Triumph 900cc Street Twin, BMW R nineT, Yamaha XSR700 or even Ducati’s Scrambler in a fight. And it would be hard work on a long motorway. But around town and on twisty county roads the Guzzi is zippy enough to blast past wonky Italian rickshaws and construction traffic. The new motor is based on the existing 744cc V7 unit, but comprehensively reworked, and bored and stroked from 80mm x 74mm out to 84mm x 77mm. Power is up from 48bhp to 55bhp, torque from 44lb-ft to 46lb-ft, and if that doesn’t sound like much of an increase for an extra 109cc, it really isn’t. The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber is in a state of tune best described as ‘under-stressed’.
But pursuing engine performance was the least of Moto Guzzi’s worries. Getting the engine past strict EURO 4 emissions regs was. Air-cooling doesn’t automatically preclude a motor from passing, but it makes the job harder as they can’t control engine temperature as precisely, especially around the exhaust valve area. So with liquid-cooling ruled out on aesthetic and philosophical grounds (as well as, probably, on cost; designing an all-new liquid-cooled motor would be a huge task), Guzzi has made clever use of the across-the frame V-twin’s natural cylinder position out in the breeze.
|A classic roadster riding position, with feet and hands ‘pulling’ the rider forward over the engine. The Guzzi’s seat is fashionably flat and thinly padded, but comfy enough around town and over short distances.|
There’s a pair of ducts cast into each cylinder head, funnelling cold air into and around each exhaust valve, then out the other side. It’s a simple, obvious, and neat solution. With extra oil cooling from underside piston jets, a low-power motor, closed-loop injected fuelling and two catalysts stowed away in the exhaust cans, plus the mandatory charcoal canister to soak up tank fumes, Euro 4 compliance is complete. The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber also has a new single-disc dry clutch, with super-light feel at the lever, a redesigned gearbox for better shifting, and a new shaft drive for better transmission of what power there is. On the road, all are exemplary.
If an air-cooled form dictates engine function, fashion also has a say in chassis performance. So the Bobber has twin, preload-only shocks, unadjustable telescopic forks, single ABS Brembo disc and a steel tube frame – basic but it works, albeit with reservations. The suspension isn’t high-quality kit, and some of the large bumps and potholes in the roads around Lake Como send huge, spine-tingling crashes into the frame. Moto Guzzi’s lead rider dodges the worst, but he looks like he’s slaloming his bike down the road. On smoother surfaces the suspension is much more compliant.
The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber’s steering is exceptionally light, which is good because, combined with 210kg wet weight, low centre of gravity, plenty of steering lock, and excellent low-speed balance, it makes the Guzzi an absolute doddle to hustle about. With a pair of 16in wheels at each end, wrapped in fat Continental Milestone tyres – a 130/90 front and 150/80 rear – the V9 flicks from side to side with ease, but also passes a fidgety feeling through the bars.
It never gets near unstable, but it’s probably a good job the motor doesn’t propel the Bobber with any greater vigour. There’s a clear sensation of cornering physics; of the front tyre arguing with the Tarmac as you turn. Maybe the V9 Bobber’s 46% front / 54% rear weight distribution takes too much off the front tyre.
|The 130/90 16in front and 150/80 16in Continental Milestones play a big part in the Bobber’s agile, but sensitive, steering. But they also play a big part in the way the bike looks. Mind you, whitewalls would be even more awesome.|
At least it means the back end has no issues with grip. And while traction control may seem like overkill with only 55 BHP, when it starts to rain I can’t help switching from Mode 1 (Normal) to Mode 2 (Rain) via a tiny button on the left handlebar. The system is basic, cutting ignition and working solely from differences in wheel acceleration, but if it prevents mishaps, who can complain?
The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber has a few more modern gizmos, like a USB power port on the steering stem, and optional Bluetooth integration; a smartphone app talks to the Bobber’s ECU and displays functions like speed, revs, trip meters, average speed and fuel consumption, plus thrust, power and lean angle (all using the phone’s accelerometers, not the bike’s). Some – speed, fuel consumption, trips etc. – are also displayed on the Bobber’s speedo.
The V9 Bobber averaged 55 mpg on the test ride, which gives the 15 litre tank well over 150 miles of range. The filler cap is neither hinged nor lockable – a keyed cap is an accessory. And there’s no shortage of further Moto Guzzi accessory caps, covers, screens, racks and bags to add…
|Moto Guzzi’s new 850cc range kicks off with the V9 Bobber, a stripped-back roadster with a shed-built custom vibe…|
The Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber is a hoot to ride, packed with charm and foibles, and a riot in urban traffic. But it stands or falls on its styling. I think it’s cool – I’ve always loved the look of Guzzi’s transverse V motor – but the Bobber’s squat stance, dark finish, funky multispoke wheels and fat tyres are spot-on. I’m not so keen on the sharp edge of the rear mudguard, the flimsy switchgear or the reg/rect wiring on display behind the headstock. But Moto Guzzi’s V9 Bobber is a riff on a well-established custom theme, mixing old tech with a bit of new, and leaving plenty for shed builders to play with.
Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber Specifications and Price
Engine : 4-Stroke, 90° Longitudinal V-Twin, Push-Rod (2-Valve per Cylinder), Air-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 84 x 77 mm
Capacity : 853 cc
Compression Ratio : 10.5 : 1
Induction : Fuel Injection
Transmission : 6-Speed, Shaft-Drive
Power : 55 BHP @ 6.250 RPM (claimed)
Torque : 62 N.m @ 3.000 RPM (claimed)
Dimensions (LxWxH) : 2.185 x 840 x 1.160 mm
Wheelbase : 1.465 mm
Seat Height : 780 mm
Ground Clearance : 140 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 15 Litres
Weight : 212 kg (kerb, claimed)
Frame : Tubular Steel Cradle Frame
Front Suspension : 40mm Telescopic Fork
Rear Suspension : Twin-Shock Absorber, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : 320mm Discs, with Brembo 4-Piston Caliper, ABS
Rear Brakes : 260mm Discs, with Brembo 2-Piston Caliper, ABS
Front Tyre : 130/90 – 16 (Continental Milestone)
Rear Tyre : 150/80 – 16 (Continental Milestone)
Price : £8136