A pricey Italian with a lot of attitude. No, not a supermodel, but the Guzzi Roamer.
The retro and classic motorcycle scene continues to heat up across the world, and because of that it seems that Moto Guzzi is making a bit of a resurgence. The oldest European bike manufacturer is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Even though we haven’t had much experience riding many of their bikes, the brand’s legendary status means that its allure is impossible to ignore.
Under Piaggio ownership, the Italian bike maker was officially brought into the Indian market last year, and it’s still a relatively unknown brand here. But, Moto Guzzi has been a niche market player for decades now with global sales figures averaging about 6,000 units a year, so it’s not a shocker that mass market consumers in India haven’t heard of the brand.
I first got a taste of Moto Guzzi when I rode the Audace last year – a high priced exotic Italian cruiser. It certainly seemed like a fine motorcycle, but, in all honesty, it didn’t really stand out or impress me in any particular manner. More recently though, I got my hands on the V9 Roamer, which is a small Italian custom motorcycle that also comes in another avatar – the V9 Bobber.
Like any Italian motorcycle, the design of the V9 Roamer really stands out. The Roamer has its own unique styling, and it certainly grabs eyeballs. The Roamer looks great from every angle, and once again it’s the attention to detail that sets it apart from every other bike out there – including those from within its own stable. The overall design of the V9 came from the Centro Stile Piaggio Group, with inputs from the Piaggio Advanced Design Centre – located in Pasadena, California. This is perhaps why it looks more like an American retro.
The V9 Roamer is all metal, including the fenders and the side-covers. It uses a steel twin-tube cradle frame with right-side up forks. Besides the electric switches, there isn’t any plastic on the bike. The switchgear looks like something you would find on those hoverbikes from Star Wars – very futuristic stuff and something you won’t find on any other production bike. The nice paint scheme, the classic emblems, and the embroidered seat make quite an impact on the overall design, and the standard Guzzi engine layout and placement also goes very well.
The Roamer is also a compact motorcycle and that makes it easy to ride. Despite its flat retro seat, it’s very comfortable even for long rides. The wide handlebars and the specially crafted foot pegs are well positioned and offer good space for the rider.
The V9 Roamer gets a new power unit in the form of its 90° transverse V-twin air and oil cooled engine, which is standard on all Guzzis. This one is an 853cc unit capable of 55bhp and 62Nm of torque. It’s certainly not the most spirited engine, but it’s got a nice sound to it and offers decent riding dynamics. Torque is available from as low as 1,500rpm, but the initial acceleration isn’t thrilling and the mid-range isn’t exciting, either. It may have decent responsiveness, but it’s in no way a fast motorcycle. You certainly get to experience a classic and retro soul in a manner that many purists would enjoy, but power hungry riders will complain about the laziness of the engine – especially on inclines, as I found out for myself.
Even though it’s low on peak power, it’s still a fairly usable engine because it’s got a wide torque spread – and refinement levels are good with little vibrations felt. Because of its low-end power, it’s also quite manageable and friendly to ride. In fact, with a kerb weight of just 199 kilograms, the Roamer is very friendly and almost anybody will be confident on it. The ride quality is nice and the bike handles very well too, but the Kayaba suspension set-up doesn’t particularly impress as it only handles the lightest of bumps. It does feel a bit too stiff at times, and the 40mm fork is not adjustable while the rear shocks are preload adjustable only. But it does get ABS and a two-level traction control system for added safety.
The best way to ride and enjoy the Roamer is in a relaxed style. You certainly can’t attack corners with the intent of leaning in and pulling out at light speed – it’s not particularly sporty at all. The Roamer has a certain attitude in its character, and it won’t allow you to take full advantage of it. No matter how hard you try to push, the bike always comes across as easy-going and uninterested in your demands. It’s not trying to be something it isn’t. Having said that, it will trod on down the road and look bloody good doing it. It’s an uber-cool machine that will attract admiring glances and stares – very much like a super model strutting down the catwalk.
The only problem is that if you do want to stand out from the crowd and ride on an exotic retro Italian beauty, it’s going to cost you. Just like super models, Guzzis don’t come cheap. If you’re looking to get your hands on one you need to part with a lot of cash. But, hey, if I had the cash, I would definitely want to take Monica Bellucci out on a couple of dates – if she gave me the chance that is.
Story by Jared Solomon.