Moto Guzzi V 50 II
Air cooled, four stroke,
V twin, longitudinally mounted, OHV, 2 valve per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
74 x 57 mm
2x 24mm Dell'Orto carb
45 hp 32.8 kW @ 7500 rpm
5 Speed / shaft
Telehydraulic gas forks
Swinging arm fork with hydraulic gas shock
2x 270mm discs
Single 235mm disc
15.0 sec / 89 mph
Moto Guzzi's seldom-seen V50 500cc roadster is either
the most beautiful, exotic and best handling mid-size bike made or an
over-priced, under-powered small Twin. Which bike it is depends on the
motorcyclist and only those who appreciate machines that are red, Italian and
make all the right noises will be excited by the V50-II.
Moto Guzzi doesn't introduce an all-new motorcycle design
every year, or every decade for that matter. After a dozen years of selling
permutations on what began as the V7 and grew into 850 and lOOOcc versions of
sports and touring models, Guzzi has come up with a motorcycle that obviously
looks like the large Guzzi, but is, in fact, entirely new.
Following recent Guzzi tradition the V50 has a 90° V-Twin
engine driving a separate transmission through a dry clutch and from the
transmission the power is delivered via a shaft to the rear hub. And while the
size and general configuration is similar to a Honda CX500, the small Guzzi is
as much like a Honda as it is like a Harley, that is, not at all. It is,
instead, every millimeter a Guzzi.
For the basics, bore and stroke are 74 x 57mm for a
displacement of 490cc. A central camshaft operates two valves in each head
through those ghosts of motorcycles past, pushrods. It's air cooled, has a
smallish 24mm Dell'Orto carb (with accelerator pump) feeding each cylinder,
uses plain bearings on the heavy single throw crank and has a wet sump. The
bike comes with Bosch electrics, starter, alternator and electronic ignition.
An optional kick starter can be attached to the baby Goose, but it's not
Described thusly the little Goose sounds very much like the
larger goose, yet it's a totally new design. Beginning with the crankcase, the
older Guzzis had a one piece crankcase with the crank slid into the case. The
V50 has a horizontally split crankcase that fastens together around the crank.
While the old Goose oil filter mounted inside the crankcase and could only be
removed after pulling the pan, the V50 has an externally-removable cartridge
oil filter. The alternator is still mounted on the front of the crankshaft,
but underneath the alternator at the very front of the engine are the magnetic
pickups for the electronic ignition. The large Guzzis use a distributor driven
off the cam and mounted inboard of the righthand cylinder, all filled with
points. The new electronic ignition isn't just an electronic triggering
mechanism, there's also full electronic ignition advance based on engine
speed, eliminating the mechanical advancer commonly found on electronic
The camshaft is chain driven (the same chain operates the oil
pump) and has surprisingly radical cam timing. Measured at 1mm lift, the V50
has 248° of duration and 33 ° of overlap, making for more radical cam timing
than most all the Japanese Fours. Of course the Goose's head is unlike any
Japanese motorcycle in having a flat surface with the parallel valves mounted
flush in the flat head. The combustion chamber is formed in the dished topped
pistons. The flat head limits valve size, though some designers feel the flat
heads can make more power than comparable hemi or pent-roof heads. However, in
the V50's case they certainly don't.
Typically for a Guzzi, the detachable aluminum cylinders have
chrome bores, unlike those of the Honda CX500.
At the rear of the V50 is a new single-plate dry clutch with
diaphragm spring. The larger Guzzis use a double plate clutch with coil
springs. Transmission design is also different. The input shaft on the
transmission drives the mainshaft through a helical gear. Next to the
main-shaft is a layshaft and three shift forks are operated from a drum
shifter on the V50.
A driveshaft runs through a cast swing arm that pivots on the
rear of the transmission. The rest of the frame, being normal Guzzi, uses a
double cradle that unbolts so the engine can be pulled from the frame. The
lower tubes bolt to the down-tubes at the front of the engine and run aft,
bolting to the transmission case and ending where they support the rear
foot-pegs. Upper frame rails extend back and have V-shaped tubes running down
to the top of the transmission and back to the end of the frame.
As much a part of Guzzi design as the engine are the brakes.
Triple discs, with the rear disc and one of the front discs linked and
activated by the brake pedal have been on Guzzis since the 850T-3 was
introduced in 1976. The other front disc is operated by the hand lever, though
on the V50 the lever actuates the master cylinder by a cable, the master
cylinder being located under the gas tank, a la BMW. Calipers are double
Rear wheel removal is simplified on this Guzzi because the
rear disc is mounted on the same side of the wheel as the drive unit. The disc
and caliper don't have to be removed for the wheel to be removed as the wheel
pulls off the drive unit and brake with a rubber cush drive linking the two.
The rubber dampers are held into the wheel with small plugs that fit into
holes in the wheel. It's a clean and convenient system.
Both wheels are cast aluminum alloy, 18 in. Suspension
consists of Moto Guzzi's own forks with 4.9 in. of travel and shocks with 2.7
in. travel, certainly not long travel by contemporary standards.
Specifications, in the case of the V50, tell half the story
about how the Guzzi works. Yet some of the story is hidden. For instance, the
high 10.8:1 compression ratio and somewhat radical valve timing would indicate
the V50 is a highly tuned, peaky racer sort of a motorcycle, which is not at
all the case. Because of the small valves and small carbs the high compression
ratio is there to help suck the mixture past the restrictions and manifold
vacuum is likely high.
That also explains why the baby Goose will run on low octane
fuel without pinging. The cam timing reduces actual compression and the
less-than-inspiring volumetric efficiency combines to reduce actual cranking
pressure more so the engine resists detonation even with large piston
diameters. The result is a claimed 45 bhp at 7500 rpm and performance that
suggests actual horsepower is closer to 40.
At least fuel mileage is good, in fact, better than the
numbers would indicate. The 54 mpg shown in the data panel was our average for
testing in the nearly mile high western Montana area. The riding was fast and
the elevation high enough to richen mixtures substantially. We would expect
the small Guzzi to return at least 60 mpg in our normal CW100
mi. mileage loop.
Despite having a weight that's light for a 400-class Twin, the
392 lb. V50 is no dragstrip terror. With a quarter mile performance of 15.93
sec. and terminal speed of 85.1 mph, the V50 is slower than any of the
Japanese 400-class Twins or 500 Singles and far off the pace set by the KZ550.
For comparison the KZ550 has dragstrip performance of 13.49 sec. at 95.23 mph
while returning 63 mpg and spinning 4902 rpm at 60 mph on the highway. The
V50's gearing isn't markedly different. It cruises at 4712 rpm at 60 mph,
gives 54 mpg and the only reason it is so much slower accelerating than the
lively Kawasaki is because it doesn't have as much horsepower. "
Why the V50 has such mild power for an otherwise sporting
motorcycle is likely because the new V50 has replaced Moto Guzzi's ancient Falcone as a standard police motorcycle in Italy. To
withstand police use, the V50 is in effect detuned. Moto Guzzi's V35, a 350cc
version of the same motorcycle, is offered in Europe in a sporting configuration
with larger 26mm carburetors and the small version manages to be faster than our
500cc test bike. Obviously there's more power hidden not too deeply inside the
Guzzi's sharply-defined square-looking cylinders.
Some of the Moto Guzzi's low power could be attributed to the high elevation
at which the bike was tested. At nearly a mile above sea level the V50 obviously
lost both power and fuel mileage, but a change in elevation to even sea level
still wouldn't put the little Goose anywhere near the head of its class as far
as power is concerned.
Where the V50 is at the head of its class is in that nebulous area of
handling and road feel that somehow connects a rider to the road with a machine
called a motorcycle. Done right the motorcycle forms a-positive link between
rider and road and doesn't get in the way. That's how the V50 does it. There are
these handlebars, see, and they are positively linked to the front wheel and
nothing else matters. There's no low speed wobble or high speed weave in the
machine. There's hardly any inertia in the bike at all so the tiniest little
touch of the handlebars results in the motorcycle turning that same tiny amount.
Going around fast mountain corners the V50 rider can play with potholes or oil
spots or bits of gravel on the road, diving under the spot or turning around the
gravel while other bikes follow behind, their riders concentrating to aim the
larger machines through a smooth arc because that's the only way to keep up with
the nimble V50.
If there's a fault to the Moto Guzzi's handling it's that it's too
responsive. Get off a larger bike and onto the Guzzi and a rider is apt to rest
his weight on the handlebars where little bumps can make him feed steering
pressure into the bars. As a result the V50 will move around in high speed
corners unless the rider is oh so cautious not to touch the bars in the wrong
way. Ridden properly the bike is stable. Whether a bike that responds this
suddenly is good handling or overly sensitive, in the case of the V50, depends
mostly on the temperament of the rider, one of the testers finding it ideal,
another one saying it was a bit too sensitive.
Whether or not the V50 steers too quickly, its other handling qualities are
superb. Way past the speed at which most four cylinder bikes will have touched
down with something solid the V50 will begin smoking a folding footpeg, letting
the rider know the end is near. But there's substantial cornering clearance left
after the pegs scrape before the sidestand scrapes. And the stock tires, whether
they be the Pirellis, Michelins or the Metzelers that came on the test V50 are
all a cut above the usual rim protectors delivered on less expensive motorcycles. The
suspension also helps handling, being tight and well controlled while absorbing
any harsh bumps that might bounce the bike around. This isn't an ultra-plush
suspension for a touring bike, it's on the V50 to assist the handling. It also
happens to be acceptably comfortable, but that's not the top priority.
The same philosophical question of too much or just enough goes for the
brakes as much as the handling. Guzzi has been installing nothing but its
integrated braking system on its bikes for four years now and this is the first
time we've had a test bike equipped with the system. It's important to remember
that the Guzzi's brakes are a system, not just a quickly cobbled-up linking of
If office consensus is any indication, experienced riders don't take kindly
to any fiddling of conventional brake design. The separate systems allow good
riders to proportion the brakes as necessary for the best braking. Okay, a
linked system might be of some use to beginners, but nobody around here would
want an integrated system.
A ride on the V50, though, changed some minds on the subject. The V50's
brakes worked far better than anyone imagined they would. At any speed a light
tap on the brake pedal brings moderate stops with no problem. The more a rider
gets accustomed to stomping on the pedal, the harder he steps, until he has the
V50 lurching to a stop with nothing but the pedal. Pushed really hard the
rear brake will lock up before the front if only the pedal is used. But the
braking force available with just the brake pedal is about equal to all the
braking force of an average motorcycle. Only on the Guzzi there's another disc
up front adding to the ultimate braking power.
During braking tests the V50 stopped from 30 mph in 28 ft. and from 60 mph in
122 ft. As remarkable as those stopping distances are, they are only half the
story. Control during the braking tests was excellent, the V50 chirping its
tires but not locking them throughout the tests. Never did the bike get sideways
or lose control and the all-out braking tests, normally the most dangerous part
of testing, were even fun on the V50. Of course the light weight and easy
control of the entire motorcycle helps the V50 in braking, but the brakes
themselves are incredibly powerful, easy to control and not prone to fading
during prolonged use.
Like the handling, however, the brakes aren't everyone's ideal. One rider
still preferred a separate system so he can use just the rear brake during the
infrequent off-course excursion or on unpaved roads, while another test rider
said the V50 brakes were the best he'd ever used.
Overall comfort of the V50 is, like most of its other qualities, not a
subject of universal acclaim. The firm, slightly narrow seat griped one rider after an
hour's ride while others were unaffected. It is a flat seat, making it easy for
a rider to move around when the urge strikes. And though it wouldn't be our
first pick for a two-up trip to Argentina, it provides about average comfort for
similarly sized motorcycles.
It's been years since a motorcycle made a sound worth commenting on so .it's
nice to say the V50 has one of the nicest sounds ever made by a motorcycle. A
block away you can hear the V50 riding toward you, not because it's loud, but
because the sound is distinctive. Guzzi's V-Twin isn't like a Harley or a Ducati
or the Honda. It has a powerful tone, well muffled yet threatening that under
the muffled tone is a powerful machine. Mechanical noises are much lower on the V50 than on larger Guzzis so the exhaust note and noise
from the intake system combine to announce its presence. And to the rider
there's just a slight pounding throb accompanying the uneven rhythm, sort of
like the beat lent to a band by a bass guitar. Wonderful noises.
Controls on the Guzzi were convenient, but not extraordinary. The new
transmission is markedly better shifting than Guzzi transmissions have ever
been, but it's no better than average when compared to the common Japanese
Other controls on the Moto Guzzi are a mixture of good, not so good, unusual
and innovative. The textured but otherwise smooth grips are a good design but
have such a small diameter that holding the throttle open requires too much
effort. Extra-strong throttle return springs used in the square slide carbs exacerbate the problem and contribute to the feeling
of limited performance because of the effort needed to change speeds. Both the
clutch cable and brake cable have external adjusters near the lever ends, a nice
touch, but clutch lever pressure is high; higher than it is on larger Moto
Guzzis. Lighting controls on the V50 are new for Moto Guzzi and easier to reach
due to small diameter of the controls and close proximity to the thumbs. However
the signal light switch is a bit high on the control to make room for the
headlight flasher/horn rocker switch while the high/low beam switch is inboard
of the signal light switch. The headlight flasher and horn are connected to the
same rocker switch so that when the lefthand side of the switch is pushed the
headlight flashes the high beam, and when the righthand side is pushed the horn sounds while if the
switch is mashed in the middle both the headlight and horn go on. It may sound
screwy, but it's an effective combination once one learns how to use it.
' Guzzi finally has an instrument panel with warning lights for everything
including signals and when the headlight is on, but the warning lights are so
dim they may not be noticed on a sunny day. The ignition switch uses a
convenient folding key, but this latest Guzzi doesn't have the fork lock
incorporated with the ignition switch even though Guzzi was one of the first companies to adopt such a combination lock
five years ago. One lever on the lefthand side of the engine controls the chokes
of both carbs, but doesn't provide any half choke position. It's either all on
or all off and that makes it hard to start the Goose, although once running
there are no drive-ability problems.
Being Italian, the Moto Guzzi is in several ways different from any other
motorcycle. Not only is the sidestand spring loaded so it snaps back to the
motorcycle whenever the bike is touched, but the tab for the sidestand is only an inch away from the shift lever so the
uninitiated can easily kick the bike into gear instead of putting down the
sidestand if he isn't careful. Other differences, things like the double bulbs
for the brakelight and taillight, dual petcocks, single reservoir for both brake
master cylinders and simple hinged gas cap are nice touches. So is a 4.2 gal.
gas tank that, coupled with the Guzzi's reasonable appetite for fuel, will give
a 200 mi. range before one of the two petcocks has to be turned to reserve.
Since the V50 was introduced a couple of years ago there have been subtle
styling touches creating the V50 II. The stylish cast swing arm is now painted
silver rather than black while the headlight bracket has gone from chrome to a
painted finish. But the turn signals have gone from chrome to a painted finish.
But the turn signals have gone from flat black to chrome. Also, the polished
aluminum alternator cover has been replaced by a black plastic piece with air
vents and pinstriping has been added. Oh yes, the headlight mounting ring is now
chromed, rather than flat black. Details? Certainly, but the end result is a
striking appearance. Wherever the V50 was ridden it attracted motorcyclists and
even non-motorcyclists who commented on its good looks. It has somehow managed
that perfect blend between styling and function that never lets on that the
motorcycle was styled to function.
Despite its exceptional handling and good looks, rest assured the V50 will
never be a popular motorcycle. That's part of its charm. It is, above all else,
an exotic motorcycle, available in much smaller quantities than any previous
Guzzi. Evaluated as an exotic motorcycle, the V50 is nearly ideal, its temperate
nature being easy to live with and its individualistic features and style
clearly telling any other motorcycle it is not just like anything else.
Even the price contributes to its exotic nature, putting it clearly out of
competition with the faster Japanese 500s or even 750s. With a list price in our
area of $3149 the V50 is more expensive than any of the popular 500s, 650s or
750s while offering engine performance slightly lower than any of the popular
400-class Twins, surely another way of maintaining exclusivity, though due more
to unfortunate circumstances than intent.
As nice as the V50 II is, Moto Guzzi should offer a more sporting version,
like the V35 Imola sold in Europe with more power and Lemans-like fairing and
styling. Then the performance would match the styling.
Exciting motorcycles don't have to be fast. The Moto Guzzi V50 proves that.
It creates excitement through attractive lines, a musical exhaust note, handling
that's so sensitive it could be called sensual and the rarity of a perfect
Anybody out there want a well used soul? Only $3149. H
Source Cycle World 1980